Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Break and Semana Santa

Here are the highlights of this amazing week!

On Sunday I got up early to go pick up Tiffany and Laura at their hotel in Guatemala City. There were some problems getting out of Antigua due to the processions but eventually we made it to the hotel and I got to see them! Unfortunately I did not see their luggage and it turns out it got lost somewhere in Mexico City.
On Monday we didn't do much besides shop at the market and eat. The luggage did not come.
On Tuesday we went to Santo Domingo to visit the museum. In the afternoon we climbed Pacaya - an active volcano! It was definitely the greatest thing we've ever done in our lives. We got withing 6 feet of the flowing lava, but it was too hot to get any closer. We got to watch the sunset as we climbed around on the molten rock, then hiked back down in the dark. It was incredible.
On Wednesday we had a lot of coffee to help give ourselves a boost from the exhausting climb. We even visited a coffee plantation and museum. We had a personal tour around the place and got to help contibute to the process by cleaning the beans for a bit. After a call to the airport for the billionth time we found out that their luggage was in Guatemala City at their hotel from Saturday, and no one would bring it to Antigua. Fortunately the SI director, Fernando, saved us and took as to the hotel. Even though it was more than half way through their trip, both Tiffany and Laura were very glad to have their luggage.
On Thursday the madness of Semana Santa began. Before it really started we had the best Chai in the world, ate at Cafe Sky with an amazing view of the city, and had a cozy dinner at a favorite restaurant of mine - Doña Louisa's. During the day we explored the ruins of the Cathedral, and returned during the evening to see a beatiful alter and candle display. We also watched a reenactment of Jesus's trial and experienced a night procession.On Friday we got up to join the crowds at 4:30 AM. Really they had been out all night long, preparing alfombras (carpets out of colored sawdust) for the following day's processions, but we chose not to show our faces until 4:30. The little boys carrying banners were exhausted and kept on dozing off before the start at 5:00. It was pretty exciting to see, even if it was early. The rest of the day we rested, and Laura and I went out a few times as Tiffany was not feeling to well and the insence made it worse. There were atleast 4 processions, beginning at 5 and ending at 3:30 AM. We only lasted until about 9 before crashing. Even so, it turned out to be a pretty fun day.
Today was the reversal of yesterday - Laura was feeling sick instead. We had a light breakfast then packed up their suitcases and took them to my house. The shuttle driver had no problems today, and we arrived at the airport at 11:50. I said (a quick) goodbye and we returned to Antigua. Now I'm updating this! I'm going to rest for the next few days before heading back to work on Monday.

May everyone's Easter be filled with joy!

Friday, March 14, 2008

A general update on life!

This past week was an incredibly exhausting but awesome week. The week to come will be about the same, but for a completely different reason!

Tiffany (my sister) and her roommate, Laura, are coming to visit for Semana Santa - it just happened to be the Spring Break for all three of us! They'll arrive late Saturday night, then we'll spend Sunday through Saturday together visiting the sites around Antigua, going to a coffee farm, climbing Pacaya (an active volcano), and enjoying the Semana Santa celebrations. I'm very excited to share a little bit of my life with them!

This past week we worked at our ministry sites again - I'm at El Gorrion (see previous blog post). On Tuesday I was sick so missed out on work, but as it turns out, everyone else did as well. A gang had taken over a bus on the way to Guatemala City and murdered the ayudante - the man who collects all the money and helps out the driver. Once this happened, the buses stopped running for the rest of the day. Please pray for the bus system here - there are many problems with violence and gangs on the buses, which makes it harder for us to get to our ministry sites. We've been taking a private shuttle for a few days now, but it's much easier (and cheaper) to ride the bus. However, until it's more secure, we'll be avoiding the buses to our ministry sites.

A little bit about what we did this week -

~On Monday and Wednesday we made tambourines out of flattened bottle caps, wood, and wire. The kids really went crazy with paint, and decorated their instruments.

~On Monday and Wednesday we also tutored two moms of the community after school. We're helping them with the manuscript and also reading skills. We're trying to build relationships with the families in addition to the children, and spreading the love of God around the village. Each time we tutor we end with a time of prayer, where we all lay our hands on the women and pray for whatever they've requested or shared. It's a blessing that goes both ways.

