Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Merry Christmas!!

This was Addi's first Christmas and she decided to sit on my lap for most of it. I couldn't
have asked for anything more precious for Christmas. I hope everyone had a great Christmas
and has a great start to the new year. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Tikal Thanksgiving

Bruce Cockburn, one of my favorite musicians, wrote a song about Night Trains, which was probably inspired by a trip he took. I wanted to quote the song, but it has nothing to do with Mayans or Thanksgiving, but I digress.

Anyway, I took trip on a Night Bus to Tikal, a Mayan ruin, for Thanksgiving. I have no plans of writing a song about it, but I do have to say one thing, one of the passengers sitting in front of me had an old boom-box cd player and was blasting, if blasting is the correct word, old 80's soft rock. After that I had the song " Eclipse of the Heart" stuck in my head for most of the day.

Strangely the horrible Bonnie Tyler song and not Bruce Cockburn's song fit my trip, because the Mayan's were known to follow the lunar calendar. Whenever there was an eclipse, they ripped the hearts out of their enemies in sacrifice to their gods. In fact, most of the gigantic temples in Tikal were built in correlation with the sun or moon.

As I walked around the ancient buildings, I kept wondering what it would be like to walk around New York a thousand years after it had been deserted. I saw in the 2009 September issue of National Geographic what New York looked like when Henry Hudson discovered it 4oo years ago. Check this issue out, because the urban takeover on the island of Manhattan is very similar to the jungle takeover in Tikal, except in the opposite direction.

Manhattan, once a forest, now is a gigantic city and Tikal, once a sprawling Mayan metropolis, now is a gigantic jungle. During Tikal's peak, it was the epicenter for much of the Mayan world. Now it's a national park in the middle of the jungle. So, as you look at the pictures below try to envision Tikal as it once was, a thriving city. The temples were dyed red to symbolize life. The grounds were stone. It was immaculate. It was alive.

Yet, for the city to continue to live the Mayan's believed that someone had to die. It was their circle of life. Blood was sacred, life giving, and so at one time blood spilled down the temples, as the priests ripped out the hearts of their unfortunate human sacrifices. Mayans believed that when blood was spilled in sacrifice to the gods life was renewed. Mysteriously something, maybe famine, war, or overpopulation, ripped the heart out of the Mayan culture leaving it dead. But because of the death of the Mayan culture, many Guatemalan's make a living off of the national park. The Mayans understood the connection between life and death. Unfortunately they didn't know about Christ, the man who broke the cycle and quenched the need for sacrifices. Yet, for me, walking around their sacrificial monuments pointed me to Christ, because they reminded me of the world's need for a savior.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

5 steps to running the Xela Half Marathon

Step one: start off slow. Independencia, the main street in and out of Xela, was packed with runners bobbing up and down. Everyone trying to warm up their legs. Knowing that any last minute help would probably speed them onto the finish line. Up at the front of the line were the Kenyans, invited so they could win the race, and who could win the race with their legs tied. Fast is in their blood. The Kenyans were already starting their fourth kelimoter when I crossed my first. I was told by a very wise man to let everyone pass you because it's a long race. So, I started off slow.

Step two: find a running partner. A couple of my coworkers were runnig the race as well. Unfortunately for them they had not trained, so I kew they would not be good partners. They also started off very fast. The first leg of the race seemed flat, so almost everyone raced ahead. By the 7th kilometer I had caught and passed most of the people who'd raced ahead and I had a guy following my pace. I don't think it's possible to run 13 miles with out a partner. Your partner really helps push you on. Several of my patners fell behind, especialy on the bigger hills. But in some way or another I always had somoene running with me, helping me push on. My favorite partners were my students Danielle, Julio, and Melvin. Danielle and Julio were in the crowd and decided to run with me for a litte while and Melvin finished the race with me. When Danielle and Julio joined me, I was at a point where I wanted to slow down, but they reminded me that I am a PE teacher and so I must be faster. It was great.

Step three: remember your training. I spent over two months training for the race, not including last year's training. I had a couple of hickups. My shoes were stolen and I was sick a time or two, but overall my training went smoothly. And so when I was running up the big hills, not fast mind you, I knew I had run up bigger hills. And step by step I drew closer to the finish line. My training gave me the confidence to run fast when I was going down hill and the knowledge to conserve my energy by runnnig slower on the up hills. The best part was knowing I had run most of the harder sections during my training, so I knew I could do it. There's nothing like facing a challenge and knowing you have the skills to beat it. I don't think I could have finished without having trained for the race.

Step four: finish strong. Well, I tried this and it kind of backfired. I sprinted the last kilometer. I'm sure I looked good and strong while I was running, but I threw up afterwords. But as I was rounding the final bend I figured why not run as fast as I could, I mean I wouldn't be running again for a couple of weeks. Again without any training I couldn't have done this, but sometimes migraines just happen. Even though I was sick for four days after the race, I am glad I finished strong. I would rather give something my all and get hurt or sick than try something half heartedly. I finished the race and now I know that if I put my mind to something I can achieve my goal.

Step five: rest and repeat. I plan on running the Coban half marathon in May and so I'll probably follow all four of the steps I've mentioned above. I hope when I run in Coban I don't have to deal with a few of the things I have dealt with for the last two half marathons I've trained for. Hopefully swine flu doesn't rear it's ugly head and cancel the race again and most of all I hope no one steals my running shoes again. I would like a smooth training experience and a smooth race. But I guess I just need to remember that like life, running isn't always easy and the hard times will just make me stronger.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Xela seems to be a smelting fire for life and friendships. During the year I've been in Xela, God has been forging me into the man he first designed, minus my imperfections, by helping me make new friendships and strengthening old ones. Yet, I know God isn't done casting me into the mold he has designed for me. I've been learning with friendships, even the deep ones, where you care about the person immensely, it is still hard and risky. I believe that a true friendship can and will outlast the hard times.

