Thursday, March 24, 2005

Around the World in 5 Days

well, i feel like i've been gone from antigua for quite a while now. saturday i was gone all day on a trek up the side of a 12,000 ft. volcano, and then at 4:00am monday morning i left town with my host family for a three-day vacation. first, the volcano...
volcán de agua stands to the south of antigua, a looming reminder of the several times this town has been ravaged by earthquakes and eruptions. and it is beautiful. unlike volcán de pacaya, agua is not currently active. it has been dormant for a long time, and climbing it i found little evidence that this mountain was really a volcano at all. the terrain at the bottom of the mountain is almost jungle-like, with dense trees and brush. along the way you see fields where the people are growing corn and such. and higher up are more trees, lots of grass, and lots of rocks, but not the typical volcanic rocks full of holes, just regular rocks. there was no evidence of volcanic activity that i could see... that is, until we reached the crater. this part of agua was much different than pacaya as well. pacaya, though active, has a fairly small crater - smaller than i expected anyway. and in pacaya's crater there are two spouts that spew gases, molten rocks, and the occasional lava. at the top of volcán de agua, however, is a HUGE crater. the rim of the crater reaches some 200 feet up forming a wall on 3 sides of the massive sunken hole that once was the portal between this world and the mysteries of the fiery depths. but now when one reaches the top of volcán de agua, one finds no lava or sulfurous gases. instead, you find a small cottage for campers and a soccer field, complete with two goals. and on top of the rim are several large radio antennas and housing for the maintenance people who service the antennas. it was really cloudy all day long, so our view was limited, but nonetheless incredible. i made the climb with 5 of my new friends - rafael, lauri, taleese, laura, and bjorn. our guide was an older man from santa maria de jesus, the town at the the bottom of agua. it took us 5 hours to summit, and 3:45 to descend - so about 9 hours of hiking in total. it was a lot of fun and a good challenge, too. i'm glad i got to do it, but i think i may have now had my fill of volcano-climbing for a while.

and now the trip with the family... i don't know if i have time to tell all about it right now, but it was three very relaxing days in one of the most beautiful places i've ever been. this was a trip for most of the extended family, so there were 16 of us, including tj and myself. (tj is my korean housemate and fellow student) so there were 16 of us crammed into a 15-passenger van, which wouldn't have been that crowded considering most guatemaltecos are not large people. but we had to remove the back seat in order to have room for all our stuff, so there were 16 of us crammed into 4 rows of a 15-passenger van... for a 7-hour drive. it sounds worse than it actually was. nobody was complaining really, even though it was pretty hot. and the time passed quickly. around noon we reached a small town where we stopped to buy live fish that we ate for dinner that night. we actually netted the fish out of a kiddie pool beside the tank where they were raised. then, from that town, we left the van and boarded a boat for a 30-minute ride across lake izabal to the house where we stayed for the 3 days. lake izabal is pretty incredible. it is a large fresh-water lake that feeds into rio dulce, which feeds into the caribbean sea on the north-east coast of guatemala. our house was right on the beach, and we spent hours just lounging around on the deck and playing in the water. the water in lake izabal is fairly clear and the perfect temperature. and i could walk out about 200 yards and still have my head above the water. and like i said, it is fresh water, so you don't have that salty grime on your body when you get out of the water.
on tuesday we took a two-hour boat ride all the way across the lake, out rio dulce, to the caribbean sea, where we visited the town of livingston, home to the garifuna people... i felt like i was in jamaica or some other caribbean island. and man was it hot! we also stopped at el castillo de san felipe, a fortress built by the spanish in 1595 to protect trade ships from the pirates that pillaged the area so often. the whole day we were surrounded by natural beauty. on the banks of rio dulce, jungle-covered cliffs rise 100 or more feet from the water's edge. it was a pretty incredible 3 days. we stayed at the house until 2:30 wednesday afternoon, and didn't get home until 11:30 last night. it was very relaxing, but i came back pretty exhausted. but i have a 3-day weekend to catch up on my homework and to rest.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

¿cómo se dice "busy"?

