First Week at Homestays

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Hola!

We’ve officially spent one week with our Guatemalan host families! This past week was full of new experiences, overcoming challenges, navigating a language barrier, and working hard in class and at home to learn Spanish. Monday was our first day of Spanish school. We all met before class and shared about our exciting first nights with our homestays. We had a great first day where we learned some of the basics such as numbers, directions, and how to introduce ourselves. Throughout the morning we each had a short interview to see how much Spanish we already knew so that we could be split into class groups for the next day. We ended the morning with pin the tail on the donkey and a piñata! The next day we were split into groups of 4, each with an amazing teacher who will teach us Spanish in the weeks to come.

In the afternoons on Monday and Tuesday we were given a tour of both San Juan del Obispo and of Antigua. In San Juan we visited a chocolate maker where they taught us how their chocolate was made and let us taste the many different flavours they offer. Next we visited the Museo del Nispero, named for a popular fruit in Guatemala, and there we tasted some of their nispero products, including jam and honey. Afterwards we went to the firework factory where they showed us the popular bull-shaped firework structure that is meant for someone to hold above their head and run around as the fireworks go off. We learned that many Catholic Guatemalans use fireworks to celebrate different saints throughout the year.

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In Antigua we walked through the market, visited a fancy hotel, saw some of the many beautiful churches, strolled through Parque Central, and learned more about the history of the former capital city of Guatemala. Antigua is such a beautiful city, rich with culture and history, and overflowing with life and colour!

Friday afternoon we had the privilege of having a salsa dancing lesson! Many of us were unsure of what to make of it at first but we all ended up having a great time. Most of the time was spent laughing while tripping over each other’s feet, but towards the end we mostly got the hang of it. It may not have looked like it but I would say we’re Dancing with the Stars ready.

On Thursday evening we all came together for our weekly worship. We sang and had time to reflect on the business of the past few days through journalling, drawing, praying, or sitting in silence. Although getting back into the Outtatown swing of things is exciting, it can be overwhelming at times. It was nice to create space to breathe and refocus. We were all thankful for the time spent together as a community, as living apart is taking some getting used to. Knowing that there are others who are going through the same things you are and who are there to support you makes all the difference.

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Our host families have really welcomed us with open arms and loving hearts and we are so thankful for them. Although communication can be tough at times, we have felt very cared for this week. It’s amazing to have this opportunity to be able to live in this new culture, to try new food, and to be able to practice speaking Spanish every day. There’s still so much to see, learn, and do and we’re excited for what the coming weeks hold! We’re off to a great start and can’t wait for what’s yet to come!

¡Hasta luego!

Annika and Kara

The Adventure Begins (Again)

After a long five weeks at home, all the Outtatown students were reunited at last in Atlanta, Georgia, during our layover. Anyone could see how joyous the reunion was, judging by the smiles, the hugs, and the excitement on everyone’s face. Our Outtatown community is a very close-knit, tight group, which makes the times apart hard but the times together beautiful and fun.

The break itself had a variety of responses from different students. Some found it very long and very boring, as loneliness made itself present. Others found it a nice way to relax after the busy first semester that Outtatown brings; constantly busy and moving. They felt rejuvenated and ready to tackle another semester in Guatemala. Still others were happy to be back home to see many friends and family members they hadn’t seen for three months, and therefore were busy with life at home once again. Overall, the entire body of students were ecstatic to be back together and headed for a different country and a new adventure.

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The phrase used most often in the first week of our stay in Guatemala would probably be “This is so beautiful!” From the volcanoes, to the foliage, to the vibrant colours of the houses and stores, Guatemala is a beautiful country through and through. Orientation week proved to be both an informative time as well as a time of relaxation and enjoyment of simply being here in this country. It was also a much-needed time to become accustomed to the culture and way of life in Guatemala, in addition to reconnecting with friends we hadn’t seen in the past five weeks.

This past weekend we stayed at SEMILLA, a seminary in Guatemala City that prepares its students to live out the reign of God with justice and peace today. Many groups stay there as they have rooms for guests to stay. During our time at SEMILLA, we learned much of the history of Guatemala, as well as some parts of their culture which are hard to learn about but important to know. For example, we went to an overlook of the garbage dump in which so many people work, including young kids, to support themselves; we also visited a mall, which was such a harsh contrast to the poverty at the dump.

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Some of the beautiful Ruins we saw in Antigua

After our time in Guatemala City we went to church in Antigua. It was a beautiful service and amazing to worship together despite the language barrier. There was English translation for everything, and the verses of songs alternated between English and Spanish. It was beautiful to worship the Lord together.

Then came the moment of both excitement and anticipation: meeting our host families. With a couple of exceptions, not one of us spoke Spanish beyond the point of the bare minimum, causing some anxiety regarding this moment. One by one, our names were called, and we left with a family we’ve never met before and with whom we do not share a common language. As each student goes into this week, please pray for us as we try to learn Spanish and become accustomed to the culture and schedule of Guatemala. It will be amazing to see everyone grow through this uncomfortable situation, and get to know the host families better. Adventure is right around the corner!

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