Sunday, June 8, 2014

A Day in my Boots

My name is David Garrison, when I went to college last August I had no idea I would be making a trip of a lifetime just four days after completing finals.  Talking with my parents I thought that this was insane, five weeks in Guatemala!?  Dad you´ve lost it!!  Now my entire perspective on life has been altered and I have always had an idea of what living life selflessly truly meant but witnessing it first-hand with Will and Diane I am in utter shock.  It is so amazing to be with them and work by their sides.  I am so thankful for this opportunity and as you read you will see what I have done in my short time here.

The beauty that our World has can sometimes only be experienced by putting on some old clothes and getting your hands dirty, by working with the land and altering it for the betterment of the people nearby is an amazing thing, and to be a part of it is only that much better.

While carrying out my time here I have spent my days working in los campos working with the Coffee and Avacado trees.  My experience differs from those before me who have come in groups or worked solo with the kids and I think my contribution here is just as important.  You can see my boots and my soccer shoes in the picture.  These are my tools of the trade and after working hard during the day it is extremely fun to end it with a pickup game of soccer with the local workers!

It is almost my third week here and the work that I have been doing is so fulfilling.  A family came to stay with us for the past week and by the end of their trip I was very close to them, working and playing all day can bring a group of people together.  In itself I am glad I embarked on this trip by myself as it is a constant lesson that teaching me what it truly means to give and to be a part of something bigger than me.  I am so blessed to be a small part in such a big role on our God´s green Earth and I hope that others will see the impact that they can make in our hectic and very materialistic lifestyles. 

If there´s one thing that I can say to myself before coming on this trip it would be to bring a Bible, and maybe more underwear..but I feel the strength of God´s presence in every action I make during my days and nights and even though half of my adventure is still to come, I could go home tomorrow an infinitely better person.

This place is so beautiful and I could not ask for a more wonderous and thrilling home to live in and work than Lago Atitlan.  This week brings some hard work as we are beginning the final push to complete and prep the holes for the Avacado trees for the Rotary High School students coming next Thursday from Arlington.  I will work with Juan and the other workers to complete this task and prepare for their arrival.  What a week we will have! Including lots of Soccer:)

A little video to remind us

This shows us all how caught up our world is getting and that there are people globally who are still suffering and will continue to suffer until we truly open our eyes.

Copyright- The Gift of Water

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

On Wrongness.
From Kathryn Schultz's book "Being Wrong"

Why is it so fun to be right? As pleasures go, it is, after all, a second order one at best. Unlike many of life’s other delights — chocolate, surfing, kissing — it does not enjoy any mainline access to our biochemistry: to our appetites, our adrenal glands, our limbic systems, our swoony hearts. And yet, the thrill of being right is undeniable, universal, and (perhaps most oddly) almost entirely undiscriminating. We can’t enjoy kissing just anyone, but we can relish being right about almost anything.

Our indiscriminate enjoyment of being right is matched by an almost equally indiscriminate feeling that we are right.

A whole lot of us go through life assuming that we are basically right, basically all the time, about basically everything.

As absurd as it sounds when we stop to think about it, our steady state seems to be one of unconsciously assuming that we are very close to omniscient.

If we relish being right and regard it as our natural state, you can imagine how we feel about being wrong. For one thing, we tend to view it as rare and bizarre. For another, it leaves us feeling idiotic and ashamed.

Of all the things we are wrong about, this idea of error might well top the list.

We are wrong about what it means to be wrong. Far from being a sign of intellectual inferiority, the capacity to err is crucial to human cognition. Far from being a moral flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honorable qualities: empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction, and courage. And far from being a mark of indifference or intolerance, wrongness is a vital part of how we learn and change. Thanks to error, we can revise our understanding of ourselves and amend our ideas about the world.

However disorienting, difficult, or humbling our mistakes might be, it is ultimately wrongness, not rightness, that can teach us who we are.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Story

Opal House has changed my life forever.

Travel alone. Travel far and travel with intention. Let yourself become comfortable in your own solitude. Enjoy your own company. Allow new people to come into your life and be yourself, the friendships will find you. Treat everyone you meet like they have the secret to the universe because they all have something to offer. Listen, discuss, and ask questions. Smile bigger and laugh harder. Let yourself be open, raw, and real. Fall in love with the people you meet. Fall in love with YOURSELF. Embrace situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Learn a new language. Try new things, things that scare you, things that you don't think are possible. Don't give up on yourself, or others. Have faith, in someone, or something. Have faith in yourself. Because you are beautiful, and you should live a beautiful life, serving others. Search for true happiness, and don't stop until you find it. Travel to hidden pockets and stand in awe at the beauty you never imagined you would be able to see. Stop spending money on stupid things, save up, quit your job and TRAVEL. 

When is the last time you woke up, and didn't have a day completely filled with things to do? When is the last time you woke up and thought about someone other than yourself? When is the last time you put your own needs aside, and put someone else's ahead of your own?