so i haven't posted in a while... some of you may have been concerned about me, but have no worries. i haven't written because things have been so busy here. that's really a bit ironic, i think, seeing as how life here moves so much slower than at home, but nevertheless the days are full... even if i do find the time to take an hour-long nap every now and then.
last weekend i climbed a volcano - volcán de pacaya. it is a small (2500 meters) but active volcano to the south of guatemala city. it was about a two hour hike up. not too bad, but challenging enough for a morning. this weekend, however, i am going to climb volcán de agua, the big volcano south of antigua. agua is not active (or as my brother kevin pointed out, it has just been dormant for a while... it is still, like all volcanos, alive and well deep down inside). so it isn't active, but it is much larger than pacaya (approx. 3500m i think), and will take an estimated 5 hours to summit, and an additional 2 to descend. i may be sore next week, but it will be worth the adventure.
i've been really blessed in my time here to find groups of christians all around me. the other night i literally walked in on an english bible study, and they welcomed me to the group. and in my school, on tuesday mornings during our break there is an english bible study. i actually got to share a passage and sort of lead the discussion yesterday. and there is an english worship service on thursday nights that i have gone to twice. the body of Christ is an amazing thing, and it is a blessing to go to foreign parts of the world and find people who take you in as family. and it's not true only of those who speak english. i have visited 2 spanish-speaking churches where i felt just as welcomed and just as loved. the love of God knows no language boundaries.
last week i also took a test to graduate from grado A to grado B in my school. i have to say, grado B is a lot harder than A. there are lots more verbs with lots more exceptions. but this too shall pass.
oh, and one last thing. last night i was going to meet some friends to go to a movie in a restaurant, so i told thelma that i didn't need much food for dinner, just some bread and tea. when i came down for dinner, she set a plate in front of me and on the plate was the best surprise in my time here.... cheesetoast! and to top it off, she sat down beside me and began breaking green beans. it almost felt like home. :-)

Monday, March 07, 2005

touchy feely

Jesus was a touchy person. in his most incidental interactions, he was touchy. and it was intentional. when the woman with bleeding touched him, he knew it. when he met the lepers, he touched them. when he healed people, often he touched them, particularly when their ailment had some sort of social stigma attached to it.

i didn't touch the guy outside of burger kind. i dropped some change in his hand, wished God's blessings upon him, and walked away. but i didn't touch him.

i hung out with john and maki this weekend. john and i went to the evangelical church - centroamericana. we had communion and even went to bible class. then sunday night we went to see the movie "motorcycle diaries." it's in spanish with english subtitles (note: there is much foul language in the movie) it's based on a true story. fuser, the main character, was a touchy guy of great compassion. he refused to ignore the injustice he saw around him. he touched people that noone else would touch.
but fuser had the wrong goal. he missed the big picture. life, justice, is not found in political revolution. life and light and justice and love are found in Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God.

i want to be a touchy person. i want to be aware of injustice around me. i want to be filled with compassion. and i want to always have my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and perfecter of my faith.

next time i will touch the guy outside of burger king.

what is that smell?

why, when i wear my new tennis shoes, do my feet smell like horse manure at the end of the day?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

David and Bathsheba?

