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Monday, December 29, 2014

Week #27: 6 months in, Christmas and Chuicaval

So this week was a very long week or at least seems to have been going on for a very long time. This week we made 3 trips down to San Pedro which for those of you who don't know means a 4am alarm and an hour and a half ride down and another at some point in the day to come back up to Rio Blanco.  Needless to say nothing has changed and I still don't fit in the buses here.  Though through all of the bus trips and the hectic nature of the week, there were still a lot of golden moments.
        I don't know how many of you have seen Christmas celebrated in another country but I have to say the whole decorating the house thing back in The 'Fee seems kinda lame when compared to all of the explosions of Christmas night.  When the clock strikes midnight (and we do literally have a huge bell tower in Rio Blanco that sounds the hour) explosions shoot off everywhere, as people let their fireworks fly into the night.  Fireworks are cheap here so everyone can afford them and  everyone can buys a lot. In anticipation of this moment we climbed up to one of the higher points in the area and looked down the mountain at all of the fireworks going off near and into the distance.  As we looked at some of the clouds behind the mountain we could only see the explosions of light reflecting in the clouds making it seem as if there is some giant storm coming towards us from the distance.  Maybe it is just me as I have been so deprived for so long living in CA where these kinda of things are illegal. But I guess there is a reason as shortly after all was over we heard the sirens of the police and ambulances scurrying around to clean up the injured and put out the fires.
        The following morning Was Christmas day and it was a little bit weird and even more so to see the family when we Skyped home. It is probably just because this is the first Christmas I have celebrated away from home or that I am in Guatemala or because I am a missionary.   It is a little weird trying to remember and recreate some of the traditions that we do as a family here. For instance, on Tuesday we tried to do the whole baked goodies plate gifting thing, but well the very limited budget and even more limited supplies really made it turn out quite different, and very improvised. But together us four college age missionaries "magyvered"  a plate of baked goods (like if we can rig up and fix an electric shower heater every couple of weeks when it breaks - baked goods should be no problem).  I thought that it turned out pretty good and the people who received them really loved it.  However, of course, when my parents taunted me with their Christmas gift plate later on through Skype ours really did pail in comparison.
       On Christmas day one of the branches I am in had a huge Christmas celebration party that started shortly after we finished skyping on Christmas morning. They had everything; a huge carne asada meal for everyone, a DJ, a part for Christmas pictures with Santa (almost had to be Santa :o) and even little skits run by the Relief society and YM/YW and Elders Quorum and so on.  Some of these made me roll on the floor laughing. At the very end there was a giant gift exchange with every person from the Rama. It might have just been one of the best Christmas parties I've been to in all of my life. The members here really put some work into their activities and there is another coming up for New Years that I am sure will be just as fun.
       On Friday we had our first little bit of experience with bus problems or at least my first experience with them. We had our zone meeting on Friday because the buses don't work on Christmas(imagine that). But we found out after the zone meeting they don't always work on the day after Christmas either. This meant taking a bus to a fork in the road and waiting for a bus or car or anything to come by and give us a ride up the mountain...and so we waited...and waited...and got some ice cream...and waited for nearly 2 hours for something to come. Finally one of the members (ironically the person who drives the bus and wasn't working that day) passed by us in his car and with a quick double take and reverse gave us a ride to the top. We had plans to go over to Chuicaval our other rama which would have been the first time missionaries had been there in over 3 months. But it is a two hr walk and when we had finally gotten to the top of the mountain it was already starting to get dark and it is to dangerous to go in the night so we made plans for the next day.
      So I am going to skip the little talk about the pure up hill walk to the little rama up there and just get straight to the info. Up there in Chuicaval the area is more catholic than the Vatican and more spread apart then Maclen our other rama.  The church building is more of a meeting house no more than 18 by 25 of my own feet (yes I counted) and there are only 15 or so active members that go to church. I think it might be one of my favorite places on the planet earth. It is so beautiful and humbling.  I honestly cant believe I used to complain back home about being the only young man in a ward of some 200 people strong when here these people here without even one young man in the branch. It is such a beautiful place and more so than just this. It truly is the beginning of the gospel seed up there,  there is so much that can be done that I myself can do to help these members become stronger and even more to bring the gospel to so many who have never had the chance to hear it up there. I don't know how such a place could have been so neglected for so long when it has so much potential. I don't know what we are going to do to get over there more often but I do know that we for sure will be.
       Now this last little bit is kinda just for you dad. I remember you telling me just before I left as I winged my last talk in English that I soon wouldn't be able to do this in the mission.  As I would have to really prepare to give a good talk in Spanish, as it would take a while for your thoughts and feelings to be expressed naturally in Spanish. But I really think that those last min winged talks have prepared me for the mission. If you think about it missionaries normally give talks as the last minute all the time as they need to fill time or the speakers didn't come to Sacrament kind of talks.  This Sunday all of those years of preparation really came into hand (along with the language coming along nicely)  as we were asked to give talks as we walked into the Chuicaval Rama and then asked to bless and pass the sacrament with no time to prepare.
       I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas and has a Happy New Year!  What a great time to stop and reflect on being a better person as Christ wants us to be.  I hope you can all make sharing the gospel both in word and deed a part of your New Year's Resolution!

Guate can be picturesque at times and at other times not so much...

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