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,