Tag Archives: Inter-American School

My Adventurous Week In Xela

One week in Xela isn’t enough, but March 3-10th was all the time I had to spend in my home away from home.  I’d traveled down to Xela, Guatemala to help lead the Inter-American’s Spiritual Emphasis Week, and as most mission trips go, it was jam-packed with fun life impacting experiences.  It was an adventure.

To start off my team of 4 1/2 nearly had to leave our half behind in Houston.

Taca requires babies, even those under two years old, to have a ticket.  Sure wish Orbitz had told about that one when, we were buying our tickets.  Fortunately, Mike Davis was able to talk the Taca (Take A Chance Airlines) agent into letting us buy a ticket for Bailey, and we all made it onto the plane.  And I can’t imagine the week without that little girl.  Heck, and what would’ve she done for a week all by herself in the Houston Airport?  She’s no Tom Hanks.

And so on Saturday March 3rd all 4 1/2 of us made it to Xela.  Here are the top 10 events from my mission trip in Xela.

1. Spending time with the McMarlins.  Saturday March 3rd my team and I were welcomed in to the McMarlin’s house for breakfast and lunch.  I worked with Laurel McMarlin for three years and his wife Donna had taken me in as if I was her own son, so it was truly great to see them again.  Laurel is the Chaplin at IAS and leads the English-speaking Anglican service at St. Mark’s in Xela on Sundays.

After church, which was cool in its own right because a lot of people came just to hear my dad preach (just think people coming to hear my dad) most of the teachers from IAS went over to the McMarlin’s for lunch.  It was great being able to catch up with old friends.  Thank you Laurel and Donna for opening up your house to me one more time.

2. Irene Ovelle’s Quince.  Last June when I went to what I thought would be my last Quinceaños, but to my surprise Irene invited me to her party, which just happened to be the first day I was back in Xela.  So after lunch with the McMarlin’s I got myself all dressed up, and headed out to her grandparent’s to see all of my former students.  I had been waiting nearly nine months to see all of them, so I was about as excited as my little niece was on Christmas Eve.

Probably the best part of the night, other than all the awesome hugs I received and the crazy dance moves I laid down and being able to disrupt all of the  dancing couples and generally just being able to act like a kid, was when Angelo (A vegetarian) tried to challenge me to a hotdog eating contest.  See last year I accepted his challenge only to find out he was only eating the buns.  I declined, but it really made me laugh.

3. Sunday after church I took Luispe, Dani, and Hugo up La Muela.  First off, this hike in itself is one of my favorite things to do, ever, but getting to hike it with a couple of my former students was even better.  I think more of my former student’s would’ve come had it not been for the party the night before. Mr. Smith, IAS’s science teacher, came with us and almost died on the way down.  Dani was hiking above him and accidentally knocked a rock lose.  The rock smashed right above Mr. Smith’s head.  Mr. Smith seems to attract death, it’s almost like he’s Charlie from Lost and the island is trying to kill him off.  Sure am glad he didn’t die, it would have put a damper on the beautiful day.

4. Playing games with the elementary kids.  During my two years as the elementary PE teacher at IAS I came up with all kids of tag games for the little kids.  On monday we got to play my favorite game of tag.  Zombie Tag.  It was so much fun hearing the little kids run around screaming, “Must Eat Brain.”  The next day we played my other favorite tag game, Model tag, which requires the kid who gets tagged to strike a pose.  Once the pose is struck the kid can only be released when someone takes their picture.  We didn’t get to play Santa tag, but that’s out of season anyway.

5. Coffee Plantation Tour.  On Tuesday afternoon I took my team down to Santa Maria de Jesus for a tour of the Brodbeck’s coffee plantation.  Dianne and Marty Brodbeck used to work at the school, but now that they are retired they supply IAS with what I’ve heard is the worlds best coffee (I don’t like Coffee). Mike, Stacey, Bailey, and my dad love coffee, so I think they really enjoyed learning how it is grown, picked, and processed.

Did you know that the coffee bean is sweet when it is picked?  Did you know if you picked 500 pounds of coffee bean after it is shelled, processed, and dried you’d end up with 60 pounds?  After our tour we were sitting around the Brodbeck’s yard enjoying boquitas when I looked at my watch, and realized we needed to get going or we would miss the last bus back up the mountain.  Like the coffee crazed fanatics that they are, my dad, Mike and Stacey, and Bailey rushed back to the Brodbeck’s storehouse and promptly bought them out of coffee.  With copious amounts of coffee in hand we jumped on the last bus to Xela and bounced our way back up the mountain.

6. Camila.  Everyone should have a little kid who fallows you around and tells you how much they love you.  Camila, a cute little first grader, used to tell me she loved me every chance she got.  When she first saw me on Monday I could tell she wasn’t sure what to do.  Her eyes were darting from me back to Stacey, who was giving the message, and then back to me.  During afternoon recess on Monday she followed me around and told me all about how she loved the first grade and how she thought she’d never see me again.

