Posts Tagged ‘santa barabra’

7th February
written by Michelle

I often miss Santa Barbara on Saturdays. However, I know if we lived there then I would miss Guatemala Monday through Friday.

Maybe this is what it means to live between two cultures. two countries. two places. When I am here, part of me will miss and long for there. And when I am there, my heart will ache for here.


When I’m feeling this way the sure-fire way to give me perspective and healthy dose of contentment is to head to the b.e.a.c.h.

The crashing waves and the warm breeze, the expanse of the ocean and oh, THE sun. Seriously, it does wonders for my soul.  Just the feeling of the sand between my toes is like medicine for this California girl. Not to mention, that I think it may be the only place in Guatemala where walking around in your swimsuit is entirely appropriate.

Being the wonderful husband that he is, Gerber agreed to go this weekend. (Mind you he is not a fan of being in the sun, sweating and having - in his words - “sand stuck between his toes.” )

Now I should clarify that the beaches in Guatemala are not exactly like the beaches in Santa Barbara.

Rewind to my first trip to the beach with G about a year and a half ago. I was having one of those I-miss-Santa-Barbara-and-the-beach-and-everything-else kinda of moments. So he suggested we drive to beach for the day. I was so excited as soon as the ocean waves appeared in front of the windshield that I ran - literally toward the water’s edge. Except I only got half way there. My feet were burning, I was sweating, and I remember thinking this is not what I had expected (those damn, expectations, huh?).

Apparently I didn’t know that that the beaches en el sur de Guatemala are black-sand beaches. And they’re hot. Really, really hot and humid. No one lays on the beach with their towel and a book because it’s just uncomfortable. Your feet would be burnt and you’d be dehydrated in about 10 minutes from the amount of perspiration dripping from your body. (Do you see why G is not a huge fan of the beaches in Guatemala?)

But this weekend we found this place:

And we brought this guy:

So Gerber could have someone to play with:


And I could relax here:

 We ate and slept and threw the frisbee back and forth. We watched the sunset and talked and had one of those much needed restful kind of weekends. The kind where there are no plans, no phone calls, no talk about work, no figuring out how we’re going to keep a budget, etc. The kind where there is not much of anything- and that is perfectly ok. We haven’t had a weekend like this in- months, I think. Sometime around October our lives got slightly busy and hectic and all the excitement (and stress) that comes with celebrations and visitors and traveling and change and the holidays has taken it’s toll.

Sometimes I think when I start “missing” something or someplace it’s my bodies way of saying- slow down. enjoy what you have. appreciate what is here. be content. go to the beach….in Guatemala.

And those are all things I could use more of.


Side note: This place had the coolest bathrooms I have ever seen. I mean what’s better than open air bathrooms with outdoor showers? (see below)

30th April
written by Michelle

Most days I wake up thankful, well, let’s be honest…most days I wake up, tired and groggy because I am not a morning person. But today I woke up, missing Santa Barbara.

I miss strolling though the Saturday farmers market. I miss the ocean breeze and running into people I know downtown. I miss Mesa Lane, the Good Cup, Panino sandwiches and sitting on grass. I miss going to the beach with friends and hearing my students call me Miss Acker. I miss trader joes and being able to buy pre-cut veggies and ready-to-eat chicken. I miss Santa Barbara sunsets and the purple hills behind. I miss people and places that can’t be packed in a suitcase. And I miss the smells and sounds that can’t be captured with a photo.

This is what they call homesick, right? I think it’s normal every now and then.

For anyone who has ever moved or packed up your life into two suitcases you know that you must leave something behind, in order to receive what’s to come. But sometimes, there’s a still a missing for what was left. Ingrid Michaelson’s song “Maybe” played on repeat in my car all last spring while I was packing up, storing away and saying good-byes. This line always struck me,


“oh, the only way to really know is to really let it go”

So, I let it go. I let a lot go. And some days, especially on Saturdays I miss it.

