After a full week in Panajachel, our group reunited with our host families. It was really nice to be back and settle into a routine again. For some of us coming back to San Juan del Obispo felt sort of like coming home. It was great to continue studying and learning Spanish after not having used it for a week. We were impressed and surprised by how much we had retained and remembered from a week earlier. In addition to a familiar four days of learning, PMGs, small groups, Tuesday service projects and worship, we had the fun opportunities to participate in a chocolate tour, a jade tour, and to hike a volcano.
On Thursday and Saturday we were able to see and try the process of chocolate-making the way it’s done here in Guatemala. Daniel, the owner of the local chocolate factory led us through the main steps of roasting cacao beans, taking the shells off and crushing the beans before adding sugar to the mixture and shaping the patties to be left to chill for six hours. A common use for this chocolate in Guatemala is to make it into hot chocolate, but it is also delicious to eat.
This week we had the option to go on a jade tour and those of us who went found it an interesting and valuable activity. We met Don Francisco, a master of jade who was very knowledgeable and experienced with working with jade. For years Don Francisco would venture into the hills of Guatemala with a coworker and their donkeys, searching for stones that contained jade. He taught us about jade, the history and production of the stone and how he works with it. He showed us some of his pieces, as well as his machines and we were able to try working with some jade. It was very cool and lots of us hope to go back to make a piece of our own.
Hiking Volcan de Pacaya on Friday was a beautiful experience for all of us. Some students rode horses, while the majority of us walked, but when we got to the top we were all in awe of the gorgeous view. We roasted marshmallows near the summit, using the natural heat vents in the volcanic rock and looked out at the volcanoes Fuego, Acatenango, and Agua in the distance, surrounded by clouds and the beautiful colours of the sunset. As we watched the sun go down we reflected on thankfulness and stood in amazement at God’s creation.
In addition to all of this, during this week the majority of us students and the leaders were able to meet with J or Andrea Janzen to discuss and debrief various topics including faith, growth on Outtatown, the future, and more. We first met J and Andrea on our church plunge in Vancouver and they travel here to Guatemala every year as a spiritual resource and mentor for us students and for the site leaders. We found the time with them very valuable and refreshing. We appreciated the time to talk to someone outside of our community who has so much wisdom about faith and other aspects of life.
All in all it was a great week and, as we head into our fourth week of homestays and Spanish classes, we are excited to continue to grow in our Spanish and in community. We hope for continued growth in our lives, anticipating more challenges and more fun experiences!
Erika y Annika