Posts Tagged ‘neighbors’

25th March
written by Michelle

I was skyping with a friend last week and sharing how I have had to get used to friends coming and going. Maybe it’s part of living in a tourist town where most most people come from somewhere else and usually use the phrase “going home” in reference to place other than here. Often upon meeting someone new the first question is 1) where are you from? followed by 2) how long have you been here? and sometime before the conversation is over you ask the infamous 3) and how long are you here for?

I spent my first few years living abroad trying to re-create my closest group of friends from the states. I wanted to have a Jen, Ashley and Kirsten here.  I wanted a running friend like Chelsea and a roommate like Maggie here in Guatemala. I wanted to have a mentor like June here. And I thought I could instantly be as close to my husband’s sisters as I am to mine. But I learned that you can’t re-create friends identical to ones you left. You can only make new ones and be committed to maintain the old ones.

I became immediately disappointed upon meeting someone when they casually announced, oh I’m here for 6 months or we’ll be here for a year.

That’s it? I thought. I am looking for lifetime friends and you can only give me 6 months.

It’s easy to build walls, complain and detach when you know someone is only going to be around for 6 months. I realized pretty quickly into our marriage that it was not fair to expect Gerber to be my only friend. He’s a wonderful husband and before we started dating we were friends first and I’d like to believe we’ll remain friends, but he cannot replace girlfriends. I’ve written about the importance of female friends in my life before and it’s a theme I come back to often, because I think learning how to make, keep and grow within friendships is essential.

There’s been lots of great posts about friendships popping up around the internet, too. My two favorites were Lesly Miller’s about the value of internet friendship and Shauna Niequist’s post about moving to be closer to friends. Both are worth a read and make for a great discussion. And now I am adding my thoughts about the importance of friendships for certain seasons.

I am learning that there are perhaps a few lifetime friends- maybe your high school best friend or your college girl friends- friends that you remain committed to no. matter. what. And those friends are worth keeping, forever. Some people are lucky enough to live next to their lifetime friends, but I’m guessing most of us stay in touch via emails and random text messages and plane flights and planned weekend getaways.

However, I also am learning to see the value in friendships for seasons. There may be seasons where you’re close to your co-workers, or the women in your bible study or your after-work running group. Some of these friendships may become lifetime friends, but some may simply be friends for a season. And I think that’s ok. I think we need friends who are in our life, like next door or around the corner. Friends who can be physically present to bring a meal over, or let you borrow maternity clothes or stop by the hospital to hold your newest little one. These are things that even your lifetime friends cannot do when separated by state lines and country codes.

This season I have been ever thankful for friends here. New friends, some who are leaving, and some who are staying. But friends who understand the ins and outs of life as a gringa in Guatemala, friends who get cross-cultural marriage, and friends who have had babies here and who can share their stories and advice and tips on where to get breast pumps or bouncers or cloth diapers when Target doesn’t exist. I am grateful for friends to exercise with and carpool with and share this season of life with. Most of us all come from somewhere else and have best friends who live in other places, but I think we recognize the richness to accepting friends for seasons.

Do you have friends in your life who have been friends for certain seasons? How do you remain close to and committed to your lifetime friends?


19th July
written by Michelle


I saw this posted on facebook last week and it caught my attention. I always talk about wanting to have community and get to know my neighbors but sometimes I don’t really know how or don’t make the time to do so.  Sound familiar?

I sometimes use language and culture differences as an excusemost Guatemalans don’t just invite someone over for dinner or have organized potlucks. (and dinner and potlucks are what I know how to do) People are friendly, but very private. But this is where we call home. We own a home and live in a neighborhood and one day hope to raise a family here. Our neighborhood is diverse- a lot of families with kids and retired people and working people. Mostly all Guatemalans, but Guatemalans who have all moved here from other parts of Guatemala.

So I’ve been thinking and praying: What are ways to connect with our community here? Our neighbors? Gerber and I both work and have responsibilities teaching, training and helping in other communities, but I wonder how can we be involved here?

Kids seem like an easy place to start, because we have lots of neighborhood kids that run around and occasionally knock on our door asking if we can come out to play. (not sure what it means when our closest neighborhood friends here are under the age of 7 : ) I have visions of having a community library because there are so few in all of Guatemala and we live about a block from the public school and central park. There is a dirt soccer field by our house and I sometimes imagine groups of kids playing soccer and having relay games. Or maybe a community garden. I think about practical ways to bring people together- a community clean-up day to pick up trash that litters the sides of the road or an Art camp for kids with their work displayed somewhere in town.

We live in a community that is 5 km from Antigua and has some of the nicest homes in the area, but the majority of the people live in simple, cement block homes with plastic lamina roofs. It’s easy to hide behind walls and gates, but I think something important happens when we learn to meet somewhere in the middle. In parks and front yards and soccer fields. We may realize that community happens when we acknowledge that we actually need each other.

