Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Back in the Saddle Again

According to my blog, it has been two months and nine days since I last posted something. Two months without blogging makes it difficult to stick to the “Two blog posts a month” goal. In the past two months, I’ve gone to Canada, been visited by friends and family from Canada, and the good-for-nothing parrot has died. All these things have happened, and you readers had no idea. You have been absolutely clueless about my life in Guatemala the past two months (if you rely on this blog’s updates). And although that might not bother you much, it should, because you deserve to read a blog post on Guat’s Up more often than once every two months and nine days. Part of the reason for the lack of updates was how busy I was, and the other part was the lack of inspiration. But we’ll just put that “summer break” behind us now, because I am back in the saddle again.
This parrot was once very much alive. Now it is dead. It never learned to talk. It's kind of sad, really. 
June 8th was a little while ago. It is a little hard to remember everything that happened between then and now, but I will do my best to bring you up to speed using words and pictures. Right around the beginning of June, we finished up the second quarter of the school year. Instead of a March break, Guatemalan Schools have a mid-year break in June. Since I had a week off from school, I decided to take advantage of the time off and go to Canada. To make things interesting, I decided to only tell a few people about my plans to come back. My parents and my girlfriend and her family knew, but other than that, not many people knew. June 19th was a pretty long day of flying, and I got to Toronto at 12:30 the next morning. My mom and dad were waiting for me as well as Jasmine. It was really good to see all of them again… especially Jas because it had been 158 days since I had seen her, and only 157 since I had seen Mom and Dad. Since my siblings had not been informed of my surprise return, I got to surprise them at 3:00 in the morning. I went downstairs and woke Rolin up, while Mom and Dad went upstairs and to wake up the girls. Mom and Dad had told the others that they were going out to eat, and that for something special, Dad was taking Mom to Toronto, so they were not to worry if Mom and Dad arrived a little late. When Mom and Dad told Kayleen and Kerra that there was a surprise downstairs, Kayleen figured out what it was, but Kerra thought it was a new computer. She was actually a little disappointed when she saw it was just me. We had a nice little family reunion catch-up time until 3:30 or so before going to bed.
We are "Off."
Although my stay in Canada was very short, it was very wonderful as well. I did a number of things that I hadn’t done for awhile like hang out with the Trinity youth, play tennis, play baseball, play golf, lose golf, and spend time with Jasmine. It was great being able to catch up with her and friends and family again. Stephan and Brenda were also in Canada over that time, so I got to see them as well. On Sunday evening, Stephan had an information meeting on “Jungle Breezes Youth Ministries.” I was glad to be able to be there, because even though I live three blocks away from Stephan, there were still some things I didn’t know about Jungle Breezes until that evening. The following day, our family took a little trip to a place where we could hike to a waterfall. Later, we had a picnic in the rain.

The following Wednesday, (June 23rd) I left with the Darrel Shantz family for the first leg of their family trip. This was a trip they had been planning for over a year and within a month of the departure date, I more or less invited myself along. At the time, it made a lot of sense. I figured that if I’d stay in Canada for five more days after Jas left with her family, I’d probably miss her the whole time. So why not go along and fly back to Guatemala from an airport in the States? Well… on that Wednesday morning, I was not so convinced that it was such a good idea. I got into the van with all the Shantzes and thought, “Well, this is awkward.” But it turned out to be a great five days! A lot of driving, but we did get to see some cool things like the St. Louis arch and the Grand Canyon. By the end, I was very glad that they let me join them for the first part of the trip. I’m not sure if they felt the same way, but for now, we’ll just assume that they were happy to have me along.
Archie!! (Arch selfie)
The Darrel Shantz family. Only it's me instead of Jan. That's the Grand Canyon in the background
I had to take a picture of the slot machines in the Las Vegas airport. I didn't play, but if I would have, I would have chosen "Heaven's Bells" over "Hell's Bells."
On June 29th I flew back to Guatemala from Las Vegas. I had a layover in Panama, which meant I basically flew right over Guatemala on my way. The airplane, however, was clean out of parachutes. I bussed back to El Chal that night and arrived early the next morning. We didn’t have classes the following Monday (June 30th) so I had one day to recuperate. The first day back to school was Canada day, and to celebrate, we had a little “gift exchange” with my students. I had bought a whole bunch of cheesy Canadian souvenirs from Dollarama for my students. To them, they were the coolest things ever. One of the things I brought down with me was a large Canadian flag. It hung in my classroom for the rest of that week. The students loved it, but some of my co-teachers made comments like “I can’t believe that this is allowed in our school” as they walked by. They were joking of course… I think. I also brought maple leaves with me. My students had learned about Canada the year before and seemed pretty fascinated with Canada’s national symbol, the maple leaf. I gave each student an authentic Canadian maple leaf from a tree in my front yard, and they loved those as well. One student brought his leaf back a week later laminated and wanting my signature. It made my day.
All of my students with their souvenirs from Canada. 
One evening, a car with Mexico licence plates was at the mission. Lucio, Samuel and I thought we'd take a picture of us with it so that it looked like we were in Mexico. It didn't work. 
This is Profe Erick. The purpose of this picture was an experiment. He bought a new phone and he programmed it to unlock only when he put his face in front of the phone. I tried taking a picture of him with my phone and then holding my phone in front of his to try to unlock it. It didn't work. 
Remember Ferdin, the boy who was kidnapped? Well, he's back in El Chal now. We went to his "welcome back" church service. Ferdin is living proof that God still works miracles. 
I saw this in Megapaca. Air hockey and pool? Okay...
July turned out to be a fairly normal week as far as school went. No weeklong breaks, no class trips… if it wouldn’t have been for the group from Canada, we might have had a full month of school. The school bus that brings kids to school and takes them home again went to the city on Thursday evening (July 24th) to pick up the Trinity youth group the following day. I went along with the bus, and was definitely looking forward to seeing family and friends again, but I had a bit of a headache. That night, we stopped about 2 hours from the city and slept in the bus. Due to a fever and headache, I wasn’t able to sleep well at all. By the next morning, I diagnosed myself with dengue fever, because it had been going around El Chal for weeks. I felt pretty rotten that whole day, and although seeing Mom and Dad and Kayleen and Kerra and Jas and all the rest cheered me up, it didn’t make me feel much better. Neither did the usually-eight-but-this-time-fourteen-hour trip that we made back to El Chal. Traffic jams make one want to take a back road. We got to El Chal really late, and I slept until ten the next morning.

