November 12, 2004

Beauty From Ashes

So, I'm 23 years old now.

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.


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