If you are not truly happy. If you are searching for happiness every day, and can't seem to find is my advice for you. Stop filling every minute of your day. Take time to relax, enjoy the beautiful life you were blessed with. Take a second to think! We are all so busy running around, we don't even allow ourselves time to think sometimes! Take a step back and look at your life. Appreciate the people in your life. Be open to letting new people into your life. And then take a second to realize, if you are not happy, YOU have the power to change that. 

For those of you that know me, I am a pretty happy person. I am known for my smile, and genuine personality. Before Guatemala, I was living a happy life, and I was content. After my time in Guatemala, I have found something new. A new form of happiness. Being a teacher is a very rewarding job, and for that reason, I was loving my life and feeling happy most of the time in the U.S.! But to put my life on hold for three months, and to put these Guatemalan children above all things in my truly an example of serving others. Doing things for someone other than yourself, now that will show you true happiness. Buying a shirt for yourself will make you happy for a week. Getting your nails done might make you happy for a day. But serving others, serving those in need, giving your time/heart/energy to other is something that fills a spot in your heart that you might not know even exists.

I am by no means saying you have to leave the country, go to Guatemala, give money....none of that! You can serve people anywhere in the world. From your family, neighborhood, city, country, and abroad. Serving others is such a broad idea, and a lot of people get stuck in the thought that it means giving money. Until you actually see where that money is going, it means nothing. 

Give your time, give your talents, give your heart.  

Surprise Goodbye

Bittersweet Goodbye Party

After school yesterday, little did I know that Will, Diane and Jackeline had planned a surprise goodbye party for me. With the Tuesday afternoon class. I was busy spending time with my mom, soaking up some sun, and working on my video I really had no idea all the decorating was taking place. It wasn't until right before class, I walked to my room to grab something and I saw the patio all decorated. I was like...hmmm what is going on!?!? 

We start every afternoon class in the chapel singing songs, and praying. Will started the class by saying, "Today is Maren's last day with us (for the Tue class) and we are going to celebrate her today!" We then continued with the usual songs, and I just broke down. Being in the chapel, with the presence of God, the children, the music, AND my mom. I just lost it. I couldn't contain my emotions. I put one of the little girls on my lap and I just held her. Before I knew it, Jackeline was crying, and my mom! It was rather an emotional disaster, but so special. It was a moment I will never forget. It was just a taste of what Friday and Saturday goodbyes will be like. DREADING THIS....

We then went out to the patio and played relay races, obstacle courses, and a piƱata!! It really was special, and SO much fun. The crying stopped right away! My favorite part was the water balloon toss. I was with Jackeline, and first she got me pretty good all over my dress. BUT, then I was able to get her back, the balloon popped right on her face!! She was soaked. Then I played a round with my mom as well. We all got wet, and it was a beautiful warm day. 

We enjoyed a delicious chocolate cake, and remember the tradition? They tried to make me put my face in the cake...but we decided just my nose was sufficient! I am so grateful they all planned this and put in all the work and time to make this day special for me. It was special, and it was so memorable. 

Special Visitor

My Mom!

I spend my first week here in Guatemala with my dad. Then, about half way through my trip, my best friend was here in Guatemala for a weekend. NOW, my mother is here to spend my last week with me. I couldn't be more grateful to have the opportunity to actually share my trip with three people I love more than anything. This way when I tell stories and they see pictures, it all will be so clear and make sense to them. They are able to actually put themselves into my shoes and understand better everything that I experienced. My dad and Jessie are both very mom on the other a little more reserved! This will be an eye opening experience for her! Just like it has been for me as well!

Except now that I am comfortable, I can be like a tour guide!! 

When my dad was here, it was my very first week. I cried to see him leave, and I was scared and timid all week. Also, school hadn't started yet, so my dad didn't experience the children and my teaching. Now that is is the end of my journey, this place is my home. I am so comfortable, I know my way around, and I am proud to show off the beauty of the country and the people. I have so many fun things planned for us this week, it is going to fly by! I am going to make her do things that are right up her alley, but also push her to try new things and things that are a little uncomfortable at first. For example, I will be making her ride in the back of a Mayan Taxi, also known as a pick up truck stuffed with mayans standing in the back! 

I have to keep in mind how I felt at the beginning of my trip. And I remember like it was yesterday. I need to be patient with her, and ease her into the culture. I will also have to do a lot of translating since she does not speak any Spanish! 

Over the past 4-5 years my mom and I have gotten a lot closer. Apparently that is common when you go to college? I am certain that this trip is only going to strengthen our bond, just like it did with my dad and I. 

Well, I said I was going to ease my mom into the culture...but we only have one week together here! So, her first day here...she went in the Mayan Taxi! And I am so proud of her. She did awesome! The hardest part for her was just getting on and off! She was waving to people, and she agrees with is the best way to soak up the culture and enjoy the views! We took the taxi to a nearby town called San Lucas. There isn't much in San Lucas, but we wanted an adventure after school. Its about a 20-30 min ride there, and then we walked around and enjoyed the town. We went to a restaurant and shared a mini pizza, and then we got coconut ice cream...mmm super healthy I know!

