The main part of this blog post is about my time with the Countryside group while they were here. If you get done reading it and you want to know more, just ask one of them. I’m sure they could tell you many more things.
In A Nutshell…
On Tuesday night (April 16th), Stephan, Jeffery, and I took the night bus to Guatemala City to pick up the Countryside group. In the morning, we met our bus drivers and the school bus that we would be using at a gas station near the airport. Alejandro was the driver and Juan was his faithful assistant.
|Alejandro (left) and Juan… the best in the business|
By the time we arrived at the airport, I was about dying with anticipation. I had been looking forward to the coming for a long time since some of my family, cousins, and friends were in it. Rather than go to the arrivals place right away, Stephan decided to talk to the bus drivers for a while where we parked the bus. Finally, he asked me if I was ready to go see if the people were there yet. Rather than answer audibly, I just started walking. You know, just to test the whole “actions speak louder than words” theory. We got to the arrivals area just as my cousin Anthony stepped outside the airport. Twenty more people followed him. My mom and dad and sister were near the very end of the line of people, but they did make it outside eventually. It was really nice to see them again. Up until now, I’d never been away from home for more than a month, so it was great to see so many familiar faces. Once we had all the suitcases and people in the bus, we headed to mission headquarters. I heard a few of the students mention that the bus was a little full, but they know nothing of full vehicles. Just ask anyone from the countryside group that was here in Guatemala two years ago.
|Welcome to Guatemala|
Once everyone was settled in their rooms at the mission, we headed to Antigua. The first thing we did was eat lunch at a great Guatemalan restaurant known as McDonalds. The Canadians were pretty impressed with the service after they moved all twenty-two of us through in less than ten minutes. After lunch, we went to a market. My dad bought me a “Guat’s Up?” T-shirt to go with my blog. Now all I need is a “Guat’s Up?” hat.
|Guat's up! Get it?|
I’m pretty sure that Anthony and Zack came away from that market with the best buy. Oakley sunglasses for about three bucks a pair. After the market, we headed to the hill of the cross that overlooks Antigua. While the bus was parked and we were boarding, a policeman informed the bus driver that the bus wasn’t licensed to be driving on this particular road; it was too big. But after Stephan talked to the policeman, he ended up escorting us to the hill of the cross rather than giving us a fine. Stephan claims that “sometimes it’s best just to play dumb.” We ended our day with supper at the mission and an orientation of MAM with Roy and Miriam.
On Thursday morning we got an early start and headed to Ross and Donita Good’s place. After a delicious breakfast, half the group went to the village known as Pasaco where Ross’s have their outreach church. I was the group that went to the village first. We did some singing for people that live in the village and attend the church. It was a nice little walk between each house. Some people may have even called it a “hike.”
|…and that, folks, is how you cross a river|
The whole group ate lunch at the same restaurant, and then parted ways again as the groups did in the afternoon what they didn’t do in the morning. The ocean was really nice. The water temperature was perfect, there were plenty of big waves, and we barely saw anyone at the beach besides our group. For many people in the group, it was their first time swimming in an ocean. After supper at Ross’s, we headed back to the Mission for the night.
|Bring on the waves!|
On Friday morning we woke up early again, and headed for El Chal. We arrived at about two o’clock in the afternoon and ate lunch at the mission house in El Chal. For the afternoon, the students “shadowed” missionaries as in followed them around in order to learn more about what the life of a missionary is really like. Anthony was my shadow, and I gave him and Zack an authentic Guatemalan motorcycle ride. “Authentic” as in more than two people were riding at one time and a wipe-out was involved. Stephan says that you haven’t learned to ride a motorcycle until you’ve wiped out. I have now learned twice. I hope I’m done learning.
|Bandages were courtesy of Anthony and Zack. They didn't stay on my arm for very long|
That evening, we were planning on playing volleyball, but the power went out. Rather than playing volleyball in the dark, we just went to bed early.
On Saturday, the group went to Tikal.
|Kayleen and I on Temple 4|
|The whole group… except for mom|
|Someone had to take the picture|
|doing the Usain Bolt|
Later in the day, we toured markets in Santa Elena and the island of Flores. The girls had a chance to stock up on dress material.
On Sunday, we split into two groups again. Half of the group went to Santa Rosita for the day while the other half stayed in El Chal. Those of us who stayed in El Chal had a pretty “tranquilo” afternoon, which involved eating lunch at Stephan’s and swimming. Then, in the evening, we went to Benj and Holli’s for supper and a campfire. If you want to find out what the other group did in Santa Rosita, you will have to ask them. In my next blog I will tell you all about the experiences I had in Santa Rosita this past weekend.
|some pieces of firewood were bigger than others|
Monday was the big workday. We poured the floor for the second story of other half of the new school building. We had lots of help and we were pretty much finished with the project by 3:00 in the afternoon. The girls helped clean up the school property while the roof was being poured. The school property looked much nicer when they were done.
