As my first entry states, I am taking part in the PC(USA’s) Young Adult Volunteer program in Xela, Guatemala. This is a program for young adults that I have been interested in for several years, and the timing finally felt right! For more information on the Young Adult Volunteer Program (YAV), please visit http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/yav/
Here is a rundown of what I have been up to since I wrapped up CPE at Parkland Hospital in Dallas and left for my Young Adult Volunteer Orientation in Stony Point, New York:
On Monday August 22nd, I said a tearful goodbye to my family at Dallas Love Field airport and arrived in Newark about 3 hours later, where I met up with about 30 other YAVs who are going to be living all over the world next year. Once there, we were shuttled about an hour and a half to Stony Point, New York. Stony Point is a Presbyterian Conference Center, to read more about it, you can visit http://www.stonypointcenter.org/
While at Stony Point, 69 of us YAVs met together to worship and be oriented on what we might expect while out of our countries or home towns.Our week included daily worship and Bible study, sessions on critical cultural competency, regular meetings with our small groups, lots of paperwork, a rundown of safety, gender issues, self-care, and the importance of communication during conflict. We also talked about living in God’s mission, globalization, culture shock and personality types. Worship was my favorite part of the week, as was walking around the beautiful countryside of New York (to hear some of the music sung during YAV worship, visit http://yavalumni.wordpress.com/ scroll down and on the right, you will see a “YAVA Sing!” section- click on any of the songs selected to hear them).
All was going according to plan (minus the earthquake)- but then came Irene! Because of this natural disaster, the majority of our flights were postponed. Thus, the four of us Guatemala YAVs did not fly out of New York until Wednesday at 5:30am. We arrived by noon and hit the ground running with our site coordinator, Marcia. Once in Guatemala City, Marcia met us at the airport and we took a shuttle to Antigua- where we are staying at the Donde Monica, a quaint little restaurant/hotel where the four of us are sharing two rooms and a bathroom (http://dondemonica.com/antigua.php).
After getting settled in Wednesday afternoon, we had a typical Guatemalan lunch, buffet style. I had beef with potatoes and tomato sauce, rice, and tortillas. Then we went to a little coffee shop where Marcia answered several questions and gave us a rundown of our schedules over the course of the next year. After lunch, we went back to the Donde Monica- where we were all asleep by 9pm!
Thursday morning, Julianne and I went for a walk (and got lost- go figure!). Then the four of us sat down for a delicious Guatemalan breakfast- café, eggs, black beans, tortillas, and rice. Then our tour guide Marco showed up. We spent the next three hours running around town learning some of the history of Antigua. We went to several parks, a couple of cathedrals, and a jade shop (apparently Guatemala is very well known for its jade). After arriving back at our hotel, we met up with Marcia and ran some errands: exchanging money, this and that at the grocery store, and the market- where we got really interesting and funky fruit! First, we had “Licha,” which has a strange resemblance to a sea urchin but is delicious on the inside- sort of tastes like starfruit (see above). Then we had some “guanava,” which is green and roughly textured on the outside but very tart and tangy on the inside. A Mayan woman also told me about “hoja santa,” “holy leaf,” which, when sliced and placed in boiling water, can help prevent kidney stones. Those of you who know my history with kidney stones know I was all over that! (see below)
After the market, we stopped by Marcia’s house, picked her family up, and met up with another family friend of theirs at a nice restaurant where I had the tastiest bananas foster I’ve ever had!
So that’s pretty much the rundown! Tomorrow, we are going to hang out here at the hotel and get to know each other a little more. Saturday morning, we are getting up very early to climb an active volcano (“Pichak”) that overlooks the city of Guatemala. Saturday afternoon, we are scheduled to leave for the city of San Juan del Obispo where will move in with our host families for the next five weeks. The schedule for these next five weeks is to go to four hours of Spanish school in the morning- and study/participate in activities in the afternoon. Marcia tells us that we will also have several “field trips” during these five weeks, including visiting our next set of host families once we finish Spanish school, a school/immigrant center, a coffee plantation, and various non-profits in the surrounding areas.
It has been a whirlwind of a few weeks, but I am so happy to be here! I want to reiterate my thanks to all of you who have supported me throughout this process- prayerfully, psychologically, and financially. I am truly fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family in my life.
I am easily contactable via this blog, facebook, email, or skype (“Kristi Click”). I am trying to get a Picasa photo album up, but haven’t quite figured it out yet- stay tuned! I will try and upload another post asap. Until then- Vaya con Dios!
The Guatemala YAVs! (Julianne, Jackie, Austin & me)
My small group at orientation (Ariel, Sean, Tricia & Christina)