I've got a cool example. Over the last year God healed a friendship that had fallen off the deep end while I was in college. Redeeming the friendship took work on both our parts. Metal can't be forged into the artist's desired shape without the artist spending time heating the metal, pouring the metal, and letting the metal cool. Friendships also require a process of time, effort, and patience. Through that process the friendship was reformed and in turn I was changed. Now I feel like God is forging me anew by the use of friendships and the work they take.
Work. A word that needs underlining when it comes to friendship. Every morning at work I focus on my job just like the artist or metalworker focuses on the metal. Now I can put in a ton of effort to make sure my students enjoy PE or creative writing, but if they don't match my effort the class struggles. Like when I tried to teach Volleyball to the elementary kids. They didn't want to play because the ball hurt their hands. They didn't cooperate at all, which made their thirty minutes of PE a bore. Friendships are the same. If both people in the friendship don't put forth the same effort, the friendship will be strained. Friendships require a give and take. If you don't give a little to your friend and don't receive in return, it's not a friendship.

I'm not the only one that thinks this. I asked a few of my students what they thought it meant to be a friend and here is what a few of them said:

"To me it means a relationship with a person that doesn't involve love (eros). You trust them deeply, talk about anything, and you have many things in common that you practically talk about anything."

"Friendship means to me loyalty and being nice friends. Hanging out. Having to go to places. But the most important part is caring for each other. Friends should be there for each other in good situations and bad situations."

"Friends care for you and they help you. We have fun together, sometimes we bother each other. Friends are one of the best things you have in the world."

"Friendship means to be there when a friend needs help or comfort."

"Friends like you for who you are."

"Always be there fore each other."

"Friendship means to always be there for each other to talk about stupid things."

"They are something very special to me because without friends we would be lonely. Friends are like your treasure box because you'll find things that you have in common or difference, you could also tell them secrets and they'll never say anything. Friends are cool, and they are always there for you whenever you need them or whenever you don't."

My students seem to know that friendships take being there for each other. I believe that when you care about someone and they care about you, you will meet each other half way. The only problem is this hardly happens with human friendships. As a friend, I can be selfish and when times get hard, even I can back out on the people I call friends. We humans don't try to meet each other half way. If friends are truly our treasures, then often we are fools gold. We guard our selves so we don't get hurt.

That is why the only true friend is Christ. He knew we couldn't meet him half way and so he went the entire way. He loved us despite our shortcomings. That's a true friendship. But, I believe what God is forging in me is the desire to be Christ-like with my friends. Even if a friend doesn't meet me half way, I feel like he is calling me to take that extra step. This is difficult, but if Christ could go to the cross after all the junk we humans did to him, then maybe I can make this one small step. Love with a Christ-like love.

Saturday, October 10, 2009


"I've gotta feeling that tonight's gonna be a good night, that tonight's gonna be a good night, that tonight's gonna be a good, good night."

No I'm not a fan of the Black Eyed Peas, but tonight's gonna be a good, good night. At least I hope. Tonight I'm going to a Quince, short for Quinceañera, which is Spanish for a girls coming of age party at 15. Oh to be a 15 year old girl again, um just kidding. I don't think I had a party when I turned 15, which might be because I'm a guy. For my 15th I went fly fishing with my dad in Oklahoma. The best part of the trip was tying minuscule flies with my dad, complaining about my icicle fingers, and still loving it. My best friend Philip came along and we used the tent stake bag for a hat. Philip and I spent more time throwing rocks than line, which might be why we didn't have fish to eat that night. That was a special birthday for me and yet it doesn't compare to the Quincaeñera.

While I've been to plenty regular birthday parties, and become rather famous for my dance moves, I do a wicked sprinkler that I morph into an up and down jabbing fist pump, It's wild; I've never been to a Quince. But the kids told me to expect a good meal and then to bust a move or two on the dance floor. I can't leave these parties without a little dancing. The kids request my moves, it's sad but true. The party will be held at Bonifaz, which I have been in once and is a beautiful hotel located near downtown Xela, and will probably last all night or until 4 in the morning to be exact. I think the Latin culture may know how to celebrate life.

For the party Bonifaz, a beautiful white hotel in central park across from my apartment, was
decorated immaculately. Purple balloons hung from the ceiling like big grapes and each table was decorated with candy and flowers. A great mass of people filled the hall, 300 of which were invited and the rest were colados, Guatemalan slang for party crashers. The party started at 7:00, but according to local custom you don't show up until an hour later. So like any good ethnographer I didn't roll into the party until 8:00, which was hard because I'm punctual. But as it turned out 8:00 was right on time. As I took my seat in the crowded banquet hall, Ale, the 15-year-old host of the party, hand in hand with her dad, danced out onto the dance floor. The dance was beautiful and I'm sure she will remember it for the rest of her life.

I could have celebrated my 15th birthday MTV style, but that's typically for girls and no real people celebrate like that. The show Sweet Sixteen is just ridiculous and I'm glad I went fishing. No real people celebrate a birthday that way. Or do they? The Quince comes close. But I think the only true comparison to a Quince in the states is a wedding reception. Now at 15 I wasn't getting married, so there wasn't anyway I was going to have a huge dance party. Heck, at that age I could barely move my feet to the beat; not much has changed.

