Thursday, June 30, 2011


I am still alive!

Sorry for the lack of updates recently.  I have been feeling a little under the weather these past few days and haven't done much besides class and sleep.  Not really the best way to end my trip.

Anyway, I am leaving Xela tomorrow after classes.  I get to take a bumpy 4 hour bus ride again --which I'm sure will be great for my stomach-- and head back to Guatemala city.  My flight leaves there at 7:53am on Saturday and I will return to Minot at 7pm or so.  Assuming that Delta is running on time. And also assuming Minot hasn't turned into a big lake by the time I get there.

I am so grateful for having been able to come and experience Guatemala.  It has been something very different than expected and very welcome.  My head is filled to the brim with Español, and while I am not perfect, I have certainly improved.  My teacher was so perfect for me.  She wrote me a letter that I can keep forever.  Of course it was written primarily in the subjunctive for my learning experience, but it was kind just the same.

I shared the song Laika by Mecano with my Spanish teacher and she loved it.  She knew some songs by that band, but had not heard this particular one.  It always reminds me of Mrs. Pritchard, my high school Spanish teacher.  I think it is always fun to share a bit of your past.  :)

I shall miss this place, the friends I have made, the constant rain --okay maybe not-- and my host family who has been so wonderful to me.  But I am also quite ready to return to my own bed and see all of my friends waiting for me at home.  I miss each of you dearly!

I will see you soon.

Wish me luck on my journey!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Where is God?

I have a variety of thoughts running through my head today.

Yesterday, I attended an afternoon activity at Trama Textiles.  It is an organization run by women who make various things --purses, table cloths, blankets, even clothes-- by hand.  We learned the meticulous process that is done to create all these textiles.  It takes a large amount of time to make their products as they are done with care, and again, are hand made.

Some items, like shirts, take as long as two months to complete.  Scarves, on the other hand, take somewhere between 8 hours and 10 hours to complete.  They are sold for around 40 Quetzales or just under 6 US dollars.  Frequently, people will barter with the vendors and try to buy them cheaper than this.  The payoff for all their hard work is very little, yet they still try to support themselves and work to create community.

While visiting, the lady told us about the plight --one that mirrors so many around the world-- of the children in Guatemala.  She spoke about the injustices of children going without shoes, of having to wear clothes that are ripped and torn because their parents can't afford to buy new ones for them.  She told us about the niñas who must eat on the floor while their brothers and father have a place at the table because their fathers' refuse them a place, simply because they are female.

And what happens to those same niñas if their mother dies while they are young?  Must they then take on the responsibilities for cooking and cleaning?  Where is the fairness in a culture where it becomes better to use your children to sell homemade trinkets rather then allow them to attend school? 

 I began to despair.  Where is God in all of this?  Where is God during domestic violence?  Where is God when children and others get diseases from not wearing shoes?  Where is God when people struggle to survive and we still bargain for a lower price?  Where is God when it floods?  Are you f---ing there God?  Because we are here and everyday there are people who suffer, who don't have enough, who struggle to survive. 

And then it happened.

I was with my teacher and a few others, on our way to the museum during class, and there was a parade in the park.  Ironically, it was a parade celebrating the goodness and graciousness of God.  There were elderly, children, indigenous, and a variety of people who all came to celebrate.  A large processional went by with no less than 10 flags of various Saints each supported by their own group of people, followed then by young altar boys burning incense in front of a carried figure of Jesus.  All of this was followed by a band playing trumpets, tubas and drums.

All of a sudden I realized:  This is like Haiti.  There is so much suffering, but they still have hope and when life puts pressure on them they bend, not break.  Perhaps a better question to ask rather than "Where is God?" is "Where are we?"

We have the ability to help one another.  We have the ability to provide shoes to children.  We have the ability to care about a person living in abusive home.  We have the ability to help people survive in this world.

It is not just God who carries the responsibility of the world's happiness, but it is our responsibility as well.  Who bakes the bread we must share with each other?  Is it not by our own hands and in our own ovens?  God gives us community to be able to care about the story of another.  It is impossible to help each and every person by ourselves, but as a community we can support each other. 

