Mexico and Extortion

I experienced a couple of new things this last week.  Sushi for one.  I’ll let my buddies back in Boulder take a moment to catch their breath.  I know you are scratching your head in wonder.  What got Brendan to try sushi?  We couldn’t get him to eat it, ever.  He refused and ate pizza the last time we tried.  What brought about this big change?  Lets just say some people are a little more persuasive than others.  I will also admit that I didn’t like it, but I figured I needed to try the sushi roll because I was in Mexico and you know the old saying, when in Mexico eat Japanese.  Or something along those lines.  

Mexico was another new experience.  Now I’ve been to Mexico before, but I’ve never been there to renew a visa.  Walking across the boarder from Guatemala to Mexico was very interesting.  The Guate site was very crowded, people everywhere trying to sell you something or get you to exchange money with them.  It reminded me of the Mexican side of the boarder near Juarez, dirty and dangerous.  I walked through with my hands in my pockets trying to make sure no one else snuck their hands in there as well.  While the Guate side was a reminder of third world poverty, the Mexican side of the boarder was clean and peaceful.  There weren’t any beggars or hustlers.  I know that Mexico, just like any country, isn’t all that great, but it sure seemed like a peaceful sanctuary compared to what I’d just walked through.  
After a brief stay in Mexico we crossed back safely to Guatemala.  Leaving behind cheap movies and bad Sushi.  (Side note we saw The Strangers while we were there because the main Character’s name is Kristen McKay, which is the name of the art teacher at my school.  Only she spells it Kristin.  Well, she really wanted to see the movie because of this fact.  Half way through she was scared, screaming, and regretting her movie selection.) Leaving Mexico was easy.  Entering Guatemala was difficult.  The official didn’t want to let us back in.  We’d only stayed in Mexico for one day instead of the typical three days required to renew a visa.  So, we bribed him with cigarets and booze.  Factually not true, but we did accept his request of 10 Q each to re-enter the country (should’ve been free).  I’m sure he pocketed the money.  This experience made me wonder, do you work with a corrupt system so you can continue to share Christ’s love, or do you hold to your standards, meaning going back and waiting three days?  We payed and returned to Xela a couple of hours later.  
I know that 10 Q isn’t all that much, a little more than a dollar actually, but it is the fact that there are people out there that are willing to bend the rules for profit.  This was small amount, but the guy still had an asking price.  Do we all have asking prices?  I hope that I can’t be bought off.  I mean I guess I’m not my own to sell, I’ve already been purchased by Christ.  But what about the people who see money as their salvation and are willing to put others in danger just to obtain it?  Things work a little different down here.  In the presence of such poverty money is a get out of jail card.  I’m not saying Guatemalans are greedy, more so needy.  And when you are in need money sure seems like a good answer.  Maybe that is why the man requested 10 Q from each of us.  Maybe he needed the extra money for something noble like a starving child, but most likely he just wanted a little extra cash.  Greed is ugly, it can turn a fun weekend with friends into a sour experience.


I pooped my pants.  Not today, not this last week, and not even while I’ve been in Guatemala, at least not this time.  I pooped my pants a couple of years ago while I was skiing in Vail.  I was on my way down the mountain and only made it as fare as mid Vail.  Some of you know this story.  It is pretty funny and has always gotten some good laughs.  Well, I decided to share this story to my middle schoolers during chapel.  I thought it would be a good ice breaker.  I thought this was a good story for them to connect to me with.  I mean everyone poops.  

Well, as I wrapped up my story.  One of the eighth graders shot his hand into the air.  I thought he was going to ask a question.  He had something else planned.  “Yes,” I said acknowledging his raised hand.  “Well, this last week I peed my pants,” he said.  I told him I had heard about that, and tried to save him from divulging further detail.  He didn’t stop.  “I had to go real bad and I got ‘it’ stuck in my zipper.  I couldn’t get it out and so I started to flip it around and I ended up peeing all over my pants.”  No shame.  I was laughing hard at this point.  The other teachers rushed out of chapel crying laughter.  I couldn’t leave because I was in charge.  “Okay,” I said calmly after I’d taken a deep breath, ” yeah, I’d heard that.”  I was trying to move into my talk, but he continued.  “I got it cut on my zipper,” just like this has happened to every man, which is a false assumption.  His friend replied, “And he had to get a band aid.”  Simple pandaemonium.  Boys and girls rolling on the floor with laughter.  If I’d wanted an icebreaker I’m pretty sure a glacier had just broken free.  
I gave the students about a minute to laugh it out then told them to regroup.  This worked rather well.  Then I smoothly moved into my talk about how to be a lover in a dangerous time.  We’ve been sharing how to fit our lives stories into God’s greater story, even our poop and pee stories.  I think that the rest of my talk went well, but I don’t think anything will top the self admitted peeing of the pants.  The kids at this school are amazing.  That is all I have to say.  If you want to know more about my own poop story or about what I talked about during chapel let me know and I’ll see what I can do.  

