Monday, May 23, 2011

A Swiss Family Robinson Weekend

This past weekend Audrey and I went on a trip to Semuc Champay.  We had a really great time, but it was an interesting experience to say the least.  
We left Friday afternoon around 2:00 and finally arrived at our destination around midnight.  It was a super long trip on a pretty uncomfortable little van.  We were really happy to finally arrive.  However, when we got there we found out that we were staying in an ecological hostel which basically translates to the following: we slept in a hut you had to climb a ladder to get up to, the bathroom and shower was in a separate hut, and there was no electricity.  Hence the title...A Swiss Family Robinson Weekend.
The next day when we woke up and could finally see where we were, we realized it was going to be a fun trip. The area was really beautiful, and we booked a tour for the day to see some of the sights around the area.  The tour started off with a hike up to a look-out point to see some of the beautiful natural pools.  When we got to the top, it was absolutely gorgeous.  I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything quite like it.  We couldn’t wait to get down to the pools and start swimming in them!  The pools were just as much fun as the view made them look.  The water was crystal clear and it was so nice!  There were even little rock slides we got to go down from one pool to the next.  It was really fun and a brand new experience.  In the afternoon we got to relax a little and take an intertube ride down the river.  After that came the most stressful part of the day for me.  Part of the tour included going in a cave.  This wasn’t your typical cave experience.  Each person in our group got a little candle and the guide had a headlamp.  However, the worst part was that there were parts of the cave where you had to swim!  It was super creepy and kind of tough while holding a candle in your hand.  It was definitely a new experience, and Audrey really enjoyed it so I’m glad we got to do it.  However, I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.  Ever.  After the cave we trapped a tiger in a pit and Ernst wrestled an anaconda in the river.  Okay...that part is just a joke but I needed to keep the Swiss Family Robinson theme going.  The rest of the night was spent having dinner and meeting some interesting people from around the world.  It was a really great day.
On Sunday we woke up bright and early and made the long trek back to Antigua.  We made it back safe and sound Sunday afternoon around 4:30.
The weekend really was a lot of fun, and I’m so glad I had Audrey there to experience it with me.  Actually, I’m just really glad she’s been on this entire trip with me.  I don’t know what I would have done without her.
Please keep as both in your prayers as we’re only in Antigua for 10 more days!!!  Woohoo!  I’m so ready to be back in the DR.  Pray that we’ll learn as much Spanish as we possibly can and please continue to pray for our safety and health.  I love and miss you all very much!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Brief Update on Life in Guatemala

It’s been a few days since I’ve written so I thought I’d give all of you a little update on some things that have been going on here in good ole’ Antigua.
Monday: I got super sick.  It was not a pretty sight and I spent pretty much the entire afternoon hanging out in our super blue bathroom.  I think I might have eaten something that just did not set well with me.  Luckily, it only lasted one afternoon and it was over.
Tuesday: I was still feeling a little weak from the day before so I spent the afternoon relaxing at our little house.
Wednesday: Audrey and I decided to go on a trip with the school to climb a volcano called Pacaya.  We were given very little information besides what we needed to wear.  It was about a 45 minute drive to the volcano.  When we got there we were told it was about an hour or an hour and a half hike up to the top.  Well, to make a long story short, the hike ended up being about 2 hours, I was definitely not up to it after being sick on Monday and had to ride a horse half of the way up (how embarrassing), and it literally poured rain the entire time we were there.  By the time we got to the top, we were soaked to the bone and we couldn’t see any of the lava or anything because we were in the middle of a cloud.  I’m sure Pacaya would have been cool on a better day, but needless to say, it was not a good experience for us.  Oh well...we do have a really funny memory and we got a good laugh about me riding a horse up to the top.  Haha.
Thursday: We decided to brave another adventure with the school and went up to Cerro de La Cruz, a little area that overlooks all of Antigua.  This ended up being a great decision for us.  The view was absolutely beautiful with the volcano in the background, and we really enjoyed getting to see all of Antigua.  It was a lot of fun, and we got to take lots of pictures!
Friday: Audge and I made plans to go to Coban with the school, but the trip got cancelled due to lack of interest.  So, instead we decided to enjoy some of the fun things Antigua had to offer!  Audrey and I went out for a night on the town in Antigua.  We found a nice little restaurant that had some yummy non-Guatemalan food and afterwards we went to cute little coffee shop in the Central Park.  When we left the coffee shop it was dark so we took a tuc-tuc (these cute little cabs that look like miniature cars) back to our house!  It was a super fun night, and we enjoyed getting to experience some of the fun things about Antigua.
Saturday: Today has been a pretty relaxing day.  We went to the gym, walked to the Arch and toured the ruins of La Iglesia Merced which was hands-down the most beautiful church we’ve seen so far, went to the market, and now we’re back at our new-found little coffee shop in the Park.
This past week was a pretty good one and we’re excited to see what the next one has in store.  As always, check out all of the pictures from our little adventure on Facebook!  Love and miss you all very much!  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Little Visit to Panajachel and Chichicastenango