On Friday, when I got to school, after hanging out with all of the middle schoolers and high schoolers for three days, I noticed that Camila wasn’t there.  Yasi, my good friend and the school’s secretary, told me Camila’s mom had called in saying Camila was sick, but that her little girl was heartbroken because she wouldn’t get to say goodbye to Mr. Scott.  I love that kid.

7. Retreat.  On Wednesday I hopped onto a bus full of middle schoolers and headed down to Reu for three high energy days and two sleepless nights.  My dad and I challenged the students to look at their lives and see how God has worked in the good times and the bad times.  Day one, I was working with the current 10th grade class.  Each boy shared a short version of their life story, at first it was rather shallow, but as the week progressed, I could tell the boys were opening their hearts to what God had for them. At the end of the week a couple of the boys said they really wanted a stronger walk with God.

Retreat also had plenty of crazy moments.  The eleventh grade boys decided to take on the cinnamon challenge.  That is, they tried to swallow packets of cinnamon without the help of water.  I’d heard the myth that it can’t be done, well let me tell you, it can.

But also, don’t ever try to snort it.  All of the boys wanted me to try to eat the packet.  Not needing to prove my manhood to these boys, I refused.  But then they opened a packet up onto my hand and I knew I had to do something.  So, I dumped the cinnamon onto the table and said, “let’s get Hugo, he’ll snort this.”  So we all wiped a little cinnamon onto our noses and called Hugo into the room.  “We’ve all done it,” I said.  Without hesitation Hugo bent down and inhaled the entire packet.  I’m pretty sure he was sneezing cinnamon for the rest of retreat.  My props go out to Hugo, he’s a stud.

8. Pool fights and Revenge.  On Thursday Katja and Isa, two of the tenth grade girls, decided to get into a water fight with me.  Silly girls.  One of the best things about retreat is being able to form relationships with the kids from IAS.  Many of the kids came up to me and told me how their lives were going and asked me for advice.  It was so awesome to hear how they were growing.  That didn’t happen with Katja or Isa.  They just wanted a water fight.  They are noobs.

I was on the basketball court trying to make half court shots with a couple of the kids, when out of no where a water balloon bounces off of my back.  Then another one burst at my sandaled feet.  Katja and Isa were cautiously trying to have a water fight.  It was cute, they would throw a balloon and then try to look all innocent.  To this point I’d done nothing to deserve their wrath.  After they’d exhausted their ammo, which only got my shirt a little wet, I chased after them, only to be grabbed by Kain and Mario, two of their classmates, and dragged off to the pool.  I didn’t put up too much of a fight, as I was in my swimsuit, but I also didn’t want the boys to think I was weak.  So I broke free, tossed Kain on the ground, pushed Mario out-of-the-way, hoisted Isa onto my shoulders, and jumped into the pool.  Katja has been warned.  Revenge will be mine.

9. Singing Coldplay with Sharom.  On the bus ride back to Xela I decided to ride up with the High School bus.  I’d ridden down with the middle schoolers, who were really crazy, and so I felt God tell me to get onto the High School bus.  I am so glad I rode with the High Schoolers because half way up we passed the Middle School bus, which was broken down on the side of the road.

Not only was I on the bus that worked, but Sharom, my Guatemalan sister, shared one of her headphones with me and we rocked out to Coldplay the entire way up.  I sang to the entire bus, well at least those in the seats closest to me, the bus was too loud for everyone to hear, which was probably a good thing.  I will remember that bus ride for a long time.  Thank you Sharom, for such a fun memory.

10. Having Dinner with Yasi, her husband, and their daughter Eli.  I think the entire week was about connecting.  We tried to connect with the kids and the teachers, and yet one person I didn’t get to spend much time with was Yasi.  Yasi was more than my secretary she was also my running partner.

Because I was on retreat I didn’t get to spend much time with her and her family, so she invited my dad, Mike and Stacey, Bailey, and me over for dinner that Friday night.  I made Yasi’s week by surprising her with a copy of Mockingjay that I brought down with her.  The time I spent in conversation with her helped make a fabulous week that much better.  I hope that everyone gets to know Yasi at some point in their life.

Thank you to everyone who helped make my week in Xela an Adventure!

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A Fruity Guatemalan Spiritual Lesson

By Brendan Scott.  Of all the classes I taught, Bible wasn’t the one I looked forward to teaching every day.  I enjoyed my gym classes and my screen writing classes, but this Bible class I had to teach last year was a struggle.  Mostly because of the kids.  Yes, I said it.  I had a class of kids I didn’t enjoy.  Okay, these kids were fine individually, but put them together and they would start to pick on one another.

I knew, as their Bible teacher, it was my job to teach them the correct way to treat their classmates.  But no matter what I told them, the girls still singled out the one girl they decided was different from them and treated her as if she was trash.  And the boys, well, they just cheated most of the time and complained if they weren’t given the best marks on all of their work.

Telling them how Moses brought the people of Israel out of Egypt in hopes of helping them become a kinder class was just not working.  Sunday school lessons on David killing Goliath didn’t mean anything to them.  By middle school at the Inter-American School, a private Christian School, they’d heard it all.  Unfortunately the way they were treating their classmates wasn’t matching up with the Bible verses they’d heard all of their life, and it was bringing me down.

