Making memories and A sojourner’s prayer

One of my favorite parts about being on Cross-cultural in Guatemala is that I am able to stay with a host family. I absolutely love my host family. They have graciously opened their home to me and the parents even call me “mija” (their daughter) while my little host sister calls me her “hermanita” (even though I am technically the older sister). The weekends that I spend with them usually consist of playing with my host sister in the morning, watching soccer games in the afternoon  since my host dad plays on a team, and going to birthdays to meet the entire family and eat cake (so delicious).

This past weekend, I had the privilege of going to Antigua (one of Guatemala’s old capitals) with my family on Sunday, February 5. It was a special treat as Antigua is one of the sites that is a “must-see” while in Guatemala.  We went out to dinner, saw lots of beautiful churches, rode horses, and took lots of pictures. The horse thing was actually quite hilarious. My little host sister really wanted to ride a horse, but in order to ride one horse you had to pay for two horses because they are roped together. My host parents asked me to ride the second horse so I did. Okay, so I am taller than a lot of people here  – which is so strange since I’m used to being on the shorter end in the U.S. – so sitting on that big horse (although I think mine was more like a mule) I felt even more out of place than normal. Basically I had a good laugh the entire ride around the square. However, when we were about to arrive at the place where we had started, our horses walked too close to another horse connected to a carriage. That horse lunged at my sister’s horse in an effort to bite him, causing our horses to react by jumping and turning to the side. My heart about fell out of my chest. The other horse did not bite my sister’s horse and nobody got hurt, which made it more funny and exciting than scary. Luckily my host mom had not seen us or she probably would have flipped out too. My host dad made sure we were okay but then took a picture of us so we could remember our facial expressions after that wonderful moment. Ha, ha, ha.

While walking down the famous street of the arch, we saw some security guards on motorcycles. My host parents got really excited and told me that it meant that the president or vice president was there. One of the major events that has happened in Guatemala while we have been here has been the change of presidency.  The new president is Otto Perez Molina and his Vice President is Roxana Baldetti. The part about it that is most exciting is that Roxana Baldetti is the first woman vice president.  Sure enough, the Vice President was strolling down one of the sidewalks taking pictures and talking to the people that came up to greet her. My host mom smiled really big and grabbed both me and my little host sister to go and greet the new vice president. Not only did we greet her, but we also took a photo with her. That’s right; I got a picture with the first woman vice president of Guatemala. Now that is history in the making. This trip to Antigua is just one of the wonderful memories that I will cherish forever because of my wonderful host family.

-Kelsey Zook


Hola mis amigos y familia!

I hope that all is well at EMU and wherever you are as you read this. This Thursday will be 5 weeks that we have been living here in Guatemala! I realize that everyone says this in journal entries, therefore it sounds cliché, however it still never ceases to amaze me how time flies by. Our group continues to grow, learn and see more and more every day, constantly experiencing life in the busy city and attempting to learn the Spanish language.

I asked my host brother, sister, and mom in the car the other day whether they thought I had improved at all in my Spanish, and they responded with an enthusiastic yes. However, I then proceeded to tell them they that were all lying to me. Although I do believe I have gotten a lot better at Spanish, there are still days where I stare blankly at my family as they repeat a question to me about 4 times or more, and I still have no idea what I am supposed to be trying to understand. Patience, patience, patience. I don’t know how my family puts up with me sometimes.

The group poses in front of Jaguar Temple on the main plaza in Tikal A little bit more about what we did this past weekend here in Guatemala…We had the opportunity to visit the beautiful city of Tikal and took a short flight early on Friday morning. I must admit I was a little apprehensive about the flight when I walked into the airport “waiting area”, and it was literally the size of my living room at home. Then we proceeded to actually walk out onto the runway to enter the plane. Our group took up all but four of the seats on the plane, making for a cozy time together. Did I mention the part about not having to put any of our carry-on luggage through any kind of security check? It was definitely a different experience from the crowded, insane airports of the United States. However, after 45 minutes (and many prayers from Laura and me in the back of the plane) we arrived safely in Tikal and began our adventures.

The first thing we did was visit the pyramid and temple ruins of the Mayans. These grand and beautiful structures of history provided endless fun and culture as we climbed to high lookouts. We stood in awe of magnificent architecture and knew we would never see anything like this in the USA. The rest of our weekend was spent in complete relaxation and rest as we stayed in bungalows on the shore of Lake Peeten Itza. We were able to swim, kayak, chill in hammocks, and do whatever we pleased on Saturday and Sunday. It was a great time together, and having the opportunity to do NO school work was a perfect escape for us all.

After a restful weekend, we jumped back into our Spanish classes here at CASAS, and we have now all entered into the next level of our courses (somehow we all passed our exams…thank goodness). And so this is where I leave you all! Thank you for your continued thoughts and prayers!

Love from the (tan and somewhat burnt) gringos!

-Rachel Kennel


God of the journey,

Of exciting new adventures,

Of tired feet covered in volcanic ash,

It seems like we’ve only just arrived, yet we have changed so much and traveled so far from home that our souls feel as if we’ve been here longer.

We are tired sojourners. We need your strength.

God of diversity,

Of cultures we are immersed in but don’t completely understand,

Of overwhelmed minds, constantly translating from one language to another

Our strangeness in this place is good, yet it is also a burden we carry

We are homesick foreigners. We need your love.

God of the unknown,

Of strange encounters that make us question what we thought we knew

Of eyes longing to connect with others, but afraid to do so,

Many of us have come closer to violence, poverty, and oppression than we have yet in our previous journeys.

We are exhausted with new awareness of our collective brokenness. We need your peace.

God of the journey, the diverse, the unknown,

You are also the God who is with us.

Every day you give us strength in the laughter, smiles, and embraces of the people traveling with us.

You give us love through the continuing patience and good humor of our teachers and our host families.

You give us peace in moments of beauty in this land and with the people who call it home.

God with us, we thank you that we do not journey alone.

-Emily Hedrick