Even a week here in Guatemala is too much to write about all in one sitting. The days are packed, as good ol’ Calvin and Hobbes would put it. I am doing more in the three and a half weeks that I have been here, than I did in the year I was in Italy — I am much more proactive about going to see different parts of the country, learning as much as I can about the history, culture and language. Living here is like a condensed version of life: pack in as much living as you can in three months. And I love it.
This past week has been one adventure after another. We started our classes at the Instituto Linguistico Maya, and I am learning multiple verb tenses in the four hours we attend in the mornings. This is the fastest I have ever learned a language and I love this pace. We have one on one tutors, so I am able to go at exactly the speed I need to, focusing on the areas I need to work on. My teacher, Lesibia, is an absolute delight: so sweet, patient, helpful and so fun to have conversations with. We chat about politics, marriage, faith, careers, and culture for four hours a day and the time just flies by.
Through the institute, we also get to participate in lots of different cultural outings, like going to a coffee plantation, seeing a Mayan music museum, walking through the many cathedral ruins here in Antigua, and even learning to dance the Bachata Salsa. One coffee tree only produces one pound (or 40 cups) of coffee per year. The marimba is the national instrument of Guatemala. Santo Hermano Pedro is the patron saint of Antigua. I have the hips to dance salsa with. (Who knew?!) A few of my friends and I have even joined a gym here, and it’s great to get to know the people of this city. There will be quite different surroundings when we head off to Magdalena next week…
One of the highlights (which is saying something, cause it seemed the whole week was a highlight) of this past week was the Seattle Sounders game in Guatemala City against the Guatemala Comunicaciones (or Los Cremas as they are more commonly known). What. A. Game. That was the most exciting soccer event I have been to (yes, including the time I was in Italy when they won the World Cup of 2006) and the most soaking wet I have been due to the torrential downpour that lasted most of the game. Our whole group of 15 plus the Students International staff and families piled into vans to head to the capitol to meet with the two die-hard Sounders fans that travel with the team. In total we were a loud and excited group of 30 people cheering on our team in a stadium full of Guatemalan fans. We we escorted in by armed (and armored) guards and they even put up a net between our section and the Guatemalans. Intense. Throughout the downpour we sang sounders songs, waved our blue and green scarves, and screamed at the top of our lungs when we scored our goals. In the end it was a (close) tie of 2 to 2; yet we got enough points to advance, whereas the Cremas needed to win this game to advance onwards. Needless to say there were some not so happy Guatemala Cremas fans. But thankfully we had our armored guards, and we hurried out of the stadium, wet, tired and ecstatic.
This weekend, which was one of our only “free” weekends this whole quarter (where we don’t have other trips or programs planned), a group of eight of us decided to reward ourselves for our hard work in the languages classes we are taking. Best way to reward a job well done? Sunbathing at the Pacific Ocean beach. Everyone knows that. The days were spent lying in the sun by the pool, and relaxing with my friends. i couldn’t have asked for a better group to be with. We even got to release baby sea-turtles into the ocean and set them free from the hatchery they were born in. Later that night we went on a rather intense excursion along the black-sand beach to see mother sea-turtles going back into the sea after depositing their eggs on the beach. What a wonderful sight of nature — I have only seen this on the discovery channel or something, but now, it’s part of my life! I am hoping to go back to Monte Rico another time, because the sea and the sand and the beach culture is something I adore.
However, a lot of this week will be spent preparing for our weeks to come in Magdalena, which is the poor rural community we will be living and volunteering in for our internships. I still have no idea what my internship of “Social Work” will look like in the displaced persons community of El Gorrion, but I am putting all my expectations in God’s hands and hoping to learn a lot. The directors of the social works program there even have started a bible study with all us Seattle Pacific students, and we are going to read through Luke together while reflecting on what we will see and learn living in Guatemalan poverty. I am excited and a bit nervous — but if this trip continues to go the way it has been going, then everything will meet and exceed my expectations and I will grow even more.
Thanks for your patience with my infrequent blog-posts, and for reading this monster of an entry! May peace and blessings be on all of you,