Monday, February 22, 2010

So many thoughts, so little time!

Wow, another eventful few weeks! Our time in Guatemala is almost over which means that this cross-cultural is almost half over, and that makes me incredibly sad! Don't get me wrong, I do miss family and friends (and friends that feel like family), but Latin America has stolen my heart, and I know I'll miss it when I go, too.

So, what's been going on? For one thing, I feel like every weekend just keeps getting better and better. I'm not a city person, so all of our trips out of the city are completely wonderful. Satiago Atitlan was last weekend's destination where we visited a good coffee finca, various places around Santiago and Panabaj, a bead co-op, and crossed the lake to visit the market. One thing that continually amazes me is the reactions the people of Guatemala have towards us, a bunch of United States Americans traveling through their country and, inevitably, sometimes behaving like tourists (camera-toting is a pretty obvious mark of a non-native). During our visit through various places in Santiago we learned more about the 36-year civil war here in Guatemala. Background information: the US played a large role in starting the 36 years of needless violence that ravaged this beautiful country. We saw the church that was a safe haven for many indigenas during the war and saw where an Oklahoman priest who was working to protect the same people was shot; his blood stains are still visible on the wall. Yet, despite all of this, they still welcome us with open arms. Example: several of us were enjoying the freedom we had to walk around the town in the evening and were hanging out in the central plaza for a little while when an indigenous man, who had been watching us for quite some time (in a very non-creeper way) came over and started speaking to us in Spanish. He was so excited that we are here, learning about his culture and history! It just blows my mind how active most Guatemalans seem to be in separating US citizens from the US government; I'm seeing just how much we can learn from the Guatemalans.

I mentioned that we also visited a good coffee finca; the disappointing bit of this tour was the fact that we couldn't actually see where they grow, roast, etc. the coffee because, since this finca is working to improve the lives of the community members and its workers, the people who aren't benefiting from it are really angry. The people at the finca are often robbed and threatened. I don't understand how people can do this to people who are just trying to help and make life better for someone! The Peace Accords may have been signed, but the scars are still evident. But still people have hope, which is wonderful! Some say that things will never improve, but I met a friend in Santiago. She's probably about 5 years old and giggles all the time and loves to be picked up, swung, whatever. I saw hope in that.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Thoughts and Stuff

Wow. We´ve had two (?) very full weeks! Since visiting the basurero, we´ve really bonded as a group, discussed big issues like poverty and being called to serve, and finally made it out of the city for a long weekend, all of which were amazing. Our weekend out was at Chichicastenango. It´s about 4 hours outside the city (my excitement grew with every rotation of the bus tires!) and is about 7000-ish feet above sea level. The mountains here are gorgeous!

Saturday morning we met an alum of this cross'cultural who is currently serving in Guatemala with S.A.L.T. She spent Saturday and Sunday with us and immediately fit in with the group. We loved having her! Saturday evening, she took about 30 minutes to talk to us about the impact her cross'cultural had on her life and her later decision to return to Guatemala to serve. She could´ve been talking about me. One train of thought that this conversation evoked in me involves the concept of home. Erin (the alum) said that she knew she´d return to Latin America almost immediately because, despite being so far outside her comfort zone every moment of every day, something about being here gave her an almost inexplicable peace. That resonates with me because that´s exactly how I´ve been feeling. Leaving the city and experiencing, in my opinion, the true Guatemala only made this feeling stronger. This place and these people have stolen my heart, and even though I´m uncomfortable every day, I have peace, too. I´ve finally acknowledged that, even after these three months, Latin America won´t be done with me. Yes, there are days when I hate how fast the people drive and how slow they walk and how men cat-call us a million times a day blah blah blah, but, the heart of the matter is that I love it, and, though I don´t know what this´ll look like right now, I know that I won´t be able to not come back.

I´ve also been thinking about the concept of worship. Our group has a worship time every Wednesday afternoon, and last Wednesday some members of our group had some...issues that we had to discuss. In a nutshell, we had to talk about how we, as women, should react when men here do and say inappropriate things. Anyway, it was a pretty heavy topic, and we were all feeling angry and scared and really upset. But then, after the conversation ended, we went into our worship time, and the change that came over each one of us was incredible. Where just a few minutes beforehand we´d been upset and talking about these scary things, we were all of a sudden smiling and laughing and singing and worshiping! Anyway, I thought that was profound...the heart of worship, not the words I just wrote, mind you.