In fact I believe everyone’s life becomes a little richer when you start by getting to know your neighbors.

So, hold me accountable. And if you’re a person of prayer start praying that we could form a community here in our neighborhood.


How do you build community? Do you know your neighbors?


P.S. A few weeks we did go to a HUGE community event- la feria! (the town fair) Every Guatemala town has a fair on their anniversary of being founded. So June 28th-July 1st is our towns’ celebration. The cathedral in the center of town dates back to 1541- and was rebuilt in 1672! Sometimes I forget that I am living in a town that is older than most of the buildings and cities in the US. For 5 days every year the whole central park and surrounding streets are filled with street vendors, video games, foosball, nightly music and amusement park rides that are assembled out of the back of pick-up trucks! I know, I know…try not to be too jealous.

from top-L: the above mentioned assessment park rides, taco stand Guate style, pizza America style and the church built in 1672

somehow, I always think I have a chance…but I lose everything single time we play.


20th January
written by Michelle

When I got my first car in high school, (and by “got” I mean, I got my dad’s used, 1988 white Volvo station wagon) I also got a tire gauge. It’s like the two went hand-in-hand; some rite of passage for an over-excited new driver. You get your license. Get a car. Oh, and then get a tire gauge? go figure. But I assume my dad wanted me to be a prepared and competent driver, so like a dutiful daughter I have kept that little tire gauge in my glove department ever since.

Last night, trying to be the responsible car owner that my dad taught me to be, I noticed one of my tires looked a little low. I pulled into the gas station on the corner of San Andres and Carrillo and pulled out my nifty tire gauge. And I must admit that I felt quite proud of myself and as I unscrewed each of the valves and checked the pressure for each tire. Sure enough, my front tire was low. It read 20 psi and it was supposed to be at 30 psi.

I looked at the air pump standing before me and thought, well, this shouldn’t be that hard, right?

Little did I know.

I spent the next 20 minutes feeding quarters to the machine, screwing the pump onto my car, attempting to fill the tire with air, only to check the psi and notice it was going to down! My now not so nifty tire gauge read 15 psi. What the heck? How is my tire pressure going down? I paced back and forth. I must be doing something wrong.

At this point I was frustrated. This was supposed to be easy. I mean in all seriousness, I wasn’t changing a flat tire or anything; no, I was just filling up my tires with air! I stood there turning over every possible solution of what I was doing incorrect, but I couldn’t figure it out. My tire was now flatter than when I started and I now I couldn’t drive home on it. I conceded to the fact that I needed someones help. I needed someone to just tell me what I was doing wrong or better yet, show me how to fix it.

So, who do I call when I have a car/life/home/problem-to-be-fixed question? My dad.

He didn’t answer.

Second best is my brother, but he didn’t answer.

I called one of my friend’s husbands who lives down the street, but he didn’t answer.

I even called one of my former students who is a mechanic, but he didn’t answer!

What is it with men not answering their cell phones on a Monday night? All I needed was someone, anyone, to help me fill up my tires. I know it sounds pathetic and albeit, I am slightly embarrassed, but I really just wanted a guy to come fix it. sorry, ladies, no offense to those who are much more car competent than I.

I was now annoyed as I frantically started scrolling through my contacts. Who else can I call?

Just then two latino men climbed out of their white pick-up truck, probably ending a tiresome day of gardening and tending to people’s yards- (mind you, yards that may have been three times bigger than their own small apartment.)

In a thick Spanish accent the older man looked at my car and asked, “Que paso?”

With an empathetic head nod, I tried to explain in Spanish that the air pump wasn’t working and instead of gaining air, my tires were loosing air. I don’t even know what exactly I communicated, considering I didn’t know the words for tire, pressure or pump in Spanish.

But before I could explain myself any further, Julio, and his son Eduardo bent down picked up the pump and started mumbling in a quick, spit-fire Spanish that left me standing there not understanding a thing. They some how figured out that there was a leak or hole in the air pump and so obviously air was not being pumped into the tire.

They wiped their already stained hands on their jeans and stood up smiling. I’d like to think they were thinking, “Man, it feels good to help someone” but they were probably thinking something more along the lines of, “Aww, stupid gringa, she didn’t even check to see if air was coming out of the pump.

Regardless of what they were thinking, I was so thankful. These men stopped, helped and it meant the world to me. Some part of me felt like this is what neighbors are supposed to do. Neighbors are supposed to graciously give and share just because we’re neighbors, and we live in the same community, share the same streets and city. I am always challenged by the simplicity of Jesus words, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” His command is not to like all of your neighbors or even to know all of your neighbors, but simply to love them. It made me want to be better neighbor.