25 September 2010

1 Month in Guatemala!

Well world, I´ve officially been in Guatemala for 1 month! So crazy! In some ways it feels like I´ve been here forever, in others, like I just got here. In any event, I´m loving it.

Here´s some stuff I´m still getting used to...
1. No TV. Well, there is a TV (which is nicer than mine at home), but it´s in Mom and Dad´s room (like in Chile), so everyone just piles into bed with Mom and Dad. Needless to say, I´m not there yet with this family... But I have read 8 books now, and also learned several new songs on the guitar...
2. No hot water. Well, except in the shower. Getting used to washing my face with cold water...
3. Climate. On any given day, I take a sweater and a rain coat and/or an umbrella, and will certainly need all and none of them at some point. Proper footware remains a mystery.

4. Rain and its good friends Dampness and Mustiness. Now that we´re in the rainiest part of the rainy season, my world is just damp. Oh how I pray for a gigantic dehumidifier for the country of Guatemala. At least there´s no carpeting.
5. Scented toilet paper. Who invented this?? Why?!?
6. The food. I really enjoy 95% of what I´m given, (like ripe fruit, lots of fresh corn tortillas, refried black beans, chicken, fried plantains, tomato-based sauces... Kinda like less-spicey Mexican food?) but it´s been an adjustment having NO idea what any given meal will bring... There have also been a few noteworthy fails. For example, one morning I had a raisin bread sandwich with mayo and ketchup (¨salsa dulce¨), ham, tomato, and raw onion. I mean, seriously?! I could only take 2 bites. I gave myself a gold star for that.
7. No car: glorious! Instead, we take the camioneta (or ¨chicken bus,¨ as it is semi-offensively called by most gringos). Let me paint a picture for you: old school buses from the US, painted with fancy decorations on the outside. Very crowded, very cheap, very good.

So there´s a little snapshot of my life here. Some struggles, but more joys. Thanks for supporting me in this first month!
bendiciones, juli

¨And my God will supply every need of yours according to the riches of glory in Christ Jesus.¨ - Phillipians 4:19.
¨Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all situations.¨ ¨Estén siempre alegres, oren sin cesar, den gracias a Dios en toda situación.¨ - 1 Thes. 5:16-19.

19 September 2010

Sabbath Year

So one of the things that Marcia (our YAV program director) has been talking to us about is the idea of a Sabbath year. We've been talking and reading about the idea that The Sabbath shouldn't just be an antiquated, legalistic Old Testament idea-- but rather a spiritual practice that we regularly incorporate into our lives (After all, it's on the same list as Do Not Kill... so why don't we take it just as seriously??)

We've been opening our eyes and looking at the Sabbath in different ways -- not just abstaining from all work on Sunday. Maybe just protecting 1 day to refrain from stuff we're told we "should" be doing (ie: chores), or refrain from materialistic consumption 1 specific day, or, in respect for God's creation, refrain from using personal cars 1 day a week [not quite as applicable for us this year], or refrain from the TV, or the blackberry... Different ways to take our own Sabbaths 1 day each week (ideally). This makes it -for me- seem WAY less overwhelming than refraining from all things for one whole day.

But why??
A) God tells us to (Exodus 20:8-11, Exodus 23:12-13, Leviticus 25:1-23)
B) Newsflash: The world will not fall apart if we take a break. Heck, even God could take a Sabbath break without stuff falling apart! (Gen 2:1-3) We need to get over ourselves- Sorry friends, but we're just not as important as we think...
C) When I look back at my life when I'm 80, I don't want to remember it as a demanding, hectic blur of work.
D) It's a bodily way to reflect that we see life/ work/ creation different than mainstream culture dictates. Fight the man!

So we're talking about making this year a sort of Sabbath year-- A break from the 'normal' paces of our lives-- and ultimately a time to rest and reflect on what God's doing in our lives as a way to figure out what comes next.

Will God love us less if we don't Sabbath? Heck no, But will we love life more if we do? I'm beginning to think yes...

Just some food for thought. Thanks for reading, world.
bendiciones, juli

"Days pass, years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles..."

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
- Matthew 11:28-29

17 September 2010

El Día de la Independencia

Well world, the 15th of September is a very important day here- it marks when Guatemala became independent of España in 1821. Woo!

