Life in Guatemala // an overview

So you want to know what it was like to live in Guatemala for ten weeks?

Good! Read on. 🙂

I’m not sure whether this post is better described as an overview or a preview. Since life in Guatemala was so crazy, blogging was sadly not on my highest priority list, so I am quite behind on letting you all know what has been happening! I returned home on April 16, about nine days ago, and am finally getting a chance to post some photos here! Hopefully more posts will follow shortly, but I want to give y’all an idea of the many crazy, fun, and traditional things we did before I go into detail about any of them.

Let’s start with normal life….at least, as normal as it ever gets in Guate. 🙂

I help teach third grade, which has all of six students. Since it’s a bilingual school, they know a little bit of English, but it’s still a challenge to communicate sometimes…especially with the Guatemalan teacher, who knows almost no English. So I am very motivated to learn as much Spanish as possible!! I help with all the classes they have before their noon break, and during that time I also teach them reading and spelling.


Agh, I love these kiddos. They’re so full of fun and personality!!


Mikah and I do most of our cooking ourselves, except for a few times when we went out to a restaurant and bought Guatemalan food. Some of our endeavors flop, but most are successful! Sausage Cheese Biscuit Casserole, anyone?


I often stay at school during lunch break and play tag or cops and robbers with the littles, which helps me get my “kid time” in while I’m thousands of miles away from my siblings. Once, as I carry my camera around snapping photos as the children excitedly chase each other around, a little first-grader, Elizabeth, stops me.

“Puedo tomar una foto con usted?” (Can I take a picture with you?) She asks. Why not?? This picture is now one of my all-time favorites from my entire stay!


One Saturday, we hike down La Barranca, which translates as “The Ravine,” with the sixth grade students and teachers from the bilingual school at which we teach. It is beautiful, and we enjoy being able to be out in nature again!


Needless to say, this group is a hoot. 😀



And the food……..AMAZING. Goodness, I could eat that every day and not get tired of it!

Mikah and I go on an adventurous bus journey to visit our good friend Corrie, who is doing missionary work in another part of Guatemala. It is a refreshing and encouraging weekend away, even if bus trips in Guatemala are a little hectic.


We have a whole week-long break from school during Holy Week (Semana Santa, as they call it)! It turns out that Corrie’s plans changed and she is able to come visit us a couple days before Holy Week begins, so we surprise the teachers with the presence of a third gringa at their small-town school. 🙂 All three of us go to Antigua, Guatemala, with the Schaper family for half the week while they complete three days of language school.

Antigua Cross Selfie

Corrie has to fly home on Tuesday, so we decide to go hike a volcano on Monday to make sure we get our tourist experience in. Aaannd, we just feel like hiking an active volcano, ya know, just for fun. Right?


While in Antigua, we observe several Catholic parades and the huge crowds they draw…yes, that float you see is carried by probably a hundred people.


Mikah and I enjoy taking my senior photos after Corrie leaves, and are beyond grateful for the beauty of the apartment complex and yard! Besides, not many people get their photos taken by an amazing friend while in a foreign country…I am blessed!

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Coffee….is one of the best things in the world. 🙂


Back at school again after Easter comes and goes, we have three merit parties for the students at the school with the most merits!

One for kindergarten through third grade…


One for fourth and fifth grades…this is a water party! Kids here LOVE getting wet. 🙂


And one for sixth through tenth grades!


Mikah and I are asked to sing and play for church twice, and for a wedding once. This is both fun and nerve-wracking…but it goes pretty well overall. 🙂


The week before I fly home, all the teachers throw a surprise farewell party for me! It is a blast and almost completely a surprise! We play several fun games, including human foosball, before eating a very delicious, very Guatemalan meal. Mmmmm….


Even though Guatemala was in its dry season while I was there, many beautiful flowers still bloomed!


