Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ministry Weekend #2

Well, the weekend is over and done with again. Here's a little review of what happened:

We began Saturday morning by being picked up by our host family at the Seminary at 7:30. Then we drove to Guatemala City, where we ate breakfast at the guys' house and picked up Luis. Then, guess what? Off to the beach! We zipped along at break-neck speeds (ok, not really), and eventually arrived at the beach. Well, not exactly at the beach. We arrived at a river. The river is one of two access points to the beach of Monterrico. So, onto a ferry we drove... a two-care ferry, powered by a little outboard motor. Yeah, that was pretty sweet. =)

We put-putted down the river, watching birds, turtles, and trees. The area we floated through is actually a conservation area, protecting the trees which grow in the water... it kinda reminded me of pictures of parts of Louisana with the trees growing out of the water with long roots. Finally, the boat docked and we drove off it into the town of Monterrico.

Monterrico is one of those beaches with "black" sand... dark sand that they call black. It's pretty neat, but with the warm sun it's also hot on the feet.

Arriving in Monterrico, we drove to a little animal world. I don't know what else to call it! There were sections with crocodiles, iguanas, turtles, and fish. They actually raise sea turtles to release back into the ocean, allowing tourists to pay a little to release a turtle themselves. I took a bunch of pictures, but, wouldn't you know, can't really upload them easily! (remember the computer issues?)

After taking pictures of the contained wildlife, we ate a little snack and headed on down to the beach! Into the water we jumped, laughing at the massive waves. We still were very aware of the strong current, so didn't go in deep. Ah, more sunscreen! Trying not to get burned, we, along with our host family, slathered on SPF 50 sunscreen and relaxed in the sun.

Eventually it was time to return, so we showered, changed into normal clothes, ate lunch, and headed back to chilly Chimal. Back in time (well, a little late) for youth group, we participated in that and had fun with the group. We had a snack afterwards of chuchitos, so we didn't really need dinner when we returned to the house.

Saturday night our host mom's sister, bro-in-law, and kids arrived, so we had even more of a housefull. It was fun to meet them and visit. =) We stayed up late chatting, eventually turning in around midnight (yes, that's late here).

Sunday we got up, breakfasted, and went to church. Part of our team joined their worship team which was really cool to see. In the afternoon we visited more with our host family and their relatives. Nap time came, and then some friends from church came over to have fun and visit with us.

They brought a box mix of Ghiradelli brownies, which they wanted to try and make just right... evidently the last two efforts had been hard as rocks. Well, this time it worked perfectly, and we had amazing brownies to snack on while we played Charades. Now, when I say "played Charades" I mean this in a loose sense. When Spanish is your mother tongue, it is much more simple to come up with synonyms and connections that if it is not. As it was, many of the options we were given had to be translated, and then we had to have sharp ears to hear the exact word that we were looking for. It all worked out though, and everyone had fun.

Also to snack on during the game, we had a mole of fried plantain (fried plantain in a chocolate/cinnamon/something else sauce), tostadas with beans, tostadas with salsa, and fresh tamarindo juice. It was quite the party!

Eventually the church family left and we settled down to a little visiting. The guys left for Guatemala City, and we soon retired to bed. Monday morning we got up, ate breakfast, and returned to the seminary. And thus ended another weekend.

Monday was a day of meetings, 7 to be precise. Debriefs, briefings, discussions, interviews, and more discussions. All for good though. I was really happy with what happened during the team debriefing.

Tuesday (today) we went to the beach again... but a different beach-- San Jose. Most of Discover went this time, and it was a fun time of relaxation, warm sun, and water.

Well, that's all for now. If you have questions or comments, feel free to ask!

Friday, February 19, 2010

My Christianity and Commerce Project

For my Christianity and Commerce project I decided to investigate the influence of globalization on local markets and local perception of globalization. This idea was sparked by a trip to the market when I discovered that most of the knives in one tienda were made in China. I decided that I really wanted to know first off, what percentage of items in the market was made outside of Guatemala, and second, what the public opinion was of this. To investigate, I spent many hours in the markets in Chimaltenango and Antigua, interviewing vendors, inventorying items in shops, and interviewing shoppers. Before starting, I wrote a specific list of questions to ask each person with whom I talked.

The list of questions for interviewing vendors included questions such as, “Where do the majority of your goods come from?” “Do you have a preference for what type of each thing you stock you buy?” “Why?” “What do you think about items which are made outside of Guatemala?” “Do you think it is good or bad for the economy to sell items from other countries in Guatemala?” I used these questions to start conversation and begin the learning process.

I also created a short list of questions for interviewing shoppers which allowed me to understand how they made their purchasing decisions and what they thought of products which were not made in Guatemala as well as what they thought the effect was on the Guatemalan economy. I ended up going to 3 markets: 2 in Chimaltenango and 1 in Antigua. The one in Antigua has several sections, and I tried to visit all the sections.