~On Thursday we spent our time preparing for today, because the kids had the day off of school. This was a good time of relaxation and conversation.

~On Friday we led an Easter craft. We made Easter bags with rabbits and eggs, and in the end filled them with a bible verse and candy. We were able to share a bit about the meaning of Easter, some of our traditions in the US, and spoil the kids with candy.

~After school on Friday we visited the homes of the two moms we work with to say hi and see how they're doing. In one of the homes we learned how to make the staple here - corn tortillas! It was amazing, and incredibly difficult to do! Eventually, by the end of our time, we were making some that looked about 1/2 as good as hers. Even though they didn't appear great, it was awesome to learn. We even got to eat one, fresh!

~Now I'm doing some homework for an education class, updated folks back home, and trying to wait patiently for the arrival of Tiffany and Laura.

I hope that everyone has a blessed Holy Week, and truly experiences Christ's love through this season!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Bean by Bean - A Weekend of Ministry

This past weekend we got the awesome opportunity to serve with two organizations - Bean by Bean, and Paradise Bound. We were actually only working directly with Paradise Bound - this is a family from Michigan who's serving in the unreached villages of Guatemala. They partner with Bean by Bean in producing Fair Trade coffee.

What we did was spend a weekend serving through their ministry. Friday we drove out to their base, and had orientation to the program and a team devotional. Saturday we got up nice and early to start work right away. In the morning I worked in counting and bagging up various pills, while others got food bags ready, toys and stuff for the kids, and other various things that needed to be done. After lunch we packed up the vans and drove 2 hours (one of which was basically off road on some gravel (more like boulder) roads - worse than the road to Boma, and much longer, for those of you who've gone to the DR...

Where we served was a tiny indiginous village called La Nueva Bendición. We set up a medical clinic where we treated all the people of the village and provided them with medication. We also brought 1800 lbs of coffee to be processed in the local plant (this is the only Bean by Bean part of the weekend). We were able to see it being de-cherried - the machines were from a 50's coffee plantation and it is a very dangerous process (see the photos). In the evening we had an evangelism service where we sang a few songs and prayed over those who made a decision to accept Christ. After the service we passed out food, soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste to each family. We packed up the vans, and got back to base around midnight.

On Sunday we were able to "sleep in" until 8:30. We had more devotional time, and also a time of reflection.
It was an awesomely exhausting time.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Some details of my life....

We’re finally falling into routine! In order to avoid being redundant, here are some general things that apply to every day:

-We have school Monday – Friday, 8-12. During this time, since I’m taking an oral class, we talk about various things… a lot. We have 7 presentations total. So far we've had a Biblical Reflecations presentation (3 minutes), a Critical Commentary presentation (6 minutes), Film Review (15 minutes), Informative presentatin (10 minutes), and a Debate (45 minutes). We will be finishing up next week with a Poem Presentation, and a 20 minute Persuasive Presentation.

-I always eat Corn Flakes and fruit for breakfast, except on Sundays.

-The food for lunch and dinner generally is good – every once and I while I wind up with a plate full of veggies (okay in small portions, but not in plate fulls…) when there’s nothing else I can eat for dinner. I always have corn tortillas with lunch and dinner, except on Sunday. The reason why Sundays are different is because our homes don’t provide food for us. Instead we have a stipend from Students International for breakfast and lunch, and then eat together as a group for dinner.

-I am no longer ALWAYS hungry, because I have a stash of food in our room. I’ve discovered some pretty good gluten-free cookie/biscuit things. I also have some nummy other snacks hidden away from the bugs.

-On Tuesdays we have worship and Bible study, and on Thursdays we have our cross-cultural class CAMINOS.

-We always have a lot of homework, so if I don’t mention anything exciting, that’s because we didn’t do anything exciting due to mass amounts of homework…

-We generally have daily internet access, either at school or at the Students International office.

-I have a cell phone, which I use quite frequently to call back home… it’s relatively cheap!

-I’m getting incredibly dark (for me)! It’s basically sunny and mid 70’s, and with our 8 block walk to school and an amazing roof there’s plenty of opportunity to soak it in!

-We’re pretty much tired all the time. We’re not crashing as early as we were in Magdalena , due to the homework load. It’s a bummer, but we’ve discovered power naps are generally quite effective. We usual take advantage of this right before lunch and during breaks from homework.