December 19, 2004
December 17, 2004
It's officially the weekend, which means I only have one more Christmas party and one Sunday school lesson and about 15 seconds of packing left before Monday. My party last night was a success, in my opinion, at least, and tonight's should come off just as smoothly. I goofed around town this afternoon, trying to accomplish the rest of my shopping. I've decided that I hate the malls here. All the stores seem over-priced and fancy, and to a girl that lives for Old Navy and Goodwill...I just don't fit in. But there are still a few things I would like to buy to bring home, and they are so much cheaper in Antigua. I can't decide if I want to go there tomorrow, though. I'll leave that decision until tomorrow. I have most of the gifts covered, but I've changed my mind about some things and want to get different stuff. I know I'm not going to be happy unless I go get them, so I might as well resign myself to going. It's not like it's a bad drive, but my car isn't great and I don't want to push it on those mountain roads.
In other news, well...there is no other news. My thought pattern is pretty much stuck on counting down the days until I go home and all the details pertaining to that event.
I have been reading these books lately by Brian McLaren, about postmodern Christianity. They are interesting. Probably some of the worst fiction writing I've come across, but there is still enough thought-provoking non-fiction in them to keep my attention. I don't know why he decided to make it fiction, instead of non-fiction...but maybe the story-telling is to make it appeal more to people like me, who probably would have never considered buying it as a non-fcition work. So, congratulations on a good marketing tactic.
More about that later...dinner is ready!
December 16, 2004
Today, I've been at work since around 10, and I have not been at all productive. I wrote emails for the first hour or so, then I half-heartedly did some research for my boss, but then I wandered back onto the internet and I've wasted the last couple of hours reading stuff and looking around. I need to go home. My brain has officially checked out now and I'll be doing good to get anythng accomplished in the next few days. We only have Christmas parties with the kids tonight and tomorrow, so I don't have a whole lot to do thankfully. I should be working ahead on things for next semester, but it's really hard to get the motivation to do so.
I really want to go Christmas shopping, but I just can't convince myself that it's safe enough for me to walk to the store I want to go to. I'm still such a wuss about going places by myself. People did such a good job warning/scaring me when I first got here that sometimes I just can't do what I want to do, even when I've had no problems at all so far.
I went to dinner with my German friend last night. It was nice to hang out with someone who is close to the same age as me, and to actually eat dinner without 3 munchkins at the table. He's a really nice guy and I am looking forward to hanging out with him more when I come back in January.
I almost made it to my goal of not packing until Saturday. But I was doing laundry last night, and it just seemed pointless to put the clothes into drawers and then take them out again 2 days later...so I started sorting things into the two bags: 1 with stuff that is staying here and 1 with stuff that is going home. I then decided that it's a good thing to try and pack things today. That way I will know how much room I can spare for more gifts and things I want to buy for myself. I don't think I will have as much room on my last flight home, so I may buy my bigger souvenirs this time around. I don't know, I haven't decided yet. My car is acting up again, so I don't know if I can make it to Antigua again this weekend. We'll see.
This is a completely pointless post. I'm just wasting time, to be honest. I wish I had some new pictures to share, but I haven't taken any good ones recently.
I forgot that I was invited to a tea party this afternoon. I wonder if that means I have to take a shower. I haven't brushed up on my tea party etiquette in a while.
Ok, enough rambling. I'm going to be productive for the next hour and then I'm going to go buy hot chocolate and attend a 7 yr old's birthday party.
December 15, 2004
I am really excited about going home. By the time I make it there, I will have been gone for less than 3 months...really only little more than 10 weeks. This is nothing compared to the schedules I've had most summers. Even in college I rarely came home unless it was a holiday break. But this is my first time to live outside the States and it has made these 10 weeks seem much longer.
When I interviewed for this job, my boss asked me if I had ever lived outside the US and when I said no, he warned me that the first couple of months are hard. That everyone goes through that depression period during those first couple of weeks, and it really takes a long time to adjust. At the time, I just said, "Ok, I'm sure it does." But in my head, I was thinking, "Yeah, but not to me. You don't know me. This won't be a huge deal for me, and I certainly doubt that I'll get depressed."
I'm arrogant like that.
And, as you know, I'm wrong like that, too.
Moving to Guatemala City has been one of the biggest challenges I've faced thus far in my short life, to be completely honest. It's more than just the frustrations with language, or my car, or living with a family that I didn't know, or trying to adjust to a new boss....it's all of these things and more. It's dealing with homesickness in a way I've never experienced, it's been missing my friends and my community more than I ever have in all my other travels, it's this whole feeling pulled away from the path I've been on for the past 4 years. It's the sadness and depression and anger I've felt at being here.
I came to Guatemala looking for some adventure, and I certainly have found it. Not exactly in the ways or the places I expected to, but there is adventure there nonetheless. I don't regret coming here. I don't regret having to deal with each and every one of those things I mentioned above. I may not like every part about this journey God is taking me on, but I think it will all be worth it in the end.
I'm going home for Christmas, and will return here in January. I won't be back in the States until May of 2005. I'm already worried about those 5 months, which I know is ridiculous and self-defeating. I'm trying to leave the future where it is, in the future and out of my hands. It's hard, though.
With all the uncertainty I feel about my life and my direction, it's very easy to worry my way through the day. Some days, I pretend like none of it exists and I use denial as a way to make it til bedtime without going insane. Most days, the uncertainty just eats away at the back of my head. I don't know what to do. I spent some time the other day online looking at seminaries, and then I spent some time looking at full-time camping jobs in the States, then I went and looked at international youth ministry opportunities in Europe. After I'd wasted an hour, I realized just how crazy I am. I'm not even sure I want to be in professional ministry anymore, but the idea is so ingrained into me that I can't even really think about anything outside that box.
A wise friend of mine asked me the other day what part of my job as a youth minister did I like best. I thought for a few seconds, and I realized, I don't really like any of it especially well. I can do it all fine...but none of it really gets me going. I don't have trouble speaking in front of people and I often enjoy coming up with talks, but I don't get really pumped about it. And I have fun coming up with crazy games and playing around with kids...but it's definitely not my favorite thing to do. I do enjoy talking to kids and getting to know them and helping with their lives...most of the time I feel like I am grossly unequiped to help the way I should be able to.
In reality, I like helping. I like making sure everything is ready to go, and that all the trash gets picked up and the chairs are put back at the end of the night.
I like serving. And I'm beginning to think that may have more to do with my calling than teenagers do. I don't think I'm made to be in the spotlight, especially when it seems I work so much better as the backstage crew.
But how do you make a life out of that? Being a volunteer certainly doesn't pay much. I'm going home in May and then what? Where do I get money for insurance and rent and gas and my overdue fines at the library?
It certainly would be nice to marry some nice guy who wanted to pay for all those things...but that obviously isn't in God's plan for me just yet, so what do I do in the mean time?
I don't mean that I'm waiting for a man to show up and solve all my problems, cause I definitely am not.
I don't mind working and taking care of myself, but at this point, I just don't know how I'm supposed to do that.
Maybe Santa will leave the answer in my stocking.
December 8, 2004
I had felt slightly guilty about ditching work, but it was such a refreshing time for me, that in the end, I think it was totally worth taking the day off and spending some time falling in love with Guatemala. I really have judged this country unfairly since I've spent so much time in the city with all it's problems.
It's hard to really get into the Christmas mood when I'm more worried about getting a sunburn than anything else. I'm really trying. I'm listening to all the Christmas music I can get my hands on, and I'm trying to figure out the rest of my Christmas gifts. I even helped the people I stay with decorate their house. But I don't think I will really get into the spirit until I am heading home.
Less than 2 weeks now...
