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5-31-2002 Final Thoughts

Itís over. 20 minutes ago my plane took off from the airport in Guatemala. I am flying over Guatemala on my way to Houston, Texas, USA. The flight attendant is coming along, asking if I am a US resident. 

I am ready to go home. These 5 months have been an awesome experience. I have grown and been stretched during my time in Bolivia and Guatemala.

My last week in Guatemala went well.

Last Sunday I went with two Fresno students to the border of El Salvador. It was an interesting trip. We left early, and road in the back of a pickup owned by their host family. Fifteen minutes into our trip, we had a flat tire. Not wanting to pay $10 for a tourist visa, we stayed around the border of El Salvador when we arrived at the border later in the day. Our trip home in the back of the pickup became interesting when it started to rain.

The final couple days were spent finishing up last minute video shots. I spent my last night at my host families Wednesday night. Then Thursday night I spent at CASAS and I left this morning for the airport at 5:00am.


5-23-2002 Three Day Trip to Honduras

Itís crazy to think about, but in a week, I will be updating this site from my home in Orrville, OH. It has been an AWESOME experience these 5 months, but I am looking forward to getting home.

I just got back Wednesday night from short stint in Honduras. It turned out to be an interesting experience. The purpose of the trip was for me to film a Semilla seminary class in La Ceiba, Honduras. I flew out of Guatemala Monday morning. I ended up flying because the heads at Semilla wanted some books delivered, and they figured it was worth just flying me down.

It took 3 planes and half a day to arrive to my destination. All three plane rides were around 40 minutes of actual flying time, but layovers add up. From Guatemala City, I flew to San Salvador, El Salvador. Then onto San Pedro Sula, Honduras. There I had to exit the airport and deliver my book load. After checking back in I took a smaller propeller plane to La Ceiba, where I was greeted with a nice heat wave. I am use to the high altitude of Guatemala city which make weather cooler and more pleasant. 

While there, I stayed in a bedroom at an office of an organization that works for peace and has connections to MCC I think. The filming went all right. I filmed a seminary class, and did interviews with a couple of students, and alumni of the program, one of which was the president of the Mennonite Church in Honduras.

La Ceiba was a beautiful place. I was blessed that it rained some during my stay to help cool the place some. La Ceiba is located between a mountain range and the Atlantic Ocean. BEAUTIFUL place. I walked around the city some during my free time. My last morning there I woke up early and filmed the sunrise at the beach.

My return flight started out interesting. My airplane out of La Ceiba was 1 hour late for no apparent reason. Luckily I HAD a two hour layover in my next connection airport, but that was abruptly cut down to minutes, because of the tardiness and the fact that I had to exit, and check back in at the next airport.

Just a couple notes on Honduras: 

  • Even though Central American countries are small and bunched together, I could definitely tell I was in a different country
  • They like to chop and slur words in Spanish making conversations interesting sometimes
  • There seemed to be a larger mix of race then in other Latino cities I had been in. Some were darker skinned, others I could see the European influence in the light colored eyes but tan skin.
  • Salva Vidas (translated Life Saver) is a brand of cervesa (beer) and not Agua Pura (bottled water) like it is in Guatemala. In the USA our SalvaVidas is a candy. Isnít marketing great?

I got back to my Latino family tonight and was surprised to see a nice sized colored television set had replaced our tiny black and white television that barely got one channel. Apparently it was a motherís day from my Latino brother. Considering their economical level, I was a little surprised by the television. Oh and it has cable ($10 a month).  So now I can actually see the Spanish sitcoms/soap operas that my family watches every night with a clear picture and color (reception on the last TV made my head hurt).

The television set takes up a good portion of our dining table, and is watched regularly, and is the center of entertainment during meals as well. Now that the TV is on the table, only a few members still eat at the table. The others sit on the couch. World Cup is coming up, and I think that was one of the pushes for a new TV set. I am not complaining about the new TV. I will be able to see some news and maybe even sports highlights for a change. But it does unfortunately seem to consume a many hours for certain family members.


