Sunday, 10 March 2013

Monkey or Chainsaw?

Two months. I have been in Guatemala now for over two months. It definitely doesn't seem like it's been that long, but the calendar claims that it is. Who am i to argue with a calendar?

In A Nutshell…

On Sunday morning in church, while Stephan was making the announcements, I discovered that I was supposed to be the leader for the service in the evening. Being the leader is a simple job really. All you have to do is get up at the beginning, welcome the people to the service, perhaps read a bible verse or two and share a few thoughts, and then explain the order of the service. Anyone could do it. Anyone who speaks Spanish, anyway. I’d say that I know enough Spanish to get by… like I can order in restaurants… (“Yo quiero carne. Muy carne.”) But being leader definitely seemed a little scary. Luckily, I was at Stephan and Brenda’s for part of the afternoon and they helped me out. They gave me many suggestions of things to say like “At this time, I’d like three of the ladies to volunteer to come up to the front and sing a trio for us” or “At this time, brother Wesley will lead us in 8 hymns after which brother Douglas will give an inspirational talk on Leviticus 15.” Stephan and Brenda were actually very helpful and everything went pretty smoothly. I even had a couple of people tell me after the service that they understood what I was saying. That’s always a plus.

I am continuing to be more involved with the school here in El Chal. I have been teaching English in grade four. There is still always a “real” teacher sitting at the back of the classroom, (that comes in really handy when I don’t know how to say something in Spanish) but other than that I’m on my own. I’ve been discovering that English is a really annoying language. I’ve been teaching the students how to change verbs to past tense. There are four rules that they have learned for changing them, but there are a shockingly high number of verbs in English that don’t follow the rules. This past week I taught them a few irregular verbs. One girl remembered that to change “eat” to past tense the letters are just rearranged, but she didn’t quite get the right order. “Yesterday I tea three apples.” Not quite. Another boy tried “song” for the past tense of “sing.” So close. I definitely feel their pain, though. They are not the only ones trying to learn a new language.

I also have been doing “warm-ups” with the grade 7 and 8 boys three mornings a week. Warm-ups last for fifteen minutes each morning. They want to play “futbol” every morning, so when I told them one morning that we were going to run laps instead of playing soccer, I got a lot of “No, Ricky!!”’s. I found out that morning that they are a very diverse group when it comes to their track and field abilities. A few of the guys were walking after half a lap. Others wanted to do another lap once we were done. I told them the next day that if they run four laps in less time than the day before, we’d play soccer for the full fifteen minutes the following day. They finished a full minute and sixteen seconds faster than the day before. Something tells me that they might not have been pushing themselves as hard as they could have the first time. They seemed to push themselves harder in the soccer game, though. One boy named Jason broke his collarbone. Not good. Maybe I should not be a phys-ed teacher.

We’ve been working on Phase 2 of the school building project lately as well. One Wednesday morning we started at 5:45 AM and poured the first part of the foundation for the new wall. Stephan and I sang songs about how happy we were to be alive as we fed the cement mixer, and I’m pretty sure that we finished sooner because of our happy songs. Later that morning, we poured more cement, this time at Stephan’s house. Lifting buckets of cement seemed so much easier the second time around because we built our muscles up the first time.

I also helped out with a few other projects this week. The grade 7 and 8 boys have a shop class every Friday. I helped Wesley (grade 7 teacher) with the 9 boys that did woodworking. They all made really cool shelves. The other 5 boys  did welding and made really cool towel racks. I also helped Stephan make two computer tables for the Basico classrooms. They are not quite finished yet, but they are definitely close. Oh, and remember that gate that is going to look like a million bucks? It’s not quite done yet either, but it’s closer to being done than it was two weeks ago. Another thing I worked on was making bunk beds. You can read all about those in the highlights section.

It appears to be a gate… that does not yet look like a million bucks

One of the boys cool towel racks

I’m beginning to think that El Chal, Guatemala is a very nice place to live. The weather is warm, there are coconut trees, the people are very friendly, and on some mornings you can even hear monkeys howling… or so I’m told. I have never actually heard them. I am told that they sound like a distant chainsaw, but whenever I ask, “Is that a monkey??” someone says, “No silly, that’s a chainsaw.” Maybe I have heard them and I just don’t know how to tell the difference. Someday, I hope to hear a monkey. Where was I going with this? Right. El Chal is a good place to live! 

This is my new calendar. I am very bad at switching the months on calendars. I'm pretty sure there is still one hanging in my room back home that is still on August, 2004. But I'm trying to do better. I changed the month on this one right after i took this picture

This is a random picture of Lucio showing me how not to ride a unicycle

Top 5 Highlights…

>>Brenda’s peach yogurt. Peach yogurt is my favourite kind of yogurt, and Brenda’s homemade peach yogurt did not disappoint. The peach chunks were about five times bigger in this yogurt than in any yogurt I’ve ever eaten.
>>Cold pizza. I like cold pizza. One time I walked in the front door of Stephan’s house and Brenda shoved two pieces of leftover pizza in my face. I think I should walk in the front door of Stephan’s house more often. There’s really nothing like a couple of pieces of pizza half an hour before supper to tide you over.
>>Building bunk beds. I build a set of bunk beds for a family that just moved to El Chal and has been sleeping on blankets on the floor. Yeah… I built something. Out of wood. I’m going to start a business called “Ricky’s Rustic Wobbly Furniture.” Stephan added an “X” brace to the beds to make then stop wobbling. I suggested that he start a business for fixing wobbly furniture and we could both make money.

These are the bunk beds i made. Aren't they just like the most rustic, awesome bunk beds you've ever seen???

>>Getting a card from Northwoods Mennonite School. The very first month I was a missionary I was “Missionary of the Month” at Northwoods Mennonite School. Quite an honour, I think. They even sent me a card that they all signed! I really enjoyed reading it, especially since a bunch of my cousins are from that school. Goldfish, anyone?
>>Nacho-filled tortillas. One evening after church Lucio invited me to his house for nachos. Okay, so I may have sort of invited myself, but the tortillas were his idea. And they were surprisingly really amazing. 

Top 5 Quotes

“Did you see that spark I just made? If the Indians would have figured out that you can start a fire with a hammer and a grinding wheel, they could have saved themselves a lot of flint.” – Stephan

“Do I know you?” – Kevin

“Some of us have been blessed with the ability to talk without thinking.” – Judy

“For some reason I can’t look right at the sun without my eyes watering.” – Edgar

“The problem with it… is that it gets hot inside.” – Jeffery (he was telling me what was wrong with the microwave.)

Spanish Vocabulary…

Luna (LOO nah) – it means “moon.”

Memory tool: very easy to remember because of the English word “lunar” that means “of, determined by, resembling, or relating to the moon.”

Fun Facts…

In Guatemala…

>>Dead people are buried above the ground. (Is that even possible??)

>>People don’t seem to have “silent” settings on their phones.

>>The people are really friendly. It’s not uncommon at all to smile and say “Buenas!” to a random person that passes you on the street.

>>A soccer ball never has enough air in it for very long.

>>Every little tienda sells Coke. I probably shouldn’t drink so much Coke, since it’s not particularly healthy, but I like it.

More to Add…

Spanish is coming. Slowly but surely. It kind of seems to me that I don't actually know much more Spanish now than when i first came, but when i think back to how much i understood then and compare it with how much i understand now… there is definitely a difference. Plus, people here have been telling me that i'm getting better at Spanish, but they might just be saying that to be nice… who knows? I do know for a fact that my Spanish has come a looong way in the past six years. 

Oh, and you all can keep praying. Prayers are always appreciated!

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