So, what was I thinking?! What part of immersion Spanish study in Guatemala for 7 weeks was fun? I was thinking adventure and exploration- the excitement of a brand new culture! Visions of climbing volcanoes, viewing mountain ranges and browsing colorful markets filled my mind… To some extent this is what what Guatemala has been, but on the other hand, it is not!
Spending almost 2 months in an immersion study program is more like a total life displacement. Now I am all about displacement, in fact that is what I do with college students for a living! So perhaps it is in my nature to want to experience this afresh myself. But it sure is different to be on the receiving end of the lessons than being the one interpreting and helping people through those lessons.
As I reflect, I can best summarize my time here so far as a great fast. I am reminded afresh that when we fast, we are greeted with perspective, with balance, with new vision. Inadvertently I have found grace along the way.
I’m fasting from a fast-paced lifestyle. I was always the first one to finish eating my dinner. I was walking ahead of my family. I didn’t want to waste time or have my time wasted. … O wait, my only agenda is to learn Spanish and meet with God. This is a slow life, in fact it has proved to be very very slow. I just love that my family gathers every evening at 730 for dinner. The whole family including Tio who lives next door. We eat very slowly and after we finished eating, we drink coffee/ tea and eat Pan Dulce. Dinner never lasts less than an hour and usually 90 minutes. I have learned to love this time everyday.
Another thing I’m fasting from is the familiar. Now I am observant of everything and everyone around me. Everything is new, nothing is taken for granted, no one is taken for granted. I nicknamed the three stray dogs who live at the gas station and greet me on my way to school each morning. The foreign becomes the familiar and with it comes gratefulness.
I am fasting from some of my favorite things. There is no dessert here and my sweet tooth has gone dormant, it is a good thing! I’m fasting from convenience, fast food, eating out, shopping…and in a strange sense, even the joy of friendships.
I am especially fasting from distractions. My time is spent reading books, journaling, walking to and from school 30 minutes every day. I do not have TV, I’m not spending money, in a sense this is chosen – a very simple routine for this time during my sabbatical. I actually have no interest in wandering about to explore the city, so in some ways this is a self-imposed fast from distraction. My delight comes from routine and simplicity. My joy comes from communing with God during my 2 hours of walking everyday. The task at hand is to engage the 25 hours of Spanish learning every week and do my best to stay present to the task of learning. I have no excuses not to exercise, I have no excuses to not delight myself in the presence of the Lord and his Word. So as in times past, I see that fasting is actually feasting, and as I experience fresh displacement, there is delight.