December 2, 2004
Santa Catalina Arch and Volcan Picaya
When I was a freshman in college, I discovered what life was like with a fast internet connection and hours of time to goof off. My roommate always went to bed hours before I did, so I would stay up late and surf the internet by the glow of my computer monitor. We had this routine for almost 3 years...I wonder if she had to adjust to sleeping without the tap-tap-tap of my keyboard to lull her to sleep once we left school. I'll have to ask.
Anyway, it was during that first semester that I stumbled onto the newly emerging tend of Weblogs, back before Blogger was owned by Google and still had days when their server would crash and people would freak out because they couldn't publish right away. One day, the people at Blogger put up a new section called Blogs of Note, where they posted their favorite blog of the week or of the day or of whenever they got around to picking one. It's from that column that I found Solbeam. I began to read her blog and I have followed her on her travels around the world for the last 4 years. It sounds kind of stalkerish, but I merely appreciated this woman's spirit and enjoyed reading about her life. That first year, she ended up in Antigua, Guatemala and I was fascinated. We had been learning about Antigua in my Spanish classes because of the activities that happen during Semana Santa. (Holy Week during Easter) While I'd been watching stupid videos in the dreaded Spanish lab, this girl was actually there, seeing it all first hand.
This past weekend, I got to go Antigua again and this time I got to explore it some. The first time I went, it was only for dinner and it was dark by the time we left so I didn't get to see very much. This time, I actually spent most of Friday and Saturday afternoons there. We checked out the markets (which is where all of your Christmas presents are coming from, FYI), and ate lunch, and walked around the streets, and even went into some of the churches and ruins. It was a good time. I wish I had taken more pictures, but I hated looking all touristy...which is totally a pride thing, so I promise to get over it and do better next time. We even went into this hotel called the Casa Santa Domingo...there aren't even words to describe how incredible that place was.
Anyway, while I was wondering through Antigua this weekend, I thought about Sol and her adventures and the crazy way things happen. I didn't come here because of her or her weblog, but I think maybe it helped spur on the idea in my head to go somewhere and just try something new. And here I am, 4 years down the road, walking along cobblestone streets that I saw in her pictures. I don't think I will be following in her path the rest of the way because her case of wanderlust far exceeds anything I can even imagine, but it is fun for me to think about the way our paths are all intertwined. Antigua is full of backpackers and people from all over the world, and you can see it in their faces that they are people that get it. They understand just how amazing this world is in so many ways that have nothing to do with money or power or television or Gap jeans.
And I really like that. A lot.
November 30, 2004
My mom told some people a couple of weeks ago that I was homesick and I got mad at her because 1) it wasn't really true at that point, and 2) because it did damage to my prideful, wants-to-be-independent and fearless ego. Homesickness is a weakness in my book, so it's not easy for me to admit it.
But I was, without a doubt, completely homesick.
However, like I said last week, I've gotten over the majority of it and knowing that I'm going home in less than 3 weeks (!!!!!) for Christmas makes my life very do-able right now.
I've never really had to deal with death in my immediate family, although as each month passes and my grandparents' health continues to fail, I am sure that time is coming sooner than I would like to think. My best friend's dad died when we were in middle school and my early childhood babysitter died when I was in 5th grade, but that is as close as I've come to losing someone I truly care about and know. And even though I only spent 2 days with that little baby, his mother means so much to me that it felt like I was losing a relative. I'll admit I was a little peeved at God over the whole deal, but being mad at God didn't solve anything or give me any answers, so I've decided to let go of my anger. I still don't understand why it happened the way it did. I probably won't ever.
I'm not one of those people that believes God takes babies "because He needs them in Heaven." And I'm not even sure I believe that it is in God's plan for them to die at such a young age. I believe in a God that loves us to a fault and wants goodness in our lives, and I think the loss of a child is a tragic and unexplainable thing...but I know it presents kind of a screwy theology to say it wasn't in God's will for it to happen. I do believe that he is better off in heaven because he gets to skip all the pain and evil of this world and go straight to Jesus...but for his mother's sake, I wish we could have gotten to watch him grow up.
I trust in God and I try not to question Him when things like this happen, but I'm human, with a very human heart and brain, and I just can't understand it.
God doesn't offer us all the explanations and answers our hearts desire, but at least He promises to be with us while we live through it. For now, I am leaning on Him and praying for peace for my friend and her family.
November 25, 2004
The apple pie turned out decent, the parade got taped, and I'm about to go sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with 28 people...half of which are kids under the age of 10.
That's what I call Thanksgiving Guatemalan style!
If you look closely, you can see my turkey design in the middle.
apple pie a la Tori
(See Lorelle! I really can do it!)
November 24, 2004
It's the Day Before Thanksgiving...a day that I used to look forward to a great deal. If I made it to this Wednesday, it meant I had survived the week before...which is habitually full of papers and tests, as professors try to cram in all the things on the syllabus that fell along the wayside during the semester. Realizing that there are still college students all over America who still feel that way warms my heart a little...probably because I know I won't ever have to go through that again. Making it til the Day Before Thanksgiving was always a benchmark for me. Even the five hour drive it took to get home was a good one, because I knew at the end of it, I'd be in my driveway with my dogs coming out to greet me and the lights from the kitchen shining onto the back porch.
Thinking back to a year ago, I was actually feeling very similiar to what I am right now: Confused, Lost, Uncertain, Stressed. Back then, I just kept thinking, "I'll figure this all out soon, and then I'll be able to look back at laugh at myself at how stupid and melodramatic I was being, and I'll be secure in where I'm headed."
Anyway, so this is my first Day Before Thanksgiving being out of school. It's also my first Day Before Thanksgiving (which I guess is technically Thanksgiving Eve...which is easier to type than the Day before Thanksgiving) away from home. Now, I've spent the last 4 birthdays away from home so it wasn't terribly traumatic to spend this recent one here...but I don't know how I'm going to feel about tomorrow.
I've been pretty homesick the past week, but I've gotten my feet back under me in recent days. I'm kind of afraid I'm going to have a relapse, but I'm trying to prepare myself for it in hopes that I can ward it off.
We are apparently having a real shin-dig here tomorrow with a bunch of other American families. I've agreed to make an apple pie...which is a daunting task sans Lorelle and with the altitude increase. I made a "test pie" last Friday to see if I was even capable of pulling this off by myself. It turned out decently....not on the same level as Lorelle's, but that can't be expected on my first time out the gate. I'm going to tweak it a little to work with the altitude and baking time, so hopefully it'll turn out better for tomorrow. If I can't be at home, then I have to provide my own comfort food in order to make it through the day.
I wonder if they show the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade on satellite? Probably...but at like 3 AM.
I'll let you know.
November 21, 2004
Last Sunday, the church that I work at celebrated what they called Reconciliation and Remembrance Sunday. I’d never heard of anything like it and it certainly isn’t a part of the Methodist worship calendar, so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
I attend and work at an international, interdenominational, English-speaking church. At least, that’s what it says on the sign out front. It’s kind of a mouth full for something that essentially means we take pretty much anybody so long as they want to hear a sermon in English. It’s quite a hodge-podge of traditions and people. I am getting used to sitting with Guatemalans on one side and Asian people on the other. It’s kind of a neat experience…makes me think about what heaven will be like, when we are all there together, praising God in a common language.
Anyway, so, I’m experiencing this new multi-cultural worship atmosphere these days, but nothing could have prepared me for what R&R Sunday was like. I ended up on a pew beside a Southern Baptist missionary woman (which is kind of an oxymoron) and in front of a whole row of old British people. The lady was very nice, but wore an insane amount of make-up. I mean really, it was enough makeup that it is worth mentioning to the entire world. Sheesh, lady.