|Working hard or hardly working?|
|Anthony went with the high socks… oh wait. Those are boots.|
A few of us Canadians played baseball with the some of the Guatemalans in the afternoon. In the evening the group went to Santos and Elsa’s house for supper. Santos is paralyzed from the waist down from a car accident that happened about six years ago. His oldest son Luswin is studying to become a teacher and had wanted to have a computer for long time to aid him in his studies. The group knew this before they came and brought a laptop with them to give to him. When Luswin opened the computer bag and discovered what was inside he was speechless for about five minutes. The whole family was surprised, amazed, and a little in shock I think. It was pretty neat to witness this event that “will always be a special day on the calendar” according to Luswin’s mom. It kind of makes one stop and think. I’ve probably had more computers than I’ve needed my whole life, but I’ve never been as grateful for mine as that family was for theirs.
|I assure you… they were much more grateful than they look on this picture|
On Tuesday morning we left for Guatemala City once again. We toured a castle near Río Dulce after eating lunch at a roadside restaurant. Then after more travelling in the afternoon, we ate at a steak restaurant near Byron and Karen’s house.
|Stephan and I in prison|
|Byron and Karen joined us for supper|
On Wednesday morning, the group went to a little school that’s really close to mission headquarters. We sang some songs with the kids there and toured their three classrooms. Then we headed for the airport, and the time came to say goodbye. I’m not a big fan of “goodbyes.” I think I’m more of a “hello” person, but I’m definitely glad for the people in my life that I miss. That afternoon, I headed back to El Chal on the afternoon bus and arrived around 11:00 in the evening.
Friday, April the 26th was my birthday. Most of the staff here in Guatemala like to keep their birthdays a secret as much as possible due to the “interesting” birthday Guatemalan birthday traditions. Just to be different, I was the opposite. Ever since February I’ve been reminding Waneda to put my birthday on the calendar for April. Whenever I had the chance I told people about my upcoming birthday. “I’m going to be twenty. That’s pretty old!” I would say. For this reason, I was expecting to have a surprise party, but I wasn’t expecting to have the party the evening before my birthday. So I have to admit… when I was peacefully sitting at the table after just finishing supper and I heard machine guns (which later turned out to be fire crackers) right outside the window I was a little… surprised. Those things are loud. After an ample amount of explosions had gone off and the watch dog came bounding into the house with his tail between his legs, a bunch of my friends walked up to the front door singing “Cumpleaños Feliz.” They threw a wonderful party… if you liked getting drenched by buckets of water, swinging blindly at piñatas, and cake in the face, that is.
|Just a little soaked|
|This is me with candy wearing part of the piñata|
|This is me with cake in the face|
It was very different from any birthday party I’ve ever had, but I enjoyed it. They somehow had the piñata hanging from a rope so that they could move it back and forth a lot. Also, Lucio spun me around thirty times (and I was blindfolded of course) before letting me swing. By the time I staggered over to where the piñata was I had apparently lost too much of my dizziness so Lucio spun me ten more times. I’m pretty sure that by the time all the candy was on the floor, the piñata had hit me way more times than I had hit it. After the piñata we played volleyball, and after volleyball we at cake. I knew that it was a Guatemalan tradition to face wash the birthday person with cake, and I knew that when I went to bite my cake that they were going to shove my face into it, but I didn’t realize how hard the were going to shove my face. I had a little bruise on my nose for a few days from it’s contact with the cake plate. I say next year we should make the cake thicker.
“Birthday’s only come once a year, you know… That’s what makes them so special!” – Mrs. Randolf.
Top 5 Highlights…
>>Spending time with my family. It was really nice that my parents and sister were along with the group. I very much enjoyed the time I got to spend with them laughing, catching up, and arguing about the heights of temples at Tikal.
>>The workday. Having a lot of people working together makes work kind of fun. And it sure is nice to finish a big project.
>>My birthday party. Despite all the things that you probably wouldn’t normally want to have done to you at your birthday party, it was kind of fun being picked on. I guess I kind of like being the center of attention. Or at least the mantel.
>>The steak supper. It was definitely some of the best meat that I’ve eaten in a long time.
>>Swimming in the ocean. There’s something about those huge waves that is addicting. If it wasn’t for the salt burning the lips and nose and eyes, I think I could swim in the ocean all day long.
Top 5 Quotes…
“Sometimes we pray for miracles to happen, and sometimes we just make them happen.” – Stephan
“Hey a hacky sack! (in a tourist shop) I used to be really bad at these… (accidently kicks it under the table on the first try) yup. Still am.” – Anthony
“I think the Canadian McDonalds could learn a thing or two from the Guatemalan McDonalds.” – Jamie Shantz
“First time driving a motorcycle?” – Douglas
“Please lower your head and watch your step, and if you fail to do so, please lower your voice and watch your language.” – Stephan’s advice to us in the castle (this quote originates from either The Farmer’s Almanac or the flip calendar in the bathroom… the jury’s still out on that)
Pastel (pah STEL) – it means “cake”
Memory tool: when I think if “pastel” in English I think of bright colours… and every cake should have bright colours.
>>There are fewer people at the beach than in Canada
>>It’s more fun to eat at fast food restaurants than in Canada
>>The Oakley sunglasses are significantly cheaper than in Canada
>>The bus drivers are better than in Canada (I might be a little bit biased because Alejandro was the best bus driver ever)
>>The Coke is definitely better than in Canada. Everyone from Ontario agrees
More to Add…
As previously mentioned, I will talk about my experiences in Santa Rosita in my next blog post. You won't want to miss it. Stay tuned.