And this is just a portion of the adventures we had….did I mention anything about trying to catch some kind of banana-stealing critter that lived in our kitchen? Or going with the church youth group at 4:30 AM on a school day to wake up a birthday girl with loud singing and firecrackers? What about almost getting locked in the dog pen for the night? Or about entertaining unexpected company on afternoons that we were already worn out? Yes, there’s much more to tell than can be written in a single post.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed your taste of Guatemala as much as I enjoyed sharing it! Let me know in the comments below what you’re looking forward to hearing about the most!!

Adventures of the Gringa Girls (Part Two)

Corrie, Mikah, and I had a wonderful visit together in Zacapa, Guatemala last weekend! After our adventurous bus ride there on Friday, Mikah and I were excited to see Corrie again and to be able to spend some time together.

After a very Guatemalan church service Friday night, we all crashed in our hotel room that someone generously rented for us. We showered there (and by the way, there was HOT water! But I was sweaty enough not to want it on the hottest setting for very long. 🙂 Here in Jalapa we only have semi-warm water…and that’s if the water pressure is low.), which felt wonderful after such a long sweaty ride. The three of us spent the next several hours catching up with each other, until we realized how very late it had gotten and decided to go to sleep.

On Saturday morning, after a simple hotel-provided breakfast, we spent some time playing card games with Caleb’s brothers, Joseph and Gideon (the soon-to-be-uncles of the baby Corrie is going to help deliver while she’s in Guatemala), playing violins and singing, sitting with our feet in the pool, and yes, much more talking. 🙂


The music was beautiful…not to mention its players. 🙂


While we were relaxing with our feet in the water, Mrs. Martin (baby’s soon-to-be-grandma) looked at us and commented, “Y’all look like an advertisement for hair color!” Yep…and we needed a selfie to commemorate the occasion. This doesn’t happen all that often, much less in a foreign country!!

In between the numerous afternoon games of Spot-It and Dutch Blitz with Corrie, Mikah, Joseph, and Gideon, I Skype-called my siblings, and had a lot of fun talking to them again. I miss their craziness…there’s no little kids to climb on my back, hog my lap, give me super tight hugs ten times a day, run to meet me when I walk in the house, or to laugh with at stupid jokes that shouldn’t even be funny! As a side thought, I’m really glad I get to work on the “little school” side here in Guate, where I can get my “kid time” in each day by playing tag with the 5-10 year-olds. 🙂


Mrs. Martin treated us all to dinner at a pizza diner on Saturday night! Frappuccinos and orange juice just made the night that much better. 🙂


Zacapa is only 400 feet above sea level, which is quite a change from Jalapa’s 4,469 feet. I felt a little woozy (for lack of a better word) most of Saturday, probably due to both the drastic altitude change and the increase in humidity and heat…altitude plays tricks on me for some reason. But the Lord is gracious and helped me to still have an enjoyable day. 🙂


Saturday evening was spent talking about our lives, our thoughts, our dreams, and our Lord before falling asleep, thankfully not quite as late as the previous night. 🙂 For church Sunday, we each put our hair up in buns so that we’d match again (did you notice the braids in the other pictures?!?), and headed off to the Martins’ church.


The pastor of this church spent several years in the States, so he speaks good English, and he even preached in both Spanish and English, translating line by line! That was pretty neat.


Aww….look who Corrie got to hold!!! I was SOOOOO jealous. The little boy sitting two seats away from me didn’t want to come sit on my lap…..even though I asked at least three times. 🙁

At the church Mikah and I attend here in Jalapa, the music is usually pretty decent, and it’s easy to sing along  because Mikah owns a little Spanish hymnal. At the Zacapa church, however, the song leader sings one song after another in a slurred manner without stopping, until your wrists feel like falling off (since everyone claps along) and you start to wonder if she’s singing her entire repertoire…


I got to witness my first Guatemalan baby dedication! We got to talking to this father after the service, and he told us that he has nine children. He got super fired up when talking about children being a blessing from the Lord!! He quoted different Bible verses, and told us that even though he’s a poor man and unable to even sign his own name, God provides for their daily needs! As I stood there listening to him talk and translating most of his words into English in my head, I was smiling…both in full agreement and in conviction. Not only did I love that he was passionate about viewing children (and lots of children at that) as assets and blessings and bringing them up in the way of the lord, his gratefulness for his children and for the Lord’s sufficient provision was neat. How many of us forget to thank the Lord for what we have, even when it feels like it’s not enough? Most of us have many more possessions than this man, but are much less grateful for them than he is for his. May we all be convicted by his example!