Now, when I turned 18 I flew to Tulsa to hang out with friends. This was a great way to celebrate becoming an adult, but still not as big as the Quince. Maybe guys just don't place much importance on their birthdays. Maybe it's a gender thing because girls, even in the states, do love to be treated like princesses for a day. But as I look back at my sisters' celebrations, and their friend's celebrations, they didn't celebrate the Latin way. Turning 15 might not mean that much in the states. Really only turning 16 because you can drive, 18 because you can vote, and 21 because you can drink mean anything in the states. Yet, these don't compare to turning 15 down here where it means womanhood. I remember watching a movie in my Spanish class about a Hispanic girl turning 15 and working so hard so she could have a party. It meant everything to her. While, my students aren't in the same economic condition as the heroin in the movie the party still means a lot to them. They practice for days for their dance. They skip school to go dress shopping. And then they invite hundreds of people to come party in their honor. Even weddings are different than this. Weddings are the celebration of two people becoming one, but I think Quinces are just celebrations of life. So, I hope you all are invited to a Quince someday and can celebrate life the way it should be celebrated.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Indepencia y Rio Dulce

Independence in Guatemala is a couple week long celebration. Last year I blogged about my trip to the fair and the grito that was celebrated Independence eve. This year I made it back to the fair twice, but instead of staying in Xela for Independence weekend I treked all the way to Rio Dulce, which is located close to the Caribbean. Both the fair and Rio Dulce were amazing and I figured I would share a few of my pictures with you all. I hope you enjoy. The first video I'm posting is of a ride that I tried to describe in last year's blog. It's nothing but insanity. I didn't ride it this year. After a week of stalling on the blog so I could make the video work,sadly it will not post. I will continue to work on the videos so you all will need to keep checking this blog. Trust me this ride is sick. So you know what you are missing from the video just picture a spinning wheel of death, no seat belts, and violent tremors. Okay, now for the pictures. The above is a shot of the Ferris Wheel of death that Guatemalan's love to ride while they're at the fair. It's powered by an old tractor and a foot pedal. Okay, you get the picture, now here are some my photo's from Rio Dulce and the Fair. It was a great time and I hope you enjoy the photos.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Darwin and the Evolution of Brendan

Do you know why Charles Darwin boarded the HSM Beagle on December 27th, 1831 and what really happened to him as he sailed the world for five years? You may be surprised that the answer to that question won't be found in history books or even personal journals. To know the truth you have to study the heart of a man. This is what I think motivated Darwin.

First, Darwin's older brother exploded into the public's eye a couple years earlier when he introduced a new method for tossing chamber pots out of windows. This drove Darwin to step out from under his brother's shadow and window. Second, he'd grown tired of his mom picking out his underwear for him, but moving out of his parents' house would have solved that. No, I think he sailed away from England for five years because of a girl. Just like most broken-hearted men, he figured an adventure would cure his ills. Little did Darwin know that the hussy who dumped him like last night's chamber pot was a tramp and not worth his time, but I guess if he'd figured that out before his trip he wouldn't have set sail and never grown as a man. Growth is inevitable when you see more of God's creation. God evolves the heart and the mind through time. So as Darwin sailed from island to island he was changed. He forgot about his broken heart, his brother, but not his mom. He'd actually missed having fresh undies.

But seriously, a little more than a year ago I flew down to Guatemala not knowing what I was doing with my life or that God was going to evolve my heart and mind. I was a blank canvas waiting for an artist to paint on me his masterpiece. Now my canvas resembles the beginning of a fine painting. So why am I still in Guatemala? My mom stopped picking out my undies years ago and when I left no girl had broken my heart, nor do I have a famous sibling who hogs the conversation at the dinner table. I'm here to serve God and to grow. Last year I grew quiet a bit, but I know God is not done yet.

So, what does serving God look like for me this year? Well, I've been attempting to reach out to my students in a more personal way, despite the fact they can be mean and loving all in one class period, by inviting them to do things outside of school. I hope that God uses these times to show them how much he loves them. By doing this I'm changing. Like the little fox in Saint Exupery's The Little Prince I'm becoming tame to my students. They aren't just faces in a crowd, they're individual kids that need the love of Christ.

No matter why Darwin set sail, his trip around the world changed him and my time down in Guatemala is changing me. I know that I'm more self-reliant. I cook for myself, which means I've been eating a lot of pbnj's or going to friend's houses' for dinner. I'm slowly learning Spanish. Although my conversations in Spanish are still short, I can tell my friends all about my time at the gym. Quite frankly, God has made me more confident. Before I left I was having trouble talking to people at all because I felt so lost. I'd graduated but didn't have a purpose. I'm not that man anymore. I have a purpose. I know more of what I want out of life. I want to share God's love with those around me and use my writing to communicate the truth of life. I'm no longer afraid to open up to people, which is a must when you want to see your students open up about what is going on in their lives. I've found that when you share a little about who you are they often are willing to share a little of who they are. And that's how both sides grow; evolve. Mostly they tell me about their love lives and yet I sit down most every night and pray for them. I plan on returning to the states eventually and like Darwin I'll know a little bit more about the world. I'll know that I'm a man seeking after God's heart with my eyes wide open. That's an evolution I hope happens to everyone.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Back in Action

My first two weeks back in the guate have been marathon-esque. Last year it took me a while to feel comfortable, but this year's different. I hit the ground running. Last Sunday I had a pot-luck at my apartment, after being back only 14 days. And on Saturday I took some of the new teachers on a hike up Laguna Chicabol, which is a lake in the crater of a volcano. The pot-luck and the hike were two great events that are helping build a strong community, which was one of my goals for my return. Without asking the new teachers, I'd have to say God has been answering my prayer.

