In the beautiful mountains of Quetzaltenango is a little school, full of bright young minds. For 9 days, 14 students and 2 leaders from Purdue Christian Campus House went to teach in Colegio Mark, a private K-9 school in the mountains of Guatemala. For 5 days, we taught drama, music, watch movies, and had recess but the main focus of the week was teaching English. This unique school gets many visitors a year; some bring new fascinating subjects for the school to try. Our subject was simple yet very difficult: teaching English to all students K-9 and giving teachers methods to teach with afterwards as well.
We stayed in a cozy little hotel where we were treated with the greatest hospitality. We ate our meals together, laughed at each other and prayed for each other. The hotel was only 10 minutes from the school. Each day, we ate breakfast at 7, arrived at the school at 8 and taught classes until 12:30, had an awesome 30 minutes of recess, went home for siesta, returned to teach 7-9, back home for dinner and worked on teaching material and grading all night.
What can I say about the food? We got to try so many things! But truthfully, most of what we had was available in the States. But when it comes to authentic Guatemala, we had beans and tortillas, Pollo Campero chicken (most popular fast food there) and authentic tamales (courtesy of Senora Salamen, daughter of the founder of the school.) Here’s a look at some of the foods!
On Monday we arrived at the school. Our guide Phil, who has been bringing missionaries to this school for decades, told us all about it. He said that the kids would be so excited to meet us. We were overly joyful at meeting the kids, but I never expected what we found when we got there. Off the bus, all children ranging from grades K-6 were lined up in one single line, down the street. Starting with 6th grade, we shook hands and greeted every single child and snapped a few pictures with them along the way. The older kids greeted us with a beautiful English “Good morning!” while the little ones gave each of us a sweet “Buenos Dias!” They were so polite and sweet. I even got to take a picture with my soon-to-be little ones, the Kindergarteners.
Inside the school, we made our way to the playground. The kids lined up according to grade and height and sang a welcome song for us, “Santidad a Ti Jehova”. A small girl, possibly in 4th grade, came up to say the morning prayer, which the kids also have to memorize. The prayer was beautiful. They said things like “Please help me to love my friends today. Help me to look past our differences. Help us to love one another and have patience.”
Leigha and I made our way to the Kindergarten classroom. Our teachers were so sweet and kind. Everyday we taught their kids English family words like mom and dad, colored in their workbooks and played with them during recess. Everyday during the afternoon, we brought our 7th-graders to songs class, had drama with Rob Shrumpf, and taught them English vocabulary, grammar and word structure. The kids enjoyed every class and we found out quickly that their favorite class would be songs class with Paige & Jeramey. They learned Take It All by Hillsong and it became the iconic activity of the week. So much so that at the end of the week, the parents of the Junior High kids came to the school and we had an all out concert in the auditorium. The kids and team were jumping up and down in the aisles screaming “Toma tomalo!” which means “Take take take it all!” I know for a fact that the kids will never forget this week and neither will I.
One thing that completely and utterly blew me away was how well-behaved the kids were. I mean in the classroom, children are children, across the globe. They whisper secrets and goof off but when it’s fine to concentrate they snap into serious mode and take notes! However, I was floored when I saw how well-behaved the children were at recess. Yes, I said it. RECESS!! It’s most chaotic and uncontrollable time of the day for kids to enjoy themselves and the company of friends in sports, tag, hopscotch, you name it. But in Guatemala, this school was different. The children had full access of the entire school during recess. They played tag and futbol throughout the entire building, inside and out. They chased each other and us teachers all through the halls and around the courtyards and it was so nice. The kids ran amuck and with teachers standing around everywhere, they weren’t even trying to get into any trouble (minus the one time some kids tried to steal bubbles out of Debbie’s bag. They fessed up.)
The other thing that completely blew me away was that the kids were so loving and appreciative of us coming. Even though they knew we were coming to teach their classes, they played with us at recess, following us everywhere. The girls played with our hair and gave us endless hugs and kisses. The boys asked us to take pictures of them and play futbol or tag. I was honored to get a chance to play tag,london bridge, and hopscotch during recess that week. And when we brought them gifts to play with, they were so overjoyed. We brought jump ropes, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles with us. It got so crazy that we had to put a limit on how many bubbles could be passed out. At one point, the kids attacked us to get to the chalk!
