Saturday, December 28, 2013

Posadas and Pizza on a Rainy Day

               December here is flying by. Homemade Christmas decorations are going up everywhere, supplies for endless and ridiculous amounts of cookies are being bought in the city, and in the missionary house you can almost always hear Josh Groban or Michael Bublé Christmas music playing.  School is out—even winter school—and the kids can be found playing marbles at almost every house when they aren’t competing over best decorations.  It’s certainly not a typical “white Christmas”, but I’ve lived in Florida for the last 8 or 9 years so it doesn’t really bother me too much. The cloudy and rainy weather here gives it a nice wintery touch, which is a little helpful for the others.  If anyone’s started to feel homesick, it’s not long-lived seeing as there is so much to be done before La Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve.

                There’s a tradition here that starts 10 days before Christmas called La Posada (Inn).  Two people dress up as Mary and Joseph and go from house to house seeking refuge for the night.  The rest follow them house to house and sing the Posada song.  The first few reject them, all in song, and the final one lets everyone in to sing Spanish Christmas Carols, pray, reflect on a verse, and share a merienda (snack) typically of a baked good—doughnuts or sweet bread—and juice in a bag—a Honduran favorite.  We do it here every day around 4:00, but it’s traditionally done in the evening.  It’s a beautiful tradition to keep alive for the kids and to celebrate the coming of Christ.  Each of the kids in the houses has a chance to dress up and it’s a great reminder of what we’re waiting for.  Everyone is preparing for la Noche Buena.
                As I said, school is out.  That means all us teachers have the week off—sort of.  Well, to give our middle school kids incentive during their 5 week tutoring sessions over their winter break, we created this star system.  They get different things for certain amounts of stars received, but they all saved up during those 5 weeks and decided to buy a bibliocine and pizza (yep, pizza and a movie).  Next time you teachers out there decide you want to take the easy way out and promise your kids pizza you can order up in 5 minutes and put on a movie, I hope you think about what we have to do down here just to get the pizza out in time and then give that delivery boy an extra tip.
                It starts fairly early in the morning.  I have to collect wood in the wheel barrow from the community pile and take it back to our fogon cooking area in front of the house.  Then I take the wheel barrow back to house 5 and go to house 6 to borrow their machete.  After that, I take the machete and slice some pieces of wood to make kindling (thanks to Patrick, because before that I had no idea what to do).  From there, I have to form a little Lincoln log house inside the horno (clay oven) and the fogon (stove top) and stuff it with paper and finally light it.  As the fire burns in the horno, we can start on the Pizza dough and let that rise for 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, the salsina (sauce) can start cooking on the fogon as we grate the cheese.  Once the dough has risen, we can flatten it out into a pan, or as many pans as we may need, add the salsina, cheese, and they’re ready to go!  I just have to take out the burning wood from the horno and leave in some coals and we can set the first pan in.  One problem with cooking on a fire heated horno is that the heat doesn’t stay strong or last nearly as long as a normal oven would.  Our kids get creative though…

The pizza actually didn’t even turn out that burned either!  We sat down to enjoy our work and watched Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Maybe I’ve been gone for too long and away from TV and movies, but that is much better than I remember it.  If you haven’t seen it in a while, add that to your lazy day Christmas list.  

From our little house to yours, the Farm of the Child wishes you
 a Very Merry Christmas
 a Joyful and Blessed New Year!

Easy (no rise) Pizza Crust
1 pakage of dry yeast (1 tbsp)
1 tsp of sugar
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 tsp of salt
1 cup of warm water
2 ½ cups of flour
1.       Mix dry ingredients.  Then add water in slowly.
2.       Knead and let sit 10 minutes.
Servings: 11g. pizza
Servings (x2): 3 pizzas
Servings (x3): 5 pizzas

White Garlic Sauce
Basil oregano
Shredded cheese
1.       Sautee butter, garlic, and onion.
2.       Add in other ingredients as desired.
3.       Let simmer.