Kids won’t change if the teacher, who is in charge of their spiritual growth, has a bias against them.  Their bad attitudes were causing me to neglect them.  For a while, longer than I care to admit, I decided just to teach the class, but not try to help them grow in their relationships with Jesus.  Neglecting them was working fine until I came across the book of Colossians.

Colossians 4: 12 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”

I knew as a Christian leader I had to show my students compassion.  I started praying for them each night.  The prayers were simple, but they helped.  The girls were still mean to one another and the boys still cheated, but I started to love them.  And I believe that’s what it takes when we live spiritually.

As my love grew, I decided to challenge the class as a whole, including me, to start living by the fruit of the spirit.  I stopped worrying if they knew who was king David’s great-grandfather (Boaz) and started focusing on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

I offered them extra credit to memorize Galatians 5:16-25, the passage in the Bible where the Apostle Paul get’s spiritually fruity.  They complained about having to know such a long passage, but as I was memorizing the passage the fruit started to show in my life.  And my hope was my students could see the change in me, and start to see what it meant to live by the fruits of the spirit.

This is a lesson we can apply to our own lives.  If we want to live spiritually, we need to live by the fruits of the Spirit.  I am not sure if my students learned anything (middle schoolers are a stubborn breed and not all blogs have clear-cut endings), but I know by being joyful for them when they did well, being kind to them when they were mean to me, or by showing self-control when they acted out, my heart changed.  And if they can see me change, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll change too.

I haven’t talked to many of those kids since I returned to Colorado, but I still pray for them.  I challenge anyone to live by the fruits of the spirit and pray for the people in their lives, even if they are annoying.  The change will be sweet, I guarantee it.

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How To Celebrate Christmas in Guatemala and the Meaning of Christmas

By Brendan Scott

Last year I learned the meaning of Christmas.  I spent Christmas 2010 in Guatemala, away from the snow of Colorado and more importantly away from my family.  Guatemala, or at least my home city of Xela, doesn’t celebrate Christmas the way most of the world celebrates the birth of Christ.  Sure at the Inter-American School, where I worked, we had a Christmas Play.  Last year the elementary performed the well known play Izzy Saves Christmas, where Izzy the mouse saves Christmas.  Haven’t heard of it?  Well, it’s a Guatemalan staple, or it is now.

I also taught my students what the best kind of Christmas party is; a White Elephant Party.  Who doesn’t want to go home with an alarm clock in a country where it is better to use your cellphone as an alarm at night, because anything plugged into the wall just might lose power.

But where Guatemala, and especially Xela, differs from Christmas in the United States is Christmas Eve.  Growing up as a Presbyterian Pastor’s kid, in the United States my family’s Christmas tradition centered around our church’s Christmas Eve service.  Every year, especially when I was younger, my mom would force me into my Christmas best, drive me and my sisters to church, and we would light the Christ Candle.  As I documented last year in my blog I’ll Be Home For Christmas my family always had the misfortune of lighting the Christ Candle, which never went smoothly.  I fought with my sister in front of 1,000 plus people who’d come to church expecting to hear how Christ came to bring peace on earth and goodwill to men.  The next year they expected something else, and I did not fail them.   I dropped a lit match on the carpet floor.  Fortunately the church didn’t burn down.

I did not have to light the Christ Candle for Christmas Eve in Xela.  I was a spectator, surrounded by friends and Guatemalan families who had come to celebrate Christ’s birth.  As much as I missed being with my family last year I enjoyed witnessing how the Latin culture celebrates Christmas.  My favorite part of the service at Saint Mark’s was the Posada.  A handful of kids marched into the church dressed as Guatemalan Marias and Joses with sumbreros and mustaches followed by a very Guatemalan baby Jesus Cristo.

Shortly after the service, after I had sung my share of Spanish Christmas Carols I headed back to my house with Skyy, his mom Susan, Jen (co-worker), Blake and Amy (co-workers), Blake’s family, and Holland (another co-worker) and his boys to set off fireworks.  Ask anyone in Guatemala and they will tell you setting off fireworks is the real reason for the season.  I may have spent upwards of twenty dollars on fireworks, which didn’t even match what Skyy (one of my student’s whose house I lived at) spent.  Us guys took the next couple of hours detonating our ammunition.  At midnight Xela sounded as if it were under attack, the entire city lit up like the large Christ Candle.

Christmas Eve has aways been family time for me, quiet and relaxing (after the Christmas Eve service at least).  This year I plan on watching “How Earnest Saved Christmas” with my two sisters.  I look forward to waking up on Christmas morning and being with my family.  But I will always remember how much fun I had lighting off fireworks and celebrating my savior’s birth with people my Guatemalan family.

Christmas is not about what you do, what you give or what you get, but in the end it is about enjoying the birth of Christ with those who are around you.  No matter where you are.  Last year on Christmas day Donna and Laurel McMarlin (Laurel was one of my co-workers) welcomed me into their family and shared their Christmas with me.  They helped make what could have been a lonely day, a day full of love and celebration, which made for a perfect Christmas.

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