Saturday, March 27, 2010

A collection of postings

Well, I'm back from Practicum. We did a ton of things, and I'll give a more full explanation of activities in due time. Until then, here's a collection of writing that I did during practicum. Enjoy!

March 17th:
It’s a gorgeous day here in El Salvador. From my hammock on the 2nd story I can see quite aways up the hillside. There’s bamboo growing behind one house: 25 or 30 feet tall. Behind another there are palm trees, coconut palms, and bana trees. Looking across at the hill, there are some little trees growing around a radio tower. I see a bit of chain link fence in the distance and conjecture that it marks some property.

Firecrackers explode, the sound reverberating off the hills. Roosters crow, hens cluck and coo, and birds chirp and sing. The metal roof above me is crackling, expanding as it warms up. Now plant leaves are twitching from a slight breeze… now quivering with a bit more.

The morning is comparatively cool, probably only 80 degrees out. The humidity makes up for less heat though, causing one to wonder if it is possible to truly be cool again. It’s amazing how quickly one can forget.

Two months ago yesterday we left Canada, driving, flying, and then driving again. Two weeks and four days from now we will be returning to Canada—by bus, jet, and van. Before then, though, we have things to do. We must teach English do carnivals, watch guitar lessons, make pupusas, finish homework projects, and many more things. Oh, and Jordan and I have to translate El Salvadoran Spanish, which even we don’t understand most of the time.

March 18th:
Going for a drive today, we climbed into the back of the pickup and took off. Up hill, down hill, around sharp corners—the breeze whipping our hair all around us. A little respite from the midday heat, as well as time to chatter away in English except when getting descriptions of the scenery from Pablo and William

“Eso es el vocan San Misael.”
“This is the volcano San Misael.”

We zipped through numerous little communities, learning assorted facts about the area’s history, people, and needs. Eventually we arrived at our destination. Descending from the pickup, we began climbing a hill overlooking all of Cabanas. From the top we could see Cabanas, 3 volcanoes, Rio Lempa, Honduras, and areas close to San Salvador. Pictures, pictures, and more pictures, we then strided across to another hill with a slightly different view. Memory cards full and camera batteries dead, we returned to the truck, ready to descend the hills and return to Victoria.

But no, we turned away from Victoria and drove towards Sansuntepeque, stopping at a viewpoint on a corner. Quickly erasing unneeded pictures and trading out batteries, we took pictures and admired the view of the sunset. Laughing, chatting, and playing with William’s son, we enjoyed the peace of the sunset, interrupted only by cars zipping along the road and disappearing around the corner. The sun completely down, we finally returned to the house to eat dinner.

March 20th:
It’s a quiet evening on the El Salvadoran border. I can hear a few lone birds chirping, and many crickets or other night-loving critters. As I swing in a hammock, a cool breeze plays over my face, reminding me of the former intensity of the day’s heat. The sun has set beyond the hills, and the world has turned gray, as the moon begins to show itself from behind a distance hill. The red lights on the radio tower flash intermittently, reminding low-flying aircraft of the treacherous terrain below. Thinking of aircraft reminds me of a story told here about the townspeople of Victoria and the surrounding villages. When the civil war reached the border region of El Salvador in 1982-3, the military had a base in Victoria. This meant that many civilians were killed in guerrilla attacks on the military base. On March 18th, 1982, many villagers tried to escape to Honduras by sneaking to the Rio Lempa and swimming across it. The military found out about their attempt to leave, however, and began attacking the people, with helicopters, planes, tanks, and soldiers on foot. Many people died that day. Tonight, however, everything is peaceful. I hear some reggae music as a truck drives by, showing off its good sound system. If people spend money on nothing else here, they spend it on a sound system. Another vehicle revs its engine as it accelerates down the street. Stars are beginning to appear, contrasting with the darkening night sky. Now it is dinner time, and this will end.

March 20th:
I played soccer with some kids today. Some of the boys at the carnival didn’t want to play the other games, so we started kicking around a soccer ball. So, there I was, standing in the sun, chasing boys who were kicking around a little ball, and having the time of my life. Up the ball went in the air, down it came again, connecting with my head as I butted it toward the other end of the “cancha.” The boys yelled and off they ran to retrieve the ball and bring it my way again. The hot sun shone down on me while chicharras sang from the trees. Other kids yelled as they played with a jump rope and did a bean bag toss. Girls sat on a mattress as they got their hair braided and face painted. Music blared from the stereotypical latino sound system, brought in by a woman from a development organization in Victoria. We played and played, never tiring of the game, always excited by new developments and enjoying the feel of dirt on our feet, playing in the rough road.

March 21st:
Sunday morning, fiesta time. Normally Sunday mornings are the quiet part of the week, the peaceful part. Well this one certainly is not! There are loud speakers outside in the park, blaring music, advertisements, and announcements about the day’s events. Vehicles drive past and drop people off at central park, one pickup unloading 20 people from the back. It’s the 30th anniversary of the death of a guy by the name of Romero. The day is celebrated by Catholics in Central America, as he is known as the intercessor for the poor here. They celebrate with traditional foods, dances, popular music, and more. We’ll go out later and see the celebration, but for now we’ll be content to stay inside and listen.

