The Time We Went to Tikal to Sleep

As I live my life a few paces behind the rest of the world, why would my blog be any different? Life has passed and activities have happened since my trip to Tikal, Mayan ruins in Guatemala. I will, at some time, blog about more recent activities but for now here is a few photos from Tikal.

I had a weekend in Tikal, less than 48 hours, and for 16 of those hours I slept! It was beautiful, the sleep and Tikal. I will give you a break from reading the outspillings of my mind and will let the pictures do the talking. Enjoy!

 


When Understanding Ends

Remember when I said I would update this blog regularly? I do. I remember all the plans, thoughts and good intentions of being great at keeping up to date with my blog and prayer emails. It didn’t take me long to slip back into the old habits of never sticking to deadlines. I apologise. Here is the next muddled thought about my life.

I think in a lot of ways understanding and I parted ways when I boarded the plane to Guatemala. Moving here meant giving up my comforts, the people and things I knew, the food I loved and the lifestyle I led. I had anticipated for all this. It had never crossed my mind that I would give up understanding.

Life here is full of daily confusion and things that I just do not make sense to me. Most of it is Spanish related but not all. I am forever jumping out of the way of cars, or stood on the pavement waiting to cross the road in utter confusion because to me cars and drivers do not work in the same way as they do in Britain. I do not get the need for dogs to bark at 2am, do they not realise people are trying to sleep? And do not even ask me about Spanish grammar, English grammar had a difficult enough time staying in my brain let alone Spanish grammar. In fact I am currently reading a book about English grammar in hopes it will help me understand  Spanish grammar.

As annoying as some of these are – I was never very good at being woken up, especially not by dogs – they are just little day to day things that one day I may figure out but for now I can easily live with. It is the questions and wonderings that I ask daily that do not have answers that my brain can comprehend. The understandings that used to dictate life that have now disappeared. What happens then? What happens when understanding ends?

Like the daily thought of “am I ever going to master the art of Spanish or even just understand what people are saying to me?” and the fact that I am here, living in Guatemala, and about to do student work. In all my searching I have not found the answers to these questions, I come up blank. Some of you are probably thinking “God is the answer to all your questions”, and as a I have a relationship with God, I do believe He is the answer to these questions. The thing is it is easy to say that God is the answer, He will provide, He got you this far He won’t stop now. It is completely different to live it out, to stand on that answer and trust when you feel you are stood on a cliff and all you can see is a lot of sky and sea and really nowhere to turn apart from back.

BUT… there is life after understanding ends. It is not easy but it definitely is incredible. It is breathtaking to live in those moments where nothing makes sense and instantly you know God is good and is working. The moments, amongst all that I struggle with here, where I look around and am overwhelmed with love for this city, country and the people in it. I cannot explain it because it does not make sense. Life is not easy here but I love it and as much as I worry about how I am going to communicate and what I have to give to students here, I am just excited about getting to watch as God works in and through them.

One moment where my understanding and energy were failing when I desperately needed them was at my first GEU Vigilia. A Vigilia here is a basically a crazy evening of prayer, worship, a talk and socialising, all way past my bedtime – I like to be tucked up in bed by 9.30-10pm here, yes I have aged 40 years just through the simple act of moving to Guatemala. And in the early hours of the morning, I was introduced and asked to say a little about myself and how I feel about working with GEU for the next year. If I was 5, I would have cried, had a tantrum and said no but I am not 5, I am 23 and thought what a great opportunity to practise my Spanish, all while sending up frantic prayers to God for help.

Help He did! I simply said who I was, that I was studying Spanish, excited about working with them and that I would say more in January when I have more Spanish. Deep sigh, I had made it. My mouth however had other ideas and soon I was saying more than what I had thought about, saying things that I had wanted to say but just didn’t have the Spanish or brain power to say. I will be the first to say it wasn’t profound, it wasn’t anywhere near perfect Spanish and I will not be getting any awards for my first foray in public speaking Spanish style – it wasn’t public speaking, there were like 20 people but you would have thought there were 200 by the panic in my head. Sometimes I think back and actually wonder what I said. One thing I know for sure, is that in that moment I clearly saw God giving me the tools I need. In that moment all I understood was how true Matthew 6:32b-34 is. That God knows what we need and gives it to us daily. We do not need to fully understand, have a plan or see past the next step, all we need to do is look to God, see His beauty, power and love and worship Him, for in those moments that is all we can do.

