Saturday, 14 January 2017

A bit of wildlife

I enjoyed a few days in Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica, before we had our Latin Link team conference. Here´s a few pictures of the wildlife.....

Monday, 2 January 2017

Plastic Free 2017

So ..... New Years Resolutions ???? 

Over the last few months, I´ve been thinking about how I care for the environment, and particularly the impact of the rubbish that I create. I already refuse plastic bags from the supermarket, and buy most of my food from the market, where it is not covered in overenthusiastic packaging, however, it is always good to challenge yourself to go further, and not to get complacent. 

I´ve had a few conversations with people about plastic bottles - often with people extolling the virtues of plastic because it can be recycled. But, however much we recycle it, the material itself is toxic as most plastics are made with petroleum. When there´s a oil slick or spillage in the ocean, we are rightly outraged about the environmental destruction it causes, yet we don´t seem all that bothered about the plastic soups that have developed in every ocean on earth, even though they are causing similar destruction to marine life and have a knock on effect on the rest of our eco-systems. 

The example of new laws in San Pedro (see previous blog) inspired me to think about what should be my next steps in caring for the environment. 

So I´ve decided... by the end of 2017, I want to have given up using plastics. 
At this point in time, I have no idea how easy or difficult that is going to be. Last month, I bought myself an orange squeezer, so I can make my own orange juice, rather than buy bottled juice. That bit was easy. But I have no idea if here in Guatemala, there are any places where I can buy shampoo to refill my own bottles???  - or if there are alternative solutions to any of the many other ways in which I presently use plastic. But I at least want to try. 

I´m slightly scared to publish this, as that means that I´ll have to keep to this endeavour, even if it proves difficult, but somehow I think more is at stake than my reputation. 
I´ll let you know how I get on.

A few thoughts about Christmas

A few things happened in 2016 which changed Christmas. 

Firstly the Guatemalan Post Office closed down. Completely. So no post would get through for Christmas (either before or after). Although there´s not that many people who use snail mail anymore, some still make an exception around Christmas. This year it was only a few days before the 25th that it dawned on me, that I would have no presents to open on Christmas morning. On the actual day, it really didn´t matter!

I already had plans for hosting 11 people for Christmas dinner on the 25th, but I also wanted it to mean something more than just filling our bellies with rich food. So inbetween courses, we did some version of the 'examen'. I lit some candles to focus the mind, and asked everyone to think of one thing that had brought them joy in 2016, and one thing that had brought them sadness. As people shared, it was wonderful to see God´s faithfulness and guidance in our lives in spite of some difficult circumstances and challenges. We lifted all of these things up to God in prayer, recognising his presence with us, throughout our joys and sadnesses, so wonderfully demonstrated in the coming of Jesus to the world. 

Previously to our get-together, a few people had asked me if we were going to give and receive 'secret santa' presents. For a long time, I´ve not been entirely comfortable with the consumerism that surrounds Christmas, both in the UK, and to a slightly lesser extent, here in Guatemala, so when this question presented itself, I went for an alternative. I asked each guest to come with (spoken or written) words of encouragement and appreciation for each other instead of presents. In the days before Christmas, I really enjoyed making time to think and pray and write these words of encouragement for each of my guests, to focus my prayers for them on what I desired for them in the coming year.

Secondly, in 2016, I was also in the UK for 4 months, and since returning to Guatemala in Oct, I have been really busy. Guatemalan friends also tend to be very busy - often fitting in work and studies and church responsibilities, so in 'normal life' there´s not much time to share on a deeper level. So I decided that Christmas week, I would dedicate to hospitality -- and each day it was such a lovely experience to have some unhurried time to catch up with different friends and bless them with good food (I hope). 

All of this made me think about authentic community, where we can be honest about our struggles and joys, where we can appreciate one another, and share hospitality. And it all made me want to lean into these values even more in the coming year. 

(And thirdly..... no brussells sprouts were to be found anywhere in Guatemala!!!!)