As for the row of Brits, they were also as subtle and quiet as a freight train, much to my delight. There are few things I love more than listening to a real, honest-to-goodness British accent, and these two gently aging fellows behind me put on quite a show. You remember the two old guys in the Muppets? The ones who sit in the balcony and comment on everything? Well, imagine them as two very proper and caustic old British gents and you can almost understand how hard I had to bite my lip to not laugh out loud while listening to their running commentary throughout the service.
When one of them leaned over to the other to show him how the ‘bloody Yanks’ changed the words to one of the hymns, I had to pretend to drop my bulletin so I could lean down and laugh out loud into my skirt.
With the hilarious running commentary I had been provided, you would think I’d enjoy the service a great deal, but mostly it was a very disturbing service for me. I’m not sure I completely understand the history or the reason behind the service, but I was told it had something to do with the ending of WWII. Something about how on this one day, all of Europe had a moment of silence to remember those lost in the conflict…I’m not sure how accurate that is, but it fit with the theme of the service.
There were people from all over there. More delightful British people, military personal from different countries dressed up in their uniforms, even a few guys wearing kilts thrown in for good measure.
Basically, what happened was this: A bunch of ambassadors and representatives from various countries got together, laid wreathes on the altar, and then sat down and the pastor talked about how great it is that we all get along now.
I mean, really. We all get along so wonderfully now? Give me a break.
That’s why the French Ambassador and the US representative (the ambassador himself must have had a prior engagement and sent someone else in his place...a fact NOT overlooked by my British friends whose ambassador did show up, in a tux with tails, nonetheless) stared each other down the entire service, and why the Russian Ambassador bailed on us, and why the Guatemalan representative looked like he hadn’t slept in 10 days.
It was the biggest bunch of bull I have ever heard. Maybe it is because I am becoming more internationally minded in this, my first time living outside the States, or maybe it’s just because I have a brain and a heart…but I know for sure that our world right now is not filled with peace and goodwill, and that we are FAILING MISERABLY at living in harmony with one another. You can read all the poems you want, or you sing all the hymns, or play dress up and put huge wreaths all over the floor…but it doesn’t change the fact that people are dying in wars in countries all over the world. Wars that are fueled by anger and hate, by wealth and greed, by power, by narrow-minded, misguided people.
And I hate it. It made me so angry to sit on that hard pew, watching all these people pretend that our world is better than it is, and then pray for the safety of those who are giving their lives at this very moment to preserve our world as it is.
I wanted to get up and shout. I wanted to shake the pastor. I wanted to sit at the foot of that altar, among all those flowers, and just cry.
Our world is in such a huge mess and it makes me so sad.
I’m beginning to think that there is no humanly way possible for us to solve all the conflicts. I think there is too much evil in this world and too many people who are willing to let it reside here and in them, for it to go away. I don’t think we will ever know true and absolute peace again until Jesus comes back.
And Lord, I am so ready.
November 16, 2004
If you look closely, you can see the FL license plate on this bus. Most of the public transportation here in Guatemala are old school buses from the States, but this is one of the only ones I've ever seen that still has the old license plate on it. The buses are probably responsible for 90% of the smog and pollution of this city. Getting stuck behind one in traffic is horrible. They are constantly stopping to let people on or off. There are bus stops throughout the city, but if you stand on the sidewalk and wave your arm out into the street, you're pretty much guarenteed a ride. And the bus drivers have no problem pulling all sorts of illegal manuveurs to get their passengers. But then again, illegal is a relative term here in Guatemala.
November 15, 2004
But it’s all good, because my lovely carro is sitting on the street below me with a brand new battery in it and I was probably more productive sitting at home than if I’d gone into work. The other youth asst is only in the office on Mondays, and we tend to spend our shared office time together talking instead of working.
I tried to catch up on emails. I was doing pretty well there for a while, but after my deluge last week, I’m still trying to get out some kind of thanks to all those random people who sent me birthday greetings.
I wrote back my older sister, telling her thanks for the hilarious videos that she sent of my nephew. If I had any idea how to share them with you, I would do it. He’s just too cute. If you want to see the kid in action, send me an email and I’ll be happy to share.
So, anyway, I was writing my sister back and I started just spilling all sorts of stuff. About how I’m unsure of Grad School these days and how I’m confused about where to go next and how I’m questioning my calling. All those things I’ve been writing about the last couple of weeks. I even added a PS and told her to please not mention it to Mom and Dad just yet because I’m still trying to decide how to approach this with them.
Now, if you have a close relationship with your big sister or maybe even your big brother, writing an email like this probably isn’t a big deal to you. But being separated by 7 and 14 years respectively, my big sisters have always been so much older than me and had such different personalities from me and from each other, that we just never had one of those Hallmark card relationships. We get along fairly well, but I’ve never really gone to them for advice. That’s why people like Dawn and Lorelle and even my college friends are so important to me. They fill in those gaps left by my sisters.
As I finished up the email and started to re-read it, I realized this was different from my usual correspondence with Bev, but I decided to not think about it too much and just press the send button.
Well, this afternoon, I went back to check on some things, and I found a response from my sister. And it was good. So good it almost made me cry.
I don’t even know how to begin to explain what this email has done for me. But the closest I can come is to saying that she helped release me from all this. I’m having a hard time putting this into words, which is usually a pretty good sign that I haven’t thought it through enough yet, but I was hoping that by writing it out, I would be able to come to a conclusion about it. She wrote a lot of advice about life and specifically about how different her life had turned out from the one she had prepared for. She has a degree in business, but she admits she wishes she could go back and learn how to do sign language and learn how to use a sewing machine. That so many of the things she knows and studied have almost no practical application in her everyday life. And she told me that the most important thing is for me to find something that makes me happy, because in the end, this is my life and I’m the one who is going to have to live with the consequences of my decisions. Mom and Dad may have a fit about me not going back to school, but she thinks they love me and trust me enough to do what is best for me.
She wrote, "If you want to open a coffee shop that sells books,then go for it. If you want to work at girls campsyear round, go for it. Why not think about going towork for a travel magazine and write articles about the beautiful placess and lack of good food....The point is, you are young, unattached, and the sky'sthe limit for your options. I'll pray about it, but Ithink you probably already know what you're going to do. You just haven't admitted it to yourself. Of all the people I know, you're the one I worry about the least. You're going to be fine. Just do what your heart tells you to do and you'll be happy."
I think the real crux of this whole matter is that I’m beginning to think that the reason God gave me such a sense of restlessness and opened the doors for me to come to Guatemala for this year instead going straight into grad school or into a church job is that he’s showing me that this isn’t what he wants me to do. I may be good at it and it may satisfy part of me, but ultimately, I am beginning to suspect that this is not my passion.
It’s scary to think that, and it’s even scarier to put it into words. I’ve been working with such a focus on this for so many years, to suddenly think out of the box….well, it’s just overwhelming.
Guatemala is becoming a test for me in more ways than I was expecting. In many ways, the rest of my life is hinging on my experience here. There is a certain logic about my being here, though, if you think about it. If I had gone on to grad school, I’d be facing many more penalties, financially and emotionally if I had gotten in the middle of it and then changed my mind. And if I had gone on into a church, I would be breaking my commitment to a church and a whole youth group. Here, I have a defined entrance and exit, without any penalties if I leave early or late. I’m not saying I’m not going to finish out my commitment here. I’m just thinking about this whole experience in a different light.
I’m not ready to give much validity to this theory just yet. In some ways, I don’t know if it’s possible. I mean…does God call people into ministry and then lead them back out of it? I just don’t understand that. Maybe I just misunderstood what God was trying to tell me all those years ago on that boat dock. But how could I have been so wrong? I mean, all those summers at camp, the summer in Jasper, and even here…I do a good job. I work well with the kids and I’m usually pretty happy while I’m doing it.