I am so proud of everything I have accomplished over the past 3 months, and I am so proud of my students. They truly are inspiring. As my goodbye is getting closer, I am dreading it more and more. I am feeling very torn. Part of me is SO excited to get home to my family and friends, but part of my is SO sad to leave Opal House. I feel like I am so ready to come home, but after two weeks or so at home, I am going to want to come right back! I had my last two classes of English Monday and Tuesday. It was such an honor to share my class with my mom. And, my students are so proud of themselves. They know what they have accomplished. They should be proud, they really have come so far. It is beautiful to watch the growth of children, more than just academic growth. These children are only 3-6 yrs old but they are so mature, and responsible. 

Today we went walking around with my mom and the students. They were holding her hand, and trying to talk to her. It was so cute! These students love every and anyone. They are just the caring and loving people I have ever known. My mom got to really get a good look at the farm, and explore the beauty. Although it is quite a hike down and back up, she made it!

The Pre Teen Group

Conversations That Inspire

NEVER did I think I would teach a SEX talk to a group of pre-teen girls!! Let alone in Guatemala, in another language. All I have to say is wow. Just wow. What a meaningful and rewarding discussion. We all shared personal stories, stories about friends and loved ones. And we talked about the importance and opportunity to say no. We talked about the consequences, and how one decision can flip your life upside down. In this culture, it is so unbelievably common for young girls to get pregnant, and the man walks away. I was so impressed with how shy they were at first, and then they opened up and started sharing real life stories about their families. We all described what "real love" means to us. It was really powerful and interesting. Even though these girls are only about 11 years old. It is so much better to talk about these hard subjects NOW before they are living in the situation and they are feeling unprepared. 

Then, I also received a card from one of my preteen girls, "I will never forget the new things you have taught me over the past three months. You have been like a sister. Thank you for being honest and sharing your stories with us. Thank you for playing with us. I will never forget you. I don't want you to leave. God bless you." My heart melted. Saying goodbye to this group of girls is going to be the hardest. Today they all asked me to take a picture with them. They all wanted a group picture to remember me, and then they said, "can we all take one with you individually". I felt like a celebrity/model. But how special is that...these girls didn't ask for a gift, they asked for a picture. To them they didn't need a materialistic gift, they wanted a sentimental picture. Little do they know that next week I am going to be giving each of them a very special bracelet as well. 

My passion has always been with the little ones, teaching children ages 2-6 years old is my absolute favorite. My real teaching gifts shine, and my passion ignites. Its not that I don't like children that are older, it is just that my heart and my talent is really seen when I am around the little ones. They are able to show so much love, and they want love in return. The hugs, the constant reminders and compliments...are always appreciated! Yes, it can take a lot of patience at times, but in the end it is worth it! I really believe I was put on this earth to be a teacher and impact the lives of others. Whether I am in Guatemala or the United States, I am going to impact the lives of children for many more years to come. I am confident of that. 

At the beginning of my journey, I dreaded every Friday class. The girls were very immature, and I just felt uncomfortable. It was a different environment and age group that I was not used to. Now, I am not going to tell you that I want to teach 6th grade now...but I will tell you that I am actually starting to really enjoy our Friday class. I am actually part of the planning and carrying out of the lessons. In the beginning I would just attend, and observe Jackeline and the girls. Now, I am another mentor for these girls, and I am building relationships with them.  It really is a powerful feeling to be a mentor and role model for someone, especially when you understand how much they need that in their life. These girls treat me like I am a doll some times. They are constantly touching my hair, looking at my nails, playing with my earrings, asking me about my clothes, etc. Most of the time I don't mind at all, but some times I want to just say "OK ENOUGH!" I have already seen big changes in the class and in these girls since I have been here. This Friday after class, I felt so happy and so warm inside. 

Every week I try to think of something to help these girls feel more comfortable talking and participating in class. This week we incorporated an activity that I have done many times in my life. Jackeline and I put a bunch of random questions into a bowl. 

For example:

- Do you have a boyfriend? Why or why not?

- What do you like to do at home?

- Do you like to dance? Why?

- Do you like to sing?

- What makes a role model?

- What are your top three values?

- Why is it important to study?

- What does complete beauty mean?

- What is integrity mean to you?

This pushed the girls to think on the spot, and answer in front of the whole group. We all took turns passing the bowl and answering questions. I had my doubts, normally I hate games like this! I even participated and answered my questions in Spanish obviously...and it was a challenge! But, we all loved it! We were all a little nervous, and we laughed at some of the answers, and it was such a great activity for them!

Turns out, only one of the girls has a boyfriend. I started to ask her all sorts of questions about her boyfriend in front of the other girls, and she answered every single one. Then, they asked me if I had a boyfriend. I told them all about my relationship. The good and the bad, the hard times, and the amazing times. I want them to know that it isn't always butterflies and rainbows...relationships take a lot of work, trust, and faith. They were all listening to me so intently, and looking at me like my words were gold. I know I am making a difference in their life, and I love it!

For the first time in my life...I am actually inspired to do something like this in the United States. I do not want to teach upper level grades, I still want the little ones! But...I would love to have a similar group like this back home. A group to support teens, be a role model, answer those hard questions, be like a big sister to girls that need it in their life. It's something I will think about...but for the first time in my life...I am actually thinking about it! Something so different than I have ever enjoyed or done before!