5-18-2002 Critique on Guate Media

Today while coming home on the bus, I was listening to the radio, and I was struck by how blatantly slated towards English the radio station was. I was listening to a station that played songs in English. The DJ spoke in Spanish, but many sound bites were in English complementing the English songs. One English phrase was used to  advertise the station: ď100.0 the smart station, the station for smart people.Ē Basically the message I was hearing from them was if you are smart, you will understand and speak English, because only smart people listen to this English station.

Then later I was intrigued by one of the advertisements. It was very patriotic. It had some powerful, moving music. But listening closer I figured out what they were saying. It was a beer advertisement for ďGallo.Ē Be patriotic and buy Gallo that comes from Guatemala, was essentially the message. Then at the end of the advertisement they had a quick blip of how the previous message had a product that was bad for your health. That has also been Guatemalaís story. Grand promises by people with money turn around to bite the people. It is interesting to note that their patriotic beer ďGallo,Ē translates into Rooster. Patriotic rooster beer.


5-16-2002 Trip to Bezeleel    see pictures

At this very moment, I am enjoying the sound of rain on the tin roof at the house where I am staying. This is the first rain I have seen in Guatemala City since I got here 7 weeks ago. It is very much appreciated, and hopefully will clear out some of the smog.

The past couple of weeks have seen some changes. I had my last Spanish class at CASAS last Thursday, May 9. The class was a big help to my grammar level, and my writing level has improved tremendously.

Monday May 6, a group of 9 students arrived from Fresno Pacific in California. Then a group from Bluffton of about 15 people arrived on May 8. Itís been fun getting to know the two groups. I have gotten to know the Fresno group better because 6 of them live in the same neighborhood has me. The majority of them speak Spanish almost as well as English. I also had the pleasure of joining them on a trip last weekend.

The trip was to Bezeleel, about 5 hours away from Guatemala City. Bezeleel is a boarding school attended mostly by indigenous Chetche students. During my time there I shot 6 hours of film in which I will make a promo video when I return to the states. I was also shooting some shot of the Fresno group for the CASAS video. Fresno left last Monday, and I left this morning (Thursday, May 16).

Next Monday I am flying to Honduras to shoot some video of a seminary connected to Semilla. I will return Wednesday. I am lucky that I am flying. I was expecting a long bus ride. But because I am taking some suitcases of books along to Honduras, my way is paid.

Exactly two more weeks to I head home! Hard to believe it is coming up around the bend. I am excited to get back, but will miss Latin culture and new friends I have met on my journey.


5-7-2002 Public Speaking Experience  see picture

Today I had a crazy experience. I talked at a Spanish public school on the subject of the process of making a video. The other day I consented to teach the class, not knowing the expected length, and not knowing that I would have an audience of 150 juniors and seniors! I talked for 1 Ĺ hourís STRAIGHT. Some students showed some interest, and came up afterwards and asked questions for half an hour.



It was a good experience for me. I surprised myself in not being nervous at all. And it gives me a little confidence that I can talk SPANISH for that long.

That said, I also confirmed for me that my gift is not Public Speaking. I can do it, just not exception at it. My public speaking experience seemed like a one-way conversation, I did all the talking, and it was not use to not having the response, especially when I am saying something incorrectly in a different language. At any rate, I will chalk down this as a good experience.


5-5-2002 Birthday and Final Month Thoughts

Well I am no longer a teenager! Turned 20 last Friday May 3. In Guatemala they have an interesting tradition of greeting the birthday person in the morning. They set off a string of firecrackers right outside the door. So I got a 5:55am wakeup by a string of firecrackers. My family threatened that they were going to set them off under my bed, but fortunately that didnít happen. I live in a fairly populated area, so just about every morning, someone has a birthday.

