After leaving the hustle of Mexico City, we were pleasantly welcomed by the more relaxed atmosphere in Puebla. As soon as we arrived at the Spanish Institute of Puebla, we had a brief orientation to the Institute, then if was off to our new host families. In contrast to our host families in Guatemala, we were 2 or 3 students to a family. This helped to ease the transition, and took some pressure off of our Spanish skills.
April 5, 2014
Spring break came a week later for those of us across the pond, but it brought the same feelings of joy and freedom. After completing an intensive course in biblical history at Jerusalem University College, we appreciated the week of independent travel. Small groups of travelers departed Jerusalem for Tel Aviv, Eilat, the Galilee, Bulgaria, and Turkey without the leadership of our faithful professors Linford and Janet.
For the group who went to Turkey, we were met with yet another new culture in our adventurous semester. While I enjoyed Israel, it was nice to see something fresh. We landed in Istanbul and spent most of our time in the Sultanahmet area with the most famous sites the city has to offer. The Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia loomed nearby and captured our attention throughout the week. A rainy afternoon was a good time to explore the grounds of the Topkapi Palace which included numerous exhibits of Ottoman artifacts. Finally, the Grand Bazaar provided plenty to do in between. We carefully navigated the scores of shops, hunting for the best possible bargains. In all of these experiences, I felt the rush of adrenaline that comes with witnessing the magnificent.
Judge Lawrence Burman – average of 7 minutes per case, 57 immigration courts in country, deportation system backlogged with 350,000 cases, 40 % appear in court without representation.
“Like doing death-penalty cases in a traffic court setting,” one immigration judge said in testimony before Congress about the job.
This is hard to read and I felt like I might cry, especially after meeting families that have been in these situations. There are so many stories like this one I’m sure. So many families broken apart. I can’t even imagine but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying. I don’t want to [return home and] act like I don’t know what I do know.”
On February 28, our group left our Spanish classes early to get a head start on our weekend trip to Lake Atitlán. After a warm and humid bus ride, we stopped at a cooperative called Campesino Committee of the Highlands. While walking to the storehouse, Rebecca was happy to see a group of children playing soccer in an open building with a sign saying, “Se prohibe jugar fútbol.”
Once inside, many of us were surprised to see the logo of the cooperative superimposed onto chalkboard-sized, professionally printed tarps with Hugo Chavez’s face and the phrase “Continuemos la lucha!”
On Friday, February 14th we travelled to Tikal for our second weekend trip in Guatemala. We had a really early start to the day – we needed to be up and ready to leave CASAS at 4:30 a.m. so we could catch our flight to Tikal at 6:00 a.m. The flight to Tikal took us about 45 minutes and we arrived safely in our 30 passenger propeller plane. From there we went straight to the Tikal National Park where we toured the Mayan ruins. We hiked to five different sites and our tour guide gave us some background history about the ruins along the way. It was really fascinating to see these ruins and to learn about the Mayan culture in such an interesting place.
Last week we heard from two speakers, the first speech was focused on Neo-Pentecostals and this movement involves a new Pentecostal form as opposed to the old. Neo-Pentecostalism originated after the strong earthquake in 1976 when destruction occurred in Guatemala City, and churches and communities came together as they saw hope in the Neo-Pentecostals. During this time the country became more conscious of God, and the Neo-Pentecostal churches grew from 2% of the population to nearly 40% today. The second speaker was Rafael Escobar, who is the Dean of the Anabaptist seminary, Semilla, where we are studying Spanish. He discussed the Mennonites in Guatemala. The discussion revolved around the distinctives of Anabaptists including peace and non-violence, which is different than the Dispensationalist theology of many other Guatemalan churches. Throughout his speech he encouraged us to explore how we express our faith, where we come from and how we should apply this to our calling here.
What does oppression feel like? What happens if we label the relationship between Israel and Palestine as apartheid, and how does that title change our experience and perception of the region, and America’s own involvement? Are our host families, generous to a fault in welcoming a complete stranger into their homes and filling our plates past protests of complete satiation, silently suffering past their means under inflated prices and lost opportunities? During our lectures and field trips around the West Bank, passionate and convicted Palestinians share their stories and effortlessly evoke our deepest sympathies.
As responsible stewards in an EMU Cross-Cultural, we have been reminded of the importance of a balanced understanding; we cannot fully understand even one side if we neglect to understand both. But when our host families and speakers relay stories of suffering or injustice, how will we walk into a settlement, or an encroaching and internationally illegal community of Israelis on Palestinian land, and empathize with the imposing doctrines of Zionism, of Colonialism?
On our first adventure outside of Guatemala City, we took a three hour bus ride that was split in half. Our first stop where we ate lunch was the Mayan ruins of Iximche. This was an interesting place to see because prior to this we have been learning about the Mayan people. During the week we had visited a Mayan museum close to CASAS where we were able to see and hold artifacts that were 1,500 years old! We also learned about the Mayan cosmovision which embraces the balance of nature, and their precise calendars which accurately correspond with astronomy. While we took a walk around the ruins we were able to see people practicing their Mayan prayer ritual. In the ruins we saw the ancient Mayan soccer field where people played using their elbows and chest to hit the ball. This game was the deciding factor of who would be sacrificed to the gods at the end of the game.
We then took a winding road through the beautiful Guatemalan mountains to arrive at our destination, Chichicastenango. In this town we focused our learning on Mayan culture, markets, and Catholicism. We were able to meet with a women’s widow co-operative that helps them sustain themselves and their families by creating textiles as their sole income. This opportunity allows them to work with an organization specifically like Ten Thousand Villages who are able to buy their products and allocate fair prices. In this co-operative there are twelve women from the K’iche village. This was a fascinating experience to be able to buy items from this co-operative and meet with the women who made them. We also had the opportunity to visit another co-operative called Ruth and Naomi. It was amazing to see that there is hope for people in small villages to make a living for themselves. Continue reading