My summer in Colorado was a blast, but I'm glad to be back. While I was in the states for the summer I attended a couple weddings and met my niece! She's almost seven months old now and has already won the Miss Universe title. Here are a few of her answers to the judge's questions, "'Out of all your family who do you love the most?' 'Brendan.' "If you could change the world what would you do?' 'I would live closer to my favorite uncle.'" The rest she answered with her adorable giggle. How could she not win?

I also enjoyed seeing all of my friends back in the States. I danced my heart out at all the weddings and even climbed a 14er. My time in the States seemed short, but it re-energized me for my return to Guatemala. I need that energy to teach because I am now chasing after little kids. Early childhood teachers should be sainted. But I know this is where God wants me to be, even if I am teaching something completely different than I was last year.

At first it felt a little weird to be back in Xela, because I was unsure of what I was going to do with four year olds in PE. It also felt weird to be back because even though I'd only been away two months, I'd managed to grow comfortable being in the States. Who doesn't like hot water all the time and toilets that flush paper to boot? But God uses those challenges to help me grow. I know God wants me here. He has strengthened my friendships from last year and he is helping me form new friendships with the new people on staff. I am excited to see how they fit in and I sure hope I can help them feel comfortable. I've been trying to use my apartment to help that desire. I'm loving living in a place on my own. I miss my host family, but being able to invite people over is worth it.

The pot-luck I hosted at my house was a blast and I hope to have more. Mostly so that I can continue to help make the new teachers feel at home, but also because when you have a pot-luck the leftovers are left over at your house. That's a nice perk for my roommate and me. God is moving down here! I just hope he can teach me how to teach pre-k PE. The kids are adorable but don't speak English and like to run all over the place. It's craziness.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What my students say!

Check teaching for a year in Guatemala off the proverbial list of things to do, 'cause I'm done for the summer!  I'm ready to tear through Guate con mi familia!  I've a lot in store for them and I hope they're ready!  As excited as I am for my family to be here and for the school year to be at the end, it's hard to say goodbye, even though I'm coming back.  I've learned a lot and I hope I've taught a lot.  I love my kids and I think they care a little bit about me.  The following is what they wrote in my yearbook.  I'm not showing you guys this so you think, "Oh Brendan thinks he's great because his kids say he's cool."  No, you're getting to read this because I think its funny.  I've left the grammar and spelling just as they wrote it (remember I taught English, History, and PE).  They call me all kinds of different things from Mr. Scott, to Scottie, to Mr. 1999, to Brendan, only outside of school.  Some of my students thought I was cool (I sure tricked them) and some didn't think much of me at all.  Over all, I really connected with a lot of the kids at IAS (my school).  I love that they care about my dating life or lack there of.  I really hope that God uses me in their lives.  I want to see them use correct grammar and better spelling, but that may take a miracle.  I guess I'll just accept seeing them grow in Christ.  So here are some of their quotes.  They made me laugh and each has its own story.  I hope you enjoy.

Mr. Scott,
you R really fun! I love your class!  I hope you change your mind about girls! [Me here. I told the the 8th grade girls that I thought girls were useless, but I was just kidding and they gave me a hard time about it for the rest of the year.]  I think that you have to start serching for your future wife because you have a long way to go! Jjajaja
-(8th grade girl)

Mr. Scott,
You're an awesome teacher bisdies your horrible laps.  Keep rocking.
-(8th grade boy)

Mr. Scott,
You are crazy but it's okay! [She wrote all of here exclamation points with hearts]
You are not cool but it's okay!
Hope to see you next year hope you become funner!  [One day during class she stopped me mid lecture and said, "I thought you said class was going to be fun."  Ouch!]  I love you as a teacher
-(7th grade girl)

Mr. Scott,
I aggree with [the 8th grade girl about me needing to change my mind about girls] HaHaHa!  Thanks Mr. for the adivce you gave to me!  I hope to see you next year.  Thanks for all!
-(8th grade boy)

you're classes are awesome and overall you are cool and have a cold summer in coloRado.  Mr. 1999, be a little less strict.
-(6th grade girl)

Mr. Scott
You r soo cool thanx 4 Every thing Cya next year!!!
-(7th grade girl)

Hey Mr. Scott!
Hope you have an awesome sumer! You are kind of cool! JK! [smily face] It was fun having you this year!  See you next year!
-(8th grade girl)

Mr. Scott
Thanks for the cool PE class that we had  See you next year
-(8th grade boy)

Mr. Scott
I hope you don't give a lot of exersize
-(5th grader who I will teach next year)

You're cool!  I'm glad you like Coldplay as much as I do!  Have an awesome summer!  Don't get lost!
-(8th grade girl)

Mr. Scott,
You are a awesome teacher, thank you for teaching us History.  See you next year.  Have a cool summer.
-(7th grade girl)

Mr. Scott you're cool but dont Make us run in P.E.!  P.S. let os play rugby
-(7th grade boy)

Have a nice summer.  Thanks for the emarecing moments on P.E.  I'll miss them.
-(10th grade boy)

Mr. Scott
Have a happy life.
-(10th grade boy that knows I'll be back next year)

Scottie (as they call you . . .)
You weren't my actual teacher . . . But, I really enjoyed hearing about your first kiss and bad influences. Heh.
-(10th grade girl)

Reading through all of these proves to me that I connected with my students in some way or another, which was my desire in coming down here.  As I look to coming back and teaching next year I can only wonder where God will take these relationships or if he will help my students and me learn how to spell and use correct grammar.  I heard he was in the miracle business.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Coban Canceled!

