First Day in Antigua!

Today was our first full day in Antigua and began with a wonderful orientation to the city, a visit to some fascinating Guatemalan ruins, and finished with a great night at the Mono Loco sports bar in downtown Antigua to celebrate the Vikings win with other expatriates.  We started this morning with breakfast and morning coffee, against the backdrop of an erupting volcano from the porch of our Common Hope headquarters.  It was seriously breathtaking – watching the plumes of smoke rise.  Some were able to see the erupting lava last night from the windows of their rooms here.  It t’s honestly quite surreal  – like we’re on some sort of movie set.   We headed out by 8:00am to learn about Guatemalan history and religion by touring the ancient ruins of Iximche, about an hour outside of Antigua.  Our tour guide, Abraham, was wonderful, and gave us a very helpful grounding in Mayan culture and religious beliefs.  The highlight was getting to witness some Mayan rituals taking place at the holy sight.  Mayan families were gathered around three separate fires, where Mayan priests (one male and one female) burned incense, candles, and flower petals to seek the blessing of the gods on the new school year.   Iximche is one of twenty sacred sights where Mayans gather to seek the wisdom and blessings of the gods.  This inspired some great conversations about the various understandings of good and evil, blessings and curses, and differing views on cosmology and the afterlife among Christians and Mayans.   There’s no better way to study theology than by scrutinizing one’s beliefs through the mirror of the beliefs of others – what fun and fruitful conversation!
Following our time at Iximche, we headed for lunch to a beautiful restaurant called, Chichoy, where we enjoyed traditional Mayan food like pork, chicken, beans, rice, chorizo, and the most amazing homemade blue maize tortillas.  This afternoon, we headed into downtown Antigua to visit the Artisan markets, to attend mass at the cathedral in the central park, and then headed to the local sports bar, the Mono Loco (Crazy Monkey) to join the most fascinating bunch of expatriates to root for the Vikings.  There were Saints fans from France, Vikings fans from Canada, and more random Minnesotans than one could ever conceive of  – all packed into a steamy bar eating guacamole and screaming at the television screens.   How did all these people come to visit, live, or volunteer in Antigua?  There were so many fascinating stories of falling in love, seeking adventure, and finding one’s vocation packed in this room!  I can’t say I’ve ever watched such an exciting game with a more global and eclectic crowd!  The roar on the streets, erupting from several neighborhood establishments, when the Viking scored their last goal was astounding – all the way here in Antigua, Guatemala.  What a small world!  
Today was a day of orientation and relaxation, but tomorrow we head to work.  I was grateful for a day to build friendships with my new team and to enjoy the beauty and hospitality of this incredible culture.   I am grateful to God for this privilege and hope that we can contribute something meaningful to the beautiful lives being lived here over the next week.

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