PS- Sorry for the late delivery! Internet has been out in town for a few weeks, but we’ve managed to find one place that got it working again! Thank for your patience.
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Little Treasures

Man, I love these kids so much…but, they drive me crazy!  Always testing the waters, pushing my buttons, but pushing each other’s more.  They can be so sweet and then ten minutes later they’re throwing a fit on the ground or fighting.   I just keep telling myself to suck it up and get through winter school—their version of summer camp and what the newbies are in charge of every year…which is me, Curtis, and Kit—but it’s hard.  I hope this is good training for Kinder though.  Lord knows I need it.  Tutoring in the middle school every morning, on the other hand, is so much more calm and relaxed!  I love it and love teaching them, even when they have attitude.  They don’t get nearly as disrespectful as some of the little guys can. 
This is really when I need to remind myself that I’m in the thick of it now.  I’m finally living out my mission.  I work at a children’s home in rural Honduras—there are endless amounts of chickens and turkeys living outside my window under the roof of our clothesline—and my job is to help  teach, love, raise, cherish, and care for these 37 kids and I know I’m right where I should be.  No one ever said this would be easy. They did say it would be one of the most fulfilling things I’ll do my whole life. 

A new pet turtle the kids found at winter camp

Oso, our resident watch dog who isn't actually ours
And I see this at the end of the day when I’ve finished with the long meetings, the disciplining, my (sometimes very gross) chores, the cooking after struggling to light that fire in the rain and waiting three hours for the beans to be done, and even after that cold shower that’s feeling more and more unwelcomingly icy every day.  That’s when I think to myself, “Thank you God so much for bringing me here.  Thank you for letting them steal my heart.”  Because if I really look back and think about my day I’m reminded of the beauty around me and of those priceless moments I know I’ll remember for years to come.  From sitting in morning prayer with the little girls who are cuddled up to me, still shivering from the morning shower, to the beautiful sunrise that greets us every morning as we walk to the Chapel, warming our hearts as it’s gentle rays peek over the mountains and dance through the branches.  I’m reminded of making coffee and donuts from scratch with the older girls who need the love and attention all teenage girls seek; of laughing and joking and doing each others hair; of simple, quiet games of chess, even as they teach me by way of relentlessly destroying me; of those sweet moments when a house 4 boy runs up to hug me with an unfaltering joy-filled smile.  I’m even reminded in the times I struggle to light the fire only to be surprised by the girls next door cheering me on and encouraging me with their shouts and crazy cheers.  And finally when I make myself get into that icy cold shower and dry off, I know my endurance and will power is getting stronger and more resilient. I’m becoming a more patient person every day.  
God works in these moments of all our lives, but I think I’m finally learning that it all really depends on the attitudes we take.  Some days will always be harder than others, but we still have that choice. I think the same goes for understanding blessings in the world where so much suffering exists. We live in a fallen world and must choose to look for the beauty that God creates out of tragedies. 

(Thanksgiving blog to come! Just got to the internet after it rained and flooded for 3 days to come soon too! Promise!)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Support the Farm in a Simple Way

As most of you can tell, you've pretty much helped me reached my goal for fundraising.  Thank you so incredibly much for your support.  It is such a blessing and no small thing to be overlooked.  

For those of you who have become big fans of the Farm and would like to support it in a small way, you might consider purchasing a new Farm of the Child shirt.

They make great gifts too! 

More updates to come...winter school and winter camp are about to start up on Monday so things are a little crazy.  But I promise an update is on it's way!


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Candlelit Showers and a Rat Race

It’s been a while since I last updated you all and I thought I should let you know that I’m finally home and at the Finca!  Things are wonderful here and I’m beyond grateful to all who have been praying and supporting me to help me get here.  

Just to update you all on life at the Farm, I am the new Kinder teacher (pray for me even more please!) School doesn’t start again until February, but in the mean time I will be helping with Winter School for the little guys (like Summer Camp) and Escuelito (Summer School) for the kids who need a little extra help to pass into the next grade.  I will also be in charge of Girl Scouts and the Women’s Faith Group for the villages surrounding us.  It is so wonderful to be back and reunited with so many friends and I’m just so happy to finally be here and begin to work.

