The amount of times I referenced “The Hobbit” or “Lord of the Rings” during my time at Language School was semi-embarrassing. But obviously, not embarrassing enough, because I am now going to use quotes from the books to describe my experience.
But first, let me introduce you to the other two year discerners aka my adventure buddies. I am so grateful that we were all able to go to language school together and explore Antigua and Volcanoes together. I am so excited to see where these next two months take us in Honduras.
Left to Right (what State we are from): Patrick (VA), Leigh (AZ), Asaph (VA), Patrick (SC), Anna (VA), Me (NC) and Volcan de Pacaya showing off in the background
Okay back to Language School . . .
He often used to say there was only one Road; that it was like a great river: its springs were at every doorstep and every path was its tributary. “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say. “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no telling where you might be swept off to.”
–Frodo Baggins about Bilbo, The Fellowship of the Ring, Three is Company
This quote came to mind as I stood on the side of the highway with Leigh waiting for the bus to come to take us to Guatemala. The summer was officially over and I was back off to Language School. I ended up leaving a week later than planned because we realized that my initial 90 days would be up while in Guatemala and long story short, me going to Guatemala would not reset my time in Honduras. So I got to experience the Office of Immigration and received an extension. (Also, just hit me that as of next week, I will have been here for four months…where has the time gone?!) Anyways, I heard Bilbo’s wise words in my head as I watched the bus approach. I knew that the bus was going to take me on a 16 hour adventure from Honduras to Guatemala, but I couldn’t help feeling a little bit swept away with all the new changes and next steps.
Thankfully, we made it safely and on Monday were able to join the rest of our group at the Spanish School San Jose el Viejo. I fell in love with the structure of the school. . The school was set up in a garden, with each class room being a little hut. So even though your brain was imploding, you got study in this beautiful, refreshing, botanical garden.
We had 1:1 classes Monday-Friday from 8am-12pm and then from 1:30pm-4pm. So I won’t lie, by the end of a school day, I felt like Bilbo talking to Gandalf:
“I am old, Gandalf. I don’t look it, but I am beginning to feel it in my heart of hearts . . . Why, I feel all thin, sort of stretched, if you know what I mean: like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.”
– Bilbo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring, A Long-expected Party
I won’t lie. It was a rather interesting experience going to School in Antigua, Guatemala. It was like going on Vacation to this incredibly beautiful destination while a) having your brain stretched to the point you started thinking that the hermit life of solitude might be for you and b) your heart pulled because you want to be in Honduras with your local ministries and new family. With all the emotions, frustrations, fears, and joys, I was so grateful to have 5 new friends who were all going through the same thing and the comfort knowing that many Missioners before me had gone through the same process and survived.
Studying in Antigua, Guatemala had many unique opportunities for exploring and learning outside the classroom.
After school, we would find a coffee shop for homework…well the others did homework, I would join them once I took my artsy photo of the coffee/them studying.
Anna, Leigh and I with a few others who were studying at our school went to a coffee plantation and not only got to learn about the process from seed to “cup of coffee in my hand” but also received a tour of the plantation and saw the process in action.
Anna and I not only discovered we had a mutual love for Chocolate Stuffed Croissants and were willing to brave thunderstorms to satisfy the craving for one, but we were also a pro-team at haggling. Nothing like reinforcing the Spanish learned while a) trying to understand and keep up with the rapid Spanish, b) trying to understand the numbers/prices being offered, c) doing the math rapidly to figure out how ridiculously high the asking price is and offering a very low one, d) haggling back and forth till you agree on a price and e) all while trying to look as disinterested as possible. I don’t have any photos of us in action but I do have an after photo of our light night thunderstorm dash for the chocolate goodness. I mean just look at them… For the sake of our dignity, I will not tell how many we ate during our time in Antigua. Just that if you are ever there, you need to visit Santa Clara’s Panderia.
Other adventures included visiting El Monterrico, one of the black sand, Pacific beaches of Guatemala. First time seeing the Pacific! I have never seen waves that big or powerful before. The sand is black from all the volcanoes in close vicinity. Sadly pictures don’t do it justice.
