Monday, November 2, 2015

Myers Briggs and Jung: Day 1,938

I take a M-B style test roughly every year or two.  I find it fascinating to see how a person's personality changes with time.  When I came to Guatemala just over 5 years ago, I was very much an INFP; I had ranked as that since middle school.  After being at the Hogar and being a teacher, I became an INTJ.  For a long time after that, I kept scoring as an INTJ which for someone like me is frustrating because while I think that thinking is a good thing, I also think that feeling is equally important.  And while I like to have matters "settled" (a J characteristic), I'm always open for changes in plans (a P characteristic).  For example: I go into a meeting with a list of what we're going to talk about, but if I see that there is something more important to talk about, sure, let's talk about it!  While I make plans--just to not be fumbling around at the last minute and wasting others' time--they are 100% flexible to adjust to the needs of the group.

So, I have accepted that I am an intuitive (N) introvert (I), but beyond that, I'm a little more fluid.  On the T-F scale, while at the Hogar and teaching, there was little space for "Oh, well, this person is trying hard; so they can have a better grade."  No, there had to be a separate category for that on the grading rubric, usually called "participation."  Everyone had to be treated equally so that I wouldn't be accused of playing favorites or anything like that.  In my project, there's a little more flexibility, and I think Jeanne stated it best on Thursday that there's a point when you have to bend the rules simply to encourage.  A grade of 79 is my "hard limit" for earning the first point, but when a child's report card has a 78 or even a 77 as the highest grade, I'm no longer in a position where I have to say "No, tough luck."  My goal is encouraging kids to get better grades now, not grading them.  Yes, you may have a point.

So, I'm pleased to announce that today I tested as an INFJ.  The I, N, and F were all 82% strength while the J was only 64% reflecting my flexibility.

(From my results today.)

Some famous INFJs from history for you: Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden, Mahatma Ghandi, Thomas Jefferson, and Ron Paul.  Interesting mix which just goes to show that one's personality doesn't dictate what side of history one will be on.

If you'd like to learn more about the general concept, Wikipedia is a good start:

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What's next?: Day 1,937

This is more about the meeting on Thursday.  I had the chance to talk to Mercedes and Wendy's mothers (as well as Mercedes's brother as their mother's Spanish isn't very good).  I presented to them the option of the two teens coming to live with me next year.  It's common knowledge that the two young ladies want to continue their studies; however, to do so where they currently live is not highly practical nor financially sound...which is why they received the invites.

To be clear, I would not be inviting them to come live with me if they hadn't shown over the past two years that they are mature, responsible, and respectful.  I would not be inviting them to come live with me if they hadn't shown that they actually care about studying and believe in the importance of an education.  I wouldn't be inviting them to live with me if their families had not proven to be trustworthy.  Because, in the end, I will be the one responsible for them and anything that happens while they are in my care can be made to be my fault.  (Mercedes will be 17 next year, and Wendy will be 16.)

Do I think they will accept the invitations?  I think Wendy's family will.  In the past few months, her mother has been very sick/weak from what I understand.  The family is Q10,000 in debt and the father has been unable to work as he has taken over all of the housework.  (I'm not sure why Wendy can't do it in the morning and Floricelda in the afternoon, but I won't complain since they're both pulling good grades.)  Wendy's uncle was taken in by a relative when he was a boy, a relative who didn't live in the Solola area, and he later returned much more educated and able to earn well.  Having Wendy come to live with me would just be a different kind of "relative taking in a family member to help with finances" sort of move.
Will Mercedes's family?  I don't know, and that frustrates me because, while I believe that everyone should be able to have a quality education if they want it, I think she's the one who really needs it.  She has a special needs little sister, and someday, when her mother dies, she'll probably be the one who has to care for her little sister.  That means she either needs to earn well or marry well...both of which are more possible when one has a better education.  At the same time, though, the family depends on her to help out in the home now.  Could they do it?  Could they make it work?  I think so.  But I think it will take a lot more convincing than Wendy's family.  Please be praying.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Back to Meetings!: Day 1,936

I was finally able to get out to see my families two days ago.  (I would have written sooner, but my stalker has been on the move again; so I'm trying to keep him a fair number of steps behind me.  He recently took to social media which means I'm struggling to keep you all informed of the situation while worrying about what he is and is not seeing.)  One of my friends from COTA was able to join me, and she was able to identify some people that the team can possibly help in January.  Unfortunately, the COTA team won't be that close to where these people live, but transportation is available.