For my birthday supper, I ordered Pollo Camero (the Guatemala equivalent for KFC) for my family. They seemed to enjoy it. Because of a limited budget, we usually donít have more then rice and beans and soup.

This past week was a relaxing one. I didnít have classes, because my teacher had work week were she put together lesson plans. So in the mean time I taught myself how to use 3D studio max, and animation program, which should be a nice addition to my videos.

Wednesday everybody had the day off because it was ďWorkerís DayĒ in Guate. I read the book Contact. It was an interesting fiction story. 400+ pages. Well written. Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I have discovered that I enjoy reading.

Friday I went to some Maya ruins. It was real interesting, because the place I went to had been restored, and had some beautiful sites.

These next couple weeks will be a little busier for me. I will be traveling next week to Copan, a city in Guatemala for 4-5 days to do some video shoots. Then the next week I am going to Honduras for some more video shooting. Should be great experiences, but will keep me plenty occupied.

This coming Tuesday I will be teaching a class at a High School on Video Techniques, and in Spanish of course. Should be an interesting experience. Maybe Iíll decide to shift my major to education after that. J/K

Less than a month left! Time is going fast. I am missing home, family, and friends, so I am looking forward to my departure date. But I am thoroughly enjoying my time here as well.


4-20-2002 Third Week Reflections

Another week down. Nothing to special happened. It was a quiet week. Iíll be studying Spanish for a week more, and then I will start filming a bit more diligently.

Friday morning they EMU group took off for the States. It was sad to see them go, but Iíll see them soon enough in August.

Today was Saturday, and I took it easy. Over my journey down south, Iíve learned to enjoy reading. I never enjoyed it much before, because I never had time and I never had good reading material. But now I can easily bury my self in a book.

In the afternoon I went to see my ďbrotherĒ Caesar play in a soccer game with my friend Matt. Before going, my father Abraham told me all sorts of stories of violence at soccer games. Apparently it is not uncommon for fights to break out. People even die sometimes. Referees have the most dangerous jobs. My father Abe was once a ref, and claimed he had been help at gun point 3 times in his refereeing career to ďhelpĒ change the call. I donít know how much he likes to embellish the truth, but I believe some local games can get pretty wild. About 5 years ago, in a national game between Guatemala and Costa Rica, 83 people in the stands were killed when a riot broke out over seating situations before a game.

Guatemala City isnít the nicest place as far as violence and theft is considered. Itís not good to be out after 7:00pm.  I am still learningÖ but havenít been help up yet. Apparently two of the EMU group got held up once and had their cameraís etc taken.

What elseÖ I have learned to enjoy coffee. Before the trip I never drank it. Here I have it for breakfast and supper, and usually on my breaks. So usually drink around 4 cups a day.


4-15-2002 Trip to Lake Atitlan  see pictures

Things continue to go well. I now have another week under my belt. My Spanish teacherís name is Albertina, and she is a riot. J We have fun. She makes the mornings go fast. I am learning a lot. Itís nice to have some brush-ups on my grammar and to know I can say something in correct Spanish. 

Last Thursday I went to an Art gallery. It was an interesting experience. It was a sort of an upper-class event and included the artsy group with green hair and such. I felt a little out of place in my work sneakers, but at least had nice shirt on. event.  Art was interesting. I donít think I understood all of what the artist were trying to communicate by itÖ but it was interesting. Overall I think it was a good learning experience for me. Apparently the first lady of Guatemala was there. When I told my language family that, they didnít act to impressed. Apparently the current president is a crook.

The highlight of this past week was going to lake Atitlan over the weekend. I went with the current group here at CASAS. It was a BEAUTIFUL lake. It is surrounded by volcanoes. We stayed with a lady named Chonita. She told us her history. Her husband had been tortured and killed in 1981 by the military for no apparent reason. Through her and others we learned a little of the struggles Guatemala has been through in past years.