The sweetest thing about their culture is that at the end of the day, the little girls would come up to you and give you a hug and kiss on the cheek. So sweet! On Wednesday, a little girl who wasn’t even in my class (possibly 4th-grade) gave me a hug and a kiss. Our guide Phil said that in their culture, they don’t do that and not mean it. Just genuine people. On Friday, we were all tears and hugs as we hugged and shook hands with the kids as they left to go home. I couldn’t keep my eyes dry the entire time. And when a girl from my kindergarten class came up to me crying, I just lost it. I really, really did not want to leave.
The most exciting thing about this trip and the most amazing thing was that God had shown us a culture that’s pretty unlike our own. Their traditional garb is just beautiful. Both men & women alike wear colorful clothing. The women can walk down the street with 50 bananas on their heads! I probably can’t even hold 10! It’s so amazing.
On Saturday we took a trip out to see the Mayan ruins. While running up and down the steps, taking jumping pics we were surrounded by a protesters. Debbie translated for us as we sat down to watch a ritual sacrifice. At first, we thought things would be fine and we were going to sit down and pray for the people involved, hoping they would turn away from this and turn to God. However, this routine sacrifice turned out to be a chicken sacrifice, with a witch doctor and everything! So we walked down the steps and around a hill to pray under a large tree. We prayed for the people involved in this modern-day sacrificing, which I honestly didn’t know still went on. We prayed for the people trapped in this kind of thing, praying they would turn to God and be saved.
It’s really sad, but our guide Phil told us that many politicians in Guatemala abuse the system and con illiterate impoverished voters, such as the Mayans into voting for them. The current leader in office did this and he isn’t Mayan. Infact, there is one Mayan in his cabinet, believed to be for show. It’s sad that this kind of thing is happening but it’s true. We prayed for them all, reflecting on the OT about how so many sacrificed to little ‘g’ gods. And for what? It was apparent that God had sent us to be tourists on this particular Saturday in the Guatemalan mountains for a reason.
Market Disclaimer: Mayans believe that cameras are wicked and won’t allow their pictures to be taken. Christian & Catholic Guatemalans aren’t offended so that’s why I got to take so many pics of the kids. Sorry, no market pics!
We got a chance to shop three times on the trip. First were some vendors right outside in the hotel parking lot! Then we visited a Guatemalan market, where people buy produce, fish and beautiful textiles. I might’ve gone overboard with the textiles (and I may have forgotten to take pictures of the ones I bought before sending them off to friends, my bad). Here are some of the things I bought home!
I learned how to barter while on this trip too! The craziest thing about shopping on Monday at the Artisan Market was that I enjoyed it! I was so nervous about changing prices but I got some amazing deals on beautiful scarves, earrings, bags and knick knacks! (I had a bit of a list for shopping, so it took a lot of planning beforehand). Unfortunately, my plan failed me. I spent part of my coffee money on the last scarf! I had to borrow a few US bucks to cover it (thank you Jarrett & Anna!) Oh, by the way, I bought authentic Guatemalan coffee for my parents. They came in the cutest little bags and smelled amazing. I’m not a big fan of shopping normally but I had a great time, helping friends pic out gifts for their loved ones and figuring out what all my loved ones wanted while shopping! We even found some cool stuff at the airport (it paid off having to wait an hour for the flight).
Silly shopping aside, I’ve never had an experience like this trip. I was pretty distraught to have to step on that plane. But I thought “maybe God will have another trip planned for me in the future. You never know”.
I am so grateful for what God has done in my life. I can’t look at the world the same way again, especially after hearing Jason (Director of Campus House) talk about me being the 1% that will change the world [if you’re not sure, take a look right here]. Fancy restaurants, cruises, shopping sprees, beaches, vacation homes, hdtv, luxury cars, iphones and jacuzzis in your backyard; these things we can live without. They are made for the 1%. After spending a week with a culture that appreciates every single thing, I have to wonder, what are we doing? What are we here on this earth for?
I want to give a special shout out to my supporters, who are what brought me on this trip. I would’ve been sitting at home with my parents, staring at the wall [hopefully not that dramatic]. But I just want to thank you so much. I hope that this trip will mean that God’s changing my life, changing how I buy things for ME, changing my attitude, whatever it takes.
Until we meet again!