1st April
written by Michelle

It’s Friday. Which means, one of my new favorite blog traditions:

Five. Minute. Fridays

{Judging by my recent blog posts it seems like I only take five minutes to write on Fridays. This means I have been a little extra with busy hosting visitors and school events, or I maybe should start a Five Minute Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday routine. Either way, I like this practice and the discipline of writing for 5 minutes. No editing. No thinking it over. And no worrying if it’s just right.}

Ready, Go.

I remember I once got a Hallmark card once that said something like,the best things in life, aren’t things. they’re people.” And I have never forgotten that.

Most of favorite times have been shared with people. I think of playing the backyard and running through sprinklers on hot summer nights with my sisters and brother. I think of family dinners shared around a table. I think of college dorm life and late night giggles and chatting with three of my best friends. Afternoons spent drinking tea and talking about life with June. I think of walks along Mesa lane with Jen. And Tuesday nights eating hot dogs and beer on the beach with Chelsea and Jeff.

I think of moments spent laughing on the couch with Gerber or being held when there are tears. I think of walking hand in hand, knowing this someone loves you no matter what. And I think how such it means to have two of the most important people in my life, here with me, right now, in Guatemala.


What are some of your favorites right now?

10th April
written by Michelle

Thursday afternoons are one of my favorite times of the week. Every Thursday I get to play with some of thee cutest kids on the face of the planet. (and yes, I may be biased. I admit it). I am learning that “playing” encompasses all of the wonderful things like tying shoes, wiping noses, running after, picking up, putting down and singing ridiculous songs that require you to spin in circles. Why kids like this and most adults hate it is beyond me?

But today I also got to play doctor. Little 4 year-old Miguel fell and was convinced that his small scraped-up knee required immediate attention. As he limped over to the curb, I asked if I could look at his owie.

aww, Miguel, it’s gonna be ok. I think you just need a band-aid.

With tears forming in his big brown eyes he looked up at me and asked,

Will it make all better?”

I couldn’t forget his question. So simple. So true. Will it make it all better?

So often I just want things to be “all better.” I don’t want to see friends suffering or watch families grieve the loss of their child. I don’t like it when it seems like there is too much pain and injustice and death in our world. And sometimes that world hits much closer to home. In the past week there have been two teenage girls who died tragically in Santa Barbara. One of my colleagues at work was just diagnosed with throat cancer and will be out the rest of the year. I sat in my home group on Wednesday night and listened to a soon-to-be bride pray that her dad would be alive and well enough to walk her down the aisle.

As we prayed, a tear rolled down the side of my cheek. Why, God? These things don’t make sense? It doesn’t seem fair.

Grief and loss and suffering are permeating those around me. And I feel pieces of it, too. If I am honest, sometimes I fear what if it happens to me next? I worry about getting a phone call saying something happened to my parents. Or reading in the newspaper that one my former students has died. Or getting some horrible call from a doctor saying that they “found something.” It reminds me that life is fragile.

Sometimes I lie in bed and wonder why can’t God just make everything “all better”- maybe kinda of like a band-aid theology.

6th April
written by Michelle

Spring Break.

Ok, so there are probably more than 27 reasons to be a teacher, but spring break is definitely one of them.

About 3 years ago I realized that the rest of the working world does not in fact get a glorious week of vacation right in the middle of March. Thankfully, I chose a profession that honors this week and I eagerly look forward to it every year.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job but having a week off is always a wonderful! My days and weeks can become so routine and scheduled, with a 28-min lunch period, 4-min bathroom breaks and bells that signal the start of each class. I welcome a week where life moves at slower pace. There is freedom in letting a day unfold with no set plans or expectations. I sometimes crave the spontaneous and unexpected events and conversations that just happen when I am not so busy running-here-there-and-everywhere.

So, this Spring Break I Rested. Relaxed. Played. Rode my bike. Took a yoga class. Napped at the beach. Had Sushi lunch with friends. Read. Prayed. Went to bed early! (this never happens) Ran on the beach. Coffee dates. Picnic lunches. Salsa dancing. Road trip down Highway 1 with my sister. Thrift Store Shopping. Watched my brother play lacrosse. Surprise dinner with my parents. (I LOVE surprises) Lots of Laughter. Happy Hour with the roommates. Pure joy.