I loved the lake there. The group went out in a boat Saturday. We got to swim on one of the beaches for an hour. The water was wonderful. It was very clear and refreshing.

I was a little bit disappointed by the town we stayed at though. It has been overrun by tourist. The streets were littered with vendors that tried to talk to us in English to sell their products. I didn't feel comfortable being associated with the many tourist there. I went into one store, and the lady kept trying to me and another friend in English. I finally burst out in Spanish, and had a good conversation with her. I found it kind of humorous that she tried to sell me her door after I commented on how much I like the wood design on it.

Sunday I returned early on my own to Guatemala City because the EMU group had returned from Cuba and I needed to do a little filming job of them. It was good seeing the gang again. I spent the night with them at Casas. see pics


4-6-2002 First Week's Reflections on Guatemala  see illustrated pictures from first week

Iíve been living in Guatemala now for a week. Iím starting to settle in. Classes are going well. I am learning a lot about grammar. A lot of this I had in High school, but it is has been a great refresher so far.

My first impressions of the culture and atmosphere here in Guatemala was that it was very similar to Bolivia. The language is very close in accent. Certain words I am finding are different. For an example, a ďcamionetaĒ to me has always been a small truck. Here however it is the word for bus. The Spanish word 'hueco' which means hole to me, has a very negative meaning here.

The food here is slightly different. Corn tortillas are the main food. They almost always have them at lunch and supper. They are a great filling food for me, when my plate of rice and beans isnít filling.

Iíve been thankful for my travel buddy Matt, who I ride the bus with every day for an hour to school and then an hour back home. I think I finally got the route down, but itís nice to have somebody along.

Today I ventured out on my own on the bus systems and met up with a new friend, a Spanish professor Mateo (not the guy I go home with). We played some pool and then went to movie theatre and saw Behind Enemy Lines.


4-2-2002 Living in Guatemala

Guatemala. I am really living in Guatemala. I can tell this is going to be a great learning experience for me.

Saturday afternoon about 2:45 I arrived in the airport. Getting out of the airport was extremely easy, because they didnít look at my baggage. Phil Hart was there to meet me.

After dropping my stuff off at his place I went with him to a Antigua, a town outside of Guatemala city. There I met up with the EMU group down here. It was great to see Holly, Greta, Joanna, Carrie, Renee, and other in the group. It was a totally weird experience to walk the streets of Latin America country with them. It was just like I was back in college, just not. And their Spanish is coming along well. I went out to eat with a group of them. We also saw some of the catholic processions in town for the Easter celebration.

I spent the night in Antigua with them and then they were off to Cuba Sunday morning. I spent Sunday night at Semillas, and then Monday met my Spanish family.

My family is very pleasant. My parents are Abraham and Carmen. We live on the side of a ravine, surrounded by other lower class homes. They are blessed to have a concrete house with tin roof, one faucet of running water, and electricity. They have two children in their 20ís living at home, and one grandson of age 2 that stays here quite a bit. I still am getting to know them. I share a room with my brother who I havenít met yet, because he studies and come in at late hours, and I leave early.

It takes me about an hour by bus to get from my house to the Semillas place where I study and am doing the video.

Studies for me started today. I found what level of Spanish I am at. I am terrible at writing and grammar part of it. My speaking ability and accent however are very well. So I am now getting some much needed help on my writing. After writing something, if I read it out loud, then I can usually tell if it is written correctly, because I know this language currently only by ear.


3-30-2002 Iím in MEXICO!

Well I am on my way to Guatemala! I am currently sitting in an airport in Mexico City waiting for my flight booth to open so that I can get rid of the luggage Iíve been lugging around. At the moment I am sitting in a Food court at a booth, taking advantage of the electric plug beside me.

I left Bolivia last night at 10:45pm. About 9 hours later I arrived here in Mexico, lost 2 hours in travel, so arrived at 5:40am Mexican time. I wait here now for about 7 hours and leave at 12:55pm for Guatemala and arrive there at 2:30pm.

