28 April 2011

My parents and sister came to visit!

We rode in tuk tuk,
walked (and had to get our shoes shined),
road in a pickup truck,
in shuttles,
in lanchas (boats),
in microbuses,
and in camionetas (school buses).

What an adventure we had!!
For more, see my picasa album of the amazing alfombras and processions we saw for Holy week and Easter, and the trips we had to Lake Atitlan and Xela! :)

bendiciones, juli

19 April 2011


Happy Semana Santa, friends!

Cuaresma (Lent) in Guatemala is a very big deal. It´s esspecially exciting because I´m living with a Catholic family in a majority-Catholic country who takes me to all sorts of fun things! Each weekend, there are big processions of people in purple cloaks carrying a huge wooden float with a scene of Jesus and His cross over elaborate colored saw-dust alfombras (carpets) that line the streets. These wooden ¨andas¨(unfortunately, I don´t know what most of this stuff is called in English...) look SUPER heavy, and they carry them around for HOURS, slowly processing through towns (and changing the carriers). I think it represents Jesus carrying His cross. To me it does, anyway.

The processessions process over these alfombras, or carpets, made of sawdust. I´ve never seen such beauty come from sawdust! It´s dyed all colors of the rainbow, they make giant wooden stencils, and then they meticulously fill the spaces of the stencil with the sawdust, working for hours to make these beautiful alfombras. Truly works of art... Which are then stomped over in a matter of minutes by the purple people. Sad day.

I´ve also been able to go to ¨velaciones¨ with my host family. These are huge (stationary) scenes of Jesus´ life complete with narration and lights (and sometimes smoke effects!), and of course, the alfombras (which don´t get ruined, so they´re even more beautiful and elaborate and usually include a lot of produce). Each cathedral has a specific Gospel passage, and put up their scene in the altar for a few days, and in those days, hundreds of people come to see cthe scenes and pray, crowding the huge churches. It´s definitely not a place for those who are clausterphobic, but it is SUCH a neat chance to see, hear, taste, and feel the life of Jesus in a whole new way. Outside, it´s super alegre- with loads of yummy street food, people selling toys, and friends (my host family seriously knows EVERYONE). It´s such a wonderful way to celebrate Jesus´ life.

This lent has been an amazing chance to experience the life and death of Jesus following a completely different tradition, and I´m so glad to be in the heart of the action here in Antigua!

Have a great Semana Santa, dedicated readers!
bendiciones, juli

PS: More pictures here (from before my camera died)...

09 April 2011

el banco

This blog was inspired by my banking experience just this morning...

Going to the bank in Guatemala is a test in patience. And humility. And forgiveness. And more patience.

Any time you need to go to the bank here, you should dedicate at least 30-40 minutes, and God forbid you happen to go at the end of the month when people are picking up paychecks -- in this case, you should allow at least 1 hour (and avoid it at ALL costs).

First, you enter past the machine-gun armed guard- Normal. There is one line, so you get into it, seeing no other option. After waiting for about 20+ minutes, you get to the front of the line. Hurrah! Not so fast- you are more than likely told that you aren´t in the right place. Looking around, you might think ¨Where else could I possibly be?¨ When the teller will point you toward a teeny tiny desk in the corner that probably has no one sitting in it, but surely they´ll ¨be right back.¨ So you go wait at that other desk, assured that you can skip back to the front of the line once you´re helped there.

So once the desk person returns and gives you the tiny little form (or sometimes just a small piece of scratch paper with a surely-not-arbitrary number on it) that you ´need´ for your transaction, you can skip back to the front of the line (which always goes over well with the people waiting and watching the huge white girl cut to the front).

Once you´re at the front with all necessary components, you will definitely be helped on a very personal and individual level through a Guatemalan-height glass window (which is thick and tall, so you are very unlikely to be able to hear what the person on the other end is saying, because the crack in it is probably at your chest-level) Translation: This person gets paid the same amount whether they help 1 person per hour or 20 people... So they are in no rush. Hope you´re not either.

After an undoubtedly fumbled conversation due to confusion and frustration, you will [most likely] have fulfilled your banking needs... Though probably slightly worse for ware, and definitely with no lollypop reward at the end.
The good part: most banks are air-conditioned.
The bad part: They will probably suck out your soul if you spend too much time in them.

Thanks for chances to grow patience and for the fact that I have enough money to put in a bank, God!
bendiciones, juli

07 April 2011

one leg in the water

So I was sitting having lunch in my almost-gringo-free-park today having lunch, and a little boy comes up to me and asks me if i want a shoe shine, which is a very common occurrence here in Guatemala. I look down at my Chacos and say "no, thank you." He insists, and I motion toward my sandals and say "no, thank you" -- he points to the rubber base part- offering to shine that, and I say "no, thank you," and he gets the point.

I feel kind of bad because he was an extra-cute shoe shiner (but seriously... WHAT is he going to shine?! They're sandals!) and semi-discretely watch him for a while as I eat my chicken, potatoes, and canteloupe (gotta love host families that feed you...) He's not too poorly dressed and looks relatively clean, but obviously any 6ish-year-old who's trying to shoe-shine sandals doesn't come from money. So after my decline(s), he goes and stands for a few minutes watching a group of young boys play an impromptu futbol game in the park, clearly wishing he could play, too. The other boys ignore him and he decides to make his own fun. Way to go, kid!

So he climbs up on the fountain in the center of the small park (which is about 10 feet tall, the first level about 3ft off the ground) and starts walking around the edge of the first level. Keep in mind he is probably 3.5 feet tall. He walks around, carefully staying on the 1-ft lip of the fountain's bottom basin. After a few laps, I think he had gained a bit of confidence, so he started hopping over certain parts of the rim. After several minutes, he parked it and started leaning over to look up into the 2nd level up of the fountain, swatting at the bees that mysteriously congregate there and pulling sticks and trash out of the water.

After about 15 minutes, he goes back to the walking/hopping around the edge of the 1st level. I look back down and start reading my Liberation Theology texts that we're reading for our next retreat and

He's in. No, only half in - one leg, to be exact. I almost go over to help him, but as he pulls his leg out of the water, he's smiling. And then laughing. This little shoe-shine boy half-falls into a public fountain, gets out with a totally wet pant leg (just the 1) and can laugh.

Why do we feel like we have to take life so seriously, to live so carefully? Let's all try and play a little more... and not be afraid to fall (half) into the water.
bendiciones, juli

Note: I found this pict on google images (amazing) -- but it pretty much perfectly captures the little boy I'm talking about.

02 April 2011

I am now 100% fundraised!!! Thanks supporters!

bendiciones, juli

"I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now."
- Philippians 1: 3-5