It almost feels traitorous to allow myself to think of a career outside of the church. My bookstore dreams seem almost sacrilegious. Like I’m turning my back on God and the church if I think about working in the secular world. If I don’t have minister somewhere in my title. All those people who are supporting me right now, even as I sit here and ponder this…what are they going to think? That I just gave up? That I was a hypocrite?
But Bev said it was ok. I have no clue how she knew about the bookstore thing. I don’t ever remember telling her about it, but maybe I did. If not…whew…creepy big sister ESP.
I don’t know what to think anymore. All I know is that something isn’t right and the picture is just getting cloudier instead of clearing up. I guess that’s to be expected at this point in my life, and I’m sure I’m being melodramatic about it, but these just seem like such huge, monumental things to be thinking about and I’m feeling a little inadequate.
November 13, 2004
The realization and the reality of it are truly a gift from God. I’ve been in Guatemala for a little over a month now and I’m finally hitting my stride. I’m not saying that I’ve completely come to terms with all those things I just mentioned and I’m not saying that I’m overwhelmingly happy…but I am content. I am at peace. I am trusting in God’s grace to cover me every day.
And for tonight, that is enough for me.
November 12, 2004
It does seem a little weird to write that, but in all honesty, it hasn't changed much. I don't feel any older and I still don't think of myself as an adult yet. I wonder at what age that will happen. Maybe it's not so much age as it is circumstances.
Either way, having a birthday didn't really upset my life in any way. In fact, it was a rather pleasant experience. I was scared that I was going to be sad or homesick all day on Wednesday, but it was actually a pretty funny experience. It's like I had this great, hilarious secret that no one else knew about. It would make me smile at the most random times as I interacted with people and though, "They have no idea today is my birthday." And instead of finding that sad or upsetting, it just made me want to laugh.
It helped also that I have a great family and group of friends back home who filled my email inbox to overflowing with emails, e-cards, Mpeg videos and even a powerpoint presentation. How can a girl be sad when it's obvious she is loved?
I still haven't done anything special for myself for my birthday. I again have plans to go to Antigua tomorrow, but I don't know if it's going to happen or not. I am having breakfast with a group of young women here, so maybe I'll be able to entice one of them to go with me. There is a new girl who just got here this week, so maybe I'll make a new friend. She's coming to work with Young Life, which is trying to start in one of the non-Christian American schools here.
I spoke at the Middle School chapel today. I didn't really have much time to prepare, so I kind of cheated and reworked a lesson I've already taught before. I think it went pretty well. They laughed in all the right places, at least. Who knows if they really got the point. It felt good to be back in front of people again and to teach. And my boss is out of town, so I didn't even have to worry about impressing him! It was good.
I had to miss class this morning in order to get over to San Cristobal, where the school is, early enough. I actually could have gone to half of my class, but I decided to give myself ample time to get there since I've never driven there. I'd been there a couple of times, but never by myself and never driving. Well, let's just say, it was a good thing I didn't go to class. There are a bunch of those turn-table type deals here, and I managed to get confused about where I was supposed to get off the first when I had to go through. I got so lost.
I even managed to pull another one of those stunts where I went the wrong way on a way one street. It is embaressing to admit how many times I've done that in the past couple of weeks. The best part about it, though, is that since people drive so crazy here, no one really thinks anything about it and they just go around you as you try to turn around in the middle of the road. They don't even honk their horns or try to run you over.
I finally managed to get back on familiar roads and was able to get to the main drag in San Cristobal. However, I am going to have to get someone to explain how to get there again so that I don't spend 30 minutes driving around in circles. It's going to be great for my pride. I managed to make it back here to the church with only one U-turn. I had the sudden urge to stick my finger out the window and yell, "That's the first U-ey!" But I figured it wasn't as funny if there wasn't a car full of Arkansas girls behind me to laugh.
Ah, good memories. Anyway...
Yesterday, I was able to go to class, but I kind of wish I hadn't been there to witness what happened. We'd been in class for about 30 minutes when all of a sudden we hear what sounds like someone laughing/screeching really loud in the hallway. At first, I didn't pay much attention to it because there is a girl's school that meets in the same building and there are always groups of schoolgirls running around and making lots of noise. But it soon became obvious that it wasn't laughter, but someone crying and screaming hysterically. Then we see this girl run past the windows and down the stairs. A couple of other people followed her, and my teacher and some of my classmates went out to see what happened. The noise that girl was making was heartbreaking. I couldn't figure out what in the world was causing her to act that way. Things got quieter and you could hear them carrying her out of the building. My teacher came back in with this discouraged look on his face and told us that the girl's father had been shot and killed that morning and someone had called the girl to let her know.
It was horrible. This country is so beautiful in so many ways, and yet, there is such sadness and evil that happens here. During the break, people naturally were in the halls talking about it and eventually it became one of those sessions where people tell similar stories...about how they met a guy in a bar last night who's father was killed 3 weeks ago as he left the ATM machine, with only 400Q on him (which is like $50). I listened for a little while, but then I just went back into the class. I know this place is dangerous and that horrible things happen here, but I didn't want to sit around and listen to people swap horror stories. I live kind of in a little bubble with my Embassy family and my missionary friends. But sometimes, things like that happen, and I realize just how hard life is here. And it makes my heart hurt. These people, the Guatemalteco, they are such nice people. Kind and friendly. Good people. But they've been dealt such a rotten hand by powerful, money-hungery politicians who hurt them and sacrifice them and their well-beings all in the pursuit of money and power.
I'll admit I was/am still upset by how the elections turned out in our own country. But Bush is better than the horrible little man who used to run this country.
There is a certain beauty in these people, though, because they have survived such a huge loss and yet, they persevere. They are trying to better themselves and make people understand how fiercely proud they are of their country. They haven't given up on this country, and I grow to admire them more and more each day because of that.
I may not understand why I am here and I may not know where I am going next, but I do know that this place, that these people have a lot to teach me. I just hope I'm smart enough to learn it all while I can.
November 9, 2004
Greetings from Guatemala! As I sit down to right this letter, I am looking at the end of my fourth week here. It does not seem possible that a month as already passed since I left home to travel here. It’s been a busy couple of weeks and I am just now realizing how quickly the time has passed.
I arrived in GUA without incident. I was nervous about going through customs by myself when my Spanish was rusty. However, I had no trouble and quickly found myself standing outside the airport, breathing in the balmy evening air. Even though Guatemala City is close to the equator, the mountainous terrain leaves the temperatures hovering in the 70s most months out of the year.
I am living with a very kind family that has given me a place in their household until Christmas. They are an Embassy family and are helping me adjust to living in this city. They have 3 kids, who have been lots of fun to get to know. I get invited to a tea party or to color with them at least three times a week. They are precious and have helped me deal with feeling at home here.
However, I’ll admit that overall I don’t feel very at home in this very large city--I guess the small town girl in me is coming out. I’ve never lived in a city of this size before in my life, and that fact alone was enough to overwhelm me. Guatemala is not a safe country, due mostly to the state of the government, and that has been probably the biggest adjustment for me to handle. The former president of the country was very corrupt and caused many problems. He fled the country last year and has hidden in Mexico. However, as his last parting blow, he managed to escape with the majority of the government’s money, leaving the new president very few resources with which to fix the huge list of problems. I have been told that the new president seems to be trying very hard to bring this country back some of its former glory. Driving through the city, you can tell that he is beginning to make headway, but that it is a monumental task.
Because the government has been in such chaos, security is a problem in the country, and especially in the city. The people I am working with have helped to teach me how to handle myself safely and how to maneuver in the city. I admit that I have been overwhelmed with safety issues, but I am learning how to keep a healthy respect and caution for life here and yet still have the courage to live my everyday life.