In a few weeks I will, most likely, find that I have forgotten this lesson and need God, once again, to remind me how to live when understanding ends and that He provides for me daily far beyond what I could imagine. But for now I can enjoy living where there is very little understanding but there is one big God.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, do not depend on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

If you are reading this from GEU, please know that I loved the Vigilia and cannot wait for a year of them. I would not have traded the evening for anything! Although I was useless at everything apart from sleeping for the rest of the weekend.

Alongside this blog, I send out a regular – that word is used loosely- prayer email, telling you all that has been happening, prayer requests, answered prayers and where God has shown up in incredible ways! If you would like to receive these, drop me an email at nicola-wade@hotmail.co.uk

Trips to the Zoo, Colouring and Watching Films: Welcome to Elementary 1

Continuing my journey in discovering childhood through a 23 years olds eyes, I headed back to school in October and as I learnt from Julie Andrews and the many repeats of The Sound of Music, starting at the beginning is a very good place to start. Entonces Bienvenido a Elementary 1! (So Welcome to Elementary 1).

I would love to be able to say that I actually got to go back to Elementary 1 and that the best way to learn a language is to go to the zoo, colour and watch children’s films. Unfortunately, unless primary school has changed dramatically since I left, it is not true and really all the intense studying, seminars and brainwork I missed in university has caught up with me. I have lessons Monday-Friday, 8.30am-12.30pm and plenty of homework and further study. Basically, my days are full of studying and not much else!

My first lesson, I vividly remember sitting down, my teacher starting to spout off in Spanish at me and thinking how am I am going learn a language when I don’t understand a thing anyone is saying. Thankfully all those people that told me it is the best way to learn a language are correct! Gold stars for you guys.

My lessons are one to one with mi maestra (my teacher), Albertina, and I may just let the inner nerd within me out by saying this but I actually really enjoy my lessons. Alongside all the Spanish I am hopefully learning, I am relearning the joy and excitement of learning. In a geeky way, I love to flip through the dictionary, or mi libro favorito(my favourite book) as it is affectionately known by me, Ingrid and Albertina. The boost and moment of pride when I understand what someone is saying to me or use the correct conjunction is pretty special. And as I said in my last post, Albertina and I have a lot of laughs and banter in our lessons, sometimes the time just flies by.

Other times the time certainly does not fly by. Being taught one to one is great until you brain decides to disappear or you haven’t quite put in as much effort into memorising all about the animals in Spanish as you should have. At those points I wish for a class that I can hide behind, so I can half listen and half stare out the window. Thankfully these are rare moments and even in my lack of a good memory and preparation, God still shows up and pulls me through and from somewhere within my brain a little Spanish appears.

Now onto the real fun of Elementary 1 though. Role on the class trip #1. We have only had one class trip but I am living in hope that there will be more! To the zoo we go.

You would be forgiven for asking how a trip to the zoo is helping me learning Spanish. I asked, and am still asking, the same question but it got us out of the classroom and into the sun so I was happy and not going to voice my opinions.

I am not sure whether my teacher thinks I love animals or that this is just a good way to learn Spanish and improve my memory but each day I have three animals to learn about and memorize all in Spanish. This does mean somewhere in my brain there are facts about currently 30 different animals floating around my brain, and my teacher duly questioned me on all the animals I have learnt about. Praise be to God I could remember a fact about each animal!

Following along the animal theme, I really think my teacher thinks I love animals, I spent a lesson drawing and colouring sea animals for a game my teacher was making to help me learn irregular verbs. Remember when the big sheets of paper and the colouring pens came out in class? Poster making time! Equalling in not much learnt just lots of drawing and colouring. That was my lesson. It didn’t help me with my irregular verbs but my inner child was satisfied and I learnt that pulpo is octopus in Spanish.

My stomach was also satisfied last week we got to make tortillas and eat them while watching Rio in Spanish. Seriously, I do enjoy the life of a Spanish student!

