May 31, 2014

I'd Like to Thank Guatemala...

Oh, Guatemala. 

How I wish I hated you. How I wish you were some toxic, horrible thing that would make it easy to say goodbye. 

But you aren't.

You are beautiful. You have taught us so much. You have opened our eyes to what life is like outside of what we grew up knowing. And you have been good to us.

So consider this our small tribute to you, our teeny tiny “thank you” for everything you have been to us, and for the mark you have forever placed on our hearts after three short years. 

Consider this the start of our goodbye, the start of our transition back.

I’d like to thank you, Guatemala, for each of the following things we have grown to love about you. I organized them by the ABC's, because just as much as I love you, I love elementary school.

Atitlan. Our favorite getaway. Warm weather and a great view.

Breakfast. By far your best meal. Eggs, beans, plantains, fruit, tortillas, bread, orange juice, and coffee. YUM.

Colors. Everywhere: Buildings, tapestries, clothing, vegetables, flowers. Guatemala, you make even a concrete jungle look beautiful.

"Don." Spanish for “gift” and a term of endearment used for the men and women who work hard to keep our school clean. But they were never just the janitors. They were our friends, educating us on Guatemalan culture, teaching us new Spanish lingo, and making us feel welcome in their country.

Earthquakes. Although each time a car passed our house it felt like a small earthquake, the real ones were always a great reminder of how much we are not in control of our lives, nor of this Earth. And what teacher could forget experiencing a 7.4 earthquake with a class full of first graders?

Fútbol. Guatemala, is it possible that you could have actually taught me to be able to watch the sport of soccer for ninety whole minutes…and enjoy it? And who knew that outside of the United States, people don’t really care about football, basketball, or baseball?

Gringos. We are white and we are tall. Thank you, Guatemala, for giving us the slightest smidge of what it feels like to be a minority.

Hospitality. Your every response to our “thank you” was “in order to serve you.” Your people always went the extra mile to make us feel comfortable. And Guatemala, thank you for introducing us to these hospitable people right here: our friends, our Spanish teacher, our coworkers, our babysitters, our assistants in life here, our family away from family. We love them more than words can express.

Inter-American School. Not only was IAS my first job (and Collin's second), it has been our passion for the past three years. IAS is so unique and special: the students who showed us unconditional love, the coworkers who became our closest friends, the administration who went above and beyond their call of duty to take care of us when we were sick and pregnant. All of them have made us better people.

Jesus. I am amazed at how many public buses claim that “Christ is their guide” or "The Lord is my Shepherd." He is on bumper stickers and in people’s common language. And He is the one who brought us here in the first place.

Kids. They aren't a parasite that ruin people’s freedom, but are life’s greatest joy and blessing. (A lesson I needed to learn.) In every “hello,” it was a hundred questions about Jocelyn. In every “goodbye,” it was, “take care of your baby!” I am grateful to have had our baby in such a culture.

Laid back. Guatemala, you have taught me that time is precious in a different way – that it’s not healthy to always rush through life, through people, through conversations to get to the next "thing."

Music. You have THE BEST taste in music. I love your 90’s throwback playlists that you let your customers jam to in every restaurant. And we will forever have a crush on Enrique Iglesias.

Noise. Guatemala, sometimes you are just plain noisy. Street dogs, music, loudspeakers, car horns, fireworks, church bells, and our neighbor who played the same three electric guitar chords over and over and over. Where you lack in certain areas of development you make up for in genuine celebration.

Outages. Whether scheduled or a surprise, there was nothing like a power outage to make us stop the work we were doing or the show we were watching to have some genuine conversation.

Personal Space and Produce. One of which you lack, the other of which you have in abundance.

Quetzals. Your mysterious national bird we never saw.  And the currency that transformed from monopoly money to actually mean something to us.

Rainy Season. While walking through the rain got very old, as did the flooding, falling asleep to the rain underneath our tin roof never did.

Spanish. My first clue that we wouldn’t be here forever, as my love for Spanish wilted rather quickly. But thank you, Julieta, for your patience in teaching us! And I am sorry that I said “I baked the cake from a boxer!” instead of “a box” in front of your whole family.

Transportation. I love that you have taught us that it’s okay to walk twenty minutes to get somewhere. I love that you offered one of the cheapest, convenient, and possibly most exhilaratingly dangerous modes of public transportation to get around in. 

Ugly. Guatemala, some things about you are so ugly. The poverty, the injustice, the fact that there are children who have to shine shoes and juggle in front of cars at stoplights instead of going to school to learn how to read. Thank you for opening our eyes and for teaching us that it’s not okay to ignore this kind of ugly.

Volcanoes. Guatemala, you are also so beautiful. The fact that seeing a volcano became an everyday, normal occurrence is pretty amazing. And it was fantastic to hike volcanoes on three different occasions.

Weather. You are the “land of eternal spring” for a reason. Your weather is perfect: cool at night and warm in the afternoons. And how is it that almost every Saturday morning was sunny?

Xocomil. Hot weather. Dangerous water slides. Retreats with our IAS friends.

Years. Three years went by way too fast. But I pray that these three years will shape the rest of our lives, in both the lifestyle we choose to live and in how we pursue community with those around us.

Zone 1. Our neighborhood. Our home.

Thank you, Guatemala. For all of this and more. For all of the other people, places, and things not listed here. It hurts to leave you, but we are grateful for the time that we had with you.

Thank you, family and friends in the U.S., for all of your support and prayers for us on this amazing journey. Getting to see you soon takes away some of the sting.

And most importantly, thank you, our gracious heavenly Father, for leading us here in the first place. We trust you to continue to lead our lives as we go out from here.

The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

Grace and Peace,