Buenas tardes amigos!!

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We’ve had another wonderful week here in Guatemala!

Our large group split in half this past week and went to two different locations, switching halfway through the week. My group started the week off by making a two and a half hour journey to Panajachel followed by taking a boat across Lago de Atitlan to the town of Santiago where we stayed for four days.

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While in Santiago we partook in a few tours led by workers from MCC (Mennonite Central Committee). In first semester this was the organization that held some sessions for us during our week in Saskatchewan. The main location that we visited in Santiago was Anadesa. This is an organization run with the help of MCC that reaches out to the indigenous women in the community. At their facility, women are taught methods to successfully run their own businesses, such as selling beaded jewelry, chickens, tortillas, etc. At Anadesa they also have the opportunity to learn/teach each other better ways to prepare meals and some healthier choices that go along with preparation. They are also given information on how to be more environmentally aware which helps keep their community cleaner and healthier. Among these things, it is also a place for women to spend time together and discuss various topics, like their faith or the struggles and joys they are experiencing in life.

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One of the days there, we had the pleasure of going to the market with a few of the ladies who work at Anadesa and then helped to prepare our own lunch: tamales and sopa (soup) with chicken and various vegetales. It turned out awesome!

Another tour we did involved going to a coffee plantation to learn how café is made and produced. My favourite tour was of Adisa; a location that serves people with mental and physical disabilities. They told us of the various programs they run and the jobs they are able to create for these people.

I think it’s amazing that they have a centre like this out in Santiago. For the residents of these rural towns it can be so challenging to get help for their loved ones who need extra care. One of the only other places with this kind of facility/assistance is all the way in Guatemala City which, with all the travel time, takes a whole day trip. Now at times it’s not been easy for Adisa to operate due to financial or social factors, but this organization has come so far with what they are doing for these kids and adults!

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While we were here, we were split into groups of 2-4 and stayed with local Mayan families in Santiago. I really enjoyed staying with my family, even though they mostly only speak Tz’utujil; which is the indigenous language spoken in this area. They were so excited and told us how they felt so blessed to have us stay with them. This really warmed my heart because it’s these relationships that we make that you can’t plan for. It can be so hard to just communicate, let alone bond with the families we stay with, but when I get past the language barrier I become solely filled with joy that I get to meet these people and share their home with them. I feel just as blessed as they do to spend the few days we did with them and feel the full extent of their generosity and love!

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The second half of our week we took an eight-hour bus ride to Lanquin where we spent a few days enjoying one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala! Our group went river tubing and enjoyed the peace and quite of our hostel on the first day. And on the second day we did various water related activities; caving, climbing and jumping off a waterfall, doing a short hike up to a look-off, and ended the day with swimming in the natural pools of Semuc Champey. It was a wild week full of such a variety of activities and experiences, but now we are settled back in our home stays in San Juan del Obispo for another week of español!

Gracias por leer,
Thanks for reading,

Kiera

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A Week in the Life in San Juan Del Obispo

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This week we were getting familiar with the streets and faces of San Juan, settling into a routine with Spanish, homestays, and weekly activities. Our fourth week of homestays began on Monday, with Spanish lessons in the morning and time with our PMGs (Peer Mentoring Groups) in the afternoon. My PMG stayed in San Juan this time, choosing to just relax at La Taberna restaurant (The Tavern) and check in with each other. PMGs are a great opportunity for some more intentional conversation or relaxation, studying the Bible or doing Spanish homework, and finding adventures around San Juan or Antigua.

This week we had the opportunity to meet with J or Andrea Janzen, two friends of the Outtatown community who led us during the Church Visit weekend in Vancouver last semester. On Monday I met with Andrea at a café, and we talked about all things from faith to friends and future plans. J and Andrea were a great pastoral resource for lots of people, offering advice, insight, questions and listening, similar to mentoring with our respective site leader, but with different perspectives and experiences.

On Monday lots of people also showed up for a boot camp/workout at the school, which, for most, was either exhausting, fun, or both. Our big hike up Volcan de Acetenago is coming up, so many of us were eager to counteract all the sweet bread and tortillas our host families give us and prep for our approaching adventure.

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As Tuesday came around, after class I rushed to eat lunch with my homestay, and ran to catch the first bus to my service placement. My group is with an organization called Celebrating Recovery, which works with people who have lived with and suffered from addictions, and is currently constructing a house for those who are experiencing homelessness mainly because of an addiction. We are helping get construction on this house started; so far we have just been helping to even out the road in front of where the house will be, and this week we were doing the same thing as the last, passing buckets of dirt down the hill in an assembly line. The house will be on top of a mountain, in a little Mayan village called El Hato. From the building in front of where the house will be, we are blessed with a breathtaking view of Antigua and the surrounding villages and rolling green mountains as we work.

On Wednesday I met up with my small group. We bused into Antigua together and walked to a café, a hidden gem with delicious cinnamon buns, a friendly cat, and homemade chocolate, granola, and peanut butter for sale. Like PMGs, small group is always a great opportunity to catch up and have intentional conversation. We talked about our highs and lows of the past week, as well as our hopes for the coming days. We also discussed a couple chapters of God Enters Stage Left, which focuses on the dangers of relying solely on religion for faith and a relationship with God. As always, small group was a great way of intentionally connecting with a smaller group in our big community.

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Thursday we had our test in Spanish class for the last two weeks of classes, containing all three tenses we have now been taught. With brains a little bit fried, we all went home afterwards for lunch with our homestays and a free afternoon. I used mine to prep for our upcoming travel week to Lanquin and Santiago. In the evening we met up for Worship at the school, with some familiar and new songs, as well as prayer and reflection. Before everyone went home, many said goodbye to one another, as the next week we were going to travel in two separate groups.

Friday morning we woke up bright and early and headed to the pilas (manual laundry tubs), where my group would meet our bus. Then we settled in for a long drive day, into the rainy Cloud Forest, towards Lanquin.

Gabriella Lampman