Celebrations began on the 14th when us 6 students went to the centro of our little town, and saw 100s of little kids in ALL manners of costumes... brides, grim reapers, huge paper mache animals, mimes-- you name it. Unsure of their meanings, but from here, we met up with the Antigua students from our school (15ish) and lit our torch for our run to Antigua. Apparently it is very customary. My estimate is about 7km, which is kind of a lot if you haven´t been training and have been eating lots of less-than-healthy foods... and if you have an emergencia del baño. I´ll leave it at that, and assure that I made it finally. We spent the rest of Tuesday in Antigua where loads of flags, decorations, etc were everywhere!

Wednesday, we got uip early and went to the Parque Central de Antigua to watch the desfile (parade)-- it was long. As in, we stayed for like 2 hours and then wandered elsewhere... but it was really cute! Youngest kids started (at 8) and they got progressively older towards 1:00 (yeah, really long parade.)

So bajillions of schools around the Antigua area were respresented, pretty much everyone had a group of just plan walkers, who wore their school uniforms and carried a school logo-banner. Then everyone had Señorita de La Escuela (complete with pageant sashes), then most schools had a band/ drum line/ baton-girls/ something else that followed. Now, given that the route took like an hour, it wasn´t necessarily the liveliest performance anyone every gave... but it was still fun.

That night, we came back to the little town where we live and there was a big fair-thing going on with food vendors, marimba players, and some dancing-- mainly it was just nice to be outside at . Guatemala is really strange to me in that one doesn´t go outside once it´s dark. I´m not sure if this stems from wartime (15 years ago) or what, but one simlpy stays inside once it´s dark. The end. It´s been pretty hard to get used to... and last weekend, I walked home from Tina´s house (about 1 block) at 9:45pm, and it seriously felt like 3 in the morning. Anyway, we don´t go out at night-- consequently I go to bed at like 9:30 and have already read 4 books. haha

Anyway, Happy Indepence, Guatemala! Also a special shout-out to Erica who turned 24! Feliz cumple, abuelita!

09 September 2010

La pila

Anyone who´s lived with me knows how much I detest laundry- I have no idea why I hate it so darn much, but it just makes me angry.

Well world, meet Guatemalan laundry- the pila. It´s a 3part sink- 1 side is smoother (for washing dishes, I think), 1 side is ridged (for scrubbing clothes) and the middle is deep and full of water. So since we´re all pretty much running out of clothes, Laura, Katharine, and I decided to (attempt to)do our laundry together at Laura´s house- but every Guatemalan house has (at least) 1 pila.

So. You start by putting all of your clothes in a bucket of water with powder soap stuff. Then, one by one, you pull them out and give them a scrub on the pila- adding more soap if it´s an especially dirty article. Then, using little bucket-dish things, you scoop water from the middle (where the faucet it) and rinse and wring out the article until there are no more bubbles. THEN, you put the clothes in something (shout out to my baggu re-usable shopping bag that doubles as a laundry basket) until you can bring them home to hang on the line. All of this happens while various Guatemalans walk by and laugh at (with) us. It took about 40 mins to do it, and honestly, world- it wasn´t that bad! Lord knows how our clothes are going to look when they´re dry (sometime tomorrow?), but it was actually nice to wash our stuff together because we got to chat and laugh together. Also, it was SO much more environmentally-friendly!!

So am I renouncnig washing machines? No. But am I dreading the next load of laundry I have to do? Why no, no I am not- because there´s something really beautiful about washing your skivies by hand and then hanging them up for all the world to see.

bendiciones, juli

Mi cumpleaños!

Well world, I´m 22 years old! Honestly, I was a little bit nervous about what yesterday would look like- because I´ve only been with my host family for a week, and I´ve only known these YAVs for like 3 weeks (which blows my mind in itself), but it was seriously a wonderful day! And for those of you who didn´t know, yesterday was also Mary, Mother of Jesus´s birthday, too- according to Guatemalan Catholics. Happy belated birthday, Mary!

