i’ve been wanting to blog about guatemala ever since i got home on november 29, 2010. i don’t know where to start. i chose all the pictures i want to blog. scrolling through my six-hundred images, i relived those twelve days again as i have countless times before. that’s what i love about photography. i picked about one hundred images. i resized them all, spread them out over three blog post drafts, now i have to write. i have to sum up this crazy experience: those twelve days in a country i did not know, surrounded with a culture i had not experienced, alongside people i knew, yes, but really did not know. acquaintances. a couple friends. mainly people i saw a few moments each week at youth group. certainly not people i lived with daily.
where i sit writing right now, at a kitchen table at my aunt’s rental home in arizona, i do not have my journals nearby. i hope to return to those pages to write the next two blog posts but to get this started i’ll share what my mind recalls right now. a group of about twenty youth had signed up for a missions trip to guatemala for two weeks. i signed up. i’ve never been on a missions trip. never had an incredible urge to go anywhere outside of north america & europe, to be honest. there were two “missions” groups and one “band” group. my brother is in the band, so he was on the trip as well. that was such a blessing, to have a small taste of home, him, there with me.
we were at the vancouver international airport by five o’ clock in the morning. all twenty-something of us, some bright-eyed, excited, couldn’t stop hootin’ and hollerin’ about the trip comin’ up. there were others who said few words, staring blankly—not the morning people, i noted already. i stayed fairly silent that morning as well. what some of the other kids found exciting, a plane ride out of the country! i saw as pretty regular. nothing about airports or planes make me wanna smile. i like it. but it’s nothing different. i think i knew, too, i knew i was leaving home. i knew i was leaving what was comfortable. i didn’t know what this country, this trip would hold. i was ready to go: i wasn’t ready to jump up and down in excitement over it either.
traveling with a group is different. boy, is it different. i travel alone, usually. i liked traveling with the group. i didn’t think i would. i liked having these people around me: people i could talk to if i felt like it, or stay silent with if i felt like it. we had a five hour layover in houston, texas. that’s a long layover alone. with people, it went by pretty fast. already, i could tell we were going to come back different people. there’s something so neat about taking a random group of people [age 15 – 22ish?] and throwin’ em together for two weeks.
josh, enjoying the floor of the houston airport. he can sleep anywhere. anytime. that kid.
my team leader, jeremy. i could fill up an entire BLOG POST about how he made this trip so amazingly incredible for me. the more i look through these photos, the more i realize i could write a stinkin’ book about those twelve days. you might have to bear with me as i story-tell in written form for hours on end.
this is a lengthy story, i’ll get to the point. we arrived in guatemala. more hootin’ and hollerin’. once again, i didn’t feel like gettin’ excited. if i’m going to travel somewhere outside of north america, i’m going to italy, not guatemala, thank you very much. but i was still content knowing God would have me here for a reason. we stayed at a hostel in guatemala city that night. the next morning, we woke up and got into three buses. we drove a couple hours to monjas, in the countryside. we were there to do some work with the girls at the shadow of his wings orphanage.
our team visited the girls [and the few boys at the home] one afternoon, playing games on the basketball court, throwing water around, making them laugh. it was so neat, watching our team [my friends, acquaintances, leaders] interacting with these girls. i couldn’t communicate. none of the kids spoke english, and only a few of the house parents spoke broken english. my spanish knowledge is zero. my french is a two-year-old level. i found myself wishing i was at an orphanage in france. it feels hopeless to not be able to communicate, but these kids didn’t care. they laughed, they hugged us, they smiled, they ran screaming from the older boys who carried bowls of water threatening to douse them.
after two nights [or was it one? i need my journals] we were back to the city, to work at a church all week. our band played a concert saturday night to a bunch of crazy youth: it was awesome. there is so much energy + joy in the guatemalean people. we could learn something from that culture. as canadians, we are always accused of being reserved. i’m okay with that, but stepping outside of our label every now & then could be good for us. there was something about being in that service that night… so freeing. how can you not dance before the Lord like you never have before, when there are hundreds of people doing it right alongside you?
that evening, we were all put up in homes of the church members. my friend dannii and i stayed at this beautiful woman’s home right in the city. she was so happy to have us. once again, we could not communicate but she blessed us. she gave us a big box of traditional candies each, as well as a note and a silk scarf. all these gifts and WE were the ones in her home for the night. wow. the next morning, Sunday morning, we joined the church for their morning service. our band played a worship set after the church’s worship team & i photographed it once again. one of our team members, jahmarley, had his birthday that day and a few of the church guys brought out this rad pinata. i’d like to bring that tradition back to CLA. just whip out a pinata for every person’s birthday post-sermon. hahaha. it was great. the services in guatemala are not like the services in north america. it was pretty stretching for me. i love the Lord, but i don’t want to sit in a three or four-hour service. these were three or four hour services. thankfully, it’s not as traditional as north america in the sense that you’re free to get up and stand at the back if you want, go to the bathroom when you want, wander around a little bit. i did a lot of that to get through the long services. i fidget too much.
i have to wrap this up. i’ll blog more in-depth in parts two and three. thanks for reading!