                After a week of shadowing the Kinder classroom, I am growing more and more used to the idea.  If you asked me that two weeks ago I would have said HELL NO can I teach and calm down kids who are still beyond reason and haven’t yet learned to control their bodies.  After a week of shadowing and assisting the current teachers, however, I have to admit I’m falling in love with them.  The other day one of our little guys came to school with a hurt arm.  After the teacher tried to gently hold his arm to guide him back to his seat, he dropped to the ground and started bawling.  I went over to comfort him and see what was wrong and saw that his arm was bent and looked broken.  The poor little guy told us his dad was in the hospital because “he was really really old” and that he was staying with his cousin who was another kid in the class.  The nurse had told his family to get it X-rayed earlier in the week but they hadn’t for whatever reason.   

                 We’ve just recently been told by local patients who have come to our clinic looking for help only a doctor can give that the three local hospitals in our area are on strike.  The last strike that happened lasted for months and with the upcoming November elections, who knows how long this one will last.   All I know is that this means my little friend’s arm won’t be able to get set and he’ll have to live without a cast or anything to protect it at six years old.  No child should have to live with a broken arm and let it heal bent like that.  It could affect him for the rest of his life and definitely hurt him when he starts growing more.  He’s such a tough little guy with the sweetest little angel eyes.  The trouble is, that’s common here and it’s something I’m going to have to learn to deal with.  We can offer assistance and let them know if it’s about money, our missionary community can pull some funds together for them to go, but in the end it’s not our choice and we can’t force any one to take action or for the government to get their country’s needs in order.  That’s a tough realization to come to especially when it’s affecting a little guy that I really care about.  

                On a different note, another thing I’m getting used to is candlelit showers.  The power doesn’t go out nearly as often or for as long as it did the summer I spent here two years ago, but it does still go out almost daily at some point.  Last night we were lucky and had two power outages just in time for dinner.  While it is inconveniently hot, there’s something to be said about spending time with friends on a Friday night without any distractions of phones or internet.  Candles can make a world of difference in clearing the mind and helping you relax.  It also helps stir creativity…

You see, we’ve had a long-running problem with rats.  Maybe it’s because we have the most food out of everyone on the Farm and maybe it’s just because we aren’t as experienced with rat-proofing our things, but it’s been a while since the house had a rat killing so we decided we were in need of a competition to get the ball rolling again. This is a real Rat Race and it will be going on for 10 days.  Teams have been made and money has been put down.  So that’s how we spent our Friday night: making home-made innovative traps in the glow of a foggy full moon and candles.  And, why, you ask, have we not tried actual rat traps?  That would be because, my dear friends, the most intelligent ones remain and they don’t fall for those tricks.  Also, we have some cat allergies in the house so we can’t use those clever animals either.  This morning was like Christmas and we were all excited to see what we caught.  My team was duped by the clever ratones, but the others did manage to catch two little guys and a rat queen.  While this may sound ridiculous to you all, I can’t emphasize enough that this is not a battle.  This is a war.  Our house is infested and every night is a fight to keep our food safe.  We will be continuing on for the next 10 days.  Any and all advice is welcome.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fiestas, Viajes, and a Boda

(Festivities, Trips, and a Wedding) 

For those of you who have been asking my mom how I’m doing, I am great!  So sorry I haven’t updated you on my progress through language school, though.  Time really is flying by.  And I hate studying…so it’s no wonder I have procrastinated writing as well.  I am doing very well though and the happiest I’ve been since I can remember.  Other than a minor case of bronchitis, some very very tired and sore muscles, a few stomach aches, and lots of rain, things are really wonderful here in Antigua! 
But in all seriousness, I have been extremely blessed with a truly amazing group of young adults to work with during our time at the Farm.  It is amazing to see how well all of us have molded together to form a strong, united group.  “Un groupo unido, jamás será vencido”  has become our mantra…and yes we did steal it from the Guatemalan’s on Independence Day for those of you wondering.   It means “united, we will never be defeated!”  And that couldn’t be truer from what I’ve experienced by traveling and spending day after day with these amazing individuals.  I love them all. Even when we disagree or mis-communicate, it isn’t a big issue. I’ve noticed that where some of us are weak, others are very strong and it makes for a very good combination.  

