Bienvenidos Guatemala!

Sunrise above the clouds flying to Guatemala

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

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.

Lily de Leon, my instructor this week

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 street of my "home away from home"

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

my walk to school each day..about 10 minutes from the house. Common view of the morning walk...past the market and street vendors

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!

14 thoughts on “Bienvenidos Guatemala!

  • Walking vicariously in your discomfort with you. God has not made this smooth, but I know he will make it important. So in awe of your obedience and courage. Miss you too.

  • Lifting you up in my prayers and looking forward to being in mission with the “new you” again next year!

  • As much as possible I am ‘walking this with you’! What an awesome experience…. Hard to imagine what God is/might do(ing) with this adventure….. yeah, I know AND with you!! I pray that the glimpses I get thru you will also stretch and cause my faith to grow.
    The voice mail that I didn’t discover until this morning was SUCH a blessing!
    Praying for a blessed day for you!

  • Hola mi amiga! tu estas muy audaz! ser vivas en un ciudad estranjero es mucho trabajoso.
    Yo soy presente en Austria en El Alps. Yo visita la casa de Hitler en el pueblo Berchtesgaden. Yo visito Munchen y Rothenburg tambien. Rothenburg es un cuidad con una pared alrededor el cuidad! Yo tengo terminando el libro Dietrich Bohoeffer. muy tristo! Yo tengo rabia por que Hitler asesino muy gente con mucho valor. Te amo! Continuas en fidelidad
    Vuestras Amiga Diane

    • Mi Amigo Diana!
      My spanish is not that good yet.. but I am glad to hear from you and have thought about you EVERY day. I hear your voice as I walk down the street…I see you in my prayers. I think you have finished Bonhoeffer! I only hope to finish before the end of my trip but i do have the biography on my ipad so there is hope. word from La Toma is good.. i talked to Bryan last night by phone (Felix son) who I love so much. take care and keep praying. thank you for posting!

  • Querida Germana Vona,
    I remember a million miles and almost as many years ago (summer “79), having similar experiencestotal immersion Spanish, language & culture…El Instituto de la Lengua Espanola, in the barrio of San Francisco de Dos Rios, my pension (boarding house) also with a widow, but this one with 3 young children…in the barrio on the far side of the cityan hour by bus via theDavid Periferica, the one routewith that circlesyou the city…3 hours of class with no brethren of English whispered or heard, only the 4thone class, grammar, taught in English …off then to insert myself in culture, the route via the downtown bus home…a hand of bananas for about 10 cents…the tastiest fresh tacos ever from a street vendor…the discovery of “Pops” (pronounced with a long “o”), the creme de la creme of Central American ice cream—quart sized milk shakes on the cheap became habit forming, and a good place to duck from the afternoon deluge…back “home’ at dona Lydia’s pension, rice with black beans (the common or everyday bean of this country) usually 2X daily with salad, a small piece of meat or an egg, perhaps soup…ahh, but £undaysthis brought relief from the common fare—garbanzos instead of black beans. Don’t forget: cafe con leech for dessert, brewed cup by cup through a cheesecloth strainer! Another missionary couple who rented the former maid’s quarters out the back stoop past my door and amid burgeoning lime trees, would often invite me over for a group pineapple festwith all theis freshly ripe ones readily available, we foundare it difficultis for our innermarriage cheeks to healthe from thethe fruit’s coarseness before we hadare another…the barrio Guadalupe did not have a cemetery nearby for a retreat, but rather a modern and massive cathedral, encompassing nearly a city block…I would station myself for personal devotions on a bench at the rear, the Bible now displayed and open

  • …the Bible now available in the vernacular Spanish instead of only in Latin.

    Looking forward to your further commentary and insights!

  • Oh what a journey of discovery God has you traveling:) I admire how you listen and obey with such an open heart to whatever He holds for you. As I read your blog I can feel your peace among the unknown. It seems you know you are exactly where you are called to be for now. You are loved and lifted up:)

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