Sunday, 21 April 2013

Mixing Things Up

This blog post is a little different than most. In it are some things that I’ve learned in Guatemala. If you’re expecting the regular “format” you are going to be disappointed. However, since I’m the author of this blog, I’m allowed to mix things up now and then, and you readers just have to deal with it. In two weeks I’ll be back to the old style, and I’ll tell you all about how much fun I’m having right now with the Countryside Christian School group. Until then…

…Here are some things that being in Guatemala has taught me:

I am very very blessed. All my life I’ve had more than enough food, a huge house, a family that loves me and gets along, lots of wonderful friends, a good education, a free country, and many more things… and yet I still like to complain. Seeing people here that have a lot less than me and yet are happy and unselfish with the few things they do have has been a challenge for me to start being more thankful.

Be flexible. It’s amazing how many times plans change or things don’t go the way that they’re expected to. A good example is this past Tuesday when Stephan, Jeffery, and I came to the city to pick up the Countryside group. The plan was either to rent a school bus from El Chal and drive it to the city, drive two vehicles from El Chal to the city, or take the night bus to the city and rent a school bus from someone in the city. By three o’clock in the afternoon we still didn’t know which option we would be taking. By about four o’clock we decided to drive the Jeep and the Toyota van. We were all packed and about ten minutes from hitting the road when Stephan got a call from a friend in the city saying that a bus was available, so we took the night bus to the city. If you get all uptight when plans change, you’ll be uptight quite a lot.

Spanish. I’ve not even close to mastering the language, but I can understand and speak more Spanish now than I could three months ago. Someone even told me that my accent is improving. I responded, “I have an accent???”

God answers prayer. I knew this before I came to Guatemala, but there have been no shortage of examples since I’ve gotten here. Two that I can think of right now are the time Jason and I crossed the border (see “Excuse Me Boss… You Have a Text Message”) and the quick healing of my infection (see “You Were Blessed”). We serve an amazing God.

Sometimes, dropping people off at the bus stop is more adventurous than other times. Usually, taking someone to catch the bus is pretty routine. You drive to the bus stop (about a one minute drive from the mission), wait for the right bus to come, and then make sure the traveller and their luggage get on the bus. Sounds pretty easy, right? I had heard stories about the bus not stopping, but it had never happened when I was the one driving the pickup. One night, on the Sunday night of Easter weekend, Lucio and I took Judy to the bus stop to catch the ten o’clock “Maya de Oro” bus (the bus leaves Sta Elena at 10:00 and get’s to El Chal around 10:45). We got to the bus stop at about 10:30 and almost immediately a red bus that read “Maya de Oro” written on the side of it drove by us without stopping. Judy told us that we needed to go catch that bus. However, we noticed that two more busses were coming and decided to wait to see if any of them were the right bus. They weren’t. So we took off after the first bus that passed which was now ahead of the pack of three. By the time I passed the two busses and caught up to the third, we were in the next town, about five kilometers from El Chal. Lucio got out and asked to driver if they were the 10:00 “Maya de Oro”. “Sorry sir,” the bus driver replied, “But we’re the nine thirty bus.” (apparently, there were many more busses than usual going through due to the fact that it was Easter weekend). So we headed back, and since we were not going to let Judy miss her bus, Lucio and I flagged down four more busses that passed us on the way back to El Chal. All of them said that the bus we wanted was still coming. Finally, we made it back to where we started. About six more “wrong” busses passed before the right one came. All in all, Judy got to the city. Sometimes, dropping people off at the bus stop is more adventurous than other times. 

Sunday, 7 April 2013

"You Were Blessed"

These past two weeks were quite evenful. People all over the place (not a bad thing), Easter weekend special meetings, snakes, scorpions, blood poisoning, and more. I kind of enjoyed the “routine fortnight” that i mentioned in the last blog post, but on the bright side, it’s good that things are finally back to normal around here.

In A Nutshell…

On Wednesday, March 27th the work group from Pennsylvania arrived in El Chal. It consisted of three young guys and three married couples. Linden, a VS boy stationed in the city, drove the crew up to El Chal. Then, a few days later, two more guys from PA came up on the night bus. It was a great group to work with… they were very relaxed, yet they got piles of work done. They had that “We don’t mess around” attitude. After they left, you could definitely see a difference in the school!

This is what the school looked like before the work group came...

You see that?? You see the difference??

We had a couple of opportunities to play sports with the work crew and some Guatemalan guys. On the evening that the work crew arrived, we played volleyball an hour longer than usual. Every game was really close, but the Guatemalan’s beat us gringos every time except for one. Rigged scoring? Must have been. Then on Saturday afternoon we had a game of baseball. That was a lot of fun. I went 1 for 5 with two popups, two fly-outs, and an opposite field homerun. Not much has changed, although the homerun was a little out of character. I also had a throwing error.

I learned quite a bit of “PA lingo” from the work crew. Phrases like “how did that grab you” or “that turned me a little bit” are now in my vocabulary although I will probably never use them. I was slightly disappointed in their lack of knowledge on Canada. Most of the young guys heard our national anthem for the first time when I sang it for them, none of them knew that Stephan Harper is our prime minister, and when asked “You at least know that Toronto is the capital of Canada, right?” the answered, “Nope. Didn’t even know that.” No fun at all. Now my good buddy Trent Shrock from SMBI, he didn’t know much about Canada, but he at least knew that Toronto was the capital. I’ll bet now he even remembers what the real capital is.