Church will start soon. We’re having two services today—a Spanish one at 10:30 and an English one at 11:30. I offered up a sermon on my MP3 player for it: Total Trust, by Joshua Harris. I think it will speak to the team pretty well.

March 21st:
We went to the pool today. Well, you could say that we went to the pool. We hopped in the back of a pickup, all 17 of us, drove for half an hour down dirt, stone, and a little bit of asphalt roads, and then arrived at a pool. We quickly stripped down to our swimsuits and hopped in the pool. Lo and behold, the pool wasn’t as clean as we thought it was. Sure, the water was cloudy, but that wasn’t the problem. No, the problem was that there were floaties in the pool—floaties of chicken poo. Disgusting! We waded around a little, pretending to enjoy the water for the sake of our hosts who had brought us there. Then we exited that pool and went to the kiddie pool. Obviously chickens didn’t bathe as much in that one, and we splashed around in it for awhile. We tossed a coconut back and forth, as well as a plastic Claro ball. A true tropical paradise… coconut, dirty pool, and fun people.

March 22nd:
Built chicken coops today. Jon was in charge of it, but he understands pretty much nothing of what people here say, so Jordan and I did a lot of the organizing. We started by having the whole team go to the hardware store while Pablo purchased materials. We bought wire, wood, and nails, which actually took awhile, because the men working there had to cut all the wire to the exact length needed. It probably took an hour. Then we split up in groups and went to our respective construction sites. That’s where the problems started.

We were let into a house and then left there. Charlie went with Don William to drop supplies at the other location and we were left alone. Well, alone with the woman of the house. She zipped out a stream of words that I barely caught the drift of… something about taking the supplies out back. So, we took the supplies out back, introducing ourselves to the woman of the house. When we had all the materials at the back, she let out another bunch of words which indicated to me that we needed to see where to put the house… whether in the back of the yard-area, or closer to the house. So, we looked around and eventually decided to put it in back. There was a make-shift chicken shelter in the corner, which we began pulling apart in order to clear land for the coop. While we were doing that, we realized that we had nothing in the way of tools—no hammers, saws, or anything to measure with. I asked the woman about it, and she said that a neighbor had a saw and that there was a hammer somewhere. So, we stood around a little.

Then Pablo, Rosa, and Charlie showed up. At the same time a saw arrived, along with a hammer. Pablo had a measuring tape, so we began sorting things out a little. They decided that it was better to build the coop closer to the house, so we cleared a different area. Pablo showed us a little of what we should do to build a door, so we started on that while a couple members of the family began digging holes to put the corner posts in. I went up to help them with the corner posts, because we had too many hands sawing wood and measuring down below. Pablo left again, leaving us to decide how best to finish the project. We broke for lunch once the door frame was done and the corner posts were finished.

When we returned from lunch, Shorr and Chantelle began putting wire on the door we’d made while Jon and I figured out how to attach the roof. We sawed, hammered, held a makeshift ladder, carried tin for the roof (and cut ourselves on it), and chatted with the girl from the family who was helping us. By 3:30, the project was done; we took a picture with the family and headed back to Funde Familia, where the directors were just arriving.


So, there's a little taste of things. Hopefully some day I'll put up some pictures. Until then, cheers.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

El Ășltimo fin de semana

Well, we passed through our last weekend of ministry in Chimal and are now preparing for continued travel. Here's a little summary of the weekend:

-- Saturday, we were picked up by Mardoqueo around 8:45, then stopped at the market for a couple things. Arriving at the house, Carmen made breakfast for us, and we visited a little. Then it was kitchen adventure time!

Shorr wanted to make Chocolate Zucchini Bread, so we started with that. Carmen looked on, helped, and asked questions about it, making notes so that she could make the bread again after we were gone. Just before we started baking it, company showed up! The pastor and his wife, along with Katharina, Kristen, and their host parents and baby came to take a look at the farm. Kristen and Katharina's hosts are getting a religious wedding (they already had a civil service)and are hosting it at the chicken farm where Mardoqueo works and lives. We visited with them, made them pina coladas (without alcohol), let them taste the bread, and played with the little girl. We also got to see an indigenous women hand weaving for a little while.

Back to the kitchen, we made lunch (Guatemalanized version of Chow Mein) and then most of the group went to a double wedding. Evidently our church is having a rash of people who want to have a religious ceremony, since they became Christians after getting married. I stayed back to rest and write an essay... yeah... you can give me a hard time about that. =)

The family arrived back from the wedding and we watched a movie... I can't remember the name... it was in English, with subtitles in Spanish which suited all of us quite well. You can learn new vocabulary that way. =) Then, Shorr taught the older guys, Josue and Luis, how to play Dutch Blitz while I whipped up a batch of chocolate chip cookies. Carmen looked on and took notes, and I asked her questions about different things in the kitchen. When I had about 2 dozen cookies baked, I let the group know that they were available for consumption... well, they disappeared quickly enough! It was a good thing I made a lot more cookies after that; by the rate at which they disappeared, I'd venture to guess that they were appreciated.

