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.

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

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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?

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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!

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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!

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Needless to say, this group is a hoot. 😀

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And the food…..is…..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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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. 🙂

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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…

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

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And one for sixth through tenth grades!

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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. 🙂

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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….

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

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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!!

Blessings and Close Calls

Hello from Guatemala, friends! Today is my fifth full day here, and I am enjoying it! Coping with the language difference is definitely a challenge, but the two years of high school Spanish that I took are coming back more each day.

Thank you to all who have prayed and are praying for me! I could sense the Lord’s help the past few days as I’ve packed, traveled, and begun to adjust to this new lifestyle.

I have some fun stories to tell and pictures to show already, so here goes for update number one!

Last Saturday night we went out as a family to Cracker Barrel to have some good quality family time before I left.  We enjoyed having Charles’s good friend, Brian, from college, with us as well.

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It was also Mary’s twelfth birthday!! She got a special free dessert and was sung to by several waitresses. 🙂
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A very competitive game of checkers was in order….

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God answered a prayer of mine that night! Below is my subsequent Google+ post written later that night after returning home:

 

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Monday was my big packing day, and I had a sweet little helper!! It was so fun to spend time with Ella, and she was very helpful. 🙂
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Cutie pie. 🙂

IMG_7046I had a paper to write for my online class…..so I was occupied the entire six hours of plane time!
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I had two flights with a 45-minute layover in Dallas, but when I walked into the airport, my flight appeared to be delayed 20 minutes. I was quite nervous about the possibility of missing my flight and being stranded in Dallas, increasingly so as the estimated delay lengthened from 20 to 30 to 35 minutes. Praying helped to calm me down some, though, as did knowing that God was still in control. Since I had ten minutes or less between landing in Dallas and boarding my next plane, which took off from a different terminal, I cut in line to grab my gate-checked suitcase before literally running through the airport. I ran up and down the long escalators and stepped into the right shuttle ten seconds before the doors closed. This two minute ride gave me some time to calm down a bit, and thankfully I went the right direction after getting out…I did actually turn the wrong way at first but somehow realized my mistake before taking ten steps. 🙂 I made it to my gate and began pulling out my passport, less than sixty seconds before the guy called over speakerphone, “This is the last boarding call for Flight 1034 to Guatemala City…”

As soon as I found my seat on the plane, I realized how very shaky I was, from the panic of the moment and possibly from low blood sugar, since mealtimes were kinda quirky that day. I thanked the Lord for His miraculous provision and help! Just think about it…I could have easily missed my plane by missing the shuttle, running the wrong direction, or forgetting to get my gate-checked valet bag! I am not typically clear-headed when I’m in a panic, so I am very thankful that God gave me clarity of mind in a new place, and I know your prayers helped!!

Mikah and the Schaper family picked me up in Guatemala City, where we stayed the night before doing some shopping and heading to Jalapa the next day.

In case you didn’t know, this is the best way to transfer food from a shopping cart to a cooler on top of the car…

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Beautiful Guatemalan flowers // Ashlyn Schaper and I
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I drove the moto for the first time this week! Actually, I’ve never even ridden a motorcycle before this week. 🙂 Apparently, the motorcycle’s speed is controlled by twisting the right handlebar. I found that out a few minutes before I drove it, so I had just a wee bit of trouble trying to turn. The first time I got on, I was going the opposite way that the photo below shows, and while trying to turn almost 90 degrees to avoid the grassy curb, I accidentally gassed it up and flew right OVER the curb, almost running into a soccer goal and landing the motorcycle on its side, with my leg pinned underneath and both wheels still spinning. The only battle scar I have is a 8-inch scrape on my leg…but it didn’t even bleed.

So this week I rode a motorcycle for the first time, drove a motorcycle for the first time, wrecked a motorcycle for the first time, and I even rode side-saddle for the first time today on the way to church. 🙂
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Thursday was my first day helping out at the school here in Jalapa, and Mikah and I taught first grade all day. This is the biggest class, with fourteen children, and I enjoyed spending time with them. They’re a lot of fun! Of course communication was difficult, though, because I know very little Spanish and they know very little English.

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On Friday, I helped out a bit in first grade and kindergarten, then moved to third grade, which has six students, where I’ll probably be stationed for most of my time here. The teacher in third grade hardly knows any English, however, so that’ll be interesting. The kids can translate a little bit, and they are a fun class, so that will help.

On Saturday evening, we had several of the older school kids over for pizza, a movie, and games.

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MIkah made imitation apple-cider for everyone, but our nice little “Hannah and the cider” picture was photobombed!! Hence this face…

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Your prayers for both Mikah and I are coveted this next week! Thanks for your continual support, and I will keep you updated!

 

Guatemala bound!

Hey friends! It’s been SOOO long since I’ve blogged last, but I’ve got some news for y’all now!  On February 9th, Lord willing, I will be flying down to Guatemala and staying until the middle of April! I will be joining my good friend Mikah, who is currently teaching at a Christian school, while the long-term missionaries are away at language school. While I’m down there, I will also be teaching at the school, which will be a new yet surely enjoyable experience. 🙂

I am currently working part-time as I finish up the rest of my high school work. These things, along with many preparations for my trip, are keeping me very busy and feeling kind of overwhelmed at times. This morning during our church service, however, I was blessed by one line of the song “My Savior’s Love” that says, “He took my sins AND MY SORROWS, and made them His very own!” That reminded me of 1 Peter 5:7, where Peter encourages us to cast all our cares upon the Lord, for He cares for us. Remembering this important truth and giving my little worries and stresses to Jesus for Him to solve really blessed me today. I am still to give my all and do the best that I can, but “He’ll take care of the rest” (Keith Green quote there)!

It’s been a couple of years since my last mission trip (more on Jamaica HERE and HERE), and even then, the longest I was gone was two weeks. The nine weeks I’ll be spending in Guatemala will definitely feel like a long time compared to a couple of weeks. I know it’s where the Lord wants me, though, and I also know that He’ll be with me as I step out of my comfort zone a bit and follow His lead. I covet your prayers! If you are interested in praying for me, here some ideas:

  • Pray that preparations would go well as I finish my last high school work before I leave, as I pack, and all the little things that go along with leaving one’s home and family for nine weeks.
  • Pray that I can adjust to the new culture easily.
  • Pray for the Lord’s help with my homesickness…I know it will be coming at some point.
  • Pray for the work that is going on in Guatemala, at the school and otherwise, and that it will not be in vain.
  • Pray that the Lord will stretch me and teach me a lot
  • Pray for safety, both while I travel and while I am down there.
  • Pray that I will keep my focus on the Lord, not on my difficulties or distractions.
  • Pray for the family, as I’m sure it’s hard for them to get along without their favorite sister…………………………………………..(Oops, did I say that out loud? ….okay, just kidding. 😉 ) Pray for them anyway, since we have a big construction project going on at our house…more on that later. 🙂

I am SOOO excited about this trip!!! I am really looking forward to a new experience and the opportunity to spend time with Mikah! Yes, I do want to keep you all posted on what’s going on in the “land of eternal spring” via this blog! So feel free to subscribe by email if you want to, via the little box to the right. 🙂 Thanks for caring and reading this post, and I’m looking forward to seeing you around here some more!

Photo credit: Mikah Litchfield