Thursday, December 10, 2015

Language School and Guitar lessons and Volcanos

Wanted to give you an idea of what language school has been like!!! 
I had one-on-one instruction with my teacher, Mirza.  Every day i'd sit across the table from her and we'd chat about various things from our days to our families and friends to God to things happening in Guatemala and around the world.  Sometimes we'd chat for about 30 minutes, sometimes 2 hours.  Then I'd usually read some from a book to work on reading and pronunciation.  Then we'd review some grammar.  I'd have to make up some sentences to reflect the new grammar rules, and then do some exercises to practice.  Then she'd assign me some type of homework to do at home that evening.  For the month of November I had classes 4 days a week for 4 hours.  It was an intense month with some days feeling excited about learning, and other days having no interest in being there.  
our day at the zoo - enjoyed going with my teammates and their teachers as well!!!
Across the street from me is also a seminary with a music seminary.  I realized after a month here that they offer some private lessons.  Since I've always wanted to learn to play guitar, I thought I'd give it a shot and started taking lessons once a week.  That means I've also had to practice guitar in the evenings!!!  It's actually been a great combination - language school and guitar!  The guitar reminds me that it's a process and that I have to take things one step at a time.  Although I really want to just start playing all sorts of songs on the guitar, I can't, I have to take it slowly and learn step by step.  The same with language.  It takes time and I have to be patient with the process and allow it to come step by step!!!  

Along with sitting in class learning, we were able to do a few fun things outside of the classroom.  We went to one of the museums, the zoo, have cooked a few times, and watched a few movies.  Plus, I drove my teacher to her bus stop every day, so it did give me some extra time to chat with her on the way . . .and no worries, she continued to correct me all the way to her bus stop =) 
I've had a few exams which included filling in the blanks, writing essays, and an oral exam. 
Yesterday I passed the final level at the school.  I know a few areas that I need to work on besides just generally improving my communication skills!  
I do feel ready to start working in the clinic and put my spanish to the test!!!  
I'm thankful I've had this time in language school, but also excited to be finished!!! 

making tortillas!!!
I continue to be fascinated by the volcanos and absolutely love that I can see 3 of them out my window!!!  Recently I looked out my window in the morning and saw Volcan Fuego with huge ash clouds coming out of it!!!  It continued for the rest of the day and that evening I could see red streaks of lava running down the sides!  For those 2 days the sky was perfectly clear giving me amazing views!  I know that volcanos are dangerous for those close by, but I'm thankful that I can enjoy their power and majesty from a safe distance!!!  My mom and I are planning to climb Volcan Pacaya when she arrives here in December!!! I've climbed this volcano 2 other times, but excited to hike it again!!! We will be taking marshmallows with us to roast at the top because we are certain to encounter some hot lava =)  

Volcan Fuego and the constant cloud of ash

not my photo - but this is what is looked like at night!

such beauty always pointing to our all powerful God and His stunning creation!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

A land of great contrast

As I write this blog I'm sitting in a beautiful outdoor mall with an ambiance that sometimes has me questioning where I am at the moment.

In contrast, just a few days ago I was walking the streets of a slum area called La Limonada where about 60,000 people live and most have no idea how they will survive from day to day.

In contrast to that, I spend the weekend before in Panajachel - a town where many Mayan families come to try and sell anything that will give them an income for that day.  While they are just trying to earn a few dollars for the day, my friends and I paid to go zip lining over the beautiful forest overlooking Lago Atitl├ín, 3 volcanos, and majestic mountains.  When those Mayan families are done for the day, they then have to climb those beautiful mountains to return home.
This is pre-ziplining!
None of us took our cameras, and deeply regretted it afterwards!!!

However, these are just a few of the stunning views we could see as we zip lined!!!

And a one of the suspension bridges we crossed by foot!
This was our last challenge after zip lining.  Crossing the swinging steps.
It was way harder than it looks!!!

I wrestle with these contrasts daily.  I wrestle with how to process the overwhelming number of people living in poverty.

I wrestle with knowing if there is anything I can do to help, or why I'm even here.

During the Synergy conference I attended, I was thankful to connect with many others asking the same questions - both Americans and Guatemalans! I liked how they helped to give the big picture of the hurts, healing, and hope that has happened, and continues to happen here in Guatemala.
In contrast to being overwhelmed and feeling hopeless, I can trust in the plans of our good God.  He knows and loves each one of us more than I could ever image and I know that He is both hurting with us when we are hurting and working out His plan which is beyond our comprehension!!!

Some of the graves at the National Cemetery
Looking over the area affected by the mudslide

Saturday, October 10, 2015

A day of celebration!!!

I was able to attend a very special celebration in September - it was a day to celebrate the completion and printing of the New Testament being translated into one of the Mayan Indian dialects here in Guatemala.  A Wycliffe translator has been working on this Kaqchikel New Testament for many years, and it was amazing to see the faces of people as  they held in their hands for the first time ever a Bibles in their native language!!!  We went to every home in this town offering them a Bible!  There were hundreds of people celebrating this day and praising the Lord for the completion of this Bible translation!!!  Please pray that the people of this village will read this Bible and will be saved!!!  I could write forever about the amazing things that happened on this day, but hopefully these photos will help sum things up!!!

preparing to hand out Bibles to every home in this town!

receiving a Bible in her heart language!!!
team of translators!

look at the size of those pots!!!
 these ladies worked hard to help prepare lunch for hundreds of people!!!

