It is good for the soul to watch the sunrise from a different view every now and then. On Tuesday morning this was on my way south above the clouds; today it is over the rooftops of my “home away from home” in Xela (Quetzaltenango). I’ve never arrived anywhere looking for a stranger with a sign until now. A lady named Raquel met me at the airport and drove me to the local bus station where I traveled with all the regular Guatemalan people to Xela. This is a very different arrival from a mission team experience! Everyone I meet is new to me; everywhere I go is from a different perspective. My eyes are wide open now. I am seeing all things new.
When the bus arrived in Xela I called a number and the next “new” people showed up; Jaime and Luis…to take me to the home where I will stay this week.My host family is wonderful. Lilian is the “head of household” for lack of better words. Her husband died of cancer 10 years ago; she is 55. Two of her daughters (along with three grandchildren) are here most of the time. Her mother, Elcira is here and her brother, Tuto came by last night for a visit. He is an orthopedic doctor here in Xela. Lilian is a baker and does this from her home…events…weddings, etc. They have provided me with a nice room where I can study and sleep. And food! My spinach, salmon, almonds, oatmeal…basics are nowhere to be seen so far. I am learning how to eat as the family eats. I hate to admit how hard it is to do it. However, contrary to my mission trip visit…no one has offered me Pepsi yet so that is good! Politely passing the offer for tea, I am very content with water and coffee.
Casa Xelaju is my school for the next two weeks. It is great– I completed my first day yesterday. My personal instructor is Lily de Leon. She has been gracious with my stumbling and stammering – patient and enjoyable. There are students here from Holland, Texas, Taiwan and one from sometimes Knoxville, sometimes St. Louis and sometimes Guatemala…just depending on the conversation.
The school has many students during the high season, which has just ended. They come from all over the world to study here in Xela – and particularly this school. Of those here, two are teachers, two are mission/humanitarian focused and two are traveling and learning for the fun of it.
Xela is high altitude and cool. I knew to bring my jacket and a rain parka for the afternoon and evening rains. There is a beautiful cemetery here and I visited it during my last trip to Guatemala.
The house where I am staying is next to it, which is nice. It is, at least, a familiar spot for me. I suppose because I am here to study and alone, the culture “shock” is quite profound to me this time. This is the city where most of the people I know
live: Adolfo, Chester, Doris of the VIM office, Juan Pablo, etc. As I walk the streets, hear the sounds and breathe in the air…I am touching and experiencing their daily life
Of course, everyone’s situation is different, but the common places of life are still the common places. It is a developing country. The streets are enchanting in one
perspective….rough stone obviously laid by tired hands over many years…but I’m
also thinking as I walk them…”will my shoes even last for one month on this terrain?” It is not even a thought I want to write, but it is true. Or…after the bus ride to Xela (4 hours of
curves, jostling and window views), there is no comfy easy chair to slide into and kick back for the evening. There is a plastic patio chair. Period. I brought my yoga cheat sheets and that was a stroke of genius because yoga is needed right now!
So, I am here! It is most humbling and exciting. There is much I can learn in one month – and also the very real truth is that in one month I will know so little of this
language and culture. This is a glimpse. It is a glimpse God isn’t going to let me avoid. There are no distractions to keep me from seeing. I am knee-deep in a culture I do not know and a language I’ve yet to speak. I’m OK with that. We all have to take our steps of obedience on our way to saying “yes” to the life we are given to live. Let it be. Beinvenidos de Guatemala!