I haven't been out since mid-May for various reasons; so I had some apologizing to do, and Manuel had some apologizing to do.  But all in all, they were glad I was back...even if some of them admitted to me that they thought I had vanished.  Sorry.  Sorry.  Sorry!

We have also lost one family.  I didn't mention this to you before as I was hoping to cool down and mention it calmly, but since they left the program, it has helped me calm considerably.  This family's oldest son finished 6th grade last year.  His grades weren't horrible, but he wasn't earning much in the way of points, hardly enough to buy his school supplies and certainly not enough to pay private school bills.  I visited each family in December talking to them about the upcoming school year and getting updated clothing sizes and weights for each child, but when I visited this family, they mentioned nothing about planning to send their oldest son to one of the most prestigious boarding schools in the capitol...which is funny since you have to enroll there in November.  So, this frustrated me because I figured they had done it because of the program, and I decided I was going to force them to play by the rules...every single bill was going to cost them 5 points and the boy wasn't going to earn enough himself and they were going to use the points from every single one of their children to keep that one child in school which meant no food stuffs or anything for the family.  And if they had talked to me about it in December, I would have suggested it was a bad idea, but they didn't.  They simply turned in his long and expensive school supply list in January, and we were confused as to why we had a list with no name on it for a school in the capitol.  They came to our first Saturday Session, and then they stopped coming.  Manuel says he called their number and there's no answer.  Neighbors say that the entire family moved to the capitol.  I'm really not going to cry over it.

Last year, our highest point earner was Marta with 57 points.  She had a big lead on her cousin Efraim (37 points) who didn't return to school this year and Wendy (36 points).  However, this year there are a lot of other kids who are giving her a run for her, er, points.  Sadly, part of it is because Marta isn't earning the grades she earned last year.  After 3 of 4 marking periods, 22 points!  Yikes!  Her brother, Rolando, has 23 points after 3 marking periods.  A girl from a family that was going to drop out also has 22 points after 3 marking periods.  (That was encouraging; last year she only earned 9 points all year.)  Wendy is at 40 points after 3 marking periods and may win the "award" for the most points.  (There's so far no physical award, but I'm open to suggestions.)  I only have two marking periods of grades for Nelson, but he has 22 points; this is really good as he had a rough year last year only earning 5 points in total!  Mercedes, my other 9th grader, has 26 points after 3 marking periods; we're worried about her math grade, but otherwise she's doing well in classes.

Those are the good stories, especially for Yoselin and Nelson.  However, there are stories that aren't so good, and more unfortunately they have to do with the two widows in the program.  Maria Elena's husband died when she was about 8 months pregnant with their son.  She has 7 children ranging in age from 3 to 22.  The oldest three, all females, also work to help support the family, but at 15 and 22 it won't be long before the oldest two marry and have families of their own to care for.  Luis, 11, and in second grade and Griselda, K, struggled all of last year.  Griselda didn't want to go to school and was frequently absent.  Luis went but was not that interested in his studies.  On Thursday their mother told me that they both dropped out of school, but that she plans for them to go back next year.  I'm hoping things go better next year, but I worry about Luis as next year he'll be 12 and in the second grade; last year we had a 14-year old in 4th grade and he dropped out because he was so much older than his classmates.
The other widow, Marta, has four children who range in age from 4 to 10.  Her mother-in-law suggested that Marta send her the eldest (Veronica, the only girl) so that Marta would have fewer mouths to feed.  Families are much more connected in Guatemala, and a relative offering to feed and care for another relative is nothing unusual.  And really this should eliminate Veronica from the program as it serves households; so leaving the household would make her no longer a recipient.  But that's completely irrelevant.  In her paternal grandmother's home, it appears there is another girl around her age who does nothing but watch TV all day.  (This is, of course, second-hand information.  Third-hand if you count the fact that it was translated for me.)  Education is not important in that household.  Veronica's grades went from passing (60+) to failing.  Her report card was full of everything from 24 to 38.  It wasn't even something I looked at and thought "She must have forgotten to turn in an assignment."  I just wanted to cry.  The only way she can possibly pass the school year is to get 100 in every class this final marking period.  Marta wanted to earn a stove this year.  Instead she won't have the points for school supplies for all of her children next year.  She has one child who isn't yet old enough to go to school; so I can loan her the points, knowing that they will get repaid by her youngest, but it's just so hard to know what to do in a situation like this.  I feel like screaming "TV is the devil and it will rot your brain!  Save your daughter before it's too late!" but really the issue isn't the TV; the issue is the importance of education not being stressed in her new home.  I'd love for Veronica to be back with her mother.

