Where Have We Been?

Collin and I moved to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala in August 2011. We lived there for three years to teach and work for a small English-immersion school.

The school where Collin and I worked is called Inter-American School. 

It is an English immersion school that teachers PreK through 12th grade. Current enrollment is roughly 180 students. 

Collin taught P.E. to Pre-K through High School, as well as Middle School science. I taught first grade for two years, and then worked part time as the Development and Accreditation Coordinator for our school. This job included fund raising, public relations, and the accreditation process we are currently working through at IAS.

We loved working there. It is a fantastic school filled with wonderful students, hardworking teachers, and a great administration. If you would like to learn more about IAS, you can watch the video at this link here: http://vimeo.com/29278784, or check out our school's website here: http://ias-xela.org/

Quetzaltenango (which is called "Xela" for short, pronounced "shayla") is the second largest city in Guatemala, with a population of 225,000, depending on where you draw the city lines.

It is beautifully tucked in a range of mountains, with a few volcanoes (Santa Maria and Santiaguito) nearby.

Xela is a modern city with most North American comforts we desire, including almost every type of fast food restaurant, a movie theater, and a Walmart. The only things we really missed were Olive Garden, good peanut butter, and Dove chocolate.

We got around town by walking or by using public transportation. And by "public transportation" I mean very old 15 passenger vans (called "micro buses") and retired school buses (called a "chicken bus") that somehow made the trek from the United States through Mexico to Guatemala. I believe our record for filling a micro bus is 28 people. (We liked to count when we were in a little van so full that people were sitting on top of us and others were hanging out the doors and windows.)

Although Xela is modern in many ways, many of the buildings have an old colonial look. Most windows and doors are gated, but many have beautiful plants and flowers hanging from them too.

We had two seasons of weather there. One is rainy season, where it rains daily from about 4-8pm. The temperature during rainy season is usually warm, around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The other is dry season, where it rarely rains, and we have cold nights and mornings (about 20 degrees), and hot afternoons (about 80 degrees).

The culture there is unique to what we grew up knowing. One thing that sticks out is a laid-back attitude towards time. When someone determines a time to meet, that usually means the time that person begins getting ready or leaves their home. A person is never late unless they completely missed the party.

Another thing we noticed, which we truly loved, is the hospitality that people show. It is a polite culture, where women always greet with a kiss on the cheek, and men with a kiss or a hand shake. It is expected to greet and say goodbye to everyone in the room you are in. Guatemalans always go the extra mile. They take delight in knowing that you are enjoying your time, that you are well fed, and that you feel comfortable.

Guatemala is a very religious country. Both Catholic and Evangelical churches are prevalent here. Just like the towns we grew up in, there are churches on almost every corner.

Guatemala has its faults (including interesting politics, a terrible divide between rich and poor, a bad education system, and a recent history of civil war.) But the people of Guatemala are beautiful and strong and resilient.

We thoroughly enjoyed working and living there, as we were pushed outside of our comfort zone and stretched to think in ways we hadn't yet learned in the US. We pray that our short time in Guatemala will forever impact our lifestyle and worldview.