Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Guatemala #3: Attempt at a summary

Hello, I´ve tried several times over the past week to sit down and type up some thoughts, or descriptions of my experiences, but it´s proven to be really hard. How do I know what to share, what things are facts, what things are just my impressions (possibly mistaken because I´ve only been here in Guatemala 6 weeks...), what things I should be saying about a country that is not my own. I decided to adopt Emily´s approach from one of her posts from India, and see how it works.


There are lots of buses, and they get packed full...the only way they could get more full is if people started sitting on other people´s laps. I take a bus to my language classes every morning, and return home in the afternoon. It takes about an hour to make the whole trip. I`ve appreciated brief moments of grace or richness on the bus, such as the bus driver going out of his way to give some money to a kid juggling limes on the street. Such as the bus assistant (the guy that helps the bus driver) making funny faces at a little girl on the street, and her sticking her tongue back out at him. Such as a bus assistant who sings, whistles and laughs his way around the city along with the bus driver every day.

I experienced my first earthquake a couple of Sundays ago. I was sitting in my bed, and all of a sudden, the house gently shook from side to side! I almost didn´t believe it was an earthquake, but it really was moving! Later I found out it was about a 5.8 on the scale! Not too scary, but definitely unexpected and a bit unnerving!

Thanksgiving and service...

I spent Thanksgiving with the other MCC workers here in Guatemala. There are 16 of us (10 adults, 6 children). Of the adults, four of us are working in Guatemala City, four in Altaverapaz (farther north), one in El Salvador, and one who travels around Guatemala working with different communities. It was really good to get to know all of the different workers: each of us has a pretty different job description, but it´s good to get together and, especially for me, learn about the country, churches, and general context.

After Thanksgiving, I participated in a service project with youth from different places in Guatemala and El Salvador. There were youth from Guatemala City, Santiago Atitlán (where there is a big lake, and volcanos), the Cobán area and Nebaj, as well as El Salvador. Guatemala has a diverse population-about 60% indigenous, the rest Ladino (meaning of Spanish or mixed heritage) speaking about 23 different languages. In the group of 30 youth there were three indigenous groups represented and five languages between all of us. Traveling from one place to another in Guatemala seems to be a fairly difficult for the average person, so it was an amazing experience for me, and for the youth to get to know youth from other communities in their country. It was also an amazing experience to spend some time after Thanksgiving (given the history of the holiday) with youth from indigenous communities, learning about and practicing service. We did some work at a school, planting grass to help feed rabbits, and prevent erosion, as well as helping to build a women´s dormitory.

Things I´ve found inspiring, and\or funny
-Talking about service and development, and just talking in general with the country representatives here, as well as the other members of the MCC team.
-Hombre is the word for man, and people seem to use it kind of like in English, when we say "yeah, man", "no, man"...etc. However, it´s really funny to hear one 6 year old girl say to another, "Noooo, hooombre" with lots of gusto. (the o in hooombre is pronounced like in the word poke.)
-There seems to be a lot of interest and excitement about music classes...people in general want to learn how to play instruments, to sing, etc. The challenge will be figuring out what the expectations are, and which ones I can meet, and which ones I can´t!
-The natural beauty of the mountains and volcanoes is pretty stunning.
-I´ve also really enjoyed learning local Spanish expressions, about the way people really talk! Before I`ve always had Spanish classes in the US, where we were smushing together a bunch of different countries, but now I can learn Guatemalan Spanish...learning actually how people talk!

Surprising things
-I`ve been surprised several times during my time here, at how natural it feels to be here. I hardly feel like I´m in a foreign country...despite the huge language, cultural, societal differences! I think the differences are, and it´s pretty incredible, that first, I´m here for a long time, second, I´m getting to know "normal" people (I don´t like to use the word normal, but oh well) and third, I´ve only been to one tourist spot so far!
-I´ve also been surprised by the economy, and I don´t know much about it yet, and I don´t know much about economics in general, but it´s not hard to see that the majority of the economy is in very small family or personal businesses, or individuals making money however they can...such as hundreds of tiny little neighborhood stores, selling things on the street, repairing clothes, etc, etc.

More in a month or so,



Anonymous said...

I LOVE YOU BETH, that is why I read your post...sounds exciting...this is your sister Rachel by the way,...I felt an earthquake too like 2 months ago! wierd eh? the one in CR wasn't as big though...seeya SOON!

David Reese said...

Truly my vision of blogging is becoming a reality. Next up: the kingdom of God.

Tom said...

Beth, Thanks for sharing your observations! Please keep us posted.