I began my interviewing in Chimaltenango, visiting with vendors who sold clothing, pots and pans, plastic ware, CDs, dry goods, technology, and other things. Overall, the vendors seemed to have an accurate sense of where their goods come from. One man that I talked with, Jorge, gave me much information on the types of goods that vendors will get from other countries. For example, most Guatemalans prefer cooking pots that are made in Mexico. This is because the pots made in Guatemala are aluminum, and not very durable. Pots manufactured in Mexico are stainless steel and last a long time, so both vendors and customers prefer them. Despite this, there were many varieties of pots and pans sold, ones from Indonesia, Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and China.

When I was looking at clothing in the market, I found one thing that was very interesting. Most of the clothes were made in Guatemala, yet many of the brand names were American. In talking with the vendors selling clothes and shoppers in the vicinity, I found that people tend to prefer clothing that comes from other countries, either because of the price (clothes from Taiwan and Korea are cheap) or the quality (Mexican durability). It was interesting to note that both in the realm of clothing and pots, people commented on the durability of goods from Mexico.

In Antigua I interviewed in the tourist artisan market as well as in the modern local market. Most of the people selling items in the artisan market were indigenous Guatemalans, and they made most of their own goods. Items sold in these shops were purses, belts, knives, resin boxes, machetes, skirts, guipils (traditional blouses), and headbands. One lady I talked with, Brenda, told me that her business is a family business. Her siblings (15 total) make the items which she sells, with the exception of the guipils, because different guipils are made in different towns. Three of her brothers make resin-coated boxes, and other make the purses, knife handles, and other small items in her shop.

At another shop in Antigua I visited with a man named Juan, who told me about the paintings that he sold. The most popular paintings were those that pictured city scenes in either Antigua or other popular cities. The painters live in the towns surrounding Antigua, and Juan goes regularly to buy new stock from them. I found it interesting that, although the people who bought the paintings were tourists, they do not buy the authentic traditional form of Guatemalan painting, but rather paintings which represented exactly what one saw in Guatemala.

Comparing the sources of items in Chimaltenango and Antigua, there was really no difference when comparing the same items. There was, however, a notable difference when one compared the source of tourist souvenirs and items which were marketed to Guatemalans. The items marketed to Guatemalans were from around the world, while tourist items were from Guatemala.

Public opinion was in favor of selling imports from other countries. Differing reasons were given for this, however. Some people believed that it was important to have international trade in order to encourage the growing Guatemalan economy. Others believe that it was beneficial in providing all the items that people wanted. Some people did oppose this idea of globalization—it is interesting to note that all of the people who opposed globalization were indigenous people whose livelihood came from goods crafted in Guatemala.

The issue of globalization was difficult to address, because of the limited understanding that most Guatemalans have of it. When I asked people the reasoning for goods from other countries being marketed in Guatemala, they tended to reply that it only made sense. If they could get items that they wanted from other countries, why not? When I asked them about the term globalization, they immediately responded in the affirmative that yes, it is a form of globalization.

I found this project to be a very interesting one to do, with far more information gathered than could be shared in a short report. A few more notes from my interviewing:

- Guatemalans are oftentimes very friendly. More often than not when I asked vendors if I could ask them some questions for a school project, they offered me their seat.

- I got preached to several times by vendors... obviously there are a lot of Christians in Guatemala =)

- When you first start looking around a market, the sheer number of things there is overwhelming. When you start writing the exact items down though, you soon realize how many of the same item are in the market.

- If you visit with a vendor, they're more likely to give you a good price on an item. I got lots of offers for things which were far below the normal starting price simply because I'd visited with the shop owner for 10 minutes.

- In North America we seem to have this idea that globalization is messing up specialization of different regions. While in some ways this may be true, people still value the unique items of aculture simply because they are unique, so I highly doubt that cultural items will be entirely done away with.

If you all have any comments on this project, or questions, feel free to ask!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Another update

Well, the first ministry weekend is over. My team is working with a church in Chimal called Su Gracia. The pastor there has been really nice, letting us get involved with whatever we want. Last weekend we did a lot of watching, but this weekend we'll be doing more actual ministry.

The weekend started Saturday morning with our host families picking us up. Shorr, Helen, and I were picked up by Mardoqueo Valasquez Gomez. On our way to his house, we picked up his three sons who work and study at university in Guatemala City during the week. At the house, we met his wife, Carmen, and daughter, Elisa. Then we ate breakfast together.

After breakfast we went to the market with Carmen and the oldest son, Josue. It was pretty fun, since it was a market in Chimal that I hadn't been to before. When we got back, we went for a long walk around the chicken farm that they live on. Unlike many chicken farms in the U.S. where it's basically a bunch of massive barns, this farm had 5 sections, separated by tree-covered land. There were a few random cows and horses, as well as a few vegetable gardens. It was really neat being out in nature a little, rather than in a noisy city.

Getting back from the walk, we ate lunch and then rested for a little while. Youth group was that afternoon/evening, so we headed into town for that. The youth group at Su Gracia is really neat. We worshipped, played some games, shared testimonies, and listened to a lesson. The second oldest son in my family, Luis, translated a lot of it for the people in our group, which was pretty cool. After youth group we ate dinner, visited for awhile, and then went to bed.