Needless to say, we have experienced a lot together over the past few weeks (has it only be 4 or 5 weeks??).  I started volunteering twice a week at a place in town called Casa Jackson with Noelle and Curtis.  It’s basically a place where malnourished children from all over Guatemala come to be taken care of for about 6 months typically and then they are sent home a little over their recommended weight because they may lose some again as their parents adjust to the new nutrition guidelines they are given.  This is tough because there is so much poverty in Central America and more often than not parents can’t feed their children and afford the nutrition necessary.  But, as sad as it makes me sometimes, I am overjoyed to know that these recovering, adorable, energetic little guys have parents and families to go home to one day.  They aren’t stuck in their cribs forever.  That’s basically what we take care of for an afternoon or two a week.  We come in to relieve the tired and jaded nurses from the constant crying by changing diapers (we’re becoming experts) and holding the little ones who just need someone to give them attention and love to help them get better. 

Me & Lisbeth (photo by Curtis)
We have been traveling a lot lately, mostly on the weekends.  Instead of describing it to you, however, I am going to cheat and just share two videos Patrick made.  The first is of our trip to Lago Atitlan which is a beautiful crater lake surrounded by three volcanoes! It was amazing.  The next is of this past weekend when we stayed in Antigua to celebrate Independence Day with Guate…which was also amazing!  America needs to get it together…this was the coolest Independence Day I’ve ever experienced.  I mean, there was a parade for three days straight people.  

Guatemalan Independence weekend: 
Things in the casa are great as well.  I still love my guate-family and they have helped me to realize how true the saying is that man cannot live on bread alone.  I’ve literally been living off the stuff.  I wish I could say its helping me grow in my faith and that maybe I had a deep reflection to share on the matter, but really all it’s done is make me realize that I need some serious fruits and veggies.  Who would have ever guessed that these Antigueños would be so addicted to every type of bread known to man and endless tazas of tea.   I am trying to enjoy it, however, because I know this is not what I should expect in two weeks by any means.  I can’t wait to see what kind of meals and dishes we can come up with at the Farm.  I hope the current missionaries are okay with a few random and potentially bad meals before we become pros at cooking everything from scratch on an outside fire.
Anyways, Francisco pequeño—the four year old cutie in my house—has turned my bedroom window upstairs, which conveniently opens up to the upstairs courtyard, into a tienda.  More often than not I will be reading, napping, or trying to make myself study, when I’ll see two little hands move through the curtains always followed by a little voice, “knock knock…excuse me señorita but I would like to buy a Coke nice and cold, some cookies of course, and also some medicine.  Yes yes I need medicine to fix pain in my head, feet, toes, arms…oh and for my dog too!”  How can I resist spending time as a simple tienda owner?  He is adorable and reminds me every time after a long day at school that it is all worth it.    

In other news, Curtis and Noelle got remarried to their other Mayan-halves.  Natalie and I were blessed to be in the bridal party and, seeing as Patrick was the only caballero (or spanish cowboy…which is ironic because he is also from Texas) that Curtis happens to be friends with, he was the honorable best Mayan man.  

We were really helping out some of the Mayan women who set up shop in our school every week to show off their incredibly intricate and beautiful trajes tipicas, or typical indigenous dress.  For the woman it consists of a blouse called a wipeel (and I’m probably misspelling that…sorry Shep!), and beautifully woven and equally colorful falda or skirt and it is completed with an ornately embroidered belt that holds it all together…and that is no understatement.  I think that belt is the equivalent of a corset because I definitely could not breathe.  Anyways, for Independence Day weekend celebrations we helped these Mayan women along with our school to put on a fashion show by modeling their trajes tipicas from different villages and they decided Curtis and Noelle would complete the show by getting married.  It was very fun and only confirmed my desire to become Latina.  

