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.
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.
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.