Archive for July, 2008

17th July
written by Michelle
I love these Girls.

Gerber, Me, Annie, Alyssa and Jordan- Our team at Proximos Pasos!
Gotta Love Guatemalan Buses

Una Buena Vista de Santa Maria de Jesus

Gringos v. Guatemaltecos…Clearly THEY won.

The girls hard at work in one of the classrooms

I know you are not supposed to have favoritesBUT this girl is adorable.

Guatemala 08- The whole group

16th July
written by Michelle

Sorry, for the lack of more timely updates, but this is the first time I have had adequate internet access. Although if I am honest, it has been quite nice to NOT have the convenience or better said, the distraction, of instant technology at my fingertips 24-hours a day. Life in Guatemala moves at a different pace- and I LOVE it! Time seems elastic here…we linger over meals, relationships, not tasks, are the priority, and “the schedule” or “the plan” for the day can change momentarily.

After spending 10 days working along side Guatemalans it is difficult to sum up my experiences into a concise blog entry. My best attempt is to provide a few snapshots of life here so you can see why I love this country and have nothing but respect, awe and admiration for the people here.

Snapshot #1 Holistic Education

Proximos Pasos, the school where 4 students and I worked every morning, is the epitome of holistic education. The 5 teachers there cared for the girls’ academic development, their emotional and social growth, their health and daily hygiene and their spiritual developmental. One day we handed out new toothbrushes and another day we washed, scrubbed, combed and picked out lice from the girl’s heads. Another day we taught PE class on this make-shift field overlooking the valley. Most days we helped teachers in the classroom or played with the girls at their break time. It is hard not fall in love with these 60 girls…not only are they kind and generous with each other, but they shower love and hugs on you daily! However, all of them live in conditions and homes where there is little money for food and education is not valued because they are needed to be at home to take care of other siblings. I was shocked and humbled when one of the teachers told me that me that many families cannot afford the monthly tuition of 25 quetzals (which is roughly $3.50—the price of a latte in the states!). It made me re-think how often I mindlessly buy a latte when I could be buying an education for beautiful little girl in Guatemala.

Snapshot #2 Complaining or The Lack of It

I think one of the most difficult parts of being a teacher in the US is the amount of complaining that teachers and students do (myself included). I cannot think of a day at work where I don’t hear another teacher complaining about a certain class, or a student whining about having too much homework, or myself venting to a friend about how much work I have to do. What surprised me most about being at Proximos Pasos is that I never, seriously, NEVER once heard one of the teachers or one of the girls complain! Now granted, I know they are not perfect, and I know don’t understand everything in Spanish, but I think I am pretty good at detecting complaining. It was truly remarkable to be at a school for an entire week and not hear one teacher or one of the students complain. Kinda of makes me want to rethink my own attitude about teaching. Why do I complain sometimes? Is from some sense of entitlement- like I expect things to be a certain way? Or is complaining some culturally appropriate way we have learned to express our frustration? Hmm…Worth thinking about? Why do Americans tend to complain so much?


Guatemalans tend to have the mentality of ours (nuestros), not mine (mios). Again, in the context of the school where I worked and because I am a teacher I was surprised how no one referred to things as mine, but more so as ours. When I think about my job…I describe things with the pronoun “my”— my desk, my classroom, my students, my paper, my computer, mine, mine, mine. It was so refreshing to see teachers desribe to our students, our markers, our supplies, our classrooms, our computer, etc, etc. There was this neat sense of community and togethernesses that seems hard to recreate sometimes (I don’t think togtherness is really a word, but you get my point :) I want my life to have more of a sense of ours, not just mine. When Jesus teaches about loving your neighbor as yourself I think it has something to do with this idea or togetherness. I have often struggled with the idea of how do you really love your neighbor as yourself? I mean practically how do you do that? I think it may start with seeing things, people, spaces and ideas as ours, not mine.

Snapshot #4 High School Students Get it

One of the best parts of this trip was working with and leading the high school students from my church. For many of them this was their first experience in another country and certainly their first experince working with people in a different lnaguge and culture. As expected with that came their honest questions, raw observations, and of course, hilarious moments of pure laughter. I love high school students because they are willing to take risks and don’t have too many preconceived notions.

These were some of the words that they came up with when asked to summarize their experience in a single word:
overwhelming. joyful. mind-blowing. inspiring.
shocking. thankful. fun. encouraging. meaningful
eye-opening. humbling. interesting.

And if I had to add my own words to summarize my experience so far I would say:
refreshing. joyful. challenging. fulfilling.

Guatemala is always such a rich experience for me. I am not even sure if I can quite capture it in words, but I know that I feel so fulfilled here. When I am in Guatemala I live in the moment. I get to enjoy and savor each day, each conversation, and each experience. I love using my Spanish and learning from the people here. I know God works in different ways in people’s lives, but it is such a privilege to be in a place where I sense His presence each and everyday in my life and the lives around me.

***I haven’t been able to upload pictures yet….but as soon as I can I’ll put some one here***

P.S. The rest of my group flew home yesterday. I spent the day in Antigua and I am taking a bus to Xela in a few hours and will spend the rest of my time there. Adios!

5th July
written by Michelle

It seems like a bit of contradiction to have fireworks going off at one edge of the city in celebration of the 4th, while a FIRE rages uncontrollably at the other end of the city…go figure?

Some of you may have heard on the news or read in the paper about the gap fire. It started on Tuesday and has since burned more than 8,357 acres and its only 24% contained! And what makes it so threatening is that it’s burning in the foothills of Santa Barbara and Goleta, close to homes and neighborhoods. Already over 1,600 homes have been evacuated. Thankfully, the area where I live is not threatened, but it has left an eerie smoke and haze covering the sky. Here are a few pictures from the past 3 days in Santa Barbara.

All that to say I am still leaving in a few hours for Guatemala. A lot of the students who are going on the trip live in north Goleta and Santa Barbara. They have already had to evacuate their homes and pack up their belongings from home AND their bag for Guatemala. You can imagine how hard it is to leave the country not knowing whether your home will be safe.

If you are a person of prayer, please pray that the fire would be contained and that homes would not be damaged. Pray for safety as we travel and energy as we get settled in Guatemala tomorrow morning (we have a red-eye flight, leaving LAX at 1:30am)

Thanks for your continued support and prayers!