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For all you animal lovers out there, you will be pleased to know the animals in the zoo had plenty of space to roam around in and be happy in! No animals have been harmed in my learning of Spanish!

The beauty of learning a language

How to explain my first month in Guatemala? Where to start? How to fit in all that goes around my brain when I think of the past 29 days? Well, one thing I know for sure is that it won’t all fit in one blog post. So over the next few weeks, I will back track and fill you in with all that has happened and is happening in my little world of Guatemala.

Life in Guatemala. How to explain it? Put in a sentence, life here is simple. That is if you take out the whole different language thing but how big a deal is it not speaking the language?!  In the past month I have learnt that it is a big deal. Even the simplest communication and tasks become ten times harder. Speaking on the phone can be impossible and my face frequently has a look of complete confusion on it as someone speaks to me.  So let’s start with language, as my world is now in Spanish without subtitles.

Living in a new country, one where you do not speak the language, is in some ways like going back to childhood. Ever wonder what it must be like for a baby? Not understanding what is being said, what is happening and no way of communicating anything. I think I have come the closest I will ever get to knowing what it was like to be a baby, in the communication sense! Thankfully I have had 23 years of preparation for being laughed at and joining in with the laughter. A positive side to not knowing the language is that, in a weird way, it breaks down barriers. My mouth can’t quite get itself round all the vowels and different sounds in the Spanish language and Guatemalans love this! My teacher is forever laughing at my attempt to roll r’s.

Another great thing about not speaking the language is the stories all parties get. The top of the pile has to be when I thought I was being taken to El Salvador without a passport. A week after arriving in Guatemala, I had just moved into my host family’s house, first day at Spanish school and all I knew was that Ingrid, my host sister, was picking me up sometime in the afternoon from school. Ingrid arrived at the school with her business partner and we hopped in the car and started to drive off. After Ingrid chatting away to me in Spanish and a few minutes I realise we are not driving to our house but out of the city. After a bit of frantic listening, I understand ‘El Salvador’, something about clients and opportunities. Great, they have an opportunity for more clients in El Salvador, a little far from Guatemala City but hey who am I to judge. Next my brain starts to run wild. After understanding a few more words, I piece together the idea that we are visiting the clients now. They are taking me to El Salvador, now! I don’t mind visiting El Salvador, slightly awkward if I am there when they meet the clients but hey, it is up to them. One small problem, I don’t have my passport on me. A few more minutes pass and I realise that I have to say something, I can’t let them get to the border and then have to turn back because I don’t have my passport. It is better to say something sooner than later. So after getting the courage and the words, I ask if we are going to El Salvador now and that I don’t have my passport. They didn’t need to answer after the laughter that came from the front of the car. I had gotten the whole situation wrong. With a slightly bruised ego, I took a deep sigh of relief and sat back to enjoy the ride, still not quite sure where we were going. I later found out that we were driving out of the city on the road to El Salvador and that there are no clients in El Salvador. Spanish 1 Nicola 0.

With learning a new language the key is to remember the victories, however few and far between they are, and to keep perspective. People take months and years to learn a new language, and that is with the natural talent of learning languages. I unfortunately was not born with this skill and learning languages never came easily to me. At a high point, I can see how far I have come in learning Spanish. I have simple conversations with people, explained difficult situations to my host family and still manage to have banter with my teacher, which she loves!

I frequently have moments of questioning if I will ever be able to speak Spanish to a good conversational level. Whether I heard God wrong and that this was all a big mistake. But the beauty of my weakness is that it is exactly when God steps in. Right now, I don’t have my normal comforts, walls and strength. I can no longer depend on my own understanding and convince myself that I can do it on my own. All I can do is continue on the steps before me, keep trusting in God and look forward to each moment I get to see God work in my life a little bit more.

My gracious favour is all you need. My power works best in your weakness.

                        2 Corinthians 12:9

 

 

Alongside this blog, I will be sending out a prayer email, most likely fortnightly, telling you all that has been happening, prayer requests, answered prayers and where God has shown up in incredible ways! If you would like to receive these, drop me an email at nicola-wade@hotmail.co.uk

I am alive!

Sorry for the lack of communication on here. I am alive and well living in Guatemala. Although internet is pretty sporadic!