Being that apologies via the blog are all the rage right now (Mark Cuban's, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, apology to K-Mart's, Power Forward for the Denver Nuggets, mom) I would like to apologize to my readers because this blog you are about to read isn't what you might expect and it isn't the blog I wanted to write. So please bear with me for a minute or two while I complain. Two weeks ago I wrote about how running has changed me. How I was so excited to run in a half-marathon here in Guatemala. Well, shortly after I jotted my last blog, the half-marathon was canceled. Why? Swine flu. Wow! Swine flu must be really bad down there, you may be thinking. Well, in Guatemala there has been one case and that was about a month ago. Did you notice the "has" and the "one." They both indicate singular and the "has" indicates past tense. So why cancel the race? I know that the swine flu isn't something to joke about, but I think the Guatemalan government over reacted by canceling the race.

I want to look at some international happenings really quickly. Mexico, the nation that had it the worst, allowed its fine people to start attending soccer games the same week Guatemala canceled my race. Maybe Guatemala just cares more about its people. I doubt it. If you've been following the world news you might know that President Alvaro Colom is in trouble for the suspicious death of a lawyer. I'd say more but I don't want to end up missing. (Just google search Alvaro Colom and you can find out more for yourself.) So how does this connect with the cancellation of the race? Well, they said they canceled it because they did not want to allow large gatherings. I mean a thousand or so people were going to run the race, many from other countries, all gathering at once could cause a pandemic. That could explain the cancellation except for the fact the government paid 30,000 people to rally their support for Colom and then they allowed another 30,000 to protest him. The government allowing 60,000 people to gather on the same day my race was scheduled to be doesn't make me think they really care for their people. But maybe they all were safe because they'd bought hand sanitizer and masks. I guess you can't quiet run in a mask, so I just wouldn't have been safe.

I wanted to write a blog today about how the race went, all the sights I saw, how my legs kept pumping even after my mind said stop. Instead I spent my day writing a test and watching the Lakers bumble past the Rockets. (Boring!) I guess you could say I'm slightly depressed. I don't think I've trained so hard for anything and then just to have it ripped away at the last moment really sucks. But aren't there other races you could run in the states? I know you're asking that right now. Yes there are. There is actually one on the 14 of June, but it's not the same. I just trained for 12 weeks to run this race in Coban. Coban is eight hours away and a beautiful place, from what I've been told. Part of running there was being able to visit a new part of the country I live in. I can't say that about the race in Denver. And with all of the training I put in I feel like I should be able to race now. I'm going to lose a toenail and I lost ten pounds while training (okay my intestinal infection helped with that). But it's just a race. I think I can read your minds now. It's not just about the race though. I never thought I would run a half-marathon until Yasi, my school's secretary, convinced me to run with her. Yasi is probably the most helpful person in the world and loves to run more than I do. All of the races in the states wont have my training partner in them, she's got to stay with her husband and kid in Guatemala. I don't want to run alone.

The moment I found out that the race was canceled I felt awful. I can only relate it to what it feels like to end a relationship. My blood, sweat (gallons), and other bodily stuff were lost to this race only for it to be torn away from me. I'm still very mad about it being canceled and it doesn't help that I should have run the race today. Instead I went to the gym this morning and ran seven miles on the treadmill. Lame. I wanted to achieve the goal I worked so hard to attain. Now I have to say, maybe next year. But maybe I need to look at what good things training for this race led to. I'm in the best shape of my life; I keep on being able to say that because I keep on getting in better shape. Training for it gave me an outlet for the stress of teaching 12 year olds. And lastly I've made friends because of this race. Along with Yasi, I've gone running with a couple other people and now when I go to the gym I can have small conversations with them in Spanish. The race may have been canceled but it has opened my world here in Xela. I guess that's a good thing and I'll just have to be patient and see where God takes this.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Two Weeks until Coban!

I swear I'm still the same boy who couldn't run a mile.  Every time I run, every footfall on the treadmill, or the pavement, I'm reminded of that boy.  How every time I was forced to run a mile in gym class I would lose my lunch.  I know that a lot of people throw-up after running because they're out of shape, but for me this always signaled the onset of a long migraine.  These migraines were debilitating; typically I would be out for a week because I couldn't stop throwing-up.  After an abundance of hospital visits, which is another story, we finally figured out that I was suffering from abdominal migraines, which are abominable.  Before I was diagnosed with abdominal migraines, I made every attempt to avoid running the mile, but gym coaches never listen if you don't have a doctor's note.  Finding out that I was suffering from migraines did little to stop the migraines from coming.  At one point I decided to stop all physical exercise because over-exertion seemed to be what triggered the migraines.  All of this added up to me not being able to run a mile.  And I still feel like that boy even though I'm about to run a half-marathon.

This last Monday I ran a 15-k out on the streets.  Up until now all of my training for my half-marathon was on a treadmill.  It's hard to run outside when you don't know the area that well and all of the distances are in Spanish (okay they're in kilometers, which are as foreign to me as Spanish).  I finally found some people to run with and took off for a jaunt through town.  Running on the streets in Xela is an interesting experience, filled with pot-holes and fast cars.  I sucked in a lot of exhaust from the buses, which doesn't actually help you run faster, and saw a dead dog on the side of the road.  Once we reached the edge of town the run improved.  The scenery changed from Burger Kings and hospitals to beautiful farm country with the Volcano Santa Maria looming in the distance shrouded by clouds.  The roads cleared a little bit and the hills we'd been climbing flattened out, but then it started to rain.  If you ever want to feel hard-core, really manly, go run a hill and then watch everyone else hide under shelter as the rain starts to turns to hail and you push through it.  After completing the 15-k in the rain, I've decided I'm going to be able to run the half-marathon.  Knowing I have the ability to run 13.1 miles still doesn't tell me how I mutated from the boy who couldn't run a mile to the man I am now.