There is more to say, but I think I will save it for another post.  This one is long enough.  (Also, October 19th was my 5-year anniversary here in Guatemala.  Half a decade!  Yikes!)

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Mission Moment: September

These are the articles I write for my sending church's newsletter.  This one, in place of being titled "Mission Moment" was titled "Political Panorama."  Guatemala has been undergoing a lot of changes in the last few months which has caused a slow season for my project.

Frustrating.  That’s a word I don’t use a lot, but that’s the word I’m using to describe right now.  This article will have nothing to do with actual mission work and a lot to do with why things sometimes don’t work.
In February of this year, it was discovered that money was being stolen from the country of Guatemala via a customs scam.  When goods are imported to the country, the importer has to pay taxes.  The customs scam was allowing importers to pay much lower taxes for their goods with a nice “donation” to someone else.  In April, it was discovered that that “someone” was probably a couple high-ranking government officials, specifically the president and vice president of Guatemala.  And so began the protests.  Since April, people have been protesting at least once per week all over the country.  In May, the vice president resigned saying that she had nothing to hide and that by resigning she was allowing herself to be investigated.  The Guatemalan people called her bluff, and she went on the run.  The president said that despite the pressure of “a few” people, he had been charged with the post of president by the Guatemalan people and that he would not let them down by giving up.
Jump forward to August 21st.  Protests have become daily but remain peaceful simply blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic.  In a moment of bad luck, the former vice president checks into a hospital, and she leaves in handcuffs.  Protests become constant with travel becoming essentially impossible.  The president sticks with his resolve that he has a job to do and will complete his promise to the Guatemalan people.  Then congress votes to remove the president’s political immunity meaning he can now be investigated as part of the custom’s scheme which has robbed the Guatemalan government of hundreds of thousands of dollars which affected the salaries and resources of hospitals, schools, and police among others.  The president resigns the next day, apologizing to the Guatemalan people, saying that he has some personal situations he needs to take care of.   The new vice president steps up to become president, and as he was one of the judges who overturned the ruling concerning General Rios Montt of the genocide cases during the Guatemalan civil war, no one is really sure if he’s just going to complete the last 4 months of the term he has been granted or if he’s just going to overthrow everything and turn the country back into a military dictatorship.  Indigenous people are not impressed.

One week later, normal elections are held to pick the new president of the country.  (Don’t be confused.  This has nothing to do with anyone resigning.  Just like the US, presidential elections take place every 4 years.)  A man who no one expected to win 4 months ago becomes the front-runner…probably solely because he’s not a politician and has no history of corruption anywhere in his family.  The fellow who everyone expected to win is in third place but demanding a recount of ballots.  If no candidate wins 50.1% of the votes, a run-off between the top two candidates follows in late October.  (Guatemala has somewhere around 18 political parties; not all of which necessarily had a presidential candidate running this year.)  But Mister Third Place was not the only one upset.  In many places, the vote was close, and in the weeks following, those who were not happy with the outcome had less-than-peaceful protests.  Ballot boxes were burned.  Police were shot.  And the mayor’s house in Solola might be torched for the third time in ten years and my community contact, Manuel, isn’t answering his phone…which is why I’m not traveling out to Solola to visit my families.  I don’t consider myself to be at any risk; however, the people in Solola are swift to carry out justice (i.e. lynching) against anyone they feel has wronged them…and Manuel is an advisor to the mayor.  So, until I can get a hold of him and until things have calmed down, I have no plans of going anywhere.

Please note: In most places, things are calm and orderly at this point.  Mister Third Place has dropped out.  However, many higher-ups are still being arrested as the story opens wider and wider.  Please be praying for Guatemala, but in no way, shape, or form should you think that I am in any danger.   

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Fluency: Day 1,892

Things are still on hold as we wait to see what is happening with elections and the new government; however, that hasn't put my brain on hold.  As I rode back home with my handsomer half yesterday, I reflected on language fluency and what it means to be fluent.  And it's something I think about more as I start to incorporate a third language into my brain.  A long time ago, I studied German, and it was probably my #2 language.  I won't pretend that I was ever as good at it as I am with Spanish today, but it was enough there that I don't anticipate a hardship at putting it back in my brain.  However, both times I have learned it, I have learned it as an English speaker.