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Student Missionaries or Missional students?

I´ve just finished 3 days of giving mission and cultural training to a diverse group. Some are preparing to study in Russia and China, a few of their parents came too, and others have plans to serve cross-culturally at some point in the future. 
We´re beginning to work with a University recruitment agency, and it was great to offer this training together.
My friend Pamela came along too, and shared her experience of befriending and supporting international students in the UK

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Our Grandparents legacy

Whilst I was in San Pedro, I was SOOOOOO happy to see this!

It might not look like much .. but this is a rubbish collection - with separate recyclables and normal rubbish - which has been introduced in San Pedro recently. This is a HUGE step forward. Previously there was no rubbish collection at all  - so all rubbish ended up, sooner or later, in the Lake.
This is the work of the new mayor in the town. Recognising the contamination problem in the water, and the effect that that has on the tourist industry, the new Mayor has instigated this new rubbish and recycling collection service.

Alongside that, a new bylaw bans the use of plastic bags, straws and polystyrene /disposable plates and cups in San Pedro. Interesting this has brought a lot of interest. For many market traders and street sellers in San Pedro, who supply the traveller community with cheap food, this is a big change. For the local community too, who, like most of Guatemala, use disposable plates etc as a norm. Many would have said that a ban like this, would have been very difficult to pass (and enforce) but the Mayor introduced it using the rhetoric of 'la herencia de los abuelos' - our grandparents legacy -- a sense of recapturing the respect and value that our grandparents generation had for the nature that surrounds it. This particularly appealed to the indigenous population in San Pedro. So the law was passed, and has now been introduced. Market traders has returned to using banana leaves as packaging (or locals take their own containers to market), the restaurants having stopped offering plastic straws with the drinks and I saw a new shop in town, selling biodegradable food containers for take aways. It would be fantastic if other towns and cities could take inspiration from San Pedro, and make a change for the benefit of our planet - and everything and everyone that lives on it!


Last week I spent some time in San Pedro La Laguna, one of my favourite places in Guatemala. I had a couple of work reasons to be there, but also used it as a study week, reading and writing for an essay for my MA course.
It was great to be there - a wonderful place to be able to disconnect and focus (as well as start each day with a swim!).

'Don´t let the goal of your journey blind you from learning about your purpose along the way'.
That was a great quote from one of the books I was reading. It´s taken from the story of the Princes of Serendip (related by Lederach in his book, The Moral Imagination) -- which is apparently where the word Serendipity comes from -- a sense of taking notice of and being grateful for the surprising blessings which come along whilst we´re on our way to somewhere else. That is so often the experience in missions - when we have a clear purpose and goal, and yet God brings us lessons along the way that we didn´t expect. It´s always worth taking notice!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

All Saints Day Celebrations

It´s been a few years since I went to one of the All Saints Day celebrations - the kite competitions - so yesterday I went with a few friends. Traditionally, families would go to the cemetery and fly home made kites in memory of their loved ones who have passed away. Now a couple of towns are well known for their kite flying competitions.
The kites are made by groups or clubs, who spend months planning, deisgning and making their kites. They are made out of tissue paper, supported by bamboo, and involve intricate designs, telling a story, or paying homage to someone, or supporting relevant themes ('No to child abuse', o 'Celebrate Nature'). The kite are of various sizes, some as large as 10metres across.
 On All Saints Day (1st Nov), everyone gatheres together to compete as they attempt to fly the kites. The smaller sizes (2, 3 or 4metres across) have a good chance of flying, but these days the larger ones are more of admiration, than for real flying.
 Thousands of people gather in Sumpango to see all the kites, watch the attempts at flying them, and also for the kids just to have fun flying their own normal-sized kites.
 So here´s just a few of the amazing kites that were on display yesterday.

 Friends and Latin Linkers appreciating the kites!

Kids all around us were successfully flying kites - but it´s actually not as easy as it looks!! But this is proof that we eventually managed to get the hang of it!