I think God has something to do with it.  He changed me so I could enjoy physical activities at a semi-competitive level again.  I know the change didn't happen over night.  It was slow and has taken a lot of effort on my part.  I've had a lot of setbacks.  I've gotten a few migraines, but I've decided to push through.  That is why when I run the half-marathon in Coban in two weeks I will be thanking God at every mile.  I might still feel like the boy who couldn't run a mile and always stood shamefully next to his PE teachers while the rest of the guys ran the mile, but He has blessed me with the legs to run and the body to endure and I'm rather grateful for that.  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

It's Easter Sunday and I just returned from a week in El Salvador. I spent my spring break, or Semana Santa as it is called in the Latin culture, relaxing on a beach. In case you didn't notice, I spent holy week in the country of The Savior. What a great reminder that Jesus has risen! The fact he rose from the dead saves me from the sting of death. I really like that fact.

Besides being the country of our Savior, El Salvador has well paved roads, beautiful people, and amazing beaches. I traveled down to El Salvador with two other teachers. We spent the first few days in Suchitoto, the old capital, and then finished off our trip at El Zonte, the beach town. Sitting on the beach with a good book is probably the best way to pass time, at least I think so. After finishing Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer's account of the 1996 Everest disaster, I decided that living in Guatemala is enough of an adventure for me. I like being able to breathe. And now I've been digging into The Poissonwood Bible, a fictional account of some missionaries to the congo. They travel to the Congo to offer Christ's salvation, but forget that that salvation is a gift of grace and love and not something you have to work for. I'm glad God has taught me about his grace and I'm not trying to work for my salvation.

My salvation came on the first Easter Sunday a very long time ago. I don't have to climb the highest mountain in the world to find my self-worth or save a thousand Guatemalans to know that Christ loves me. He died for me while I was still a sinner and he rose from the dead setting me free from all my failures. That is what Easter is all about. Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sick in the Guat

It's March, month 8, day about 240 in the Guat and I finally had to go to the doctor.   As I've documented my time down here I've noticed one fact, most of the other teachers down here weren't able to stay away from the doctor quite as long as I did.  Until last week I didn't really know what going to the doctor in Xela meant.  I walk past the small fenced in private hospital every day on my walk home from the gym, but my goal was to say fenced out.  Alas, my body betrayed me and after six straight days of hell in my stomach I finally crossed the fence and found out that at the private hospital, you do private things.  

Day one of being sick, before I made my trek to the hospital, I thought I had the flu.  I'd come down with the chills and a temperature, which I thought I could beat.  I mean I'd held out on falling into the life of the infirm for so long, why couldn't I fight this off and get healthy without the help of a doctor?  Unfortunately, my self diagnosis was so far off that I dehydrated myself and caused some serious problems for my body, but I didn't find this out until day six.  So from day one to day five I assumed I could fight it off with plenty of rest.  
On day two I went to work, gave a test, and nearly passed out.  Everything was rushing through my body and I barely made it home that night.  I might be sounding a little over dramatic, but I felt as though all my energy had been drained out of me and flushed down the toilet.  That night I made my way to Kristin's house so I could watch her dog while she was out of town.  Kristin's dog, Calli, and I have a special connection, she's my second favorite dog in the world, so as soon as I walked in the door she knew I was sick.  All weekend as I wasted away she did her best to comfort me.  During the nights when I couldn't keep myself warm because of the chills she curled up next to me and shared her doggy warmth.  It was a blessing to be able to stay at Kristin's house all weekend.  I hate being around people while I am sick, they don't share the unconditional love dogs have.  Unluckily the weekend ended and I was still sick.  

On Monday, day five, I thought I could teach again, but by the end of the day my chills had returned.  It was becoming clear that I needed the help of a doctor.  The next day, day six, I forced myself to go to school so I could get a ride to the hospital.  A couple of my co-workers demanded I have myself checked out because, as they said, "I looked like death."  So, I taught my classes and then made my way to the hospital.  That night I found out that I didn't have the flue.  My next guess was the common stomach ailment of parasites or amebas, but it wasn't those either.  

On day seven I was informed that I had a major infection in my intestines, which I guess, according to some of the other teachers, isn't that bad.  But I'm not so sure where they received their medical degrees because I'd like to disagree with their statement.  If what was wrong with my stomach wasn't that bad then I never want to contract anything worse.  To kill off the infection I was placed on some gross medication and told to eat bland food for a week.  I lost 10 pounds to this infection and learned that I should go to the doctor at the first sign of illness.  I also learned that no matter how carefully I eat down here in the Guat somethings are still going to get you.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

May My Eyes See the Glory of the Lord

I've been reading on the roof of my house lately. It's dirty up there, full of laundry lines and cat scratch, but I like it because I can see the city I live in. Xela's a busy city and from my rooftop I can see people walking her streets, cars swerving around those people, and street dogs fighting over bags of trash. This is the physical world I live in, but I long to see so much more. I want to see with my heart and be open to the spiritual world.

Have you ever thought about what it might be like to be blind? When I was little, I used to be afraid of going blind. This fear typically surfaced after I'd been reading and my eyes would've focused in on the words, then I would look up and my surroundings would be a little blurry. This sacred me out of reading for a while. I've never wanted to wear glasses. I'm 25 and I still have perfect sight and I've always prided myself on that fact. I love being able to see God's creation. The blues, greens, reds, oranges, and browns that paint the landscape of my life are colors I don't want to live without. But lately I've been thinking about how there is more to life than what I can see. So what would it be like to be blind?

