Saturday

Today was our day off and we were heading to Antigua, with Suzanne (our short term coordinator) as our unofficial tour guide. The drive to Antigua was about an hour and included beautiful views of the volcanoes. Our first stop was Cerro De la Cruz (Hill of the Cross), named so because of the huge cross at the centre - another reminder of Guatemala being a Catholic country. The hill boasted a stunning view of Antigua, which we marvelled whilst Suzanne gave us a brief history. Like the other tourists there, we made sure to take lots of photos with the views and the cross! We then went off to explore the streets of Antigua, with its dainty, colourful houses, cobbled roads and small pavements. We headed to a big vintage store; we loved seeing all the native Guatemalan patterns, clothes, bags, purses and toys. Here, we met up with Stefan and his beautiful three-year-old daughter, Guadalupe. Stefan is a Latin Link member, originally from Switzerland, who had been living in Guatemala for four years with his wife.

We finally had our first taste of Guatemalan food when we went to a local restaurant. At the entrance we saw tortillas negras, and Hochata (a sugary milk drink) being prepared, and big plates of delicious food being served - needless to say, our mouths were watering! Most of the group ordered roast chicken served with potatoes and salad (Nikkita is still dreaming about that chicken!), whilst the rest of us ordered a very traditional Guatemalan meal of boiled chicken in a spicy broth, with potatoes. Of course, all this was eaten with the tortillas in true Guatemalan fashion!

The rest of the day was spent exploring the markets, and haggling our way to get the best bargains. To say this was a stressful experience would be an understatement! Even just looking at an item attracted the stall keepers' attention, as they tried fervently to get you to buy their items. There was just no understanding the fact that liking something didn't always mean you'd want to buy it! Despite this, we all ended up with plenty of things to bring back home for our family and friends, and Steph even got a whole outfit! In the words of one of the stall keepers, "Business is business; it's good for me and it's good for you!"

Image of Guatemala Summer Step team

Sunday 

Today we went to a different church to the one we had been to last week, called Casa Josue, one of the churches that sponsor Puerta de Esperanza. I immediately felt awkward when all the men were dressed in suits and we were in our house slippers - did someone say "rookie error"?!

The service began with worship, when church was very upbeat and involved choreographed moves! The sermon which was about Remaining in the Vine, was kindly translated to us into English by one of the church members. The translator had a difficult job of keeping up with the preacher as he was very passionate and often went off on tangents, we felt as though we had a whirlwind tour of the New Testament! Yet, we all still had many points to take home and reflect on. At the end we had a chance to speak to the Pastor, who was very friendly, which made us feel welcomed!  

Straight after church, we went to do a bulk shop at Price Smart (think Costco) but as we were quite hungry, we thought it would be wiser to eat first. Most of the girls ordered pizza to share, and each slice was huuuuge, it was like eating three slices in one! Steph and Sarah OP had chicken and chips, whilst Mel had a cheese burger and chips. Our bulk shop was very bulky indeed, and as ten foreign girls wheeling around a trolley that was almost the same size as some of us, we attracted a lot of attention! It seemed really daunting to have to carry everything back to the house which was about a ten/fifteen minute walk away, but God was our strength and it wasn't too bad! Now we have food for days, ¡Gloria a Dios!

The night ended with a somewhat chaotic rehearsal of our production of Noah and the Ark, as we were all quite tired and hysterical. Mel took the starring role and the rest of us took turns being the narrator, the wife and the sons! 

Monday 

Today was different than last week, as only three of us went to Puerta de Esperanza (Steph, Sarah Murphy and Sarah OP), whilst the other stayed at home to prep for the presentations and activities we would be doing in local schools Tuesday - Friday. At Puerta de Esperanza, we were teaching the children about loving one's neighbour through drama. We showed them a modern day adaptation of the Good Samaritan and asked them to create their own sketches, which went down a treat with the children! We also had a crafts activity, whereby the kids had to draw the faces of the people they love. The rest of the day was spent playing with the children and building relationships with them. Honestly, we started the day quite tired from a jam-packed weekend, and I think we all questioned how we would get through the day but God, faithful as always, gave us the strength and energy necessary to sustain us! 

The rest of the girls spent the days running errands, picking up laundry and shopping. It was generally a slow day for the girls, though very productive as they created the activities for the children in the schools, included word searches and drawings. Mel and Nikkita, both on domestic duty, made us a delicious pasta and tomato sauce with chicken! With our stomachs full, we had another dress rehearsal so we could give the performance of our lives come Tuesday.