If the women of Trama textiles --who sell their scarves and labor for $2/hour-- can help the children of their community, Where are we who have so much more?

 Where are we in all of this?  Where are we during domestic violence?  Where are we when children and others get diseases from not wearing shoes?  Where are we when people struggle to survive and we still bargain for a lower price?  Where are we when it floods?  Are you there?  Because everyday there are people who suffer, who don't have enough, who struggle to survive. 

It is not a lack of God's intervention.  It is a lack of our own intervention.  God will not abandon us.  Not a single one of us.  Ever.  Let us not abandon those who need our help.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Boats, Markets, and Rain

What a fun weekend!

Everything we encountered this weekend was so beautiful.  I imagine that had something to do with the lake or mountains surrounding us.  :)

I posted a few pictures onto Facebook from our trip.  Feel free to check them out at your leisure.  (Again, I'm working on getting them put onto this blog, but haven't been able to do so yet)

You can guess what the most memorable pieces from the trip were from the title of this post.  Boats, Markets and Rain.  We took a boat out of Panajechel in order to get across to a market.  It was about a twenty minute ride and I'm sure our driver was attempting to hit all of the waves he could at full speed.  We laughed at the people sitting in front as there were no cushions on those seats, resulting in being thrown into the air by each wave and crashing back down onto their seats.  They laughed along with us so we all had fun.  As we got closer to the docks we all gaped at the view.  The water and the mountains are such a beautiful sight.

The market was busy!  As soon as we got off the docks we had people approaching us and trying to sell us their wares.  At one point in time, Meghan had around 11 people selling her bracelets, each trying to choose the perfect one for her arm.  We spent about 2 hours in the market --being constantly heckled-- and many people came away with great items to help remember their trip.  Of course there were also several "suckers" who came away with 3 extra bracelets or purses.  It's hard to say no to a little girl, especially when its just 1 Quetzal.  :)

On our way back we were plagued with rain.  This made the boat ride much less enjoyable.  I ended up in the front this time, but quickly moved back to sit on a few laps to avoid being totally drenched.  Unfortunately, I ended up wet anyway on the walk back home when Robin and I tried to share an umbrella.    We went back to the hotel, changed into dry clothes, waited out the rain, and continued our night with dinner, drinks (just a few), and dancing!

School tomorrow...  YAY!


Friday, June 17, 2011


I have successfully completed my first week of classes.

I'm grateful for the break this weekend will bring.  I am taking a trip with some classmates to Lake Atitlan.  I think it will be an awesome chance to converse with the other students in my school and see some of the wonders that Guatemala has to offer.

I ended my day today with a huge celebration.  Around 15 people came over to my host family's house and celebrated the cumpleaños (birthday) of Marcella, one of their daughters, as well as Dia del Padre.  They worked for two days making the traditional dinner of "Panches de papas".  At least thats what I think it is called... The dish was served on a dried palm leaf.  It was a combination of spices, vegetables, and (mostly) potatoes.  It was quite delicious!  They also baked a large cake for dessert.  It was by far the best meal I have eaten.

I am also recovering after feeling a bit off for the last few days.  The change of food made my stomach feel a bit funny, but nothing too serious.  Just a general malaise.  I don't think it helped that it has been much more cold and rainy here than I expected.  I had to borrow an umbrella from my family, and I still ended up with shoes that were soaked from walking to class.  When it rains here, there is little earth to absorb the water, so it ends up flooding some of the bigger streets in town.  So I ended up walking through a small river to get to an afternoon activity, which resulted in my canvas shoes and thus socks and feet getting pretty wet.  I'm glad I decided to bring two pairs of shoes with me.

I put some pictures onto Facebook from our chocolate making class.  They aren't many but it is something.  I am working on getting them attached to this blog.  But in the meantime, feel free to check them out there.

That's all for now.  I will try to update you when I get back on Sunday from the lake!


P.S.  If you haven't read The Hunger Games trilogy... you NEED to!!!!  I just finished it and it is definitely a contender for my favorite book(s).  All I can say is it pulled at my heart, made me laugh and cry.  A must read.  :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spanish School


I think that is the best word to describe this whole process.  I woke up at 6am to get ready, ate pancakes for the third time --Guatemalan delicacy I think -- and was on my way to school by 7:30am. 