I've been reading "Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," by Annie Dillard. It's a hard book to read. My vocabulary isn't that big and she hits on some real deep issues. One of the chapters deals with sight. She talks about how people who are blind from birth and then regain their sight have a hard time with spatial reasoning; the thought that a blind person may not be able to judge sizes and distances had never occurred to me. Without sight your connection to the physical world would be based on your other senses. Your understanding of the world would be completely different. As a person who can see I describe my experience living here on Earth by telling people about what I see. A blind person might describe their experience living here on Earth by telling people what they feel, physically or emotionally.

I might be wrong, but I think a blind person might be more in tune with God's creation at times because he or she isn't distracted by sight. In "A Wrinkle in Time," by Madeline L'Engle, there are creatures that cannot see. They're not blind because to be blind you would need to be created to see through eyes. They don't need eyes because they sense everything. I'm reading this book with my sixth graders and when I read through the chapter with Aunt Beast, one of the creatures that can't see, it hit me that there is more to my world than what I can see. We live in a spiritual world too.

I live in a world where I can only see the physical. But as the apostle Paul says, the physical that we can see doesn't last but the unseen is eternal. L'Engle uses this quote in her book. She has Aunt Beast, the unseeing creature, utter the words, which I find interesting because Aunt Beast seems to be able to see the unseen. Minutes later I read this quote by Paul again, in another book I'm reading, "Waking the Dead," by John Eldredge. Mind you this reading occurred on my roof in a single day. Like I said I like to go up to my roof and read because it is warm and I can see the mountains surrounding the city. I had just put down "A Wrinkle in Time" and picked up "Waking the Dead" and I was still thinking about not being able to see. It so happens that the chapter I'm on in "Waking the Dead" is titled Eyes of the Heart. Eldredge is talking about how we need to see with the eyes of our heart.

What does it look like to see with the eyes of your heart? This is just what I'm trying to figure out. I love being able to see, but I want to see more. I want to be in tune with the world the way Aunt Beast is in "A Wrinkle in Time." I want to be able to see the glory of the Lord. I know that God has a plan for my life and I know that my heart and not my eyes will be able to see it. This is the prayer that I have for my life. That I slow down and look for God in everything. He is there and my heart burns when it senses him, but my eyes are unfocused and can't judge what they're seeing. I'm a blind person who has just received his sight and is having a hard time with spatial reasoning. I want to be like a blind person and rely on my other senses. Right now I'm looking at something that is totally foreign to me and I want my eyes to see the eternal glory of the Lord.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

25th Birthday

This last Tuesday was my 25th birthday.  I can now rent a car; my car insurance rates have dropped, but I don't drive anymore, so what's the point.  Lately I've been thinking about how my life has been changing slowly and changing in some ways that are a bit more noticeable than the turning of an age from 24 to 25.  I think one change that is noticeable is the fact that I'm training for a half-marathon.  I remember stating very clearly to one of my friends that I would never run a half-marathon, but I guess I'm trying new things.

So last tuesday I also changed in age.  Some people think that a birthday is just another day.  I look at it as a celebration of life.  On the day I was born I nearly didn't make it.  I was born way early and with highly underdeveloped lungs.  That may be why my mom remembered this is just the second time I've ever been away from my family on my birthday.

So each birthday is a true celebration of life for me.  God gave me this life and I'm very thankful for that.  Sometimes I think that I owe him just a little bit.  Maybe that's why I'm here in Guatemala.

I hope that for whatever reason I'm here, God is pleased with all I'm doing.  I think he must be because he blessed me with a great birthday.  He typically does.  Like the year I went up to the mountains with the guys from my bible study or last year when I had a huge party at my Gradparent's house.  For the last eight years I've had my birthday off from school or work, but this year I had to work, which wasn't that bad.  It was fun being with my friends at work and all of my students.  I was sung to twice and one of my students gave me a box of toilet paper.  Two-ply!  After school I talked with my family on Skype.  They all looked older, no wait that was probably just me.  I now look like I'm at least 21.  

But like I said earlier I don't think the big changes that God is making in me are numeral, but a little deeper.  A big change is how I am actively trusting God.  I still don't know what I want to do with my life, but I'm going to stay here in Guatemala for another year and see what God has for me.  I trust that God will take care of me.  I trust that God has a plan for me here in Guatemala for at least another year.  I'm excited about that, just about as excited as I was for my birthday dinner.  For dinner that evening I went to a new restaurant here in Xela.  A good sized group of my friends came out to celebrate with me.  After the main meal I was still hungry, so it was fortunate for me that Kristin and Annie brought out the cake they'd made for me.  They designed it to look like a Denver Bronco Football helmet and I think it's probably my favorite cake ever; I'm still eating it.  Over all it was a great birthday and even though I was away from all of my friends and family back in the states I still felt loved and blessed to see another year come to pass here in Guatemala.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Santa Maria!

Santa Maria is the Volcano that dominates the sky line here in Xela. Last night I dominated it. Or I guess you could say it graciously allowed me to make an ascent. Santa Maria towers above the skyline at 12,375 feet tall. It's not the tallest volcano in Guatemala, but it is rather impressive. The ascent, 5,000 vertical feet from bottom to top, took us around four hours to accomplish. We started a little after midnight and got to the summit a little after five. You might notice that the time frame here doesn't fit. The four hours is actual hiking time and does not count the 30 to 45 minutes we hid bellow the tree line to stay warm.

The hike takes you up through onion fields and burnt-out trees. All of this was hard to see at night even though we had a full moon. So with our head lamps on we reached the top and huddled together for warmth. Around 6 am the moon vanished beyond the horizon. Because we were up so high the moon looked as if it had several turquoise and orange rings circling it, so as it vanished it created a beautiful other worldly image. I have been reading A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard and she talks about how ancient Europeans used to think that birds would migrate from the moon. So I had this picture on my mind as I stared at the moon. If birds really did fly to the moon and back I think I'd want to ride with them. How cool would that be. Once the moon slipped away it took the sun about 45 minutes to break the mountainous horizon. It was a cold 45 minutes and the instant the sun appeared the temperature jumped about 10 degrees. With the light of the sun I could see all of the other volcanoes lining the horizon. They looked like large ant hills poking through a sea of clouds.