Here are a few pics from my week:

confession, I did not take this picture…but it captures one of thee best drives along the California coast

my beautiful and far cooler sister, Christine.
She helps me out in life and makes sure I don’t buy plaid golf shorts at the Thrift Store.
who knew boys with sticks could be so violent?
My “little” brother, Andrew, (although much taller and stronger than I) is in the red.

I think my friend took this picture only to make fun of how ridiculous I look.
aww, Santa Barbara.
This is the view from my beach chair…where I spent a good too many hours.

Back to work tomorrow. Bright and early.

But only 39 more days ’till summer….

6th February
written by Michelle

When I was growing up I was one of those kids who didn’t like to miss school. I feared falling behind and or worse yet, missing out on something. It didn’t matter if we were going on a family vacation, taking a trip to Disneyland or going for a routine check-up to the orthodontist, I did not like to miss school. And I absolutely hated it when I got sick. Most often I tried to convince myself that I wasn’t sick and on the rare days when I was actually a sneezing-coughing-running nose kid and beyond the point of self-deception, I would bargain with my parents to let me go to school for half a day.

Some things never change.

I still don’t like to miss school. And I still try and convince myself that I don’t get sick. I figure if I am going to take a day off work, then I want it to it be one of those sunny-lie-by-the-beach, visit-good-friends type of days. I hate, HATE taking sick days, when I am actually sick.

But today I gave in. I called the district sub line at 6:25am and requested a sub. My left eye had been bothering me all night and it was not any better. So with a red-watery eye, I laid in my bed moaning from the pain and discomfort. The doctor’s office didn’t open until 9:00. I couldn’t see out of the one eye and it felt like someone was scraping my eyeball with a piece of glass. And perhaps, the worst part was I couldn’t do anything about it.

I spent those first three hours just mad—I was mad at my eye, mad at the doctor and mad that I had to miss school. I couldn’t read or watch a movie or journal or go for a walk- all things I would happily do on a “day off.” No, instead I had to just lie there, with my eyes closed because any bit of light caused excruciating pain. I had to lie there and do nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was like some cruel joke.

I was humbled; humbled by my weakness and my inability to do anything.

Maybe this is what it takes sometimes for me to stop and pay attention and slow down. As I lay there I prayed. I selfishly prayed for healing (because lets be honest, its hard to pray for anything but yourself when you want to tear out your own eye). I prayed for people who are hurting in Santa Barbara and our country. I prayed for men and women and innocent children in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and Palestine- they are hurting in ways that I will never know. I laid there and dozed on and off, in-between prayer and restless sleep.

Two doctor’s visits, two separate co-pays and two trips to the pharmacy later (thank you, to the American insurance bureaucracy) I was diagnosed with a scratch on my cornea. My eye didn’t get immediately better, but my perspectives on the day did. For one the doctor gave me these glorious numbing drops that stopped the pain and then he recommend I wear a patch to keep out the light! All in all I am pretty impressed with modern medicine and the fact that some magnifying machine can look into my eye and see tiny scratches and infections. I was not however so impressed with the patch idea. But I’ve learned I can’t really negotiate or argue with doctors. If they say wear a patch, then I will wear a patch…ever so reluctantly.

I am sure I looked ridiculous with my black, pirate patch plastered over one eye. I sat in a coffee shop with my black looking pirate patch, I walked to the grocery store with the black object still there and I even did a little shopping at Ross complete with my black, pirate piece. Pretty soon I just started ignoring the blank, empathetic (or maybe slightly concerned) stares. I pretended no one else noticed : )

I did feel much better after my incredibly culturally savvy sister reminded me that this same thing happened to Monica on Friends. Maybe Monica and I have more in common then I’d like to admit. I mean c’mon she doesn’t look that bad with her eye patch on, right?

Hopefully, tomorrow I will be back at work…without an eye patch!

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.

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!