By Grace Jones
This past week was definitely bittersweet – filled with much celebration, but also some difficult goodbyes. The week prior to Easter is easily the most lively and busiest time of the year here in Guatemala. This time of year, up to a million people flood into Antigua for the exhilarating Holy Week (referred to as “Semana Santa” in Spanish). We are all extremely grateful for the opportunity to have witnessed this time leading up to Easter.
Starting the first day of Lent, weekly processions began. Each procession is an event where an andas (float), carried by as many as 100 men or women, displays a scene from the Bible leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus. Once Holy Week begins, different processions occur every day, with increasingly beautiful and elaborate alfombras begin to fill the streets.
On one of the most significant days of the year, the morning of Good Friday, many of us “woke up” at 11pm and stayed awake embracing 8hrs of powerful andas of Jesus carrying the cross. Running on little sleep, we spent much time walking, observing, and reflecting this past weekend on the season of Easter. We are all extremely grateful for the opportunity to witness this time in Guatemala.
Experiencing the season of Easter here, has most definitely made the significance of the crucification, death, and resurrection much more evident than in years past. It is difficult to put these thoughts into words, but it has something to do with the way millions of people from all over the world were here this weekend to celebrate the resurrection. After the personal and communal growth that has come out of this year, this celebration was especially memorable. The way that we walked with thousands of people (at 3am), watching the float of Jesus carrying the cross, with the reminder of the words “pick up your cross and follow me” placed on the float, was something I will never forget. Something about the physical visual that these andas display, place so much power in the story. This weekend has allowed me to reflect on what this statement means to me in this season of my life. What is it that I need to lay down, in order to fully love Jesus as he fully loves us?
This week also included our last week of Spanish classes, which means we have all graduated now! Thursday morning, with many of our host families attending, we all walked across the “stage”, received our certificates, and even heard a couple groups share their musical talents. We may or may not have heard Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepson…Spanish edition! This was such a wonderful time to celebrate and spend our last few days with our host families.
Since this was the week of grad, it also meant it was the week to say goodbye to what were our homes for a total of 6 weeks this semester. This was not an easy goodbye for anyone. I think I can speak for everyone saying that the memories made with our host families will never be forgotten. We are all extremely grateful for the relationships built and the homes-away-from-home provided to us. This was very evident as there were many tears when we met together after the goodbyes. It feels as if just yesterday we were all extremely nervous, barely speaking a word of Spanish, and asking ourselves, “What have I gotten myself into?!” when we dispersed into our host families for the first time. And just like that, it was time to say goodbye. Despite this time being very tough, it demonstrates the impact that these 6 weeks have made on each on of us. San Juan del Obispo has been one for the books.
Reflecting on this past week was difficult. It was a very eventful week, challenging to find the time to soak up every last minute and embrace the beauty of Semana Santa with our busy schedule. I couldn’t help but especially admire the volcanos as I walked to school each morning. It’s crazy to think that in just a couple short weeks, this will no longer be what we wake up to. Despite time flying by, I have realized the importance of remaining present, simply embracing the moments here – good and bad.
As I mentioned, the goodbye to my host family was very difficult. My little 4-year-old sister was someone who I will specifically never forget. So on Saturday morning when she entered my room with a homemade card and gift as I was packing up my final things, my eyes were immediately filled with tears. Who would have thought such a short period of time would make such an impact? The idea that play is a universal language has never meant so much to me as in this season of my life. As hard as the goodbye was, I was leaving with endless memories, stories, and photos.