Two weeks ago, I was able to buy a car. This was a wonderful blessing and a key element to keeping my sanity intact. It’s been a long time since I have been so dependent on other people for rides, and I am afraid I was beginning to feel a little like a prisoner. Being able to move around on my own helped clear up many of my problems. My car is a small, non-descript Kia with a blackout tint on the windows. This way, I don’t stand out as being a white woman driving by myself, which is a great comfort to me while I am driving. The traffic in the city is beyond anything I’ve ever seen. Speed limits are inconsequential to most people, cutting people off is just an accepted way to drive, and using your horn often and repeatedly is the norm. The layout of the streets is still confusing to me, but I have at least learned how to make it from my house to the church and back again.
I started going to a Spanish language school my second week here, and I attend class 2 hours a day, 5 days a week. Because of my Spanish classes in college, I was able to be placed in an intermediate class. For now, it’s been mainly reviewing some of the grammar concepts I’d already learned, but it has been extremely helpful in refreshing my memory and my vocabulary. I find that I can handle most daily transactions in the city, but my conversational skills are still lacking a great deal. Because I interact mainly with Americans or English-speaking people during the day, the hours I spend in class are even more important, and I love the challenge of becoming familiar with this language.
I am settling into my role as the middle school leader at Iglesia Union. After being here for a month, my job description is beginning to make more sense to me and I am learning about this new breed of teenagers that I am here to minister to. Iglesia Union is the main English-speaking church in Guatemala City and thus attracts a diverse group of people. Most of the kids I encounter come from the Christian Academy of Guatemala, which is a school that works mainly with missionary kids. There are also kids from a couple of other English-speaking schools, who are made up of Embassy kids or other American kids whose parents live here for one reason or another.
These kids are classified as third-culture kids. This name comes from the fact that they are growing up outside their home country culture and in the culture of their host country. However, since they don’t really belong to either culture, they create a separate culture, from which the third-culture classification comes from. They are an interesting group of kids and unlike anything I’ve dealt with in the past. They know a great deal more about Christianity and the Bible than your average teenager, but often they resent their parents for the lifestyle they have been dragged into. They can school you any day on basic Bible trivia, but for the most part, they have a hard time going deeper in their relationship with Christ. I can’t pretend to understand what their lives are like, but I’m trying very hard to learn about their lives and provide as much wisdom and support as I can.
Overall, my first month here has been good. I got to climb Volcan Picaya, which is one of the active volcanoes that surround the City. It was an amazing hike. I’ve also ventured over to Antigua, which is a smaller city 30 minutes from here. It is a much safer place because of all the tourist police and full of historic sites. It is a beautiful city and quickly captured my heart. I’m hoping to spend more weekends exploring the market there and getting to see some more of the beautiful countryside I’ve only glimpsed at. I don’t much like living in the city, but if I can escape to Antigua or some of the other smaller villages a couple of times a month, I think I’ll be able to survive.
Thank you for your emails and prayers. I am too prideful to admit to any homesickness, but it is nice to hear from you. I am content to stay here and see what it is that God has in store for me. I am continually amazed by His love and grace in the path that is unfolding in front of me. Thank you for supporting me while I wander down it.
May God cover you in His amazing grace and peace,
November 8, 2004
So,I'm already in bed and have been since about 8:30. It’s not because I am exhausted, but because I am cold! I didn’t think it was ever going to get cold here, but it has been rather chilly the past couple of days. This wind started up on Friday and it brought with it some rain and this cold spell. The wind has been pretty constant since then, which is a fact I love. There may not be enough trees in this city for my taste, but at least you can still hear the wind in the few trees that are here. It’s really not cold in relative terms, considering it is November, but it hasn’t gotten into the 70s since this weekend. It’s a nice change. People tell me that this is cold as it gets, but that’s ok with me. I’ll enjoy winter the weeks I am home for Christmas.
The gimnasio where I stay is cold because of all the windows and the wooden floor. I’m going to have to do laundry tomorrow so that I’ll have some more socks to wear. I just wasn’t thinking about needing winter socks, so I’m almost out of clean athletic socks. I’m sure there are some buried in my sheets, like always. Some habits die hard. My poor husband is going to have to get used to my constantly ice cold feet and my ability to lose one or both socks during the course of the night.
It’s very hard for me to believe that in less than 2 days, I will be turning 23. I’m purposefully keeping quiet about my birthday here because I can’t bring myself to just casually bring it up in conversation. It’s like asking for attention and I don’t want to do that. I’ll be happy if I get some mail from home and some emails from friends. I’m not much of a birthday cake kind of girl anyway.
Tonight God blessed me. My friend with the sick baby has been on my brain more than normal in the past couple of days. I tried to call her this weekend, but I just got voicemail. I haven’t been able to get in touch with her since I arrived in Guatemala, except through email. I’ve tried to content myself with this because I know her life is still turned upside down right now and who am I to demand attention when she is dealing with so much. But still, I think about her and worry about her a lot. So, anyway, today, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind that I needed to try and call her again. I only had 30 minutes of phone time left and I was debating on whether or not to wait until I had more minutes so we could have a long chat. But, I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to call today. So, I did. I fully expected to get voicemail, and after the 4th ring, I was preparing to say or do something silly. And then, she picked up. I couldn’t believe it. But I got to talk to her for 29 minutes. My phone card has 1 quetzales left on it…which is like 30 seconds worth of phone time.
She’d had a particularly rough day and you can’t imagine how good it felt to share that burden with her. I know that in the grand scheme of things, calling tonight didn’t do her much good, but oddly enough, it did me a great deal of good. I miss her so much and I think about her all the time. And the timing had to be God because they’ve been having some better days with their son, but today was a low point and today was the day that God wouldn’t let my let go of my desire to talk to her. Knowing that I could talk to her about my day and hear about hers…I just can’t explain it. It just made my night.
God has been placing this idea of living in community in my path lately. It’s shown up in two books that I’ve read recently, and it’s also been something we talked about in a lesson with the kids. I haven’t read enough to fully understand how living in community fits into the scheme of Christian living, so I don’t really know what I think about the idea theologically...but practically, emotionally speaking--it appeals to me on this gut level. Living with and being surrounded by people who inspire me and challenge me sounds like a good idea to me. And when I get high off phone calls like I did tonight, there is part of me that wishes I was done with all this wandering so that I could go and settle down with these friends. I know it’s not that simple, but it’s something I think about. My problem is, of course, that Wisconsin is just so far away from the South and sometimes, I’m just tired of sticking out. I could get used to it though, if there really were some way to permanently intertwine my lives to theirs. I only get to see them for a few days out of the year and it’s just not enough.
She asked me if I’d found my John Smith yet (which is an inside joke referring to the nickname I earned because of my Pocahontas braided hair at that summer), or if I’d found Juan Gonzalez. I had to laugh and tell her no...but, I did get to talk to a very cute German guy who is in my Spanish class today. I’ll let you know if I feel a sudden urge to explore that area of the world next. J
November 7, 2004
November 6, 2004
It’s just….well, I’m hesitant to put these thoughts down on paper simply because it makes it real.
But what the hell.
So, I’ve been pondering my future too much lately. Like I said, I have too much time to think lately and I’m just not content to live my life in there here and now. Oh no, I have to go and stress about what’s next on the agenda. Sigh.
But anyway. I’ve been telling people that I’m going to come home from GUA in May or June, maybe work at Sky Lodge for the summer, and then head to Duke for grad school. I’ve even started working on the application process for Duke.
But…here we go…I’m not sure I want to get my masters. And I don’t mean I don’t know when I want to get my masters. I mean, I don’t know if I want one ever. At least, I don’t know if I want to get my masters of divinity.
Here I go screwing around with big plans again, but I just can’t seem to help myself.
But I think I need to listen to this voice within me that’s saying, “Now Tori…why are you doing this? Is it because you really want to do it? OR is it because you think you should be doing it? Hmmm??”