last night was really cool. as i sat at the kitchen table with thelma, her cousin edgar, her sister virginia and virginia's husband adolfo, the conversation turned to my english-spanish bible. since they are all catholic, my bible was a bit different than theirs... mine is missing a few books. anyway, adolfo and edgar were taking turns looking at my bible, when adolfo asked me if i had read the story of david and bathsheba. "sì" but apparently not everyone else was familiar with this story. now, i couldn't understand everything adolfo said, but because i know the story i was able to follow pretty well as he began to tell his family the story of david and bathsheba. and boy did he tell it! no detail was too small. he told of david seeing bathsheba and inquiring "who is that woman?" he told of the adultery. he told of bathsheba's discovery of the pregnancy. he told of david's scheme to bring uriah the hittite, bathsheba's husband, back from battle to disguise the pregnancy as legitimate. he told of uriah's great integrity. he told of the murder. he told of the report. he told of bathsheba moving into the palace. he told of the visit from nathan the prophet. adolfo told nathan's story of the poor man and his lamb, and of david's anger, and of nathan's message - "David, you are that man!" but he didn't stop there. he went on to tell of the punishment from God, david's time of prayer and mourning, and the death of the baby. and then he revealed the identity of the next child born to david and bathsheba - the king-to-be, wise solomon himself. and then, to finish the story, adolfo told how solomon was the son of david through whom the lineage of Jesus Christ would pass.
and through this whole story, the others were all captivated. at the "you are the man" line, they all were shocked. at the revelation of the lineage of Christ, they marveled.
it touched my heart to see such eager interest in God's word, and to know that the man sitting next to me knew the word of God so well. the whole earth is full of his unfailing love.
if you don't know the story of david and bathsheba, check it out in 2 Samuel 11-12.
i'd love to be reminded of other great stories from the bible. i love hearing them over and over. so what's your favorite?
please keep praying for me. things here are going well and getting better, but i still covet your prayers. thanks.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Bienvenidos a Guatemala

i'll come up with more catchy titles later, but for now, welcome to guatemala. i survived my first week of class, and though i still feel, like a friend said, deaf and mute, i'm learning and it will only get better. i have made several observations this week that i wanted to share, but now that i'm sitting at the computer all of my previous observations evade me.....
my favorite food so far: the tacos that Thelma made on monday night... wow! none of the food has been bad so far. i mean, cream of wheat is edible. but some of it has been really good. so you are probably thinking "don't they just eat beans and rice there?" the answer is a resounding no. today for lunch, we had grilled chicken, mashed potatoes, and fresh avacado. mmmmm.
sometimes, a slightly inebriated individual is a good person to practice spanish with. especially if the inebriated person in question also speaks english. thelma's cousin, edgar, who lives in rhode island, came over the other night. we all sat around the table, them talking, me trying to listen - usually in vain. but the conversation eventually turned towards me, and they asked me some questions. edgar, who had been drinking a little bit of whiskey throughout the evening, began to ask me question in english about my religion. he, of course, is catholic. anyway, we talked for quite a while, some in english, some in spanish, about lots of things and the conversation kept coming back to Jesus. edgar said "i like my drink, but i follow Jesus Christ, and i live my life for him." as wierd as it may sound, edgar was very encouraging to me, and i probably talked more in spanish that evening than i have up to this point.
i'm sure there is much more i could tell you about. but that is good for now. please pray for me as i continue this adventure. it gets kind of lonely, and it's definitely not easy. but i'm glad i'm here.

You only thought it was the End of an Era

For all of those who have been distressed over the past week about the ending of an era with Kent's phone number changing - fret no more. Cingular came through in the clutch, and secured Kent's subscription to their services until at least October of this year. So the Abilene phone number lives on! Of course, Kent's phone will be turned off until the end of May, so he won't be receiving your many phone calls. But you may still post here or email him. Thank you for your patronage. This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Número dos

man, this language thing is slow going. i mean, i guess i've learned a lot for only having been here three days, but i want to be able to speak, and all i can do is piece together a couple of uncongugated words (and that at great effort). yesterday alone Julio gave me like 75 vocabulary words to learn. today there were not quite that many, but we got into present tense verbs, so there is a lot more to learn with verbs than with nouns and adjectives.

all that to say, i'm chugging along, but it's hard, and so far there has been little reward to serve as motivation. really, for me, the hardest part is speaking. my mind doesn't work that fast when it comes to languge. if i can look at it, and read it, then i can figure out what it says. but to just hear it, or think it, and have it come out of my mouth at a normal speed is muy defícil.

it is also kind of lonely here. there are a lot of people, but i don't know them, and they don't know me. i've met a couple of the students at my school, and there is an english bible study tomorrow night that i will go to. but it's still lonely right now. yo estoy un poco nostálgico.

but it is still true.... the whole earth is full of his unfailing love. even if i don't understand it when it is spoken in spanish.