This is just a quick post to let you all know that I have not forgotten about this blog and all of you! When I have better internet, on my laptop, I will fill you in completely with all the goings on of life in Guatemala. But for now I am sat in Pizza Hut on my mobile using the internet with my host sister as internet is down at the house.

Life here is good but comes with several difficulties. Through it all I cling to God for He is with me, understands me even when I don’t and is the strength in me! He got me this far, I am trusting that He will get me the rest of the way!

What am I doing again?

It hasn’t quite hit me yet that I am actually going to Guatemala. For a little less than a year, it has been an idea, a dream, something in my future but not in my present. Now I find my present has caught up with my future.

With one week left, the goodbyes have started. The last few weeks I have been travelling the country to see family and friends (sorry if I did not get to you), and continually telling people what I will be doing out in Guatemala. If I haven’t been able to tell you in person, or my fumbled explanation didn’t quite make sense, here is what I will be doing in Guatemala.

My main role will be a student worker with GEU (Grupo Evangélico Universitario). GEU is a Christian university movement, who want to bring up young Christian leaders who impact their world by living out God’s love, and see others have a relationship with God. I will working in a team of 3 student workers and 15 student leaders, helping to plan and hold events for students, helping students lead Bible studies, looking out for new students, helping them to settle into life at university, and be a pastoral support for a girls  group at GEU. GEU have a number of leaders who are interested in music and art and want to set up a team to use these gifts and use them to get other students thinking about and interested in who God is, using my own creativity, and maybe even my degree (knew it would be useful at some point in life), I will either be heading up a team to do this or helping a team do this. Finally, I will be doing conversation clubs with students looking to improve their/learn spoken English.

I am really excited about all the work I can get involved in, it is a great mix of relational work, mixed in with a little creative work on the side. I loved my time at university and know that God really worked in me and shaped me during that time, and I cannot wait to meet the students and see how God moulds them more into the incredible people He has created them to be.

I will be based in San Carlos University, in Guatemala City, and hopefully living close by but in true Guatemalan ways I currently do not have a host family to live with. Do not fear though, I will not be homeless and have full faith that a family will want me! Although I never really told anyone, Guatemala City was at the top of the list for where I wanted to live. It isn’t the safest city but I cannot wait to see the city and do city living Guatemalan style.

As Guatemala is a Spanish speaking country, it would be useful to be able to speak the country. I can currently tell you my name, ask how you are, say my age and maybe how many sisters I have, oh say the word ‘wire’. Although I will be fine if I am introducing myself at a kid’s club this will not get me anywhere in day to day life or student work. So I am going back to school! October, November and December I will be enrolled at a language school in the City, before starting work with GEU in January. With 4 hours a day and living with a Guatemalan family, I will be speaking Spanish in no time, or at least that is what I praying for!   

So the 7 day countdown has happened. Thankfully the tears haven’t started but neither has the packing. Most like the next post will be from across the Atlantic letting you know that I am still alive.

 

 

Alongside this blog, I will be sending out a prayer email, most likely fortnightly, telling you all that has been happening, prayer requests, answered prayers and where God has shown up in incredible ways! If you would like to receive these, drop me an email at nicola-wade@hotmail.co.uk

How the heck did I get here?!

Placement sorted. Flights booked. Butterflies increasing. The year preparing to move to Guatemala has passed all too quickly and now all I can do is continue to take steps of faith into this next chapter of my life.

For some of you, you have seen each step on the way to me moving to Guatemala. Others of you have heard little bits of news about me going away here and there. While I am sure a few of you are in complete shock and confusion and wondering how on earth I made this decision and got to this point. So that  we all start this journey on the same footing, I will look back and explain how this all came about.

September 2011 I entered into the final year of university, and for the foreseeable future the final year of full-time education. The guided path of education that I had entered 17 years ago was about to shoot me out the other side into the big wide world of work and careers. With no dream career or natural next step, I started to worry about what I was going to do. I was turning 22 shouldn’t my life have a clear plan and career goal? That question and many other questions about my future, most importantly the first year after university, were directed to God. Over time these questions became more and more desperate, until I gave God the proposition, ‘Just give me one step and I will shut up about my future’. As God likes to, He took me up on this and said, “Go to Guatemala”.

