It has been a busy 6 weeks since we last posted an entry on our Blog. Let me tell you about the excitement. In mid January my parents and my brother Troy were able to come down and spend 10 days with us. It was a wonderful time to travel and see some things in Guatemala that we haven’t seen yet as well as travel just across the border into Honduras to see the Copan Ruins. It was also a wonderful time to share with them about our time here. We’re so glad that most of our immediate family has been able to come see our lives here.
In January I also started spending the afternoons volunteering at a children’s library in town. It has been a wonderful addition to my experience here. On Monday, Tuesday and Thursday a local woman and I take story hours to some of the rural schools around Santiago. Reading is not something that the Mayan’s do for pleasure, so the library is making efforts to get kids reading at a young age. On Wednesday and Friday afternoons I do random administrative tasks around the library and I especially enjoy when they put me to work doing crafty things for the bulletin boards or calendar. The director of the Library has also asked that I start teaching the local employee’s how to put a newsletter together. Within the first week that I was working at the Library kids in town started recognizing me and one little girl ran up to me in the street, gave me a hug, and said, “You’re Traci from the Library!” I am really glad to be more invested in the locals and learning more Spanish.
Last weekend we were so happy to spend time with the EMU cross-cultural. Jim and Ann Hershberger who are leading the group for the semester asked us to plan out a weekend for them here in Santiago. It also worked out very nicely that Loren and Pat Swartzenbruber were visiting the cross-cultural group on the very same weekend. It was nice to see them as well. We had the entire group of 30 over to our house for super on Saturday evening and with some help from a couple of our local friends we pulled off delicious meal. The next morning we joined the group for their worship service, which was particularly special to Jared and I. We loved being able to sing songs in English and open up a hymnal. It was all such a blessing.
That very afternoon we packed up our bags, because our visas were just about to expire. Many of you have been curious about our visas. We are actually here on 90-day tourist visas with an occasional extension from immigration or an occasional trip out of the country. Due to a Central American union formed a year and half ago, the only nearby countries that will stamp our passports as having left Guatemala are Belize and Mexico. We were shocked to learn this after our arrival. So, last week we took our first visa renewal trip. It is required that we spend 2 nights out of country in order to have Guatemala stamp our passports for another 90 days. We got on an overnight bus that took us nearly to the boarder of Guatemala and Belize, then we took a variety of shuttles from there. We managed to make it all the way to the coast and spent a few hours snorkeling on the barrier reef. It was awesome! We also made a quick stop at the Tikal Ruins on our way. Who knew it could be so much fun to be kicked out of the country! We also managed to convince a couple of our friends to join us for the trip.