Sunday morning was church. It was pretty typical for the Ladino churches I've been to in Guatemala. The pastor preached a great sermon on (I think it was) 1 Thes. 4, talking about our need for holiness. In the afternoon we went to an outdoor church service in an empty lot a little bit outside of Chimal. At the end of things we led a little activity for the kids... they seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. Then it was back to our home to rest a little, visit with our host family, bid the sons goodbye, and head to bed.

And thus ended the ministry weekend. Monday we returned to the seminary and spent the day in different meetings, debriefing, briefing, debriefing, planning, etc.

On Tuesday I went to Antigua to work a little on a project that I have for my Christianity and Culture class. For the project I have been interviewing vendors and shoppers in the markets in Chimal and Antigua as well as inventorying the products in their shops, seeing the effects of globalization on local markets. I'll be posting the results from my project on here in a few days. =)

The process of choosing interns to join the staff team for next year has begun, and I can tell that the decision will be difficult. You can be praying for wisdom as we work on interviewing applicants.

Oh, and another note: my computer's fan quit working, so I'm using a program computer right now. I have the files I need from my computer, but no pictures. So if I want to upload pictures, I'll have to use someone else's computer. Yet another opportunity to practice rejoicing in everything. =)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Today we visited the ruins of Iximche, the first capital of Guatemala. Although one might think that the first capital would be really popular, in fact the place is not crowded by visitors.

We left about 8 in the morning and ate breakfast at a buffet on the way. The restaurant is really fancy, with a beautiful view of a valley. The food in the buffet was typical Guatemala food for the most part: fried plantain, boiled plantain, beans, bean paste, tortillas, cantaloupe, watermelon, cream, salsa, eggs, and coffee. It was quite the feast!

Keryn and her food =)

A lady making tortillas:

Instruments in the restaurant:

After breakfast, we continued on to Iximche. There we got a tour and description of some Mayan beliefs from a Mayan woman who came with us on the trip.

A sun dial:
The Mayan woman
Our amazing field directors-- Alex and Evy:

Then we got to look around at the ruins.

The End.

Well, that wasn't the end of the day, but after looking around at the ruins, we eventually got back on the bus and returned to GBS in order to debrief and eat dinner.

Looking ahead, we have our first ministry weekend coming this weekend. My team is working with a church called "Su Gracia"... Your/His Grace. It's in Chimaltenango, about a 20-25 minute walk from GBS. Saturday we'll go to our host homes and then in the afternoon see a movie with the youth group. Sunday we have church and then in the afternoon they're doing an outdoor evangelical event. Our team will be leading an activity for the little kids. You can be praying that it goes well.

Since Valentine's Day is on Sunday, when a lot of the students of GBS will be gone for ministry, the seminary is celebrating Dia Del Amistad on Friday evening, with a big party in the gym. I'm a little bit apprehensive about it, considering what it held last year... oh the Latino awkward moments! I'm sure it will be fun too. There's always a lot of laughing and teasing at such parties. =)

Well, I guess that's about it.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Lessons from an elephant story

News update: we traveled to Chimaltenango yesterday (Thursday). Now we're here at GBS, the seminary, established in our own rooms. Tonight the GBS students/faculty did a little welcome celebration for us, which was pretty fun. It's been nice to see people that I know from last year.

Two people got their bags slashed on the bus from Antigua to Chimal: one lost her wallet w/some money and drivers' license, the other didn't lose anything, just has a hole in his bag now.

This weekend is mostly cultural experiences for the students. They're all optional for me, so I can either have a busy weekend or a quiet one. We visit our ministry site as a team on Monday to meet with the pastor and plan our first ministry weekend. You can be praying that it goes well, as none of us are fluent in Spanish.

Now I'm sure that you're wondering what the elephant story is about. For one of my classes I'm reading a book called "The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society." In the beginning of the book, Lesslie Newbigin shows us how we often look at the story of the blind men and the elephant from the wrong angle. Here's the section:

“There is an admirable air of humility about the statement that the truth is much greater than any one person or any one religious tradition can grasp. The statement is no doubt true, but it can be used against the truth when it is used to neutralize any affirmation of the truth. How does the speaker know that the truth is so much greater than this particular affirmation of it—For example, that “Jesus Christ is the truth”? What privileged access to reality does he have? In the famous story of the blind men and the elephant, so often quoted in the interests of religious agnosticism, the real point of the story is constantly overlooked. The story is told from the point of view of the king and his courtiers, who are not blind but can see that the blind men are unable to grasp the full reality of the elephant and are only able to get hold of part of the truth. The story is constantly told in order to neutralize the affirmation of the great religions, to suggest that they learn humility and recognize that none of them can have more than one aspect of the truth. But, of course, the real point of the story is exactly the opposite. If the king were also blind there would be no story. The story is told by the king, and it is the immensely arrogant claim of one who sees the full truth which all the world’s religions are only groping after. It embodies the claim to know the full reality which relativizes all the claims of the religions and philosophies.”
- Pages 9-10, The Gospel in a Pluralistic Society, Lesslie Newbigin