I think I am getting use to this traveling thing. J At least this experience so far has been more pleasant than on my way to Bolivia. My stay in the Brazilian airport was rather stressful, because I didnít know Portuguese, my Spanish was shaky, I didnít know for sure the gate I was leaving from, and I could leave the area I was in cause I didnít have a Brazilian visa.

Mexico has been a little nicer to me. I could actually go out and visit the city for a couple of hours if I wanted to do, but am not excited to go to far with my heavy carry-onís (my video camera and laptop). And my Spanish is good now, so communication isnít a problem. So I guess Iíll relax for a little while, maybe watch a movie on the laptop in the middle of the food court. J


3-29-2002  Final thoughts on Bolivia

Well today is my last day here in Bolivia. In a couple hours I will be going to the airport. My plane leaves at 10:45pm. I arrive in Mexico City around 5:30am. Then I make my way to Guatemala were I arrive at 2:30pm.

The reality of this hasn't hit me yet. My time here in Bolivia has been awesome. It has been great getting to know all the children, the volunteers here, and the new administrators. Iíll miss Bolivia for itís beauty, and especially for the wonderful people here. It has also been wonderful to get in touch with where I grew up as a child. At the moment I am in the same room I stayed in 10 years ago.

During this time I have really grown in my relationship with God. Itís been a time where Iíve been able to throw off everything that hinders and fix my eyes on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-2) and what He has in store for my life. His word has really come alive for me during this time. I thank God for this awesome opportunity of learning and maturing.

Let me just share what Iíve been up to in my final weeks hereÖ

Wednesday (March 20) I got back from a week long trip to my cousinís Mattís place. Matt lives in Southern Bolivia in a place known as the Chaco. What a trip! I went with Brian Fencer. It took 12 hours by bus to get to Viamontes. From there, Matt picked us up in his 1960ish Landrover and drove 3 hours on a dirt road to get to his farm.

He lives with the Kaufman family who are also originally from the states and now live on a large farm in the middle of nowhere. At the moment they are in the process of clearing the brush on their farm and putting up fence for cattle and crops in the future.

It is quite the place. As a lad I read the book series Little House on the Prairie. That took place a couple hundred years ago and it was about a pioneer family developing new uncharted territory. Today we live in a much smaller world of air flight, trains, and autoís zipping us from place to place. Yet still in this smaller world, pioneers continue to exist.

While I was there, I went to the bathroom in a hole in the ground, peed on trees, took a shower from a bucket, survived without electricity, rose and went to bed by the sun, and enjoyed simple life in the middle of the Bolivian chaco many miles away from any sort of civilization.

It was relaxing and quiet. I would go to bed after sun down (around 8:30pm) and wake up at 5:30 before sunup, well rested. There is something quite attractive about a quiet life like this. I however personally am not ready to abandon electricity and everything I know to live out there for the rest of my life.

While I played soccer with the workers, went out with one of the Kaufmanís children to shoot parrots, and teased the croc which had 18 little croc babies while I was there. My brother Devin should love the video I took of that.

Last week, my roommate Brian Fencer left, and I got booted out of our room, because of a new volunteer name Suzzy from England arrived. So I moved back into my old room in the administratorís house. Iíve been sharing the room with 6-year old Jose who has been sick. Heís been off and on well and has been an interesting roommate. One morning he woke up at 5:00 and started singing. Another night he woke up and couldnít stay in bed and ran all around the house. This morning he was yelling out the window bright and early.

During the past week I have gotten to get to know the new Chilean administrators a lot better. They are quite the hosts. Mama Juanita makes me breakfast often in the morning and they are always inviting me to have coffee (another thing I have learned to enjoy from this trip).

The playground that I have been working on is still not done. I am leaving that for Tony Seimons to finish.

So thatís all she wrote. My next journey entry will be from Guatemala! Abe you are missing out!!!

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