This past weekend our church hosted some special meetings for Easter. I still miss parts of messages that are in Spanish, but I’m getting better at understanding them all the time. I didn’t miss any of the food that was served after the services… that’s got to count for something.

On Tuesday, I took the group to Tikal. Those Mayan temples are definitely intriguing for professional masons. This was my fourth time to Tikal… and counting. On the way home we ate at Pizza Hut in Santa Elena again. There must have been something rotten in the state of the pizza, because almost everyone got sick last night. I didn’t get sick at all, but the stories I heard about what went on that night in the attic where the rest of the boys were sleeping about made me sick. My deepest apologies to the work group for taking them to pizza hut.

Sometime on Tuesday morning, I noticed a big red spot on my forearm. I didn’t think much of it since I had one very similar to it before from a bee sting. For that one I’d taken Benadryl to rid myself of it. I figured for this one I’d do the same, so I planned to stop by Stephan’s after or Tikal trip and ask Brenda to look at it. Another thing I noticed on Tuesday morning was a red streak on the bottom of my forearm that ran from my elbow to my thumb. 

The red streak on my arm

I didn’t think much of it, and figured I just scratched it or something. After we returned to the mission from Tikal, I gave Brenda a call and asked if she had time to look at a spot on my arm. She was just getting ready to prescribe the Benadryl when I turned my arm over and asked if she knew what the red streak was. Both Stephan and Brenda looked at me like I just told them that I have the Black Plague. “We need to get you to the clinic right away,” was their response. Benj met Stephan and I at the clinic. By this time, I was getting pretty worried and begging to wonder if I was going to die or not, but Stephan assured me that I was going to be all right. Benj injected me with something and told me to get some sleep and he’d look at it again in the morning. The conversation between Benj and Stephen right before Stephan took me back to the mission went something like this:

Stephan asked Benj, “So… how bad is it?”
“If it gets away from us… it’s pretty bad.”
“But has it gotten away from us?”
“Great. Have a good night.”

The next morning the red streak had vanished but the infection seemed to have settled to my left elbow. Benj gave me another injection and some pills and told me to do nothing but rest until the infection is completely gone. That way my immune system can fight the infection better. Well, those of you who know me know that I’m pretty good at doing nothing. This weekend Stephan and Brenda left for the city for youth institute (I couldn’t go because of the infection) and asked me to house-sit for them since I couldn’t do anything anyway. They thought it would be a good idea to have someone around to make sure the pool water got circulated, the occasional snack got eaten from the fridge, the coffee maker did seize up, and that the gate got closed each night. I told them that I’d be perfect for the job.

The really nice thing about this infection thing is that I haven’t felt sick at all. I’ve felt tired at times, but that is it. Apparently, the type of infection that I had is a pretty serious thing. According to Benj, if I’d have been in the States and had the same infection, I’d have spent 3 or 4 days in a hospital bed hooked up to IV. Benj also told me that this type of infection works really fast. In a day, your muscles really ache, and in another day, you can barely get out of bed. I asked Benj why I had the streak on my arm for a whole day and didn’t feel sick at all. His response was, “You were blessed.”

I believe I just experienced yet another example of God watching out for me. It really is comforting to know that he’s always right there with us. We serve a really awesome God! 

Top 5 Highlights…

>>Playing baseball. It was a lot of fun playing baseball again, and the pool party afterwards at Stephan’s made the experience even better.
>>Watching the walls of the school rise. It wasn’t like I just sat there and watched. I definitely helped, too. But those walls really did rise quickly!
>>The meals. The work crew brought along with them some fine cooks. Every meal was excellent!
>>Gary’s jerky. Gary, one of the two guys that came later, is a butcher and brought along some venison jerky. It didn’t last long.
>>My quick recovery. Apparently this blood poisoning infection thing could have been a whole lot worse. I’m very grateful that it wasn’t!

 Top 5 Quotes…

“This former’s far more formal than the former former.” – Stephan (former: one who forms concrete columns)

“There goes a Geico!” – June (don’t worry, I didn’t hesitate to enlighten her to which is the insurance company and which is the lizard)

Day one: “When’s it going to get hot?”
Day two: “I was hoping it would get hot at least one day that we were here.”
Day three: “You call this hot? This is perfect.”
Day four: “Okay… this is pretty hot.” – Keith

“I bet those Mayan temples are all full of dead people.” – Greg

“Eh… I still look better.” – Kevin (after I asked him what he thought of my haircut)

Spanish Vocabulary…

Primavera (PREE mah VEH rah) – it means “spring” as in the season.

Memory tool: I don’t know how you’re going to remember this word, but it’s fun to say. Plus, spring is the current season.

Fun Facts…

In Guatemala…

>>There are scorpions. Fortunately, the one I saw was already dead by the time I saw it.

It's a little squished… and a little dead. But it's definitely a scorpion

>>There are poisonous snakes. Fortunately, the one I saw was pretty small so it seemed less dangerous.

Apparently, this type of snake (when full grown) is so fast that if you try to hack it's head off with a machete it will bite your arm twice before you reach it. 

>>Every male teenager knows the English word “cookies.”

>>Some speed bumps have signs foretelling their existence. Some don’t. I learned this the hard way.

>>The Coke is definitely better than in the States. Everyone from Pennsylvania agrees.

More to Add…

School starts again tomorrow after a week and a half break. It will be good to have all those kids running around again. Thanks again everyone for praying for me!