Fantasy Football

In the last couple of months I have become culturally fluent in a couple of areas.  One is snapping my fingers together like I am tapping a can of chew.  Everyone does this down here, even the women.  If you want to fit in around Guatemala you need to learn this action.  I don’t mean you need to learn how to chew, but how to snap your fingers.  This isn’t a regular snap and to achieve the action you must touch your thumb to your middle finger and whip your hand up and down resulting in a popping sound.  I learned how to do this in the seventh grade from a hispanic kid.  Who knew I was learning how to be fluent in another culture.  

The second area I have become fluent here in Guatemala is Fantasy Football, American football that is.  Okay to be honest this isn’t really a Guatemalan thing, but more so an IAS teacher thing.  I am still fundamentally against the game.  I drafted a few players that play for teams that I hate, Justin Fargus and Darren McFadden, whom I promptly traded for Tony Scheffler.  I decided that if I was going to play a game that forced you to cheer for teams you typically hate I would fill my roster with Broncos.  For the first two weeks this worked beautifully.  Since then I’ve gone winless.  I have a good team, but they just haven’t been performing well.  I bring this up because this is what “we” do down here.  From the bus drops us off at school to the time it picks us up at the end of the day you can find someone working on their fantasy roster.  When a trade or some other type of roster move you might see one of the teachers snapping their fingers together like a Guatemalan.  
Right now I am not snapping my fingers together like a Guatemalan or enjoying fantasy football.  My status among the teachers is slipping.  I might be connecting with the students and teaching them how to speak correct English, but I sure can’t seem to pull together my fantasy team.  Living in another country sure is hard.  I feel like I’m being stretched like too little butter over to much bread.  From teaching to fantasy football to figuring out how to fit into Guatemalan’s culture I don’t seem to have a minutes rest.  I am loving it though.  I know I’ll look back at this experience and smile.  Maybe I wont win my fantasy league.  Maybe I’ll never learn the language and only be able to communicate with my Guatemalan friends through the finger snap.  But even so God is creating something in me.  I can feel it and I am excited to see what it is and where all of this goes.

Dia de los ninos!

If you can’t do you teach if you can’t teach you teach PE.  You might recognize this quote from the Jack Black movie “School of Rock,” but I’m pretty sure it didn’t originate there.  I remember living by this moto in middle school.  Even in college if anyone asked me what I wanted to do with my English major I would’ve answered not teaching, I wanted to do.  So it comes as big of a shock to me as it probably does to everyone else that I’m teaching in Guatemala, let alone loving it.  I think I am loving it because I am connecting with my students and slowly being able to share my faith with them.  

I’m real big on community.  I like being around people.  So when I was working at Cherry Hell Hole Country club and being forced to wait hand and foot on people who didn’t want to know who I was.  I knew I needed something else.  My parents challenged me to look outside of the country, which I did.  God promptly directed me to Guatemala and then some how tricked me into teaching.
Here is what I love about teaching.  The kids.  I love them and long to see them grow into adults who are actively pursuing Christ.  I still don’t think I’m the best teacher, but I sure hope God is using me.  I’m slowly getting to know my students better.  In the last two weeks I have been to dinner at one of my student’s houses and then to a party celebrating the day of the Kids.  The dinner was great and the party was hilarious.
Just incase you’re wondering, you did read the day of the kids, or the “Dia de los ninos.”  I remember, as a youth, wishing for a day completely devoted to me, other than my birthday or Christmas.  I mean parents have Mother’s day and Father’s day.  My request for a Kid’s day would always result with a reply of, “every day is kid’s day.”  Well, here in Guatemala October first is a day completely devoted to the kid.  It’s celebrated with pizza parties and presents.  I was invited to the seventh grade party after school where I was served pizza, pop, and candy, which I ate gladly.  Only to regret the food later.  At the party all of the seventh graders were decked out in halloween garb.  (Yes they are a month early, but who cares!)  They even had a haunted house.  One of the girls was dressed up as a bunny rabbit so I asked her several times how long it took her to grow out her ears and whiskers.  Oh the joys of being a teacher.  
Then today in PE I had a great discussion with my guys about life and girls.  I hope they heard what I had to say about God and his greater plan for our lives, who knows.  I really have enjoyed getting to know my students on a less formal level.  I feel like I’m their teacher, but also a person that can relate with them and share Christ’s love.  I feel like the later is happening slowly, but is happening because I’m taking the time to know them.  So I might not be able to do or teach or teach PE, but God is using me anyway.  I hope.