Right below Santa Maria is Santiaguito, which is a small active volcano. It erupts about every twenty minutes and so we waited for nearly an hour just to see it erupt. You can see it by walking to what is called the look out point. Because it is an active volcano it is dangerous to get too close. This look out point is on the west side of Santa Maria and so in the morning it is still a very cold spot. I froze as I waited for an eruption. Nothing. Just a couple puffs of smoke. Frozen stiff I gave up and walked back into the sun leaving Santiaguito out of sight. It erupted a couple minutes later. I guess that's my luck. After a couple more pictures, we hiked back down. It took 3 hours and the constant down hill hurt my knees. I'm glad God invented volcanoes and gave me strong legs to hike them, two good eyes to enjoy his creation, and friends to share the memories with. The pictures above are from my trip so I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Challenging my self

I tend to dream about the weirdest things.  I've dreamt that I was a super model, blue steel anyone.  I also had a dream once that I could heal people.  I'm not Jesus and I'm not Zoolander, I just have weird dreams.  Lately I have been dreaming about eating meat.  The first dream happened about two weeks ago.  I was out to dinner with my friend Jon, he teaches middle school with me, and we were eating pizza.  I love pizza, especially pepperoni pizza, but in the dream I was shocked that I had just eaten a slice of pepperoni and I started to try to vomit.  The next dream didn't happen until a couple of nights later.  This one was not as clear but still had the same point.  I was eating a piece of chicken and the same regret happened.  Finally this last Saturday night I had a dream that I was eating steak.  This steak was great.  Just thinking about it makes my mouth water.  It was moist.  It was perfect.   Yet halfway into my second helping of steak I realized what I was eating and I started to pull the meat out of my mouth like someone would pull tokens out of a skeet-ball machine.  

These dreams are weird, but they've come from somewhere.  I gave up meat about three weeks ago.  So in each dream I am facing something that I gave up.  Now before you start calling me a Vegetarian I want you to know why I gave up meat.  Have you ever wanted to challenge your self?  Basically I wanted to see if I could go without something I love for a month.  It is kind of like a fast but a little different.  One of the reasons I came down to Guatemala was to get out of my comfort zone.  I wanted to change and grow closer to God.  I have found that it is dang near impossible to grow closer to God when I'm comfortable.  I've tried to seek God most of my life, but when I've got it easy I tend to become complacent.  I don't want to become complacent here in Guatemala.  Back in August when I first arrived life was challenging.  I was constantly looking to God for help.  Things aren't so hard anymore.  I have friends, I have a good rhythm with my job, and most of all I like it down here.  So last Thanksgiving I started thinking about how I could challenge my self.  I decided to give up meat for a month.  Life as a vegetarian, if only for a month, isn't that bad.  I've been eating more vegetables, which I like, and I've even tried Tofu, not half bad.  The hard part is when I've been invited to bbq's, passing up hamburgers is not easy.  This has happened more than once.  And so the dreams have haunted me with the thought that I can't stick to my goal.

Where has God been in all of this?  Same place he always is.  Right beside me.  While not eating meat might seem like a little thing and I'll be honest it hasn't been that hard.  I'm really seeing how God provides for me.  He has given me food every day that I have enjoyed.  This may seem simple, but if you think about it I decided to do something that I knew was different and God is rewarding me with good food and with a new perspective on the world.  I can now understand what it is like to not have meat.  With all of this said I do I look forward to having my first taste of meat around my birthday in February, but I can now say that I can do without the things I like because God provides me with what I really need.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Excited For A Change!

I'm back in Guatemala and excited about a few things.  Christmas break was great and really helped me reenergize.  I won my fantasy football league a couple of weeks ago and was able to celebrate the win with my family!  Being with my family was amazing.  We played games, watched movies, and talked.  This was exactly what I needed.  Hanging around my family really made me excited for life in Guatemala.  Life down here is a challenge and I feel like God is constantly changing me.  Life back home for my family is changing as well; its an exciting time.

My older sister Katie, who I got to visit while I was home over Christmas, is pregnant.  She should pop in about two or three weeks.  I'm so ready for the little girl to come into the world.  This will be such a cool change for my family.  When I was home everything we did had something to do with the kid.  I'm ready for this change, ready to spoil my little niece, and see her grow in Christ.  I know that Katie and Michael, her husband, are ready for her to wake them up at all hours of the night, ask to be held, and fed.  I know bringing a life into this world is kind of a scary thought, such a huge responsibility, but I'm positive that my sister and bro-in-law will do fine.  I'm positive that she will bring such joy to their lives.  The only thing that I'm not really that excited about is the fact that I wont be able to meet her until June.  I'm going to miss out on the biggest change to come to my family in a decade or so, but I'm confident that God has me right where he wants me.  

Like I said I loved seeing my family while I was home, but by the end of the break I was ready to head back.  I got to see how God is using my dad in South West Denver.  His church is growing and things seem to be following God's will.  I hope that someone will be able to say the same thing about my life and my job here in Guatemala.  I guess the excitement in that last statement is knowing that as long as I seek God he will be glorified.  I'm challenging my students to trust him more and I guess I'm doing the same thing.  I'm excited to be where I am right now and I'm joyful because God is changing me, making me more into the man he crated me to be.  A big change is coming and I'm ready.