We also took a day trip one Sunday to climb El Volcan de Pacaya. The whole time I kept thinking, “normally, normally one would try to get as far from lava as possible, but today for some reason its a great idea to try and get as close as possible…totally makes sense”. Photo below is the view from the side of Pacaya. In it, you can see three other volcanoes. El Volcan de Agua is the big one in front, he is no longer active. And then El Volcan de Fuego is just behind him. If you look realllll close, you can see him showing off. This was the one that erupted earlier in June this year. And I don’t remember the third ones name but he is active too.
I was amazed at the stark difference as you got closer to the top. It went from being incredibly green to no sign of life black rock to melting rock. Also countless Sam and Frodo quotes and references to Mount Doom were made in the process of this adventure.
Below: my “umm my shoes are smoking, not sure if this was my best idea” face to “quick take my picture as the rock melts behind me” face. All I could hear in my head was my mom saying, “If all your friends jump off a bridge Erin, would you jump off a bridge” only change it too “if all your friends hike up an active Volcano Erin, would you hike up the active volcano?” The answer is, yes, yes I would. Only I took a horse up and then hiked down.
Leigh’s face below captures all the joy we had getting to roast marshmallows over molten rock. I mean just look at the pure joy in Asaph, Leigh, Patrick and Anna’s faces. Sweating from the heat but smiling because yay marshmallows and volcano.
During our last week of school, Leigh and I went adventuring one day and found out that the Hobbits of the Shire have distant cousins named “Hobbis” located just outside Antigua in the mountains. “Hobbitenango” is an ecological village but also has a hotel aka Hobbit Holes that you can stay the night in. Needless to say Leigh and I were soooo tickled pink and on cloud nine and proceeded to embrace our inner Hobbits. We also got to do some Archery!!
Anna, Leigh and I also took an afternoon to explore the ruins around Antigua from the various earth quakes. Which of course turned into an impromptu photo shoot.
Leigh, Asaph and I also took a hike up on our Last Saturday to La Cruz, which is a stunning overlook of Antigua.
I am also grateful to have met the missionaries with La Finca. Another program in Honduras, closer to the coast. they too were in Antigua for learning Spanish, but at a different language School. Being able to adventure with them, have pot-luck dinners and impromptu praise and worship just served as a beautiful reminder for what this is all about. And being able to share it with others was humbling.
Needless to say, that although my brain felt like it would implode from the Spanish, we had a blast in Antigua. My inner nerd was so happy with all the museums and historical sights and the ability to quote the Hobbit all day long with other fellow nerds who knew what I was quoting. But most importantly, I was incredibly blessed with the opportunity to be able to go to daily mass and have a perpetual adoration chapel in walking distance aka was able to keep God at the center of the process. There were so many days where I wanted to throw up my hands and go back to the States, back to being close to my family, back to where I throw my clothes in a washer and not have to hand wash them, back to where I could eat pickles and Chick-fil-a. I mean, there are so many opportunities to serve in the States where I don’t have to know Spanish. So why am I putting myself through this? And being able to pop in and visit God, re-center, give him my stress and frustration…that was what got me through it. Knowing that I am responding to His call, this is where He wants me and He won’t leave my side…bring it on Spanish, you got nothing.
Gandalf: I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.
Bilbo: I should think so—in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them …
Gandalf: You’ll have a tale or two to tell when you come back
Bilbo: You can promise that I’ll come back?”
Gandalf: No. And if you do, you will not be the same
Back in Honduras now. Just finished two weeks of Orientation and getting back into the groove of things. Needless to say my Spanish is no where near fluent. I feel like I have learned enough to hear how ridiculous I sound but not enough to correct my grammar. I definitely understand so much more. I can have a conversation past “what is your favorite color” and “where are you from”. But I have so much more to learn and I am grateful to be surrounded by some of the most patient people I have ever met.
Please know that you and your intentions are all in my thoughts and prayers. Please keep me in your prayers as I start local ministries and continue on this humbling and at times very humorous process of learning Spanish. Please don’t hesitate to reach out! My email is firstname.lastname@example.org . I would love to hear how you are doing!
Love to all!