It’s time to come clean.
I want to own a bookstore. A bookstore in a town that is big enough to support a bookstore and yet small enough that I don’t have to worry about a Books-A-Million taking away my business. And it has to have a park. A big one. Where you can take your dog and ride your bike.
Well, ok, so maybe I don’t want to really own a bookstore, because honestly, what do I know about running a business? I have a degree in religion, for Pete’s sake. So maybe, I just want to work at a bookstore. Full-time. But the town still has to have a big park.
By admitting this dream, I’m really screwing with the status quo in my head. I mean, up until 10 minutes ago, this was just a private little idea that I was never going to do anything about. But, I just let that little dream take flight by actually putting it into words and sharing it.
It makes no sense to want this. I spent the better part of 18 years wanting to be a doctor. That lasted until I got to college, where I discovered that I didn’t really want to be a doctor. Instead, God led me to a boat dock and told me that He wanted me to think about youth ministry. So, I refocused and jumped into that idea. Along the way, I fell in love with helping teenagers and camping. I changed from a chemistry major to a religion major, and spent 4 years getting myself ready to be a youth minister. And now, here I am, spending the next year as a youth intern, and constantly struggling against the feeling that I just don’t quite fit.
Facing the decision of whether or not to apply to grad school for next fall has brought this unsettling feeling into my stomach that maybe I still haven’t quite got it right.
I just sat here for 10 minutes staring at that sentence, sickened by the realization that it rings very true with my soul. I have no idea what that means. Why am I here then? Am I supposed to be a youth minister or not?
Dear Lord, I don’t know what to do with this. I wasn’t planning on writing about this, but as is often the case, my thoughts connect themselves so much better when I write them down. I didn’t know this was in my head until just this very minute. At least, I wasn’t admitting to myself that it was there until now.
That just royally messes with my head and for now, I think it will just make me write in circles, so I’m quitting. I can’t handle any more surprises for the night.
November 5, 2004
I mean, of course, there are some huge differences as far as geography is concerned and national languages; but overall, if I closed my eyes and forgot I was in another country, today could have happened this last summer. I got up, I went to work at the church, I organized some things, worked on Sunday school lessons, drove to the store out of boredom, and I have spent the last couple of hours reading a book. Definitely sounds like my life as the summer intern in Jasper.
Well, except for when I got up at 6 because the sun was shining in my eyes; and when it took me 45 minutes to drive the 5 miles to work; and of course, I never had to revert to hand signals and miming in Texas to ask the cashier at the grocery store a question about apples; and in a good turn of events, I didn’t have to buy the book to read since there is an excellent library at this church.
But, let’s look at the big picture here, ok?
Oddly enough, this is a comforting thing to me tonight. I know I talk big about adventures and wanting to get away from the life I already know, but sometimes, it’s nice to be in the familiar. I think this is a good sign. Every day life isn’t stressful anymore. I’m settling down and getting comfortable. I even cut somebody off in traffic this afternoon and didn’t feel a bit guilty. I’ve had some good experiences with the kids lately and with my boss, and instead of feeling overwhelmed at the ever increasing demands on my time, I feel challenged. Bring it on. I’m ready for it now.
Well, except maybe for my Spanish test on Monday. I haven’t studied at all this week and I have a feeling I’ve lost some ground on my understanding of direct object pronouns. Even though no one will ever see these grades, I nonetheless still feel the need to make a good showing. I guess I still study on Sunday night, because really, why mess with tradition?
I really need to be writing my newsletter for this month, but I haven’t found the words yet. But it is on my list of things to do this weekend. It’s looking like Sunday night is going to be a long one. Man, it feels good to be back in the saddle. J Procrastination is definitely comfortable, familiar territory.
I’m hoping to get the nerve up to go to Antigua by myself tomorrow. I really, really want to go, but I’m also really, really nervous about going anywhere by myself. Antigua is a lot safer than Guatemala City and I have a great desire to go and explore it some more. I’m honestly more nervous about getting into a situation where I can’t communicate well enough than anything else.
If not this weekend, I am going next weekend. I do have to help paint in the youth room tomorrow morning and it is going to take a chunk out of my day. And with daylight ending around 5:30, I don’t have as much flexibility. It’s just plain stupid to be out by myself at night, even if it’s safer. Oh, well. No use debating it in here. I’ll decide tomorrow. But I am promising myself a trip out of the city within the next week. I need it. I think escaping every once and a while will be the only way I can survive living in this big city.
So, I’ve been thinking, (which I’ll admit I’ve been doing too much lately) and I’ve noticed something about this trip that is different from those in the past. Since I’ve been here, I’ve done a remarkable job in keeping in touch with my friends. I guess this is in part because I actually have the means to be on the internet regularly, which isn’t a luxury afforded in the middle of the woods at camp. But even this summer, when I had internet at my disposable almost 24/7, I only wrote emails occasionally and hardly called.
Here, though, I’m back at blogging semi-regularly, I have the rule that I can call one friend each weekend (since that is all I can afford), I’ve talked to my parents every week, and I’ve written emails like it’s going out of style. I knew from the very beginning that I’d been better since I got here, but I didn’t really want to think about it much because I saw it as a weakness. I thought I was leaning too heavily on my foundational friends instead of branching out and making friends here.
It’s true that I don’t really have any friends here yet. But, while I’ve been here about a month now, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. It’s simply a matter of time and availability. I’ve laid the groundwork for friendships to grow, but these friendships take longer to produce fruit. It’s not like college or camp where you spend hours together each day. Under those circumstances, it’s easier to get the feel for someone or to find your common ground. There are people here that I barely spend an hour with each week.
So, instead of berating myself at failing to make friends quickly, I’m going to just relax and be myself and trust that God will provide for me.
Anyway, I was thinking about this tonight, and I realized that I miss my friends from college and camp. And it’s totally ok. In fact, I’m going to say that it’s a great thing for me to realize. I often try to be so independent that I forget what it feels like to lean back and let others catch me. I want to be the hero so badly that I don’t always enjoy letting others be my hero.
Because I’ve been missing my support group so much lately, I’ve also wondered what that means for my future wanderings. Does it mean that I’m getting to the point where I’m willing to sacrifice my wanderlust in order to have some stability and comfort? I don’t know. I can’t imagine that this will be the end of my wandering; but maybe, I need to find a partner. I like being alone to a certain extent, and we all know that I love to be independent, but it sure would be nice to share some of these moments with someone who understood just how amazing it is to be here.
So, I’m taking applications for a travel partner for my next adventure, due to depart sometime after June 2005.
November 2, 2004
October 31, 2004
As I was getting ready for bed tonight, I stopped in front of the bathroom mirror and took a long look at myself. Basically, I stared at my face for about 2 minutes solid.
It sounds kind of vain, I know, but more than anything, I was trying to figure out something.
You see, sometimes, when I look into the mirror, the face I see is familiar and expected. But other times, when I glance up, the person glancing back is a stranger.
Do you ever feel that? Do you ever see yourself in a mirror in an unexpected place and not recognize yourself? Like you’re walking through a store and all of a sudden you realize that you are looking into a mirror and that person coming towards you is, in fact, you?
Tonight, when I looked up, I didn’t know the person staring back. So, I took a minute to look at her. Her hair caught my eye first. It looked good. Healthy. Shiny.
I cut my hair drastically for the first time in 4 years right before I came here and I still get surprised by it. So, that noted, I understood why the hair looked unfamiliar. But, still, something wasn’t right. So I kept looking.
The next thing I noticed is that this girl looked young. She looked innocent and tired and maybe a little wary of life. I’m going to attribute this look as the by-product of moving the small town girl to the big city.