I felt quite a bit better the following day, and decided to go to Ixpanpajul with the rest of the group. We spent the first part of the afternoon hiking, and the second part zip lining, both fun activities, but probably not recommendable to someone sick with dengue. Afterwards, we went to Flores for supper. We got home fairly late that day as well, and were all in need of some rest.

The next week was a busy one for everybody. On Monday, the group “shadowed” missionaries and natives from El Chal. Curtis had the privilege of following me around. I made him mark quizzes. On Tuesday morning, the group left for La Anchura to help clean up and make ready the land where Jungle Breezes is going to exist. I wasn’t able to go along due to responsibilities in the school, so you’ll have to ask them about their stay at La Anchura. They took the bus half way to their destination on Tuesday morning, so I didn’t have school that day. You can’t have school without a bus. After the group was gone, I went back to sleep, and didn’t wake up until lunchtime. The whole week, I felt a little tired, and by the end of Tuesday, I had eaten most of Twyla’s Tylenol. (That’s not a special brand of Tylenol, it actually belonged to Twyla). By Friday, I was feeling quite a bit better. The group helped out with devotions in the morning and then activities with the kids afterwards. The activities included water balloon trivia, baseball, dodge ball, soccer, basketball, kick ball, and more. The kids really enjoyed their morning, and I think the group did as well.
This is Jas and me at Castillo San Felipe. The group got a tour of the castle on the way back to the city. 
On Saturday evening, we ate supper at Byron and Karen's house. Tamales! This is Jas and me at Byron and Karen's house.
That Saturday (August 2nd) we headed back to the city in the school bus. On Sunday, the group split up and went to eight different MAM churches in that area. Ian Roth might argue that not all of the churches were “in that area.” On Sunday evening, we had a little service and each one shared a little bit about their experience that day. On Monday morning, after breakfast, packing, and a quick Settlers game (in which we didn’t quite finish but if we would have I’m pretty sure I would have won because I had nine points) we were off to the airport. Goodbyes were said, and the whole group minus Jasmine entered the airport. Jas had decided to stay an extra week just to spend more time with me. She’s pretty cool like that. We headed back to El Chal on the night bus along with Conrad Gingerich and his wife Naomi. Conrad is Stephan’s cousin and they came to visit Stephan and Brenda. We arrived in El Chal at about 7:00 on Tuesday morning, and I pretty much went straight to school. We had exams that whole week, which was nice because the preparation had already been done. That week Jas helped me with marking tests some of the time, and helped Brenda at her house as well. On Friday night, Brenda invited us over for supper. They had a table for two set out by the pool, so Jas and I got to have a Friday night date. Brenda served us some pretty good food, and Jeffery and Hubener had fun being little waiters.
It was dark. Bright flash. 
On Saturday, (August 9th) we spent most of the morning getting ready for the Regional Institute. It was held at the church in El Chal, and people from Santa Rosita, El Mango, and San Luis came for the meetings. On Saturday, Jas and I were in charge of one of the children’s classes. We told the story of Naaman and everyone made little Naamans that you could “dunk” in the river. When I got to the part of the story where Naaman dunks himself in the Jordan seven times, Jas counted with the kids to seven in Spanish. She’s pretty amazing like that. After meetings all day on Sunday, Jas went back to the city with the ministers that had come from the city. We said a rather sad goodbye, and then she was gone. And hasn’t been back since.
Getting ready for the "Naaman" lesson.
That brings us to this past week. It was a fairly normal week, the only thing out of the ordinary being report card day on Friday. All the parents come in to receive the report cards and talk to the teachers, so it’s a little scary, but I made it through.

So, we are all caught up. It’s really kind of sad that there isn’t more, but one’s life can only be so exciting. I know you want to hear all about the B├ísico class trip coming up this week right now, but you’ll have to wait until the end of August.

Thank you for reading!

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