This past weekend Audrey and I decided to go on a trip with the school to Panajachel and Chichicastenango.  We got to see so many beautiful sights and experience so many fun things and meet so many new people.
We left bright and early Saturday morning for Panajachel.  Our group was very eclectic.  It included a mother and son named Elin and Joel from Quebec, a girl named Imogen from England, a girl named Verana from Germany, a man named John from Colorado, and our guide named Hector.  That’s one of the cool things about this school.  We get to meet so many people from all over the world.  It’s a good reminder of how amazing our God is.  He created all of us so uniquely and he loves each one of us just the same.  
When we arrived in Panajachel we got checked in at our cute little hotel and then went to a restaurant that was on a huge beautiful lake called Lake Atitlan.  The lake is surrounded by three beautiful volcanoes.  We enjoyed spending time with our group and taking in all of the beautiful sights!
After lunch, our group got in this sketchy little boat and headed across the lake to a little town called Santiago.  Santiago was really interesting.  Our guide, Hector, took us to see some of the religious things in the city.  I think the thing that touched me most was going to the Catholic church.  While I know that there are things I don’t agree with or don’t understand about the Catholic faith, it was touching to see the devotion that some of these people have to God.  After touring Santiago, we headed back across the lake to Panajachel.
Saturday night was my favorite part of the trip.  Hector took us to a restaurant where they tried to give you a Guatemalan cultural experience.  They served Guatemalan food, they played the marimbe (a native Guatemalan instrument), they wore typical Guatemalan dress, and the owner came around various times throughout the meal to give us some cultural lessons about Guatemala.  The man who owned the restaurant was so nice, and he was so passionate about Guatemala and the culture.  It was a really fun experience, and I’m glad that Hector took us there.
On Sunday we got up and left Panajachel to head to Chichicastenango.  Every Sunday in Chichicastenango there is a huge open market.  We got to spend the entire morning doing a little shopping and buying some gifts for our friends and family.  It was a really cool experience but a little stressful as well.  The streets were super crowded and people were kind of pushy about getting you to buy things.  Anyway, all in all it was a good experience, and I’m really glad we got to go.
Traveling has been a lot of fun and it’s a good break after having class for 5 hours every day.  This week Audrey and I are going to an active volcano, an area that overlooks all of Antigua, and to a place called Cob├ín where there are beautiful lakes and pools of water.  We’re just little world travelers!  Please keep us in your prayers as we travel across Guatemala and please pray that we will be safe and keep learning lots of Spanish!
Check out pictures from our adventure on my Facebook page!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mi Casa Es Tu Casa (My House is Your House)

