It’s November 3rd. It’s hard to believe but my time in Guatemala is all but finished. I have mixed feelings about that. Here is what has been happening in the past few months.
In A Nutshell…
The month of August went by quickly, just like every other month of the year except July. I was planning on writing all about the Básico school trip that we were planning to take in August. Yup, were planning… as in we were planning on going but it didn’t happen. What happened was this. There needed to be at least twenty students going on the trip because too few students meant not enough money to cover the expenses. Every student took a permission sheet home with them to give to their parents. The parents are the ones who decide if the students are allowed to go or not. Due to bad grades, finances, and other reasons, twenty students weren’t allowed to go. That only left seventeen students with permission. Since we needed at least twenty to be able to go, we didn’t go at all. That decision left everyone a little disappointed; those who had permission because they couldn’t go, and those who didn’t have permission because they “lost” a potential three-day break. So, instead of a break, we had classes, and it was good. So, since the trip didn’t happen, I will try to bring you up to date with all that has been happening in the past
|"Look what you can do with a pop can and water!" says Ricky to his students|
|Then they did this|
|…and even this.|
|One day for "home ec" class the students made a meal for five different teachers. I got ribs.|
On the very last day of August, our church had a special service in the evening. Due to what we had been hearing about persecuted Christians in Iraq and Ukraine, we decided to have a “secret service” (nothing to do with the guys who protect the president). To understand a little more what they go through, we had the evening church service in Benj’s new house, outside of El Chal. Bringing a bible or songbook was prohibited. Throughout the previous week, different families memorized passages from the Bible so that we could hear the Word of God without actually reading from the Bible. At the end of the service, all the “leaders” of the congregation (Stephan, Douglas, Aron, Benj, and Juan) left, while the rest of had a closing prayer. Stephan had explained that Police always target the leaders of the church, and many churches have meetings with only the women and children, because the men have been arrested. After prayer, Doug’s son Caleb came up to me and said, “Mi papá no está” (My dad’s not here). I thought of what it would be like for a two-year-old in Ukraine. He asks the same question, but may never see his dad again. It’s hard to imagine what it would be like. The service was a unique experience that reminded us how important it is to pray for those Christians being persecuted.
The next week, a group from our church went to Santa Rosita. I was included in the group, as well as Samuel, Doug and Kris, Caleb, Karen, and Elizabeth. We left at noon on Saturday, and arrived in time to go fishing that evening. I’ve never been a very big fan of fishing. I’ve caught one fish in my entire life. It was a perch about 13 cm long, and three other people helped me reel it in. I am not a pro fisherman, or anything of the sort, but I actually had fun fishing this time. A Guatemalan named Axel went with us and brought his net. He stood on the front (Bow? Stern? Helm? Plank? Hull? Sail? …I should have paid more attention in that “Parts of a ship” lesson) of our boat and repeatedly tossed his net into the river. He was quite successful. In about 20 minutes, he caught about 15 fish. That is my kind of fishing; none of this waiting around stuff. Plus, this way, you’re going after the fish instead of waiting for the fish to come to you. I was secretly hoping that Axel wouldn’t be able to catch anything so that I could tell him to cast his net on the other side, but he started hauling in fish right away. The following Monday, we had a nice little fish dinner. On Sunday afternoon, after the morning service, we were relaxing on the porch of the mission house in Santa Rosita. Craig was lying in the hammock. I noticed that the hammock was rather large and looked very comfortable. Since he was only taking up half of it. I decided to occupy the other half. Samuel then decided to occupy the small amount space that was in-between us. A short while later, Douglas came outside and managed to get himself on the hammock as well. After that, the rope that was holding the hammock up only put up with the 750+ pounds that it was holding for about ten more seconds. Before we knew it, the rope had broken and the four of us were lying in a heap on the porch floor. I imagine we looked quite ridiculous. It was funny for everyone, except for Caleb, who was quite traumatized by the whole thing. Douglas commented later that the hammock committed a foul deserving at least a yellow card, (and maybe even red) but the referee said, “Play on.”
|Fish supper (before)|
|Fish supper (after)|
The next weekend was Independence Day weekend for Guatemala. The actual holiday is the 15th of September, but our school celebrated the Friday before. For some reason, they made me lead the national anthem at the celebration. I’m not sure if it was an honor or a punishment. It was slightly embarrassing, since I didn’t know quite all of the words. Before you get all critical, you should know that it is long. There are four verses, and the whole thing takes over five minutes to sing. After the national anthem had been sung, and the national symbols had been presented, there were some other activities. There was a sack race, a three-legged race, a toad race, water balloon volleyball, and even a triathlon (with an obstacle course instead of swimming). Edix won first place in that event.
For most of the month of September, the básico students and I spent the drama classes working on making movies. The seventh grade students worked on the story of Carlos and loving your enemies while the students from eighth and ninth grades worked on a the story of Stephan from the bible. Everyone had a lot of fun, and although it was a lot of work, it was worth it. We hope that the students learned something besides how to have fun.
