Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Plastic Fast Update 1 - Toiletries

So it´s been nearly 2 months since I decided to give up plastic this year. In very general terms, I´m trying not to bring any new plastic into the house, although reusing what I´ve already got. So as I gradually run out of things that come in plastic containers, I´m looking for other alternatives..... here´s a few I´ve encountered already....

Toothpaste comes in a plastic tube, which can´t be reused or recycled. Instead I´ve found a natural toothpaste that comes in a glass pot - the taste takes a bit of getting used to.... so next time, I might try to make my own toothpaste (thank you internet!). I´m also on the look-out for bamboo toothbrushes.

Deoderant is another thing that comes in plastic packaging, that doesn´t seem to be able to be recycled. Instead I´ve found deoderant stone - which comes in a nice fabric bag - and has a huge number of other advantages. The stone is completely organic, doesn´t leave any marks, is odourless and is just as protective as other deoderants. 

And then there´s shampoo. My sister suggested going the 'no-poo' route - ie stop hairwashing altogether, as left to it´s own devices, your hair and scalp will naturally clean themselves. It can be a bit of a process to get there though, and I´m not convinced that it could deal with regular chlorine and /or salt water submersion!  So for the meantime, I´ve found shampoo bars (ie solid shampoo like a bar of soap), and have cut down the frequency of hairwashing... working towards the no-poo method in the future.

In a couple of weeks, I´ll give you an update on food purchases.

Monday, 13 February 2017

San Pedro La Laguna

 Last week, I spent some time in San Pedro La Laguna. I had a few meetings and was writting and editing a couple of my essays, but obviously also had chance to swim every morning.

 I swim from outside my hostel, to the end of a rocky outcrop and back (a few times). Anyway last week, almost at the end of the rocks, I noticed that there were 2 big fluffy chicks sat on a rocky ledge - and sometimes they´d go behind a bush. So every morning I would see the chicks - who were loosing a bit more fluff each day, and occasionally visited by their parents!! From the water, I thought they were something like eagles (but I´m not much of a bird watcher)..... one day I scrambled over the rocks on foot, and managed to get these photos of one of the parents.... and once I´d consulted with a bird book, I realised that they´re actually vultures. But it was great being able to see the chicks every morning, and on the last day, they were doing a lot of jumping up and down, and flapping their wings, obviously getting ready to fly.
 Also seen last week -- a white heron ... and a kingfisher..... the best view is always from the water, but generally a bit tricky to have a camera with me whilst I swim!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Last Central America Team conference

Last week I was in Costa Rica for our Latin Link annual Central America and Mexico team conference. It´s always good to catch up with colleagues. Although not everyone was able to get to the conference this year, we have actually grown - so have officially decided to multiply into 2 separate teams. This will mean that in each team, we´ll be able to focus on what God is doing locally, and be able to grow strategically in our work. 

I continue to serve in leadership  - now of the Guatemala Mexico team, alongside others.

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