Above: a typical Guatemalan house and yard

Below: A large cactus! Definitely not something you see everyday.


After church, the pastor drove us to the bus station in Chiquimula. Mikah had made sure that we would be there in time to take a direct bus to Jalapa, and the Lord blessed us by arranging the timing so that we arrived just a few minutes before one such bus left. 🙂


Thankfully, this trip was not nearly as adventurous as our previous one! These two physically tired but spiritually encouraged girls had a hot, sweaty, stinky, dusty, and cramped trip home…but we got home safely, and without having to switch buses. I even fell asleep for a bit towards the end of the three hour ride! A friend drove us home from the bus station, and we made supper, talked to family and friends back home, and went to bed, thankful that the Lord had allowed us to make this trip and kept us safe. It was really special and encouraging to visit Corrie!! It’s not everyday that three girls from three different families who all know each other end up in the same foreign country at the same time!

Keep praying for us!! We need your prayers every day, and very much appreciate them. I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I really do hope to start posting more about my life down here…but until then, keep serving the Lord! 🙂

Adventures of the Gringa Girls

We have had no shortage of adventure of late! This past weekend, we traveled to visit our good friend Corrie Zastrow, who has also been in Guatemala for the past three weeks. We had hoped that she might be able to come to Jalapa to visit us, but that ended up being impossible….and then someone rented a hotel room for her and told her to invite us over to stay with her! Mikah and I thought, prayed, and talked with our parents about this opportunity, but did not really know if we would be able to go until two hours before we left. We were planning to use the bus system, and though we and our parents were apprehensive about it, we felt better once we found out we could take a direct bus from Jalapa to Chiquimula, from where the missionary that Corrie is staying with would pick us up (she is in Guatemala to help with their baby’s birth). Only one bus! No complicated bus system changes and uncertainties this way, right?


Once I realized that this cross-country journey in a foreign culture was not going to go as I expected, I decided to keep a little diary of the trip on my phone. We also decided to splurge on selfies, and took one in every bus we rode in! As you read this unedited account, try to imagine yourself in our shoes…experience the excitement with us. 🙂

Diary of the Gringa Girls

March 4, 2016

2:50 – We leave the house in Wilmer’s car [Wilmer is a teacher here at the school who graciously agreed to transport us]. He takes us to the bus station located in the middle of the market. Wilmer buys are tickets at 18 Quetzales each, and tells us thatwe have to stop in Agua Blanca to switch buses since we arrived too late for the direct bus. Not what we had hoped…

3:15 – We get on the rickety bus and decline multiple produce vendors. Mikah and I pray together that our trip is a sae one without complications, and that we are able to communicate when we need to. The bus driver assures us that our next bus is already paid for, and that he will have a boy show us which bus it is!


3:25 – the bus pulls out and starts weaving its way through the market. Trying to, anyway. Several men push it in an attempt to get the bus running. It doesn’t help. The bus stops rolling and three men bend over the battery. After a few seconds, it starts, and we are on our way. The driver and fellow passengers seem reasonably friendly.

3:43 – the bus keeps dying. Someone mentions another bus, and this bus pulls over to wait for the next one. I hope we’re not waiting long!


3:46 – Okay, so we only had to wait a little bit! We are now on board a more reliable-looking bus, with Spanish rap/rock music blaring. The ride is bumpy and the van lurchy, but at least it moves! Aaannd, our previously promised bus guide was left behind with the broken bus. Oh well….


