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Archive for January, 2010

I’m sorry to report that this Sunday I had my first experience of being taken advantage of for being a gringa. I had been sick for most of the weekend, and hadn’t been eating much. I knew that I had to eat to keep up my strength, so I bought some toasted bread and peanut butter. I was also craving an avocado. On my way back from the internet café, my housemate (Sherry) and I passed through the square of Iglesias de San Francisco, a shortcut that I take back and forth to school. In this square are merchants of traditional Guatemalan goods… Clothing, hand-woven tapestries, candles for the church, and people selling food. I had noticed several women selling avocados during the days that I had passed through the square and felt the need to buy one.

There are two kinds of avocados in Guatemala. The traditional avocado that we find in the states, small and black on the outside. The Guatemalan avocado is larger and green, and almost completely round. I had never had this type of avocado before, and decided to give it a taste. I looked at the señora, sitting with her basket and said, “Un aguacate para hoy, por favor” (one avocado to eat today, please). “Pará hoy?” she asks. “Si”, I say. The woman picks through her basket and pulls out this huge avocado, as green as a beautiful tropical garden. “Es bonita aguacate para tu” (a beautiful avocado for you), she says. “Seis quetzals” she says… then changes to broken English, “but for you, cinco quetzals.” ~~ Keep in mind that cinco quetzals is equal to about $0.63 American. I give her the 5 quetzals in the bills that I have in my pocket. She looks at my money and says, “oh no, este dinero es no bueno” (this money is no good), she takes 2 older quetzal bills and gives them back to me. “Por que”, my housemate says. Apparently the Guatemalan government is in the process of updating their bills, as the States has done for the past several years. However, some merchants will now not accept any older bills. This woman insisted that I go to the bank and exchange my older bills for newer ones. Sherry and I looked at each other and I pulled two 1 quetzal coins from my pocket to replace the older bills.

I brought the avocado home and set it on the counter. Marta (my house-mother) walked by and asked who’s avocado it was. I told her that it was mine. She looked at me and said in Spanish that the avocado was no good and that she preferred Mexican avocados. Sherry and I decided that maybe she just didn’t like that type of avocado, and that Marta was just really picky about her produce. This was a new food for me, and I was excited to give it a try.

Later that evening, I was studying at the table at la casa and decided to try my avocado. I cut the avocado open, and the pit literally fell out of the fruit. The avocado stank. The woman not only sold me a rotten avocado, but she then complained about how I was choosing to pay for this avocado. I was later told to NEVER buy anything in the square at Iglesias de San Francisco. Had I gone to the grand marcado (big market), not only would I have gotten amazingly delicious avocados, but I would have paid half the price.

Lesson learned.

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I LOVE language school!! In one week I have managed to make friends with a lot of the folks who work at the school… apparently, I am very popular around here because I talk with everyone and am always smiling. Why didn’t this work in high school??

I love coming to the school in the mornings because I get to have normal conversations with the local folks. I guess that a lot of the students who come through La Union don’t really talk with anyone except the teachers here. My teacher calls them ‘esnob’ or snobs in English. I’m having a hard time grasping this concept. You come to a third world country to attend a language school so that you can talk with people who speak this language… but you are too good to talk to the folks who are not actually teachers?? I can honestly say that I have learned as much from mi amigos (my friends) at the school as I have from mi maestra (my teacher). This morning, we had an entire discussion on the word ‘booger’. Unfortunately, ‘booger’ is not in the Spanish/English dictionary that I bought last week. I was a little disappointed by this. After about a 10 minute discussion on the subject, mi maestra, Amanda, came up with the word… which I didn’t write it down, so I don’t remember it.

Immersion is an amazing thing. After one week of classes I can manage to understand about 1/3 of what someone is saying. I am thankful for my dictionary. I can make my point with the words that I do know… and last night I realized that I had just created my first whole sentence. I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was a monumental step for me. Learning to form a sentence is really hard in Spanish. The verbs are killing me!!

Here are some of my friends at language school…

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Iglacia de San Francisco

Directly across the street from our apartment is la Iglacia de San Francisco, a massive church built here in Antigua in the 1700’s. At 6 am every morning the church bells ring… and wake me up. My host-mom, Marta Julia, took me on a tour on the first day that I was in Antigua. The church is enclosed by concrete walls. Within the walls, vendors sell traditional Guatemalan crafts to tourists.

When I arrived in Antigua, I was spiritually exhausted. I arrived in Guatemala City on Saturday (01/16/10) and came to Antigua the very next day. (more on this later)

Every morning, after breakfast, I pack my backpack with my laptop and study materials and head to la iglacia to pray. I have decided to dedicate the first 15 minutes of each day to God. As San Francisco is a Catholic church, it’s traditional to use the kneeling benches in front of each pew. Upon arrival, I get on my knees and thank God for the day that I am about to embark on. For those of you who know me well, this is a massive thing for me. I have (literally) never done this before. After a few minutes of thanks, I sit with my eyes closed and palms extended and hand all of my worries from the day before to God. I try to remember the lesson in ‘centering prayer’ that my friend Elaine gave me.

