26 February 2011

tikal !!

Hello world!! We're back from YAV retreat/ visa renewal in Tikal and Belize! It was an amazing trip, and such a blessing to be able to recharge and relax for a week. A huge thanks to my supporters for making it possible!!

So I'll start with the full report on Tikal...
We took a 9hour charter bus from Guate to Flores in the very northern part of Guatemala (which included only 1 road-side pullover to see why there was smoke and a distinct burning rubber smell... No answer found. It also entailed watching only the last 15min of Big Daddy approx. 3 times, and the disc menu on The Pacifier for about 20 mins straight) Once we arrived in Flores, we stayed the night, and then bright and early, took a 1hour shuttle to Tikal- The ancient Mayan ruins that were constructed/ inhabitted between 800BC and 900AD.

The whole park is 16km x 16km, so we definitely got our walking in-- we saw a LOT of the temples, and climbed many of them which were many many meters high (using less-than-safe ladders... turns out i'm kind of afraid of shakey ladders.) It's in the middle of the jungle (read: malaria mosquitos), so we saw two different types of monkeys, many exotic birds, and a bunch of other animals! It's unknown why the town was abandoned, but I'm guessing that people got tired of climbing so many stairs in their huge headdresses. Or the jaguars ate them.

After a very long day exploring with our tour guide, we had a huge late lunch and headed back to the town of Flores for a dinner of street food buffet. Mmmm.

All in all, I'm so glad that we could go -- it's such a huge part of Guatemala's past and I'm really glad I could experience it-- thanks so much supporters! :)

12 February 2011

half-way point!

Well friends, I've made it half way through my YAV year in Guatemala!

So far, my time here has definitely NOT been what I expected it to be, but I'm really really thankful for the chance to be here -in Xela and Antigua- to grow, explore my faith, learn about Guatemala, and experience COMPLETELY different government, food, climate, and economic situations than I'm used to. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Lord has in store for me over the next 6 months, though I can only imagine what it will be...

Things I Miss About Home
- Free refills
- Diet Dr. Pepper (and, of course, the off-brand versions I usually bought)
- Cooking for myself (when I want, what I want, as much as I want)
- Driving (Though I really do like taking public transportation... except when it gives me fleas or I get on the wrong bus)
- Being able to blend in
- Washing my face with warm water
- Being able to go outside when it's dark
- Mail being reliable/dependable
- Schools that teach people how to think critically/ solve problems

Things I Like Better Here
- Coca Light (it just really is different than Diet Coke!)
- Warm Spring weather allll the time (yeahhh... sorry about that snow!)
- Having a super long lunch break where I can read (I've read like 18 books already this year!)
- Not having exams or essays ever (Although having a finished product really would be nice once in a while...)
- Corn tortillas EVERYwhere
- People being more concerned with work relationships than work productivity (though... that obviously has its downsides)
- Trying to like coffee
- Getting care packages (send me one!)
- Hearing/ feeling thunder and learning it's actually a volcano puffing
- Seeing beautiful Mayan women wearing beautiful traditional trajes
- Women carrying baskets on their heads like its no big deal

So there you go, friends-- Thanks for sticking with me through the 1st half of my journey.
bendiciones, juli

PS: Don't forget to look at my pictures...

07 February 2011

QuinceaƱera !

Well world, week 1 of my Antigua life has come and gone --- and I'm settling in slowly but surely :)

This Saturday, I went to the quinceaƱera of a niece of my host mom, and let me tell you, it was QUITE a production. I'm pretty sure they spent more on this than I will spend on my wedding.

It started with a mass that was to start at 4:30pm (so it started at 5:30), complete with a (very high school) small orchestra and marimbas! Highlights from the mass included the birthday girl's wedding dress; the priest's sermonette, in which he urged the birthday girl (Daniela) to enjoy her parents now because they would soon die, and to only make friends who don't do drugs. Pretty good advice. After the service, we sat and watched the birthday girl get her glamour shots taken in her dress, and then there was a receiving line outside (Wasn't quite sure what to say... "I'm a stranger to you, but way to go- you made it to 15??").

We then went to the reception in the back of the pickup (in dresses, yes- always classy). It was held at the high school basketball court/ Ciudad Vieja banquet hall and and it was FAN-CY...There were seats for about 300 people, and lots of bow-tied waiters. To say that people pull out all the stops for their quinces is an understatement... There were 3ft-tall-ish center pieces on each table (And yes, my host mom did take ours home with her) and a swing haphazardly hung from the rafters (again, we're in the gym) where Daniela ceremonially received her last doll to represent changing from child to young adult after her grand entrance to the party (which, of course, included fireworks). Then there was a father-daughter dance with a toast, and then! Oh, then, there was a special surprise. Daniela's siblings had all pitched in to have a singer come to the party, and so the DJ gave Daniella some clues about who it was (he was on Latin American Idol!) and she had NOOOOOO idea who he could be... Then he came out, and of course! It was the sort of- not really actually famous- I think I've seen your face before Jose Franciso Juarez! Duh!! He sang some (very awkward) love songs to the birthday girl, and then we all ate a Guatemalan-fancy dinner, complete with pitchers of coke and individual bottles of rum on each table.

At about 8:15, the lights went out, the candles were extinguished, and the whole place turned into a disco/ High School homecoming dance!! All the 15year olds flooded the dance floor and started bumping and grinding, right there in front of grandma!! It was complete with fancy lights, a smoke machine, and a bubble machine! [Sadly, no, I did not participate, being 1 head taller and a lot lot whiter than everyone else on the dance floor.] We stayed, watching them dance to SUPER loud reggeaton music until about 9:15, when they STILL had not cut the cake, but we headed home anyway, centerpiece in hand.

It was a really fun night, and definitely not what I expected going into it... But then again, nothing in Guatemala is ever what you expect it to be.

Hope this update finds you well, faithful follower!
bendiciones, juli