4:07 – enjoying the view! I love the mountains on all sides. I can’t say that this is my ideal way to travel, but I decided I’m just going to enjoy the experience. 🙂

4:31 – just switched buses again. Now we’re on a big yellow bus instead of a half-size. This one is so much emptier and breezier! We’re now driving on a gravel road and listening to an audio book called “God’s Double Agent” (through shared earbuds) to pass the time. Great book so far!


P.S. We stopped several times to load and unload people and to unload a bunch of sheet metal…that alone took fifteen minutes, at least!

5:15 – we got to Agua Blanca, and switched to our fourth bus. Another half size bus packed completely full of people…so full, in fact, that Mikah and I are not even sitting together…she’s sitting behind the driver’s seat, facing backwards, and I’m squished in the front with three others. Thankful that I’m sitting between a lady and a window, so at least I can feel the breeze and see the road! Someone by Mikah is holding my big heavy backpack so that I can fit up here. Oh yeah, and they’re saying we’ll have to switch buses again before we get to Chiquimula.

5:20 – Some people just got out, so now Mikah is sitting on a front-facing bench, but is sandwiched between a young lady and a cowboy. SO much fun…

5:40 – fifth bus. 29 people in here, and the vehicle is close to the size of a fifteen passenger. We’re in the back having a lively conversation with a friendly lady who has shared our journey for the past few buses. Her name is Erika, and we’ve been talking about the school we teach at, and how we are missionaries. And we cannot be picked up at Chiquimula, by the way, since the missionaries Corrie is with have a church service tonight, and he is preaching. Soooo….we have to take another bus!! 🙂 This is turning into quite the trip.




6:12 – in hopefully our last bus now!


6:33 – after picking up lots of people and rearranging everyone to fit, we are estimating that there are 35 of us in here right now. I’m between Mikah and a young guy, and personal space is now a luxury. Actually, sitting down is a luxury right now, since there are probably eight or nine people standing up in the front, and some of them are hanging out the door.

7:07 – the bus is emptying out, so now we have more body room, PTL! We’re getting hungry and definitely ready to get off the bus…

7:14 – Haha, as I was writing that, we stopped in Zacapa. Now we are standing in front of a church waiting for the missionary to pick us up. I’m afraid we’re going to make them late for church. 🙁 [The church service started at 7:00…]

10:39 – We’re in the hotel room with Corrie now! Thankfully the missionary, Caleb, and Corrie picked us up before I even finished that last entry, so we weren’t left out on the curb in the dark for too long. We then ate some delicious homemade pizza in the van on he way to church (SO thankful for that!). After the two hour church service that took place outside an adobe hut with a single light bulb and twenty to thirty plastic chairs, we were served coffee and bread. We then went to Caleb and Megan’s house while Caleb’s mom and brothers packed their things for the hotel [they also left Caleb and Megan’s house for the weekend to give the couple some time alone before the baby comes]. I sent a quick email to Mom and Dad and Mikah’s parents to let them know we were safe, and then we left for the hotel. Now we are going to take showers and just hang out tonight and enjoy visiting with each other. 🙂

And there you are! That was more selfies than I’ve ever taken (much less posted) in a day before, but this was a memorable event worthy of such extravagant selfie-shness.  😛

Remember, however, that even though the way I am describing our adventure may sound like it was all just fun and thrill, it wasn’t. It was also hot, stinky (like body odor…yuck!), dusty, crammed, awkward, and uncomfortable. We were unsure of what to do at times, or what would happen, but the Lord watched over His children and kept us safe and in good spirits.

As for the rest of the weekend, it was extremely enjoyable and encouraging for all three of us! Watch for part two of this adventure in the next day or two, in which I will describe the weekend in more detail and with plenty more pictures! Here’s a sneak peek…


Until next time, God bless you all, or as they say here, “Dios les bendiga!” Thank you for your prayers!