I've come to the conclusion that being bi- (or tri- or quad- or whatever-)lingual is not about constructing language but rather about breaking it down.  There are things I can say in English that I cannot say in Spanish, but there are also things I can say in Spanish that I can't really say in English just because the sentiment doesn't exist or because it is complicated and contorted.

So, when I consider German and the small amount of German which I do know now, I struggle because my German is tied to my English, not my Spanish.  My handsomer half has two nieces, and the younger one now calls him Tio Ente.  "Ente" in German is "Duck" in English.  And when it made me giggle, and he asked me why, I told him, "Ente es aleman para duck, er, pato."  (My handsomer half speaks only Spanish; although he is trying to learn English.)  And I realized that learning German as an English speaker is not helping me to break down the language.  If I can't go from German to Spanish without English in the middle, can I really claim to be fluent in Spanish?

What is it?  Duck?  Ente?  Pato?
It's all of those and none of those.
It's a bird that swims and goes quack.

I don't expect to need my German and my Spanish in the same place at the same time, but as a result of my discovery, I'm planning on studying German as a Spanish-speaker as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Putting Things on Pause: Day 1,870

Activism in Guatemala is pretty strong.  People are passionate about their country and their government.  This can be a good thing, and it can also be a dangerous thing.  For the last 20+ weeks, there have been protests, mostly in the capitol.

First, they were just about the president and vice president being corrupt.  The VP resigned.  But as the case opened up more and more, Guatemalans became outraged at the extent of the corruption.  Now the protests are against the national elections (and still against the president) which will be held on September 6th.  The people do not want elections under these conditions.  They want the corruption to be wiped out of Guatemalan politics before making a new start in January 2016.

And, at this point, the protests are no longer just in the capitol.  They are on many different roads in various parts of the country.  And so, without having my own vehicle, my handsomer half has asked that I pause my work in Solola.  Under normal conditions, I do not feel it is dangerous.  (To be fair, I don't feel it's dangerous to me right now either; I'm not a politician nor do I represent nor support any political party.)  However, he feels that traveling on public transport could result in me (and fellow passengers) being abandoned on the side of the road in some remote area of the highway between here and Solola.

So, for now, I'm staying close to home and getting stuff organized.  We have been looking at potentially changing houses; although, our eventual hope is to buy land to build on or a house.  Just keep us in your prayers, please, especially as my handsomer half works in the capitol.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Doing What You're Called to Do With What You Have: Day 1,827

There are days I get frustrated.  There are days when I say to myself, "I could do so much more good if I had X."  Some days "X" is "a bigger budget."  Some days "X" is "more man power."  Some days "X" is "a vehicle."  Some days "X" is "a large house either owned or rented with a contract."  Some days I look at other missions which I deem to be "more successful" than my own which usually means they have one or more of my Xs...and get frustrated because I see them wasting what they have been given.  But then I am reminded of a lot of wisdom from various places in my life, some of which I don't even remember the source of.

1.  Be still and know that [God is] God.

2.  While many men who have shown a romantic interest in me during the last 5 years have had only one thing on their mind--going to the US--my handsomer half has never had that interest.  In fact, he has only changed his mind about that since getting engaged to me because he knows that much of my family cannot or will not travel, and he knows that I want them to meet him.  Why is the US of no draw to him?  Because he is tired of seeing his countrymen (and women and children) making an expensive and dangerous journey to a far away country all in search of "a better life" which involves sending money to the people they abandoned back home.  He wants to prove that a Guatemalan can make it in Guatemala.  How does that apply to my situation?  Well, I have what I have...and while things of this world could make my ministry easier, Christians aren't necessarily called to an easier life.

3.  Matthew 25:14-30.  Brief summary: Rich guy gives his servants various amounts of money to invest for a certain amount of time.  Each was given a different amount.  Two of them invest the money and double it.  The last one hides the money in the ground and gives it back when the master comes back.  Sometimes I feel like that last servant.  I imagine we all do from time to time.  It's a plateau we hit where we doubt our abilities and become content with where we are or become scared of taking that next step.  We just want to hold on to what we have and try to not lose that...but that's not the point of life nor the point of ministry.

4.  Getting frustrated because someone isn't using what they have properly won't change my situation any besides giving me high blood pressure and raising my stress levels, and that has never helped anyone.  Stress less.