Monday, 21 September 2015

Guatemala Politics Update

And whilst I was away, Guatemala went to the ballot boxes. The law here is that if no one candidate gets 50% plus one vote, then the two candidates with the highest percentage of votes, go through to a second round. And with 14 candidates, that was always most likely to happen. Thankfully for the most part, election day was a peaceful affair, and then there was a wait for the results. The three highest scoring candidates were revealed within a day or so, but votes were still being counted for a few more days. When it looked clear that he was going to lose, the candidate placed third, then made a big deal of withdrawing from the presidential race, and resigning from his party, saying that the electoral process had been suspect (although his party have been the most to blame for that!). That great British saying about 'throwing your dummy out of the pram' came to my mind, but I don´t think it would translate into spanish!

So now they´ll have the second round in late October. The two candidates remaining, one of them has come of nowhere, he´s a completely fresh face in terms of being outside of the traditional 'political class' of Guatemala, (although is well known publicly for other reasons) - but has very little political experience. The other candidate has a lot of political experience, but as seems to be the norm in Guatemala, that brings with it a history of corruption and scandals as well.  So let´s wait and see who the Guatemalan public will prefer.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Independence - Mexican Style!

After my holiday in Isla Holbox, I then had a week visiting some Latin Link members in Puebla. From their flat they had a fantastic view of volcanic peaks of Popocatépetl and Iztaccíhuatl (or Popo and Isa!)

 I also happened to be visiting over Mexican Independence Day, 15th September. This is the same day as much of Central America, but of course they celebrate it slightly differently.
We went to a party of their church, where they explained a bit of the history of the Independence which took about 11 years to gain victory over the Spanish colonisers. Then we had  the traditional 'Grito'  - a shout of independence - celebrating a list of different heroes of Independence.
 Then there was a fantastic display of traditional Mexican dances  - incredible energy and balance!!  - and they carried bottles and whole trays of drinks on their heads, whilst continuing to dance and stomp!

 Then dances from a different region of Mexico, the dances were in enormous skirts with lots of rapid twirls and swirls. (Sorry for the blurry pictures - but you get the idea!)

It was a fantastic atmosphere - and then came the food - all the church members had brought a different Mexican food, for everyone to try - so there were mountains of food - and much of it made in the colours of the Mexican flag!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

A few pics from my holiday in Isla Holbox

I had a fantastic week in Isla Holbox (near Cancun)..... so here´s a few pictures of things I saw....

I swam with Whalesharks  - the biggest species of shark in the world - it was an amazing experience - swimming alongside one, who just wonders along with his mouth open catching plankton:


Thursday, 27 August 2015

Politics update

I was planning on writing a new blog about the political situation, but a Guardian article today sums up the situation well -- so you´d be better off reading this.....

Monday, 17 August 2015

Reading and Thinking

Over the last few months, I´ve been reading several books and thinking alot!

It all started with Dietrich Bonhoeffer´s classic 'Life Together'. He says 'let him who cannot be alone beware of community' and then 'let him who is not in community beware of being alone'. What (I think) he means is that somehow we need to find the balance -- our alone time with God most be where we gain our strength and hold our identity in God, but it then needs expression in community, as we relate to one another. So often, people use the sense of being sociable and achieving lots of activity as simple avoidance of being alone, when we are faced with the reality of ourselves, not just the image we portray. On the other hand, for those of us who like being alone, it can be easy to look down on 'activity' as not being quite spiritual enough, when really - whatever we gain in solitude, is not solely for our benefit, but also for the blessing of those around us.

Then I´ve read a few more books, with variations on those themes...

Rhythms of Grace: Finding Intimacy with God in a busy life, by Tony Horsfall. That was great in thinking through how we can quieten the soul - to be still with God - which isn´t necessarily an absense of external activity, but is much more of an attitude of our hearts.

Life Together in Christ: Experiencing Transformation in Community, by Ruth Haley Barton, looked at how we can be authentic with one another and encourage each other in the transforming work that Jesus does in us, but not in isolation.

Sleeping with Bread: Holding what gives you life, by Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn and Matthew Linn is a beautiful book about using a process called the 'examen' to reflect on our experiences in life - to celebrate the goodness and appropriately work through our negative emotions. All of that best done in community.

And most recently I´ve read Free of Charge: Giving and Forgiving in a culture stripped of Grace, by Miraslav Volf. A bit more of an academic book, but it does exactly what it says on the front! Recognising the absence of grace in our society, as Christians we are called to be countercultural as we give and forgive generously  - just as we have received the generous gifts of forgiveness from God.

Just wanted to share a bit of what I´ve been reading and thinking.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Step team among the volcanoes

Some step teams get all the luck. The most recent team have been living in Alotenango, an agricultural town nestled between 3 volcanoes. Out of 30-something volcanoes in Guatemala, 3 are active, and one of them is 'next door' to where the step have been living.
Volcan Fuego and Volcan Acatenango
These are the views (in two different directions) that they woke up to every morning.
Volcan Agua
And this has been a regular view as well, aa Volcan Fuego has been almost constantly active with smoke and plumes of lava. Some of the team have been sleeping on the roof of the house, to maximise their chances of seeing the spectacular eruptions.
 For those of you concerned about health and safety, I feel the need to explain that these have only been minor eruptions, and that we have kept up to date with the news from INSIVUMEH (National Institute for Sismology, Volcanology, Meteology and Hidrology - approximate translation!) and Conred (National Coordination for the Reduction of Disasters), and the Step team have not been in unnecessary danger.
I took them for a weekend away at Lake Atitlan - which, just to give them a break - is also surrounded by three volcanoes - although all of them dormant.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Step team and butterflies

 Last weekend, I took the step team to Panajachel. Butterflies, Zipwire, kayaking, swimming.

This view never gets boring.