On Our Way Home

Dear reader, it has been quite a trip!  I know you have only been able to hear about part of it so far, but I assure you that I will continue to write updates once we are back home (and I have a reliable internet connection again).  You still have six more days to read about!

We will be leaving for the airport in Guatemala City at 9am.  We have a four-hour layover in Georgia, and then we should land in the Twin Cities by 11:30pm.  We are looking forward to seeing our loved ones tomorrow night!

There is so much more to this trip than I will ever be able to convey in words.  I commented during our reflection time together last night that when we read about Guatemala (or Chiapas, or El Salvador, etc.), it’s as though we are being given a fish—it feeds us for a while, but then we are at some point empty again.  Going on these trips changes something deep within; no longer quite the person we were before, we transform into a fisherman—we become able to feed other people from the experiences we have gained.  And perhaps, someday, we will have opportunities ourselves to transform others into fishermen, too.

If you are one of the lucky ones welcoming your traveler home tomorrow, I offer you some food for thought: It takes a lot out of a person, being transformed into a fisherman.  It is a new identity that many in our group are still trying on for size, figuring out how this fits in with the life they were leading ten days ago.  It will take some time to process things from the trip; some things will be easy to talk about, and some will be more difficult.  So be patient with your new fisherman, and love them as only you know how to do.

Thank you, dear reader, for accompanying us on this journey.  I will continue to update this blog on Thursday, June 2nd after I’ve had a chance to sleep!

Hasta luego!



Day 03 – Behind the Beauty

It was our last morning in Guatemala City; after lunch, we piled into the van for Quetzaltenango—a city that is often called by its original Mayan name, Xelaju, or Xela for short—which is about four hours away, to the southwest of Lake Atitlan.

Before leaving, though, we had one last very important visit in the capitol city of Guatemala.

FAMDEGUA (Family Members of Detained and Disappeared Persons)

One thing that is central to understanding Guatemalan history is the concept of someone being “disappeared.”  During the 36-year civil war, which ended with the signing of the Peace Accords in 1996, the Guatemalan army would kidnap people, and their families would never hear whether their loved ones were alive or dead.  This became common practice, and Continue reading


Throughout the first eight days of our nine days in Guatemala, I have enjoyed sharing with others in so many smiles, jokes, and laughter—sometimes with my traveling companions, and also with Guatemalans.

My vegetarian eating habits were so graciously accommodated by the many people whose hands served us our meals.  In Quetzaltenango on Wednesday, a waiter and I laughed together as he teased me about it, pretending to Continue reading

Evening Reflections of Day 6

Every evening before bedtime, we have gathered together as a group to make space for a time of meaning.  Each night includes a short worship led by one or two students, and sometimes it also includes a period of reflection, where we process the trip and our reactions to the day’s events.  Tonight, on “Day 6,” we asked the group to take ten minutes and write down the thoughts that were on their hearts.  Here are what some people were comfortable sharing on this blog with you, dear reader.  I only included the names as the author wrote them; some writers preferred to remain anonymous.  I hope you find their thoughts as meaningful as I have.



I’m alive and well!  Guatemala is both beautiful and depressing at the same time.  The scenery is mountainous and very lush, green, and alive.  I don’t believe we’ve gone more than a few miles on flat ground.  Not good for someone with motion sickness, but we are dealing with it.  The depressing part is that the poverty is as abundant as the hills; so many people and so little jobs and money.  One just wants to do something…anything to help them; they are such beautiful people.  It teaches you that Continue reading

In Our National Interest?

Good Evening from Guatemala,

We have been going around Guatemala for the past five days, and we have been learning more about its history as we travel.  A topic that keeps coming to my mind is the foreign policy of the United States.  The main justification for action in another country is that such action is “in our national interest.”  It is in our national interest to keep the price of oil low.  It is in our national interest to keep the price of other foods low.  It is in our national interest to keep the corporations that are based in the United States happy so that those companies will stay in the United States and keep our jobs here.

I bring all of this up because something that was “in the national interest” of the United States caused one part of Guatemala’s history to  turn a dramatic corner.

Between the years of 1944 and 1954, Guatemala had a Continue reading

Day 02 (Part 2) – The Price of Peace

Eating breakfast at Casa Emaus is a colorful experience.  Right outside the kitchen area is an enclosed patio.  Flower bushes line three sides of the patio, and the fourth side opens out into the central garden.  The trellises with the hanging red-and-yellow tumbergia flowers provide a perfect attraction for quick-winged hummingbirds to feast.  It’s hard to think of a better way to begin the day…until you add in a wonderful a cappella performance of a morning prayer by a choral group from Philadelphia.  It was absolutely lovely!

Hector’s View of Guatemala

After breakfast, we all went upstairs to meet with Hector, a pastor and seminary professor who came to share his experience of religion in Guatemala.

During the civil war, which lasted for 36 years and ended in 1996 when the Peace Accords were signed, the church in Guatemala was beginning to wake up, and it encouraged its pastors to Continue reading

A Night on the Town

What trip out of the country would be complete without at least one night on the town?  No surprise, Tim, David, Patrick and I found what I hope weren’t the hippest bars in Quetzaltenango on Wednesday night.

To start, we checked out the hostel/bar/restaraunt across the street from our hotel, The Black Cat.  There, after struggling to remember my Spanish and order our drinks, we met Eystes, a D.C. native studying adoption in Guatemala.  We had excellent conversation, even touching on the topic of “What is a Christian?” (Eystes is Jewish, by the way).  All-in-all a great place to sit and have some Gallo, Guatemala’s national beer.

After The Black Cat, we followed the sound of thumping music to a club called Frissa, or Rissa, or something to that effect.  After ordering 4 beers and being seated by our gracious host, we realized that their “2 for Q50” (2 for 50 quetzales, equivelent to roughly $US 9.00) was the price for liters.  The host at least understood that we didn’t want a liter of Gallo for each of us, and brought out an appropriate amount.

On to Ich Bin Student, a tiny student bar.  We were the only patrons at Ich Bin Student, so I decided to try my hand at requesting a song.  After attempting to ask our waiter, Cedric, if they had Styx or AC/DC, I realized that my Spanish maybe isn’t as good as I had hoped.  Cedric led me to the DJ booth and showed me how to search for songs on his computer.  No Styx, sadly, but we were able to find “Hey Jude” and “Lay Lady Lay.”  Who would have guessed we’d be listening to Bob Dylan in Guatemala?

Before going back to our hotel, Tim and I were even able to squeeze in some dancing.  Overall, this was a great experience.  All of the people we met were wonderfully gracious and patient with my broken Spanglish.

If you ever get to Quetzaltenango, however, don’t attempt to request Styx.  It’s a lost cause.

– Kelsey