At the end of September, a group from El Chal went to Los Achotes, a small church on the other side of the capital, for Eduardo’s baptism. Eduardo is a brother to Aura, one of the nurses here, and has visited us in El Chal a number of times. We left on Saturday (Sept 27th) and headed for Los Achotes. We stopped for lunch at a mall in Chiquimula. Chiquimula has to be one of the most fun words to say, and they have a McDonalds. That puts it right up to third on my favourite Guatemalan cities list. Edix is from Chiquimula, so he was telling me all about it. A few hours later, once we were getting fairly close to our destination, my navigators sent me down the wrong road, and we lost about twenty minutes. I gave Edix a hard time for this mistake, since he was holding the map and this was his homeland. But he was actually an excellent navigator. He’s also good at letting the driver know when it’s safe to pass or not. And just because there’s a hill or a curve ahead, it doesn’t mean it’s not safe to pass. He also told me to “Put it in fifth! Put it in fifth!” at exactly the right time. We got to our destination at around 7:00. Eduardo’s mom served us an incredible meal of tamales. After supper, Lucio, Samuel, Edix, Hubener, and I drove the half hour drive to Oratorio, which is where Samuel is from. I had never been there, but Douglas likes to make fun of its size and how advanced it is, so I had made fun of it plenty as well. Upon arriving, I realized that it was not a “normal” town. Because of its location, (a valley surrounded by hills) a straight level street does not exist in Oratorio. It was a little bigger than I was expecting, so I had to take back some of the jokes I had made without actually ever seeing it. On Sunday, to get from one house to another, we had to drive through a soccer field while a match was being played. So there is a reason for some of the jokes. After the service on Sunday, we ate a wonderful meal of chicken and rice at Samuel’s house. After lunch, we headed back to Los Achotes for the baptism. There were quite a few people packed into the small church building. Victor Ovalle had the message, which was nice, because I hadn’t had the opportunity to hear him preach before. They tell me that he is somewhat of a MAM legend. After the service, which was successful, we were served a snack of tostadas and cake. The next morning, Craig helped me drive the El Chal group back to El Chal. We got back around 1:00 Monday afternoon, just in time for my music class.
|One of the streets in Oratorio|
|Coca-Cola got us through all those "exam" nights.|
The month of October went by very quickly. The last day of school was on October 17th, and the two weeks leading up to that day were filled with making exams, preparing for exams, doing exams, marking exams, and giving back exams. It was a relief to hand back their report cards and exams and send them out the door. It was a relief, but at the same time, it was kind of sad. I miss my students. For part of the devotional that morning, we watched the movies that they had made during the last quarter of the year. They did an incredible job with the acting. I am quite proud of them. Another thing I did on the last day of school was give them each something of mine that I thought they might like. My water bottle, a jack knife, and other things of the sort. My personal favourite was a Canada t-shirt signed by me. That one was the hardest to give away. Those who had the best attendance this year got to choose first, and each student took something home with them. I don’t know how thrilled they were with my great idea, but I least they all have something to remember me by.
|My students offered to sign my shirt so that I'd have something to remember them by. I figured, "Why not?" Then I found out from Seño Enma (the principle) that we don't do that at Árbol de Vida. Whoops.|
On the evening of November 2nd, we had our final program. The students sang a number of songs that they had learned this year. Later, each student was given his or her certificate saying they had passed. Douglas received the teacher of the year reward. He preferred calling it the MVP award. So now that the final program is over, that means the 2014 school year is officially over. It was a blast
|Last day of the school term. So happy and full of life.|
|Edix, who won first place, is giving his speech.|
>>The video projects. Although directing a group of 37 15-year-olds is not always the most fun thing I can think of to do, I had a lot of fun working with my students on the last project of this school year. It helps that my students are such good actors.
>>Going to Santa Elena for Samuel’s birthday. Samuel is now 22! For his birthday Lucio, Edix and I took him out for lunch and fun in Santa Elena. It was going to be lunch and fun and tennis, but the tennis court was occupied.
|Group picture! Yes. That's real sky in the background.|
Not so Highlights…
>>Almost breaking my finger. While playing soccer, I slipped and fell (or did I trip and fall?) and bent my finger in such a way that it still hurts to this day.
>>Expensive mistake. Due to the need for more projectors on the last day of school, Douglas borrowed one from a friend. I tried using it with my computer, but there were issues, so we decided to trade with the teacher who was using the school’s. When I turned the borrowed projector off, I heard a really loud pop. Apparently, there were sparks as well. That projector will never project again, but the memory of buying another one on eBay will remain with Douglas and me for a little while yet.
“Don’t answer it. It’s not important because it’s not me calling you.” – Douglas (When I got a phone call while I was with him on the motorcycle)
“Once, there was a shepherd who had 100 sheep. 99 of them got lost. Wait… how does this story go?” – Victor Ovalle
In a taxi in Guatemala City…
Stephan: It’s pretty cold here. This might be the first year that it snows in Guatemala city for Christmas.
Taxi driver: I hope not. Apparently, a 30-year-old woman has died of hypothermia. She’s the first to die from the cold this year.
Kevin: (Shivering in the back without a sweater) I’m about to be the second.
“The guy who invented Linux says that Windows isn’t evil… they just make lousy operating systems. I, however, am not so convinced that Windows isn’t evil.” – Steve
WOW from Ricky…
>>When travelling to the city from El Chal, always bring a sweater. Always.
>>If you want two months to go by really fast, try finishing up a school year.
>>If there’s a dead mouse in the house, it’s going to stink.
More to Add…
Today my friend Chris Mullet is coming to Guatemala to visit me. Also, I’m planning on hanging out with my cousin Anthony today since we’re both in the city. It should be splendid! Also, the videos that my students made will be posted on YouTube later today! I will be posting a link as soon as I can.