(Warning: long update!)
The first 24 hours in Guatemala can be described as crazy, exhausting and super awesome! After only four hours of sleep, my body decided that it was time to wake up. There’s a line in a Coldplay song that says “When you feel so tired but you can’t slee-eep” and that is the perfect description for how I feel right now. I want to sleep for days, but my body is still on Dutch time. And just when the whole family was ready to eat their beans-egg-platano-tortilla-breakfast, my body decided that it actually was time to sleep again so I missed the whole breakfast. At 11am I could finally drag myself out of bed, take a shower and get ready for breakfast where I got confronted with the first big cultural difference. You only eat cornflakes for breakfast? How do you survive on thát? A big cup of tea, a kiwi, an apple and a bowl of cornflakes with milk is enough to get me going but apparently that’s hard to believe for the people here. I’ve never been a big eater and I always struggle to eat enough to get myself on a healthy weight. The Guatemalan eating schedule is so different from the Dutch one that it is hard to adjust to it. Guatemalans eat an entire dinner for breakfast ánd lunch and they actually don’t have dinner. I just can’t eat that much in the mornings!
A typical Guatemalan breakfast: frijoles (beans), huevos (eggs), platanos (some sort of banana, often fried), crema (creme), queso (cheese, that’s the little white block on the left) and tortillas.
After breakfast it was time to discover my new world. We were planning on going to something that’s called ‘Bufo’ which is a big student protest in Zona 1, the heart of the city. It is not really a protest, it’s more like a big parade with people dressing up with creepy masks and clothing. Not a violent thing, just a scheduled and annual protest that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Only a few minutes later things already shifted when my good friend Sam texted me that there was a ‘splash day’ at AMG (the organization where I will do my internship) and that it would be fun. I think it was some sort of water fight but unfortunately it was already over when Sophie and I arrived at AMG. Too bad, because the pictures on Facebook looked awesome! After two years I was finally back at the place where it all began! It was really weird to walk around there because I only had a vague memory of it. Not a lot of things had changed. I recognized the big football field, the kitchen area, the playground and a lot of the classrooms. And after 8 months I could finally hug Sam again! For any readers who don’t know who he is, Sam is the guy who leads a lot of the projects here and he was also the coordinator of my projects in 2015 and 2016. I think I can say we are pretty good friends now. I hope he agrees. We didn’t have a lot of time to catch up because there was a group of American missionaries that was doing some construction work and he had to be there to help out. Next week we are definitely going to hang out and I really look forward to it!
After meeting Sam and some other people at AMG (my internship starts at April 17 so I still need to introduce myself properly) the kids of an organization called Champions in Action arrived at the football field. CIA is an ngo that works really hard to empower young Christian mentors to build relationships with the kids from the ‘zonas rojas’ (red zones) in Guatemala City. In these areas poverty, drug gangs, violence, abuse and broken families are a big part of the kid’s lives. By mentoring, sharing the gospel and by playing a lot of football, the kids get a chance to transform themselves and the people around them. It was incredible to see how the kids are trained in being disciplined people. If they don’t memorize their Bible verses, they are not allowed to play football. If they don’t get good grades in school, they get suspended for a few games. Before every training the kids take part in a devotional where one of the trainers shares the gospel with them. Although the entire devotional was in Spanish, I could understand the big picture. It was about trusting God with everything you do. A lot of people just say they trust God, but actually struggle with letting Him guide their lives. I can’t blame them. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially not when you grow up in an area where life can be very hard. I loved seeing the enthusiasm of the kids and the trainers and I would really like to learn more about the work of CIA.
Bienvenidos, welcome at AMG!
Unfortunately I could not see the actual training because it was getting a little late. It was time to have some lunch although I was still processing my breakfast. I was surprised to see that there are actually still public phones here! There is one right outside the gates of AMG and that was the moment I became aware of the area I was in. I had to leave my phone and the rest of my stuff at AMG only to walk for two minutes outside of the gate to make a phone call. AMG is right next to the very dangerous cementary and it is also close to the basurero, the city dump. It is not the safest place to walk around, but if I don’t take my stuff with me and if I always have someone with me that knows the area I should be fine. But I was also happy to be back on the other side of the safe walls of La Verbena, the AMG headquarters.
Sophie’s mom came to pick us up and we drove back home to pick up Hector, their sister Ninette and their ‘adopted sister’ who lives with the family for a while. And also to eat some fresh mangos! The six of us went to one of the biggest malls in the city called Miraflores to get some pizza at Domino’s Pizza. The mall was gigantic and it looked very American to me. For my Dutch fans over here: it was definitely four times bigger than the V&D-malls in the Netherlands. It was kind of like the Bijenkorf but than way bigger and there were a lot more places to get food. We orded a pepperoni and salami pizza but I was so exhausted that I could barely eat one slize. “That’s all you’re gonna eat?!” You should have seen their faces.
After the pizza lunch it was time to go home. Sophie, Carlos and Hector had to give some music lessons in church and I decided that I really needed some sleep. It is very hard because I want to do a lot of things and go to a lot of places but I also need to listen to my body very carefully. If I don’t sleep, eat and drink enough I will easily get sick. So after updating my blog and catching up with some people at home I fell asleep at only 8pm… I need to give my body some time to adjust to the heat. I went from 9 degrees to 29 degrees in only a day and I am still fighting the terrible jetlag. Today will be better for sure!