The people who are a part of my world right now have done a good job instilling a (healthy, necessary) fear of the city into me. It was hard to listen to all the warnings and cautions, but I know why they were doing it—partly, because it’s better to be aware than naïve, and partly because they wanted to cover their behinds. If something did happen to me while I was here, they don’t want the stain on their conscience that they didn’t tell me all the risks and scary stories.
This week I was finally able to buy a car, and I’ve begun to venture out into this huge, scary city by myself for the first time. The first night I drove home from youth, I was honestly petrified and prayed for safety and a good memory from the moment I started the car, until the moment the guard let me into the street. I was scared I would get lost. I was scared I’d bought a piece of junk car, or that the guy had ripped me off and it was going to break down even before I had the chance to get home.
Lord, I hope those noises ricocheting over my roof right now are fireworks, and not gunshots. This has to be the craziest place I’ve ever lived in my life. They shoot fireworks all the time. They don’t even celebrate Halloween here, but I really wouldn’t be surprised if they shot of some fireworks in honor of it.
Anyway, so fireworks and new cars and traffic and adjusting to big city life have taken away my sense of security. I haven’t yet come to the point where my fear doesn’t cripple me. Most of the people I interact with on a daily basis have managed to reconcile the fear and the reality that they have to still live their lives. I’m hoping this is the next big transition I go through; because I’m tired of the nervous knot my stomach turns into every time I step outside the house or the church. I know it’s smart to be aware and even to have a little healthy fear, but I can’t let it stop me from living the next 8 months of my life. If I don’t figure out how to balance this, then I’m afraid it will ruin my time here.
So beyond the hair and beyond the fear that is written in my eyes, I still couldn’t put my finger on what was the matter with the face looking back at me. Even after thinking about it for the last half hour, I can’t figure it out.
I wish I was more in touch with myself. Half the time, I am so deep into denial that it takes me weeks to understand why I react to things the way I do. Maybe I’ll understand this mystery by next week.
October 30, 2004
I’ve been living in Guatemala City for three weeks today. It still doesn’t quite seem real to me. Maybe once I have gone home and come back again it will feel more like a reality that this is my home for the next 8 months. At this point, I am still not attached enough to this place to want to stay longer. I still have up the thick walls of defense that I used to help me survive these first weeks of transition. Knowing that I will be going home for Christmas has, I think, given me a false sense of security. I know that I will be leaving for a couple of weeks, and I’m afraid that once I go home, I won’t want to come back. I am already looking forward to that break a great deal. But I didn’t make this commitment lightly, and I don’t think I could bail on this place even if I wanted to. I couldn’t handle the guilt or the ramifications of what it would mean to my soul if I gave up on myself like that.
So, that being said, I am trying to settle in for the long haul. I am trying to at least tear chunks out of my walls so that I can make it easier on those around me. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone to an unknown place and situated myself into a community of people that don’t know me at all. However, since I have gone through this same process numerous times in the last 4 years, I know how I am coming off to these other people. And while I am just doing what I have to do to survive, doing what I instinctly do to cope with the upheaval I’ve just put myself through…I don’t act like myself. I don’t come off as the person I really am.
Maybe it’s not possible to do something like this and not build up the walls and defenses. I don’t know how other people react to it. I just know how I am. And since that summer in Wisconsin, I’ve been a lot more aware of how I appear to those people around me. I’ve tried to change, to soften, to trust more easily, to be willing to give of myself without spending the weeks analyzing and observing those around me.
I thought I did pretty well adjusting in Texas, at the time. But looking back, I can see the walls I built clearly defined around my personal life. There was one person who gave me the chance to start a friendship, but it took me so long to get comfortable with her and to allow her inside even that first wall, that I lost most of the summer before I came to the point where I was comfortable enough to seek her out.
Some days I think I’m growing up. There are other days when I still feel like a middle school version of myself.
So, I’ve been here 3 weeks. I’ve tried to get the lay of the land, so to speak. I’ve been watching, observing, stepping in when I pushed myself, trying so hard to relax that I think it is back firing somewhat.
I am fighting some of my personal demons again, and the struggle is one I thought I’d put behind me. For better or for worse, my personality is not the one of your typical youth minister. I’m can’t get on the same maturity level as middle school kids, I’m not loud—even when I want to be, I know nothing about video games, I hate talking about bodily functions, I don’t even want to be a part of a huge youth group that has over 100 kids each week. And you know what, more power to those people who can interact that way with teenagers. But I had to accept a long time ago that that just wasn’t the way God put me together. I’m still trying to reconcile that fact with the calling I feel God has placed in me. Sometimes though, when I’m not looking, Satan creeps into my head, disguised as my self-esteem, and tells me that because I don’t fit the mold, I can’t do this. That there is no way I can be effective by just being myself.
Being here these 3 weeks, working with a youth minister who very much fits into the stereotypical youth minister mold, Satan took some pretty good whacks at my heart and even has me doubting not only my ability to stay here through my commitment, but also questioning my life and my calling/purpose.
I’m speaking at youth this coming Thursday and I think this is what I am going to share. I need to be willing to make myself vulnerable to these people. How else are we supposed to grow and fellowship with one another if they know I’m holding out on them? And trust me, teenagers have incredible radar with that stuff. You can’t fake anything with them. They know it.
So, I’m going to put myself on the line.
Maybe I’m growing up after all.
October 28, 2004
Someone asked me my first week if Guatemala was what I expected, and my honest (at that time) reply was that I didn't really have any expectations coming here, so I couldn't say one way or the other.
I said that, I can see now with hindsight, because I was so overwhelmingly surprised by Guatemala that it didn't even register to me that this was most certainly different from what I expected. I was just trying to deal with the day to day changes and unexpectedness that I couldn't comprhend what was going on around me.
I don't know if I can say that I like it here, yet. My view of this country is greatly tainted by the fact that I live in the huge, noisy, dirty big capitol city. There have been occasions when I've managed to break out of the city limits and caught sight of breathtaking scenery and towns that wrap themselves around your heart. But those glimpses have been few so far. I can say with certainty, that I don't like living in a big city. The traffic, the fear, the crowds--they are all oppressive. I miss trees and open spaces and grass.
Beyond the physical aspects of the city that I wasn't expecting, life here is simply just different. The pace of life has a completely different rhythm. It's next to impossible to get anything done quickly, or in an efficient manner.
But, I am adjusting. I'm learning the streets, I'm figuring out how to order food or how to call for a taxi. My Spanish classes are going well and all those tenses and grammar rules are slowly coming back. I got put into the intermediate class at the language school I go to, and it is certainly a challenge to keep up. Some days I feel like I've gotten the hang of it and I get bored in class. But other days, I sit there wondering how in the world am I going to figure this out. I can't speak in English because my professor refuses to answer to it, although I'm pretty sure he can speak English. The rest of my class is a small world microcosm in it's make-up. It's about 50% Asian, with a few Europeans, and an Arab guy just for flavor. There are two other Americans in the class, but they aren't so good about coming every day, so they don't do me much good. 2 hours every day is a big chunk of time, and I'm already kind of tired of going every day. We get next week off because of a conference and I'm looking forward to it like it's Spring Break or something.
My life really is that sad.
Actually, it's not sad at all. It's crazy. Insane. Predictably weird. Lonely. Fun. Exciting. But not sad. Maybe a tinge of the pathetic since my weekend plans include reading three books on the 6x8 piece of grass these people call a back yard. But not sad.
So, here is post #3 for the day. Hope you enjoyed.
Today is a good day. I'm in my office at the church right now, and sitting outside in the parking lot is my new car. In some ways, I'm not terribly excited about this new car thing, because it's kind of a piece of junk. But this car is very important to me. This car represents my freedom! My independence! My sanity!!