The really exciting part was that I was brought to my host family's sister and left there with another student, Robin, who has been here for two days and was my only direction for getting to the school.  Luckily, she and I get along quite well.  We even made it there in one piece... short of almost getting hit by a bus.  Minor details.

My instructor for Spanish classes is named Claudia Pastor.  She is very kind and loves to laugh at my many mistakes.  And trust me, there are many of them.  After about the first three hours of sitting in the classroom speaking only Spanish, she told me it was time for a break.  It's probably a good thing or I think my head would have exploded.  It is hard work just trying to understand everything nevertheless think of words to respond with.  So I had some tea and conversed with some of the other students. 

Class ended at 1pm.  I think that after 15 days of this, I will be much better off.  It is nice to be the only person with the instructor so she can focus on what I need and move quickly over what I do not.  

After eating some lunch, Robin and I along with a few others went to a chocolate making class.  Josephina is a host mother and she is the one who taught the class.  Basically we pounded some warm chocolate into a small mold, cut lines for squares and imprinted it with Josephina's flower seal.  It was a fun experience and was some very delicious chocolate.  :)

I finished out my day by walking with some people to Central Park to change some bills into Quetzales, the Guatemalan currency.  It was a good walk, but I was ready to get home by the time we finished there.

I have to do some homework, which consists of writing 10 sentences and my opinion of the chocolate class.  I hope it doesn't take too long because my brain and body are tired.  I know this is a long post, but my first day was so exciting I didn't want any of you to miss it!  So enjoy!



Monday, June 13, 2011

More Guatemala

I have made it to Guatemala!

I am very happy to be sitting in my room at my host family's house.  The trip here had a few bumps, but overall it went well.  Thankfully.

I arrived last night around 9pm and stayed at a bed and breakfast.  It was a quaint little place, but very nice.  It is where I had my first taste of Guatemalan cuisine.  A sort of chile relleno sandwich.  It was pretty delicious.

I had a four hour bus ride this morning to get from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango. (Xela for short -pronounced Shay-la)  It was relatively...unpleasant.  Mostly because I felt like I was in a paint shaker the whole way.  I felt a little motion sick, but I tried to distract myself by reading.  At least I'm well mixed now...  This aside, the countryside is absolutely gorgeous.  The road was certainly the most curvy road I have ever ridden on, but we drove up through the mountains and it was quite scenic. 

The temperature here is actually quite cool.  According to the Weather Channel it is about 64 degrees.  But it is more humid than home.  Still, I enjoy it.

I begin classes tomorrow at 8am.  It sounds like it is about a 15 minute walk to get to the school.  My host family is going to show me the route and pick up another student on the way.  Hopefully, my ear becomes accustomed to the sound of Spanish, because I am way overstimulated right now trying to understand everything.  I guess that is why I came here though.  :)

I am going to converse a little with my host family now.  I will be with them for three weeks, so I better get to know them! 



Wednesday, June 1, 2011


So, its official!  I am going to Guatemala.

I leave on the morning of June 12th and am not returning until July 2nd.  Three whole weeks to study Spanish.  The classes at my school are taught with an instructor in a one-on-one format.  I think it will be pretty intense, but hopefully when I return in July I will be able to at least have a good grasp on conversation.  I also will be living with a host family for these three weeks, so it sounds like I will be well taken care of and will get a taste of Guatemalan lifestyle and cuisine.  :) 

The program is through Casa Xelaju and offers in addition to classroom teaching, the opportunity to take excursions into the city with your instructor.  I am pretty excited about this because this immersion will help tune my ear and will be very similar to what I will experience in Mexico.

I am also looking into taking a trip to Tikal which will, according to my school, explore the jungles of Guatemala and the ruins of the Mayan City of Tikal, the largest of the Mayan ruins. I will be able to climb the pyramids, admire the hieroglyphs that cover the stone monuments and watch the monkeys as they swing through the canopies.  It sounds like an amazing opportunity to see an ancient civilization's history.

How exciting!  I can't wait for the day to come.  I promise more stories and maybe even some pictures.  :)

Caio for now,