Archive for December, 2010

14th December
written by Michelle

I have a theory that there are two types of people in our world: people who thrive on change, and people who well, don’t. I am the latter. Change creates stress for me. Even seemingly good or exciting changes still creates this inner need to obsessively label boxes, organize and re-arrange cupboards and write seemingly unimportant things on post-its. This is how I cope with change. Or sometimes I just cry.

I think some people’s tears are hardwired to their anger or their empathy. However, mine are hardwired to change. Dear friends (and complete strangers) take note: I cry when there is change. And this past week there have been more than a few tears shed. I have been packing up my current apartment, so I can move into my new place in January. {insert: change} I’ve been trying to finish up work proposals and lessons here, before the new school year starts. {insert: more change} And at the same time I’m preparing to come home to visit. Two words that still feel like they don’t belong in the same sentence “home” and “visit.” {insert: Big change}


In·be·tween·ness: \in- bi-ˈtwēn\ n. is defined as the feeling or state of being pulled between two often-contrary things. (definition courteous of me) In the past 6 months I’ve had a lot of in-betweenness in my life. Sometimes I feel like I am swinging back and forth between two worlds. Two cultures. Two languages. Two different currencies. Two different ways of being. My cell phone language changes daily between English and Spanish, depending on who I am texting. My mind constantly converts dollars to quetzals and quetzals to dollars, depending on what I am purchasing. And sometimes my heart feels this pull between the here and there. Especially now as I head back to California, I feel the in-betweenness.

Here I am

I’m still figuring out this whole cross-cultural living thing. I am often reminded that I am not from here (Guatemala that is.) I will always be a little taller, a little whiter and little bit different. There are jokes I don’t get, and traditions and customs that I still don’t understand. But at the same time this is where I live right now and I am grateful and content. This feels like home, but now I am heading back to my other home. Back to California, where my family and sweet friends await me. Where I can smell the ocean and lie on the Mission lawn and consume all the wonderful conveniences that Trader Joe’s has to offer.

So I continue to swing. Back and forth, back and forth. In-between Guatemala and California. In between Spanish and English. In between where I am from and where I am going. Estoy aqui. So, I am here, somewhere in-between.

9th December
written by Michelle

I am by no means the poster-child for simplicity. I like new shoes and expensive shampoo and keeping plastic baggies full of necessities in my car for that just in case moment.  If anything I would be a better representative for the Boy Scouts of America. Their motto: Always be prepared.

Is there such a thing?

I tend to believe in the law of “extra.” I like to have “extra” in my cupboard just in case I need something. Inside my purse alone I am prepared for a medical or natural disaster with “extra” band-aids, Advil, floss, a pocket knife and chapstick. I tend to anticipate what I might need and then make sure I have it. (and probably extra of it, too). Now, there is nothing wrong with being prepared, except when you (like me) may plan, prepare and purchase in order to be too prepared.

Yes, I think there is a something to be said about being too prepared. If I am honest, my effort to be prepared often stems from my lack of trust that someone or something else may actually provide for me. I think the temptation to hoard and buy more than we need is often a result of fear. What happens if I don’t have_____? or What will I do if I run out of ______? Sometimes I wonder if having one more or buying a little extra leads to a false sense of security. How often does being “prepared” correlate to feeling like somehow we’re in control?


Over the past 6 months many things in my life have started to change, and not because I made some valiant effort to reshape my spending or my lifestyle. No, more so because we are creatures who learn to adapt. And I am learning how to adapt to this new place; a place that is not defined as much by preparing and planning for tomorrow, but rather is more focused on today.

It’s helped me re-think about what it means to live for today? Things take longer here. I buy bread at the local bakery for one day or maybe two. I buy eggs when I need them from la tienda on the corner. And it changes the way you shop at the grocery store when you have to carry home whatever you buy. The obvious result: I buy less. Running errands has a new meaning when you don’t have a car to aid you in the speed and efficiency that correlates with the word “running.” So, I walk for my errands. Somehow the phrase “walking errands” does not exactly have the same ring. This is not to say walking is better than driving. In fact sometimes I really wish I had a car, but I don’t. And the truth is it has been good for me. It’s been a way to slow down, do less and it has made me realize what life is like for the 91% of people in our world who don’t own a car. (for a much more inspiring description of living car free, check out my friend Kelly’s recent post)

He Said What?

When Jesus tells his disciples, Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, I think he actually means it.

do. not. worry. about. tomorrow.


Maybe implied in that is also, “Do not hoard.  Do not over prepare. Do not buy one more just in case. Do not believe the falsehood that says you can be in control.” Maybe Jesus’ words are a reminder to his disciples (and to us) that there is something beautiful, albeit difficult about saying, ok. I’m going to trust you to provide. I’m going to live with less, so I can experience more.

3rd December
written by Michelle

Thanksgiving in Guatemala isn’t quite the same. I missed turkey and my mom’s homemade gravy and stuffing. I missed seeing friends and family gather around the table to share a meal where we eat too much and then somehow still look forward to leftovers the next day.

This Thanksgiving was different. But I am learning that sometimes in the different there is a lot to be thankful for.

I am thankful that what I once viewed as necessities, are now seen as privileges. I am thankful for running water that easily streams from my faucet with a turn of a knob. I am thankful for the men who drive the camionetas each day. I am thankful for the people who invented skype and that my mom still sends me care packages with dark chocolate. I am thankful for a hand to hold.

I am thankful for change, even when it may feel hard. I am thankful for the beauty of living with less and going slowly. I am thankful for the patient women who sell me vegetables in the market. I am thankful that three of my best friends flew down here just to spend 5 wonderful days together. I am thankful for surprises. And that some things don’t always go how I expected. I am thankful for parks to sit in and books to read and smoothies to drink. I am thankful that I am (slowly) learning more and more Spanish.

I am thankful that I sometimes feel slightly uncomfortable. And that I have to remember to ask for help. I am thankful that I have a new understanding of what it means to feel like a foreigner and not quite fit.  I am thankful for a wonderful boyfriend who writes me sweet notes on napkins, does the dishes and helps me be a better person. I am thankful for my health. And that I have legs that allow me to walk along these cobblestone streets.

I am thankful that I am learning the humble task of how to depend on God and not on my own capabilities. And I am thankful for tortilla soup on Thanksgiving with two of my favorite people.

What have you been thankful for?
Recipe found here (of course with some of my own adaptations)

(this was supposed to post the day after Thanksgiving. oops. Well, here’s to keeping the Thanksgiving spirit alive)

“Thou who has given so much to me, give one thing more: a grateful heart.” -George Herbert.