Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Farewell Xela, Hello Guatemala City

Eleven weeks have come and gone. We’ve had a very busy couple of weeks finishing up and planning our next moves. Though we think often of our friends and supporters back home, it’s been hard to find the time to sit down and post the latest news. So, this update is a bit long (even by Richard’s standards). It’s more of a “sit down, relax and read” than a quick update. Nevertheless, we hope you enjoy our latest.

Language class at Casa Xelaju
It’s time to start the next phase of our assignment here in Guatemala. We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the Casa Xelajú language school. We’re far from fluent, and we certainly need continued language training, but we feel we’ve been given a good foundation on which to continue building our language skills. We had a hard time deciding on a place to study language in Guatemala because every alum from every school we could track down gave us glowing reports of their school and their teacher. Now I get it. After five hours a day with the same person, one-on-one, practicing conversation by telling and writing stories of life, family, work, and even deeper topics of politics, faith, culture and society, one can’t help but develop a relationship that affects one’s life beyond the time spent in class. I think it takes a special person to teach language in a one-on-one intensive immersion relationship. And we count ourselves blessed by the special people that helped us so much on this first part of our journey. Yes, for better or worse, we must count ourselves among those alums that are enamored with their teachers and truly satisfied with our language school experience!
Erica, Richard, and Debbie in class
But the time has come to move on. Saturday found us packing up. We arrived with two suitcases of clothes and our backpacks. By the time we finished repacking our clothes, as well as the locally-produced products for our home to-be (blankets and other weavings, glassware, cooking ware, decorations, souvenirs, kitchen gadgets, small appliances, and other various acquisitions) we had our two original suitcases, a duffel bag, a large shopping bag, two cardboard boxes, and a large plastic container. Truly we’re taking a bit of Xela with
Edna (Erica's daughter), Judith (our hostess)
and Debbie looking at photos.
Erica and son Manuel
us! Shortly after getting packed up, we were blessed by a visit from our teacher (we studied together our last week). She stopped by with her two children to visit and to say good-by. We had a great visit together and then went out to our favorite pizza place for a last taste of Xela pizza. Later Saturday evening we stopped by our favorite café for desert, coffee, and more good-byes to the folks there.
Richard and Debbie at Cafe Delis
With so much stuff to move, we decided to utilize the school’s shuttle service rather than try and get all our possessions on or in a bus. Memories of our initial trip to Xela in the school’s spacious van, made us think the extra expense would be worthwhile, so we made arrangements with the school for a Sunday trip to Guatemala City. Life in Guatemala is full of surprises, and our trip to Guatemala City was a confirmation of that reality. Our driver arrived right on time. But instead of the school van, he showed up in a Mazda sedan borrowed from his son. Apparently the school van had broken down and this was the best he could do on such short notice. He also had another passenger from the school with his modest luggage (compared to ours). “Uh-oh”, we thought. There was no way all our stuff would fit. But, with a blanket and some rope our driver was able to put the larger things on the roof and everything else squeezed into the trunk, between us, and around our feet. At the end of the packing project we had our own mini version of a Guatemalan “chicken bus”.

So, off we went, the bottom of our overloaded car scraping on every speed bump we encountered. Surprisingly, the trip to Antigua, the destination of our other passenger was without incident. We bid farewell to our fellow student, and with a lighter and more spacious car, we started the final leg of the journey to Guatemala City. Unfortunately, the hill between the two cities proved too much for the overworked and overloaded Mazda, and it gave up a few miles shy of the summit of the last mountain pass we had to negotiate. Once it was determined that the problem was not going to be resolved with some ‘cooling off’ and resting time, our driver reached out to a friend with a pickup who could come and help us. This turned into another lesson about the culture here in Guatemala.
Opps... No more "zoom, zoom, zoom"
 I mentioned that this must be a pretty good friend who is willing to drive out from the capital on a Sunday to help us out. He told me that actually he wasn’t a good friend at all. He’d only met him once before when our driver stopped to help this other person out when he was stranded on the side of the road. In that incident, they exchanged contact information and the obligatory “Well, if you ever need help from me, just give me a call”. Only in this case, they actually mean it. Sure enough, an hour later his friend showed up with his truck. We transferred our load to the truck, tied a rope to the disabled Mazda, and towed it over the hill to a repair shop. He then drove us the rest of the way into the city to the home of our friends who graciously opened their home to us (and all our stuff) while we renew our visas and make the transition to our new home in the
city of Coban.

In the suburban Chicago church where I grew up, the beautiful sanctuary is adorned with stained-glass windows depicting scenes from scripture so artistically captivating that when I saw them again after close to 40 years, their stories seemed as fresh in my mind as when I would study them Sunday after Sunday as a child. My favorite one was always the depiction of the story of the Good Samaritan. So often, familiar stories and lessons are easy to gloss over and miss their significance in our current contexts. Though this phase of our transition had its frustrations, we were reminded once again how the pace of life here demands a different, and I daresay enlightened, perspective. We were also reminded once again of how interconnected and interdependent we are, and I believe were created to be. As I sit here in the home of our gracious friends who opened their home to us while we move, I’m counting all the ‘Good Samaritans’ out there who have “brought us safe thus far”. From the encouraging words and prayers of friends and family as we discerned this call, to our awesome faithful supporters, to ingenious drivers who transform a small car into a transport vehicle, to a friend willing to give a tow when needed, and to friends and colleagues who extend their gracious hospitality to us in a time of need… your images are what come to mind now when I think of that image of the Good Samaritan window that is etched in my memory. Bless and thank-you all!

Richard and Debbie

1 comment:

  1. Wow... I've told people to "call if you ever need help" but it's always been to someone I know well. Even then, most people won't call because it feels like an imposition to ask for help -- and yet here is this wonderful example of treating others the way Jesus prescribes in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.