Gabby's Entry #3

"Hogar Dulce Hogar"

Well, today it's official.  We completed our final clases in Español and after this weekend we leave for our new homes.  It's so insane to think that we have been here for a whole month and then some.  

I feel like I've seen a year's worth of stuff in this place I have come to love and we haven't even moved to our communities yet.  Everyday I see the drastic contrasts that exist in all Guatemalans lives.  When in Panajachel we overlooked what must have been, at one time, part of Eden - the breathtaking views of Lake Atitlán.  Then all we had to do was turn around and we see the homes the Guatemaltecas live in across the small street and women at the lake's edge scrubbing clothes they'll end up carrying up steep hills in large buckets on their heads. 

Lake Atitlán - San Pedro

Homes - San Pedro

We also see walls lined with glass as a security fence and a man with no legs sitting on the street corner hoping for a few coins.  It occurred to me today that a lot of what we have shared with you has been pretty polished stuff.  I seek out the beauty amongst the norm and post pictures of quaint mountain-side homes with sassy colored doors, but make no mistake, there is great poverty here right next to the beauty of the country, discrimination next to open hearts and fear next to courage.  

I have sat in the kitchen with our host family and the German students who are also here studying Spanish and volunteering with various organizations. We talk about discrimination.  The vast gap between the poverty and wealth and education and the lack of it have created inaccurate opinions of Mayans.  There are people here that have been turned away from hospitals in need of care because of the color of their skin and the clothes they wear.  Jobs are posted in the paper that specify age and gender.  

Where am I?  It's mind boggling at times but it also brings the reality of the civil rights movement to the tangible.  As someone raised in the 70's in a white-bread suburbia, true hard-core racism was something I only read about in history books, until now. 

San Francisco El Alto Mercado

True colors - Guatemala

I learned recently it is highly likely a part of the population will vote for Rios Montt for president OUT OF FEAR.  Some people here have been paid for votes with fertilizer for their farms.  But, at the same time, there are many people who will not be bought or persuaded.  Not only have people seen the results of this man's handiwork, some lived it back in the early 80's when he was in power.  Imagine seeing your loved one killed or kidnapped simply because they didn't agree with the government.  I actually have to shake my head and remind myself that this is reality here.  Past oppression creates fear in the present.  We have to remember the peace accords were only signed seven years ago.  

As you see, many things are different here.  For me, by the grace of God, it's been smooth sailing except for a minor breakdown last Friday.  It all started after beginning the overwhelming task of learning the subjunctive tense.  The idea that no more information could possibly fit into my pea brain had me convinced that I was a failure.  And the thought of important phrases or verbs falling out of my ears was more than I could take. Thankfully it ended almost as quickly as it began after a therapeutic donut from the Mennonite bakery and vows from Scott that he would closely watch my ears for wayward falling Spanish.


Do they really think we know what we're saying?

So now it's the last day of school and I'm contemplating the new changes to follow next week.  The contrast of the value of all our crap in our suitcases to that in our new home.  The differences between indoor plumbing, a bathroom across a courtyard, and a latrine surrounded in clearish plastic outside, start to come into focus.  I looking forward to the future while also appreciating our short past here.

It's amazing how quickly a hard bed and a tiny room fit more for Lilliputians than regular-sized people can quickly become home.  Cats pounding on the roof, canaries chirping so loud during conversation that you start considering how much meat COULD you extract from their tiny bodies and Esperanza, our host mom, yelling "AL-AY-HAN-DRA" (phonetic for you gringos) every hour on the hour will now be things that we miss.  Home sweet home is something that quickly grows in your mind and in your heart.  And now it's time to leave.  We'll miss Esperanza and all her wayward Spanish-school students.

Another place we have come to love is our school: Centro Maya de Idiomas.  Everyday we are greeted here by friends.  People who watched out for us, taught us the ropes, invited us to their homes and even cook for us every other Friday.  They are a family we will truly miss.  I will be challenged to find a group as sincere, kind, patient and helpful but I think if anyone can do it, Martin and his family can.

As I leave this month in the past and in my heart, I send this prayer out to everyone I love.  Maybe, if I'm lucky, my brain will allow one more thing in and I'll be able to memorize it in Español.

Bible Verse

Ephesians 3:16-19  - My translation of Paul's prayer to the Ephesians
16Oro que de las riquezas de su gloria, el te fortzlecerá con poder por el espiritu de Dios en su alma, 17asi que Cristo vivirá en su corazón por fe.  Y Oro para que tú, estés echando raices y establecidas en el amor, 18tendrás el poder y juntos con todos los santos comprender cuán ancho, largo, alto y profundo es el amor de Cristo y 19conocer este amor que supera el conociemiento que tú seas lleno de toda la plenitud de Dios.

(16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is  the love of Christ, and 19to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.)