Well, hopefully you can see how beautiful this place is gracias a Patrick’s videos.  If you ever have the chance to visit Guatemala, Antigua is where you want to stay.  It is a beautiful, truly enjoyable place and makes the culture shock much easier…probably because while you are adjusting, you are falling in love with everything about it.   Pues, I think that’s all I have on my mind to share for now. 

I guess I covered most of it apart from getting pick-pocketed on a chicken bus, stuck in the market because the streets flooded, watching a large Mayan woman sit on my friend Joe’s lap for a whole van ride, the earthquake that had supposedly 74 aftershocks, the active volcano we climbed that spit steaming rocks out constantly, and the AMAZING retreat we had with Zulena—the co-founder of the mission.  Yep…I think that’s it for now.  Love you all and thanks for caring so much!  I am SO excited to get to the Farm and love on those kids and can’t wait to tell you all about it.  I promise to try better to keep this baby updated as well.

Lots of love from Guatemala,

PS- If you have donated recently and possibly after I left the States, THANK YOU!  I haven’t forgotten about you, I have simply become adjusted to chapina time (or Latino time) and apologize for not sending you a formal thank you.  I will try my best to get them to you as soon as I can with someone traveling home to the States.  Thank you for your support!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bienvenidos a Guatemala!

Wow! Where to begin.  I wish you all were here with me to experience this beautiful country and amazing culture.  It’s been a whirlwind of a week but I’m going to attempt to share as much as I can.
Leaving my mom and brother at the gate was about as hard as I expected.  I tried so hard to hold it together and I was fine once I got to my gate (probably because they had wifi and I didn’t feel so alone).  Once in Miami, I found Curtis, Noelle, and Natalie at our gate and had one last piece of pizza before we left the States.  Little did we know, Antigua has that and basically everything else we could ever want or need.  

Landing in Guatemala was so easy.  We kept trying to come up with backup plans in case someone wasn’t there to pick us up and if our bags were missing.  But by the time we made it to immigration (immediately after exiting the plane), we were surprised to have our own pick of immigration officers stamp our passports.  The airport was virtually empty and only one of our bags was missing (trust me, that’s amazing).  When we walked outside we were immediately greeted by two guys from our Spanish school La Union and Patrick, the fifth missionary of our class.  Once we left Guatemala City for Antigua we were distracted from the crazy traffic by an entertaining “Spanglish” conversion with the guys from La Union.  They handed us gifts from our house families and a little Mayan doll with our names on it.  Needless to say, we felt very welcome.  

Once in Antigua, we were greeted by lusciously green smoky mountains and volcanoes.  There are three nearby, the closest being Volcan Agua.  Agua is no longer active, or so they say.  The others are Volcan Pacaya, which you can climb as well, and Volcan Fuego, which means certain death if you attempt to climb it.  Luckily, that is the furthest away they assured me.  I’m all about exploring, hiking, and seeing volcanoes for the first time, but when you tell me one of them erupted last year and killed some people, forgive me but I’m bound to be a little hesitant.  Needless to say, these guatemaltecos who have grown up next to volcanoes all their lives tease me about it incessantly.
Driving through Antigua to our new homes was like being in a very old Italian city.  Everything here is ancient.  It’s the only colonial city in Guatemala that has regulations to keep it looking so original romantic.  The roads and sidewalks are all cobblestone and the buildings only vary between five warm Tuscan colors.  There are a ton of Catholic Churches throughout the tiny city from the colonial times, not to mention all of the ones now considered ruins because of earthquakes years and even centuries ago.  I never knew anything like this existed outside of Europe.  It’s absolutely incredible. 
The first night was both the worst and the toughest to get through.  I was dropped off at my host family’s house and greeted by a sweet smiling old woman named Señora Cony and her daughter Lúcrecia (or Lúki).  Cony looks just like an older version of my favorite Spanish teacher from middle school—shout out to you Mrs. Citro!  It was very comforting to be greeted by a semi-familiar face…not to sound creepy.  