I am finally at Language School in Antigua, Guatemala.  This past Tuesday I packed up my things in the Dominican and took off to language school for one month of intense study of the Spanish language.  I met up with Audrey in Miami and we flew into Guatemala City around 8:00 PM.  Both of us were a little nervous because we weren’t sure what to expect or how this month would be, but so far everything has been wonderful!
The people who work at La Union have been so helpful and they are all so nice!  When we got here, there was a sweet man named Ruben and a girl named Elisabet who picked us up at the airport.  They had cute hand-made Guatemalan dolls for us with our names on them.  They took us back to the guest house where we are staying and helped us get settled in.  The people at La Union had decorated our room with balloons and more dolls.  It was so sweet and really made us feel welcome.  
The next morning Estelita, our cook and housekeeper, welcomed us with breakfast and coffee.  She cooks three meals for us every day and makes sure our house is nice and clean.  She’s a great cook and a great person to practice our Spanish with.  She is so sweet and such a hard worker.  She leaves her house every morning at 5:30 AM to walk to our house to work all day.  It’s about an hour walk!  We already love her, and I’m excited to get to know her better.  After breakfast, she walked us to school for our first day of class.  
I have class every morning from 8:00 to 1:00.  My teacher, Gloria, is super sweet and such a great teacher!  She is so patient and really helps me with things that I am struggling with. The instruction is one-on-one so I’ve already learned so much and I’ve only had three days of class!  The first day seemed kind of long, but since then it’s gotten much better.  Gloria is an excellent teacher, and I’m really glad that I have her.  Hopefully at the end of the month I’ll be a fluent little Spanish speaker.
After class on the first day, the school gave us a little walking tour of Antigua.  Ruben, the guy who picked us up from the airport, took us on our tour, and it was so helpful!  He showed us a bunch of cool places and a bunch of really useful places, too.  Now we feel much more comfortable about being here and getting around.
The school offers lots of fun activities every afternoon and on the weekends.  Audrey and I are going to try to take advantage of as many of those opportunities as possible.  Today we went to a jade factory and got to see how they make the jade rocks into jewelry.  It was really fun, and our guide, Eduardo, was precious.  He was so passionate about his work.  This weekend we are going on a trip with the school to Panajachel and Chichicastenango.  At these places there is a beautiful lake we get to take a boat ride on and a textile market!  The textiles market is huge in this country.  There are so many beautiful fabrics and bright colors.  We’re excited to see what kinds of neat treasures we can find.
The motto for La Union is “Mi Casa Es Tu Casa” and they really do live up to their motto.  They have made us feel so welcome and we already feel like we are a part of the La Union family.  I was really apprehensive about coming to Guatemala after being in the Dominican Republic for three months already.  I really do miss all of the people there and the team, but I am so excited to go back with this experience and hopefully with a better grasp on Spanish.  Please keep me and Audrey in your prayers as we are away from the team and trying to learn Spanish.  I’ll do my best to keep everyone posted on our exciting adventure!

Check out my Facebook album for some pictures from our trip so far!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Manna Christian School Students Selected

After a lengthy application and interview process, many activities with the spring break groups, and much prayer and consideration on our end, the students for Manna Christian School have finally been selected.  We are so excited about each one of these students and the potential that they have to learn and grow and become spiritual leaders in this country.  
Twenty-two students are going to be a part of our school the first year, with three of those twenty-two only being involved with the discipling and English aspects.  Those three students are older and further along in high school, but they were kids we already had really strong relationships with and that we wanted to be involved in some way with the school.  
I wanted to write to tell that the kids have been selected so that you all can start praying for each of them by name!  They are going to need constant prayers and support from people like you because this school year is going to be drastically different from anything they’ve ever experienced.  Additionally, be praying that God will open up their hearts to a relationship with Him.  As I’ve said many times before, that’s the entire purpose of the school, and if we fail in that, then the school is not serving its purpose.  
I’ve included each child's name below.  Thank you in advance for your prayers for these wonderful people who mean so much to me!