After the cookies were done, I joined in Dutch Blitz. We played and then visited until close to midnight. Man, I enjoy that family!

-- Sunday. Breakfast. Church. Ninos con Bendicion. Celebration. Baby shower. Guatemala City.

Going through this quickly: we ate breakfast, went to church, had some cool kids perform marimba and traditional dances for us, ate lunch with our host families and the kids at the church, went to a baby shower briefly, and went to Guatemala City for dinner.

To elaborate a little on some things: Ninos con Bendicion is a group from San Antonia Aguas Calientes. Through sponsorship and giving presentations on Guatemalan music and culture (marimba and dances), the kids raise money for their education and their families. We met the group at a viewpoint on the way to Quetzaltenango last weekend and Mardoqueo invited them to come and perform at the church.

For the celebration, we had a dish that is traditional from San Martin... a town near Chimal. We got to visit with our host families, the worship team, and the kids. And it was fun. =)

Baby shower: well, the baby hadn't been born, so we got to see what a pregant Guatemalan woman looks like. ~laughs~ Okay, it's not all that different. We listened to a sermonette by the pastor's wife on training children and discipline, played some games (I was voluntold to do a word scramble in Spanish... didn't manage that one), and then crept out one by one, as we had to leave the party early in order to beat the traffic to Guatemala City.

Guatemala City: we asked our host family at breakfast Sunday whether we could buy them dinner that night. Well, they agreed... and then asked if we wanted to go to Guatemala City for dinner! And so we agreed. We drove there, looked around at the old building and the massive central park, and then went to a brand new mall. As Mardoqueo told me, the mall is 2 years old, and was built for the really rich people in Guatemala. Huh, couldn't tell by looking. [/sarcasm] We wandered around a little, then went to the food court and ordered pizza. Yup, you bet. We went all the way to Guatemala City for pizza! It was good pizza though, if that's worth anything. =)

After dinner, we dropped off some leftover pizza for Luis who was working a 31 hour shift at the hospital. Then we dropped off Mardoqueo the younger, Josue, and Anna (their cousin) at their house. And so, back to Chimal to sleep and recover.

-- Monday. We ate breafast, then sat at the table visiting for another hour and a half. It was a lot of fun. I translated a lot though, which wears me out. =) Then, off to the seminary for debrief!

And so went the weekend. This is probably my last update until April. Looking ahead, here's what we're doing:

- Thursday we leave for Finca La Loma, where we will have a spiritual retreat.
- Sunday (the 14th) we take off for El Salvador, arriving in San Salvador sometime in the afternoon.
- Tuesday (the 16th) we leave San Salvador for our practicum location: Victoria Cabannas... it's near the border of Honduras.
- Friday (the 26th) we leave our ministry site for San Salvador.
- Sunday (the 28th) we leave San Salvador for Panajachel, Guatemala.
- Thursday (April 1st) we return from Panajachel to GBS.
- Sunday (April 4th, Easter Sunday) we return to Canada!

Please pray for us: health, wisdom, endurance, team unity, safety, and that God would use our ministry to reach people for His kingdom.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ministry Weekend #3

Well, we're closer to the next weekend than to the previous one, but there's still time to update you on what's been going on in my life.

Last weekend we drove to Quetzaltenango. The view on the way over and back was stunning. Hills, mountains, valleys, people, animals, trees, etc... there was beauty all around. We went a little out of our way to stop at Chichicastenango too, which was really cool. In Quetzaltenango we went to the place that a nephew of our host owns and is fixing up. The plan is for him to turn it into an antique-style restaurant, with a great view of Quetzaltenango. We also went to the central park and a museum right next to it, then visited the sister and brother in law of our hostess. We drove back to Chimal in time to catch the end of youth group.

Things went well over the weekend. We had some good visits with people and really enjoyed sharing in the church's ministry.

Right now I'm with the other interns, taking a study retreat. We have a little cabin on a hill, with a couple rooms, living room, and a really fun kitchen. There's one burner element that works (well, it heats to medium) and a microwave... and quite the eclectic mixture of cooking equipment. Yesterday we slow-cooked a roast and veggies on the single burner in a tea pot! =)

This evening we head back to GBS, resuming the life of staff meetings, team meetings, ministry, and other stuff. Next week we'll be taking a spiritual retreat, then traveling to El Salvador on the 14th. From then on, internet connectivity will be at a minimum.

Time passes quickly! We've been in Guatemala since January 16th, almost 7 weeks ago. A month from today we will be flying back to Canada, done with another trip to Central America and ready to see our friends on campus again.

As always, prayers are greatly appreciated. Prayers for health, protection from spiritual attack, wisdom, perseverance with homework, and good team relations would be great.

Any questions? Comments? Things you want to hear more about? Feel free to comment!