So the day started with a little jog, and then a legitmately hot shower! This probably needs some explanation. SO there´s an electric water heater attached to the shower head (safe??)- so it has to be on the correct setting (hot is represented by a black dot, cold by a half black dot. Obviously.) Then, one has to turn the water (with the valve, nothing more) all the way on, then turn the pressure down little by little. The more pressure, the less hot the water will be. So I´m not saying I´m Einstein, but I´m pretty proud that it finally all came together for me. Then I went upstairs and had a typical birthday tamale for breakfast! Yum!

Then, I went up the street to school, where I was greeted by balloons, a ¨surprise¨ piñata (hard to have surprises when we´re all together all the time...), a bday sign, and many coca lights (which are somehow far superior to Diet Cokes). At our 10oclock break, we broke the piñata (which seriously took like 20 mins, it was the strongest piñata in the world) and had lots of candy-- then my teacher brought out a big cake for all of us! And after like 10 birthday songs, we finally could enjoy it. Qué rico!

At lunch, my host sisters presented me with my gift and many hugs, so sweet! They gave me a woven cloth that they use here to wrap up tortillas or line bread baskets-- So I´m not 100% sure what I´ll use it for, but still so thoughtful! Then they came downstairs and I gave them a bunch of dulces from the piñata- I am so not above bribing them to like me. Then after lunch Brodie called! Yay!

Soo in the afternoon we bussed to Antigua (Tina with the 2nd ¨secret¨cake), and met up with Marcia and another mission worker who´s been here for over 40 years, Dennis Smith. He talked to us about Guatemala, politics, his experiences, our hopes, etc... Very cool! Then we went to Marcia´s house and hung out until dinner and I got to talk to my parents, too! So what did the birthday princess want for dinner? Chinese food! Haha, we had it delivered, and it wasn´t really anything to brag about, but it was yummy and different from the (delicious) Guatemalan food we´ve been getting. Afterwards, we ate like half of the world´s largest cake that Tina´s host mom made. Yep- I probably gained like 10 birthday pounds yesterday, but it was totally worth it.

All in all, a wonderful day full of friends and food when I felt very loved.

bendiciones, juli

03 September 2010

Bienvenido a Guatemala!

Well, world- here I am in San Juan del Obispo outside of Antigua, Guatemala! INSANE! The 5 of us Guatemala YAVs will be here for about 5 weeks, doing language school and just generally getting ready for the year. We took a long walking tour the other day in Antigua (photos to follow soon), and it's a really really beautiful and historically well-preserved (read: toursity) city! Yesterday we moved in with our 1st host families for our language school time (before that we were in a nice hotel) and then at the beginning of October we move to our rest-of-the-year sites where we'll start work and stuff! Wow! These 1st families are a little strange, because it feels way more like a weird hotel than a ¨family¨- We all get the feeling that they have host students all the time... so they could kinda care less who we are. Haha, ego blow. BUT, it´s also really nice to be able to just go to our rooms and relax and not really worry too much about establishing real and lasting relationships with these families... because they clearly expect no such thing... so that´s been kinda nice. Let me tell you world, operating in a different language is exhausting! It will get easier (and more comfortable with the families), though... with time.

It´s seriously crazy that I´ve only been here for 5 days, world. I´ve had so many moments today of "I cannot believe this is my life" - so needless to say it's very exciting so far. I realize that after only a few days I´m very much stuff in the ¨honeymoon¨ phase, but I seriously feel so comfortable here... It´s awesome. (Note= this does NOT mean that I fit in. I´m at least a head taller than all women, and most men. Good stuff.)

Things to get used to:
- There are volcanoes everywhere. Active and Dormant- I saw one errupt the other day. No big deal.
- Toilet paper does not go in the toilets...Nope- It goes in the trash can.
- I have no laptop. I Never realized how pathetically attached I am to it for so many things. Refreshing and also strangely unsettling not to have it.
- Bugs are EVERYwhere -- beetles, moths, etc... love that part
- It rains EVERY afternoon ... it´s also quite a bit colder than expected... booo
- Tortillas galore! Very Juli- friendly. Also, all food that I´ve had has been DELICIOUS. Woo!

Let´s see- I think that´s about it. We had our 1st adventure on the public transportation yesterday. Literally a disaster of aimlessly wandering and taking bad advice to find our bus... but we made it some how! haha

love to all,
bendiciones, juli