Their house is quite small but very cozy.  You enter the big steel door that is typical for the area and enter a sweet courtyard complete with a beautiful hanging garden, a bird cage, their stove and pila (a sink they use in Central/South America to wash clothes and dishes).  Directly in front is a stairway up to the second floor, looking up is an open sky, and to the left is a doorway to the office and another just after it to the tiny dining room.  The next door is mine and, while it’s a bit dark because there’s no window, it’s cozy.  I’m hoping to change rooms tomorrow to an upstairs one with a window and a view of the mountains.  There’s a bathroom directly across from my room with just a toilet and a shower (and hot water! I cannot explain how grateful I was for hot water).  It’s always awkward in a new country, new place, new house and new culture to try and ask where the things are that you’re most comfortable with, though.  For example…uhh where’s the sink?  And do you all not keep toilet paper regularly? Also—after I finally found the sink in the bathroom upstairs—where is the soap?  Sometimes it’s there, other times it’s not.  I’m trying to make it a goal of mine to learn to read people better and feel out situations, but add on a different language and culture and it gives you a whole new challenge.  

In the end, you just learn to work with it and provide the things for yourself that you know you need to stay comfortable.  Granted, in trying to now live a very simplistic life, I don’t want to be too comfortable.  But, I’d say toilet paper is kind of a necessity.  

Enough about the house though.  The family is so wonderful!  So there is Cony and Lúki.  Cony is kind of in charge of my stay and feeding me every day except Sundays.  She is so sweet.  The kitchen is too small for me to eat with their big family at meals, but she will still sit with me and talk.  I think at first she did it because she felt rude not to, but now I know she enjoys talking with me over meals.  We drink tea, eat different types of bread, and talk about everything and anything.  I’ve learned so much already from her.  It reminds me of the time I got to spend with my sweet, wise old friend, Louie.  

Lúki is 24 and studying to be a lawyer at the local University.  Here they have to study for 5 years and then have a job for 2 years before they can be considered a lawyer.  But I feel proud of her already even though I barely know her.  She is working so hard and is such an independent, strong woman…kind of like someone else I know (Meredith Fee). 

Heidy is my new personal trainer.  She is 28 but doesn’t look a day older than 17. We run almost every morning and she has shown me more of Antigua than I ever thought existed.  She is from the next pueblo over called San Gaspar and one time we ran past her house and stopped by to meet her parents and grab some water.  Her dad is 65 and runs marathons with his son every year here!  He is so fit and looks so young.  Heidy is married to Francisco, Cony’s younger son and they have a four year old boy called Francisco pequeño.  He is so cute…and has a LOT of energy.  I brought him a Thomas the Tank Engine bubble making whistle which he went around playing with for about a week.  Then I whipped out the super hero coloring book and every day he wants to color now.  But not just one page…all of them!  He is sweet though and I love spending time with him.  He has a dog called Oso which, yes, means bear.  But here oso also means teddy bear and I honestly think he must believe his dog is a stuffed animal.  He carries it around, torments it, chases it, plays with it, shakes it.  Like any four year old boy, this is expected.  Maybe the dog likes it though because he never bites him.  

The other people here are Cony’s older son Alfredo and a student studying at a school here named Bryan.  I rarely see Alfredo but he is very nice.  He drives a tuktuk—the local taxi which is basically a motorcycle with two wheels in the back and can carry three people—that they keep in the courtyard at night.  It looks pretty funny sitting there in the middle of the house.  Bryan is quiet and seems very studious. I think he is just living here during the school year because by the time you reach high school here you are studying towards a profession.  If you want to be a maestro like Bryan for example, you would choose the best school you know of focused on becoming a teacher.  This is a more modern idea, I am told, and often the students will have to move away from home to go to the school of their choice.  