It was an amazingly long, drawn-out, tedious process to buy this car. And honestly, I am not even sure what all was done. My Spanish skills are improving, but when they are talking about cars and insurance and government papers, my vocabulary leaves much to be desired. Luckily, I had a lady at the church who helped me through it all. I basically just signed papers and then handed over cash. I had no part in the haggling, the inspection. I was just the bankroll. It was kind of fun, but also kind of frustrating.
I really need to get to work on some things for tonight's program, but I felt it was important to share some good, uplifting news since all those other posts are kind of pessimistic.
I'm doing better. And I'm certainly busy, which alleviates 75% of the problems I was having last week.
Buenos noches mis amigos.
So I’ve been homesick.
Not terribly homesick. And really homesickness was just the result of frustration and boredom and the feeling of uselessness. So, actually, I wasn’t homesick. I was mad.
But I still would have thought twice about it if you’d handed me a plane ticket Wednesday morning.
I’ve looked forward to being here for so many months, and now that I am here, I am disappointed. I rushed to get down here. I worked hard. I swallowed my pride and asked people for money. I got stressed out about money and coming here. I tried to make myself as ready as possible for this adventure.
So, I get here. My boss said he’d take it easy on me for a while so that I could just adjust to my life and my new surroundings. So, as I’m closing in on the end of the second week, I am frustrated. I want to do something. I want ownership of something.
I’m thinking I’m not going to make a good intern.
I think I’ve pin-pointed the source of my frustration back to this summer’s experience. I went to Texas to be an intern, and yet, when I got there, I had no one to intern under. I had some great parent volunteers who helped shoulder the responsibility, but I got to be in charge. I got to work and program and really dig my hands into that youth group. I got to have ideas and see how they worked. I got to ease my way into the position and do things my way, with my true personality and feel comfortable about it.
So, I get here, and I am the intern. Just the intern. In the truest, purest since of the word. I do the grunt work. I clean. I make the ba-jillion small boxes so my boss can have an object lesson. I find the games. I type them up. I sit on the sidelines while someone else leads the games I worked so hard to research. I mentally scream in frustration when that someone puts his own spin on the game, which makes it complicated and not work. And I feel guilty when the games are a flop or don’t fill the time needed.
And it would be one thing if this were a paid internship. It would be another thing if I were working for some youth minister guru. Instead, I get a man who desperately needs help, but doesn’t know how to delegate. A man who thinks he is the guru and thinks I will put up with his to-do lists and attitude just because I am privileged to be called his intern.
Wow. So I guess I’m a little bitter. I knew I was frustrated, but I didn’t realize just how mad I am about this situation.
The thing that really gets me is this: Guatemala City is a huge city that has more poverty and crime than any place I’ve ever been. There are little kids who will juggle fruit in front of your car, then come to your window to see if you’ll give them money. There is a man known throughout the city because he will stand in front of your car at the stop light, pull out his mat, stand on his head and bicycle his feet. He gets back up, put his hat on, and then goes car to car to get handouts. People sell everything on the streets. And I mean, literally, in the streets. They weave through traffic and take advantage of every stop light and stop sign to hawk their wares. Some sell fruit, other phone cards, and yet still, feather dusters. I even saw a guy selling accordion file folders today.
So, I’m living in this city that has so many people in need, and I sit around frustrated because I have nothing to do but wait on people to pick me up. I came here because I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help these people. Instead, I make boxes out of computer paper and clean up the glasses and move and arrange chairs.
I can already tell you that I’m going to really like some of the kids in this youth group. That I will get attached to some and get really involved in their lives. But these kids, while they have their own set of problems and need people to love on them and be there, they have such a privileged lifestyle. For the most part, at least, they do. I know that God brought me to Guatemala for a reason. I know that there is no way all these doors would have opened if it hadn’t come from God. At least, I think that is true. I don’t want to even think about the possibility that I’ve gotten myself into some huge mess simply because I was trying to control my life again and not letting God guide me.
So, if God brought me here (which, I really think he did), then I guess my problem is that I haven’t quite figured out my purpose here.
Guess it’s a good thing God gives us patience to endure these times of uncertainty and frustration. I just wish I had a little more right now.
10/16/04 8:46 PM
Well, this morning I slept in until around 9. I actually woke up around 6 or so, but I knew I had nothing to do, so I made myself stay in bed longer. I got up and got dressed and had breakfast all before 9:30. After being home for so long and sleeping so late in the day, it is hard for me to believe that my body is ready to go at 7 or before. I don’t really have to fight waking up in the morning, and really I fight to make myself sleep longer. I know it’s because of the sun. It is so bright in the mornings, and I can’t get used to sleeping with the eye shade thing yet. Maybe when my days are a little busier and I get more tired, I will be more inclined to sleep past 7.
Anyway, by 10 today, I was wondering what in the world I was going to do with my day. I knew I couldn’t stand sitting around watching TV all day again. My hips were hurting like they do when you spend too much time in bed or sitting. Charlotte rescued me by letting me go with them to the Ambassador’s house to swim in his pool. So today, on my one week anniversary of being in Guatemala, I went to the Ambassador’s house. Somehow, my life just seems to be too crazy. How do things like this happen to me?
Still, sitting around the pool, I was bored out of my mind. I wanted to run around screaming I was so tired of sitting. And while I am eternally grateful for these people who’ve taken me into their house and their family, they are a bit odd and sometimes I just feel a little uncomfortable around them.
But, praise Jesus, I was rescued. One of the teachers at CAG who also works with the youth at Union, took pity on me and invited me to go out to dinner with her and some of her friends. We went to Antigua. And man, I felt alive for the first time since I’ve been here. I fell in love with the city within the hour, and I had a deep yearning to stay longer and explore. I felt relatively safe for the first time since I got here. I wish I could live there instead of here, but it’s too far away from the church and on the wrong side from the schools I’m going to be working with. We ate at a place that was pretty much catered to gringos, but it was still very good. I hope that those girls continue to invite me to things, because I really enjoyed talking to them and hanging out with. They are my chance at having friends here, and I don’t want to screw that up.
It felt good to get out of the big city and it gave me hope that I’m going to not only just survive these coming months, but I may even enjoy some of them.
Today, I taught Sunday school for the first time. Things went really well, so I’m hoping that means Paul will back off a little and give me some space. I really want this man to trust me and to see that I am a capable person. I think I’ve figured out that Paul has been doing things on his own for so long, that now that he has help, he doesn’t quite know what to do about it. He’s not really good at giving up control, and delegating isn’t something he has totally figured out yet.
Tomorrow I go to take my Spanish placement test, so long as I have a ride there. I hate asking Charlotte to continue to shuttle me around. I cannot wait to get a car. Maybe tomorrow till bring a great little car at a price I can afford.
I’m looking forward to learning Spanish, but I feel a little funny about it. I am not sure why I have this hesitancy about it. I’ve been around people who’ve been here maybe a year and they seem to be so fluent and most of them didn’t take classes. I know I will learn this language and be able to use it eventually, but I wish I could flip the switch in my head faster. I think part of it is just letting myself look like an idiot. Part of it may also be feeling uncomfortable and out of control. Because if I start speaking in Spanish, I am more likely to put myself in situations where I am vulnerable and less able to protect myself and understand exactly what is going on around me.
I get to go climb Picaya this weekend. It’s one of the volcanoes that is in Guatemala City. It’s supposed to be awesome. I’m sure I will be out of breath from the altitude and from sitting on my butt for the last week. Man, I miss the outdoors like you would not believe. There is this garden plot that these people call a backyard, but it totally does not fill my need for open land. But open land is non-existent in the city because there isn’t room and it isn’t safe to have parks. I think that is why I enjoyed Antigua so much. There was a fountain and trees and open land. I mean, the city is the city, but it wasn’t a 30 minute drive to find a field.
I’ve never lived in a big city. I’m not sure I like it.