Trip to San Marcos

Why not go to San Marcos - it's only 6 hours away . . . on non-stop curvy mountain roads that take you up to over 9,000 feet and then drop down to around 7,000 feet.  I arrived in San Marcos after feeling miserable for the last 4 hours of the trip, a close-call emergency stop that allowed me to get out of the car just in time, and my head spinning for the rest of the day after getting out of the car.
However, it was worth it, I was really thankful to have a few days there in San Marcos, and the ride home was much better thanks to extra medications and ginger!!!
My teammates were training a group of 16 women how to make and use puppets.  I went along to help in whatever way I could, and I learned how to sew together the puppets ahead of time so that I could help the women through that process!
The women were teachers in a center for Compassion (the organizations that helps sponsor children) where over 250 children spend 8 hours a week!!!
We were hosted by a wonderful family who took great care of us and was really fun to get to know!  One of their daughters is currently studying at the Bible school across the street from my apartment, so I look forward to seeing her from time to time here in the city!
I enjoyed spending some time in fresh air and in a small town where everybody knows each other!  We went on a few morning walks through the mountains which were amazing, and we were able to go to a hot springs.  The hot springs were in a valley - way, way down into the mountains somewhere.  Probably one of the top 5 most beautiful places I've been considering the steep drop offs we were seeing as we drove down the mountain, however, the fog and clouds were covering most of our view, so sadly, I really couldn't see the beauty that was surrounding me.
Here are some photos from that trip:

morning hikes

attempting to make tortillas - mine were just never quite right!
sharing meals
finished products - the puppets!!!

children at the Compassion Center
hot springs - so wonderful!!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I spy from the rooftop . . .

***Volcanos and mountains in all directions with 
beautiful sunrises (rarely am I awake for these) and sunsets

***Clothes hanging out to dry . . . which I've been surprisingly amazed by the number of men out hanging up and collecting the laundry!!!

***Neighbors cooking over open flames on their rooftops

***Neighbors taking baths on their rooftops =(

***Homeless men who are drunk or high trying to get dressed in the streets =(

***People using a pay phone . . . remember those ;)

***Kids playing soccer in the streets

***The start/finish line of a 10K race

***Beautiful flowers

***Awesome displays of lightening as storm clouds roll in

***The vultures flying over the garbage dump

My neighborhood - still trying to grasp that!  I live here.  This is my home now.  These are my neighbors and this is my neighborhood.  I love the rooftop and I'm so thankful that I have access to one!!!  Although as I look out over the neighborhood it is often with great tension that I do so.  I love the beauty that I see, but I hate the signs of poverty and despair.  Thankful that I can trust the promise from the Lord that He gives hope to the hopeless!!!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Leaving and Arriving . . .

Commissioning Sunday was a special time!!!

Open House - so thankful for everyone who came!!!  
I don't have photos of everyone, but here are a few!

Saying goodbyes were hard . . .so hard!!! 

Here are some random photos from the first week here: 

Mundane tasks made more fun with this incredible view . . . 3 volcanoes, one of which is active and occasionally puffs of ash can be seen coming out the top! 

the battle of the ants is on . . . they loved the poison i set out for them!!!
i'm excitedly waiting for them to disappear!!!

the garbage man

beautiful flowers from the market, so inexpensive, but so beautiful!!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

being known in the unknown

I was so thankful for my time in Guatemala in June!  
There were many reasons why, but the biggest ones were that I felt known, or more known than on recent trips!  

How???  Well, after going to language school and living in Guatemala for a few months, I would occasionally run into people that I knew at random places.  I felt known, and it was home! 
After being gone for a bit, that changes, I am no longer known there. 

But this last trip was different.  I was there with friends from the US, they now know me here and there!!!  Holly and I attended nursing school together, although hardly knew one another.  After graduation we both moved to Chicago and started working at the same pediatric hospital, so we decided to be housemates!  Even though she got married a year after that, we remained friends!  She then moved to Indianapolis a few years later, and I follower her there =)  We have remained friends, I have been thankful to be included as part of their family over the years, and to have her children be able to say my last name perfectly at a record young age!!!  

I was amazed and thankful as we served together in Guatemala and walked the streets together to the Potter's House, only getting slightly lost =)  And, to know that they now love the Guatemalan people and know where I will be living and serving was an incredible gift!!! 

I also felt a little more known at the Potter's House.  I've only been there on more "official" business, for example, tours, talking with the staff about potential opportunities.  I've gotten to know a few people along the way, but I have spent little time there.  This time, I was able to call and talk with them, and they remembered me!  I was able to walk through the building and be greeted by familiar faces! 

And then, as I was in a different city, I ran into a couple different people that I know, both American and Guatemalan.  

So while this is a difficult season of uprooting and goodbyes and fears of being completely unknown as I move to Guatemala, I was beautifully reminded mostly, that I don't go alone, and also that I am known, even there in the unknown!!!
Overlooking Guatemala City with Holly and Aiden
Holly, Aiden, and I near the Potter's House
At my new apartment with Holly, Aiden, and Henry
Getting lots of hugs while serving at a school
Henry and Patty (Holly's parents) working hard!!!
Holly and I and another nurse taking care of the children!

A new group of friends from the US and Guatemala!