Tuesday 

Today was crazy; there's no other way to describe it! It started with half the group (Maggie, Beth, Steph, Mel and Mollie) going to a local school to give a drama and doing some crafts with the kids. The theme was 'Noah and the Ark' which was joy as the children loved the colour and our (amateur) acting. The desks in the school backed onto one another and it was cramped but we made do and gave it our best. The kids were incredibly sweet and we exchanged some English/Spanish colours and animals so that was fun. The main thing we wanted them to take away was that 'water is a gift from God' (Agua es un regalo de Dios) so they coloured in pictures of water to help them remember how important clean water is. 

The whole group was in the terminal in the afternoon which was a real blessing as the kids were completely mental! We just didn't have enough hands to tame them all and pick them up every time they asked. Something we felt a bit uncomfortable about was that the boys made toy guns out of anything and relished having a dramatic gun fight. We did our best to not encourage it whatsoever but boys will be boys! We really needed energy that only God can bring so prayer for God's strength is vital!

Wednesday 

Wednesdays we don't really know what we'll be doing until we're there and that's what happened today. The team (bar Zoë, Maggie and Steph who stayed behind and looked after 3 kids - a much more manageable ratio) went again to a school to perform Noah and the Ark. The desks were even more cramped and actually went on top of one another. It's times like this that we are reminded to be more grateful for education in the UK and personal space! Then they sang Our God is A Great Big God to a class that didn't have a teacher so prayer for the kids to have some consistently and teaching is really needed please. 

Image of Step team on a street in Guatemala

Thursday 

Another day in the terminal which began with breakfast and showers. However, as the day unfolded things happened which were definitely unique. For starters, Maggie had to sew up not only a boy's trousers but also a girl's skirt - Sarah Murphy is entirely to blame as she stitched her up! 

Mel was a pro at showering heaps of kids and Mollie is a living climbing frame so everyone's talents are being used haha. 

Once again 1/2 of the team went to a school which was fun as we recognised some of the kids that we help out so it's good to see that there might be some hope for them by getting an education. They loved the drama as the school was less crowded and the kids better behaved so it went down very well. 

Whilst this was happening the other 1/2 spent over 3 hours in the park with the kids. How they're still standing we'll never know as not only was it hot but their energy never seems to cease! So many piggybacks....

Thursdays mean adult classes in the terminal (which Beth, Maggie and Vicky went to). The kids (most of whom we didn't recognise) were so excited to see us and grabbed any chance to have piggyback races. Something interesting we noticed whilst walking around was that there's computer rooms in the terminal even though so many people that live and/or work there barely earn enough to live - technology is everywhere!

The dinner to restore us of energy was fajitas (!Gloria a Dios!) which we all devoured. Zoë and Steph are completely to thank there as they really smashed it. We all wanted a relaxed evening but the weather had other plans...

During a group meeting about how our weeks have been, the heavens opened and it rained for what felt like hours. The kitchen flooded and we had to scoop out the water one bucket at a time but we eventually managed to get it down to a small stream. Very stressful. To add to the stress, Zoë and Maggie went to pour the brown sewage water down the sink but broke it in the process. It wasn't our fault as it was broken anyway but oh my it was stressful! We scooped up and swept water into a small clogged up drain for the remainder of the evening - not our idea of fun but I think we bonded over it. Always a silver lining?! 

This is written well after the event but prayer is still needed for the families/residents of the terminal. Jomara was so worried about them as they have no protection from the rain (and believe us it was heavy) and so many problems can arise from rain in the terminal so please give their living situation to God and ask for His protection. 

Friday

Today was a peculiar day as although Vicky and Maggie were on domestic, half the team stayed behind at the house to buy food and half prepared craft for the coming week. Because of this, most of the day was spent meandering and doing things at a very chilled speed, but once one team got back from the shops, the other had to rush so it wasn't chilled at all in the end!  

A highlight was Suzanne (our short term coordinator) bringing us homemade carrot cake and frosting - she's fab!

The evening was a real treat as Carlos gave us a 'private' tour of Guatemala City. We saw bits we hadn't seen before including the square where the president lives and some interesting Catholic Churches. The main thing on most people's minds was hunger (not surprising at all) so we quickly decided to go a Guatemalan/Mexican restaurant. It was delicious food and it was also nice to have something local to the area. In true Steph style she decided it was a good idea to order a spicy chilli which even she couldn't hack - it must've been hot! As well as that, Carlos splattered brown sauce on Maggie's pink top by accident which got a big laugh - there goes that top! 

All in all, it's been a great week with so many new experiences and memories. 

Prayer points:

  • Physical and emotional strength for us
  • For God to continue revealing himself to the children 
  • To make the most of our last week here
  • Safe journey home for all of us