By Sabrina Blank
Coming back to San Juan del Obispo for our second week with our homestays brought feelings of returning home for many of us. Following our week in Panajachel we were all quite exhausted from the past week’s activities and heavily anticipated the rest we knew would come from sleeping in familiar beds.
The first four days of the week were spent in our Spanish classes where the language was finally starting to click for some of us. With the knowledge that we would be having an exam on Thursday motivating us, we all poured ourselves into our studies. Many of us have been using what we learn in our class time to continue to strengthen our relationship with our host families and better our communication with them.
Another one of the amazing things we had going on this past week was our first day of service projects! I have been blessed with the opportunity to volunteer at a cerebral palsy hospital just outside of San Juan del Obispo. In the brief time I spent there it became swiftly apparent that God’s love was everywhere. I saw it in the staff’s compassion, in the residents’s beaming smiles, and in the volunteers’s eagerness to serve others.
Over the weekend we were given the opportunity to climb two volcanoes. On Friday morning our entire group piled into a van and headed from San Juan del Obispo to the base of Volcan de Pacaya. Upon arrival a small group of us (including myself) mounted the horses that we had earlier decided to utilize on our trek. With twenty-seven Outtatowners, our two guests, our two guides, multiple other horse riders, and two dogs trailing behind us our group was a steady force making our way upward. The further along we went in our journey the better we were able to see the vast beauty of Guatemala splayed out in front of us. As we neared the top we reached a brief plateau in the volcano’s ever-sloping frame where a shop was located. Sold at this “Lave Shop” is a variety of hand-made jewellery products that contained repurposed igneous rock, which is cooled and hardened lava. We were also given the opportunity to take advantage of a natural “hotspot” and roast marshmallows over a field of still hot igneous rocks. Once we were finished taking in the panoramic views at the highest point in our hike we were still only half done our adventure. Our trip down was much faster than our walk up, thanks to something called scree running. Scree running is relatively simple. At its root you are just running down a hill, in this case a volcano, as fast as you can. Trusting that the small loose rocks under your feet will cushion your steps, much like running through sand does. It was an exhilarating way to make our descent and left many of us breathless, in the best way.
This week, when we were not studying, volunteering, and/or hiking, we were encouraged to take time to meet with J. and Andrea Janzen. For those of you who regularly read the blog there is a chance that you may remember J. and Andrea from first semester in Canada. For those of you who don’t, we got the opportunity to spend a few days with J. last semester during our church visit experience in Vancouver. It was during this time we got to experience seven churches within three days. J. and Andrea have been coming to Guatemala for a week in second semester for many years now. The purpose behind their visits is to offer outside pastoral support to those of us in the program and remind us of the support we have outside of our Outtatown community. For many of us our meetings were a time of encouragement and reflection on all that we have been learning in these past busy weeks.