For today, I gave my anxiety of not picking up the langage to God (apparently, I’m not doing badly)… as well as my homesickness, heartburn, and heartbreak for not being able to hug my nieces. I know that I am blessed with this opportunity. I’m so grateful for everyone that made my being here possible.

Directly across the street from our apartment is la Iglacia de San Francisco, a massive church built here in Antigua in the 1700’s. At 6 am every morning the church bells ring… and wake me up. My host-mom, Marta Julia, took me on a tour on the first day that I was in Antigua. The church is enclosed by concrete walls. Within the walls, vendors sell traditional Guatemalan crafts to tourists.

When I arrived in Antigua, I was spiritually exhausted. I arrived in Guatemala City on Saturday (01/16/10) and came to Antigua the very next day. (more on this later)

Every morning, after breakfast, I pack my backpack with my laptop and study materials and head to la iglacia to pray, before heading to La Union. I have decided to dedicate the first 15 minutes of each day to God. As San Francisco is a Catholic church, it’s traditional to use the kneeling benches in front of each pew. Upon arrival, I get on my knees and thank God for the day that I am about to embark on. For those of you who know me well, this is a massive thing for me. I have (literally) never done this before. After a few minutes of thanks, I sit with my eyes closed and palms extended and hand all of my worries from the day before to God. I try to remember the lesson in ‘centering prayer’ that my friend Elaine gave me.

For today, I gave my anxiety of not picking up the langage to God (apparently, I’m not doing badly)… as well as my homesickness, heartburn, and heartbreak for not being able to hug my nieces. I know that I am blessed with this opportunity. I’m so grateful for everyone that made my being here possible.

Iglacia de San Francisco

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Thoughts From the Airport

Holy s*#t!! I’m here!!! My plane arrived on time in Guatemala City, and I have exchanged $160 for about 1200+ Quanzales. This should last me a little while in Antigua. I have to wait to be picked up from the airport because a Mission team from Pennsylvania will be arriving in about an hour or so. I slept the whole flight, so I was starving. I ate the Kit Kat that Janet gave me in my going away present. Once you have claimed your luggage, there is no place to eat or drink… Leah gave me a heads-up about a small lounge area that they have put in the airport. I admit that I am a little intimidated, only because I don’t speak any Spanish. I’m now wishing that I had taken that “Spanish for Dummies” book more seriously.

I’m scanning the crowd through the glass doors that separate the airport from the folks who are picking up their loved ones. There is not a familiar face in the crowd. I feel like a spectacle where I am right now. I’m sitting about 150 yards from about 250 people, who are staring intently through the glass for the faces of their loved ones.

In the lounge area is a picture of Antigua, where I will be heading tomorrow. The picturesque yellow arch with the clock and a volcano in the background makes me anxious to get this show on the road. On the walls on each side of me are woven rugs and table runners in the colors of red, brown, tan, gold, and blue. The designs are intricate. I really would love to learn how to weave. Representations of Jesus are everywhere, in them he is weeping under a crown of thorns.

Several mission teams, wearing matching shirts, cross my path. I question where they are going. They name villages that I have never heard that are about 3 hours away. I’m anxious to see the new intern house and to meet my future housemates.

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Goodbye 2009.  Welcome 2010.

I planned my departure from my job to be on the last day of the year for a reason… Start the new year fresh. Start the new year happy and energized. Start the year, which will soon be my 36th year on this planet, with a new perspective. Here’s the breakdown:

~ Pack, clean the commune, find a place for Hugo, and spend as much time with my beautiful niece (Kassidy) as possible before this Wednesday.

~ In 4 days, I will be heading to Asheville to see the rest of the family for two days (Auntie Dink is coming, Fia!!).

~ I will be going to take a weekend sabbatical to Savannah. I’m treating myself to a weekend in a B&B (something that I have always wanted to do). My plans are to sleep late, eat well, take a few tours, and just relax.

~ I will be heading toward my mom and dad’s place in Florida. Mom is apparently really excited about spending some one-on-one time with me.

~ Two weeks from today (14 days!!!!), I will be flying out of Miami and going to meet Tita and the Guatemalan family in Guatemala City. After I arrive, I will spend one night in Guatemala City and then I will take a shuttle to Antigua… where I will attend 4 weeks of immersion language school.

The big news this week is that we got the intern house in Tita’s neighborhood. The house has 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. Another new member of the team will be in Antigua doing her own time in language school. I am looking forward to getting to know my new housemates.

Good things are happening my friends. Stay tuned.

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