So, moving onto Antigua!  Like I said, the first night here was horrible for me.  I was so lost and confused by all the streets, which conveniently don’t have signs most of the time.  Luckily I was able to meet up with my group of finca missionaries for dinner at the Parque Central , which is the main center of most of Antigua.  We all went to dinner and kind of got to know each other.  Curtis and Noelle are married and both Notre Dame graduates.  They spent the last year working as Americorp Vista volunteers in Moab, Utah.  They are both very funny and a beautiful example of marriage.  Natalie is the nurse and she is so down to earth.  She is kind and so full of faith.  It’s people like her that give me hope in the modern American Catholic Church again.  We spend a lot of time together figuring out where to buy things, getting lost, and being late but we have fun.  Patrick is such a kind soul.  He seems very genuine and keen on moving to Honduras to experience poverty and learn about the culture and spend time with the kids.  He was a theology teacher back in Texas so I’m sure he has plenty of experience with feisty teenagers!  

Meeting everyone and kind of getting to know them that first night helped so much, but I’m telling you it definitely did not stop me from thinking about booking a ticket home immediately.  I think it must have just been the abrupt culture shock.  All I could think of was how I hate this part.  I hated it when I left Honduras and spent every night for 6 months crying myself to sleep because of how much I missed this life, this culture, and those kids.  But two years later, the American life had grown too comfortable.  Maybe that was just it.  I was uncomfortable, I was alone without any way of communicating instantly with anyone, and I was afraid.  It’s like ripping of a  very very VERY strong band-aid.  Coming from my clean, perfect, porcelain life, I guess I can’t blame myself for thinking I couldn’t do it.  So I just told myself this over and over again: one week.  Give yourself one week.  Pretend you’re on vacation and you’ll be home in just a week if you want.   Then go from there. 
Well, I guess it must be obvious but it worked.  Literally the next day I felt 100% better about everything.  I came to know more of the streets, I forced myself to go out and buy things I needed and explore, to be confident in myself and in my decisions, and to just be myself around all of these new people I don’t know.  Believe me, it’s not easy.  I don’t easily trust people nowadays and I have to fight not putting up a fake wall every step of the way.  But it’s worth it because Antigua is growing on me and so are my new compañeros.  If it weren’t for this new finca community, I don’t think I would be nearly as happy here. 

Just a warning, if you were expecting a short blog post you might want to continue reading this later.  There’s just way too much I want to share!

So at La Union we each get our own personal maestras.  For me, it’s like meeting with an old friend for coffee.  My teacher’s name is Claudia and she is so fun.  We rarely work on grammar from the book she uses because I talk her ear off every single day.  I think it’s supposed to work a different way, though.  Two hours of talking and then two hours of studying with the book…but somehow every day we get off topic and keep talking.  I guess that is practice in and of itself, though.  I just can’t think of studying right now without wanting to go INSANE.  I barely made it to graduation alive and the last thing I want to do is study.  Gracias a Dios, I put most of my time into studying Spanish in college so I can afford to be a little lazy.  Anyways, a typical day at school is me sitting at a small table across from Claudia next to a beautiful relaxing water fall drinking bottomless tea and coffee with smiling faces all around.  The employees there are all so happy and kind.  There are so many of us foreigners there too…and throughout all of Antigua for that matter. 

Here in Antigua they have their own special police force just for the tourists.  There are many ex-pats, visitors, back-packers, students, and people who just stopped by for a visit and never left.  I feel very safe here.  On Saturday, my group hiked up a short ways to the famous El Cerro de la Cruz which is on top of a big mountainy-hill (I’m telling you it’s somewhere in between).  It overlooks all of Antigua and has an unreal view of Volcan Agua.  We went in the morning when it was bright and there were barely any clouds and it looked like a painting.  There is a giant cross behind you that is the focal point of the view and a main reason for our visit.  I wish I had more pictures, but I hadn’t bought a camera charger yet.  Don’t worry, now that I have one I promise to share more.  

We have done so much just in the last week and learned so much.  Our eyes are constantly being opened wider to more things, both very beautiful and incredibly tragic.  In the end, though, I am glad I stayed.  I have a feeling Antigua has a lot more to teach me before I leave for the Finca.  Thanks for hanging in there with me through this long post!  I promise more fun details and stories in the next week or so.