For me, this command was not completely out of the blue. I had been to Peru on short term mission with Latin Link in 2008, and had been thinking of going to Guatemala the summer I graduated to do another short mission trip, again with Latin Link. So I took that vague step on board and applied to go to Guatemala for 3 weeks. All the while trying to figure out how to complete an assessment based on what I was going to do after university. (The final cut included going to Guatemala, working in a coffee shop because I like coffee or an airport because I love airports and I now work in Costa, so my 1 year plan slightly worked!)

Final assessments came, degree show went up and came down, graduation happened and God quietly whispered that life in Cardiff was over. Before I knew it August 2012 had come round and I was flying out to Guatemala, co-leading a team of 11.

We were in the little town of Zaragoza, working with Educando para la Vida (Education for Life), an organisation that offers primary school education for adults that never finished school as a child and run afternoon homework clubs, where children have a chance to do their homework, play games and hear a Bible story. They also have a water purifier and supply mothers in the area with clean water at a discounted cost, as well as local schools, and have just set up an internet cafe, and run computer lessons for local children. We were running the afternoon clubs, teaching English and painting a mural for a local primary school they are linked with, and making room dividers to be used for the health clinic and education scheme they run once a year.

Life in Guatemala for three weeks was jammed packed. With 4 projects to do, days went past quickly. But somewhere in amongst the planning children’s work, painting, playing with local children, meeting locals in the area, practising dramas and songs to perform in Churches, God worked in me, the team and the locals. For three weeks, we got to be God’s love to those children, many who had difficult starts to life, and be an encouragement to the local Christians. I got to see God develop leadership gifts He had placed within me, my character and a love to walk alongside others as God reveals a little more of Himself to them and who they are through His eyes.

Time in Guatemala came to an end rapidly and soon I found myself back in England, living with my parents, no job and no hint of what the next step was from God. I was starting to revisit my questions and worries I had had the previous year. God stayed quiet and I started to push doors. I didn’t want to leave Guatemala, and having no other plans and an open command of ‘Go to Guatemala’, I started to ask questions about going to Guatemala on Latin Link’s Stride programme. Questions turned into applying and applying turned into going.

So here I am, leaving for Guatemala in less than 2 months. In the past year, I have gone through every emotion about going to Guatemala, from being ecstatic and 100% confident in my decision to being terrified of going and wondering where my rational decision making function has disappeared to. Right now, I am at a happy medium between being super excited and absolutely terrified. I still ask God if it is the right thing to do, and frequently remind Him that I cannot do this alone. But in the end, I know that God will be with me through it all and am learning to realise that maybe God’s will for my life is not a tightrope and that each major life decision I make will not either take me one step closer to the other side or throw me into the mess below. This is just the next adventure that I will embark on with my creator.

 

I cannot do this on my own, I need all the prayer I can get! I also need financial support. All the work I will be doing in Guatemala is voluntary and although I am using money that I have saved from pay checks this past year it is does not cover all my costs. If you are interested in supporting me through prayer, financially or both, or just have more questions do not hesitate to email me at nicola-wade@hotmail.co.uk or talk to me in person.

Hello!

I am moving to Guatemala! And this is the blog that will follow the story. This will be my main way of communicating all the highs and lows of living in Guatemala, every victory and disaster will be logged here, with hopefully a few laughs along the way. I am no writer and I apologise for all the bad stories, bad grammar and bad use of the thesaurus but hopefully it will convey a little bit of what I will be experiencing.   

I am heading out in October with Latin Link, a Christian community that has a heart to see people receive Jesus, live in God’s love and share that love, learn more about them and what they do at http://www.latinlink.org.uk. I have a lot of love for Latin Link, what they do and how they do it, and am privileged to be a part of the Latin Link community.

I will be filling you all in in more detail as to what I will be doing out in Guatemala for a year and how I got to this point in the not too distant future. But for now this is a just a little welcome to my blog. It will most likely change layout, colour scheme and photos, as I try to find a look that I am happy with, although I am very picky and so this may take a while. There will be points of frequent updates and other times where the communication maybe a little slower, I apologise for this!

But welcome to my adventure into blog writing and living in a country where I do not speak the language!