So after our Fireside in Tucuru, we were back on the buses to make it to Teleman. We passed more fantastic views on the road there and arrived in Teleman in the late afternoon--too late to really get out and do anything (which was sort of okay, because there really isn't anything to see or do in Teleman anyway) and too early to go straight to bed. We had a nice, relaxed night, eating dinner, listening to the tropical rainstorm, and relaxing.
I guess it's worth mentioning here that I had stayed in Teleman a few times before, as a missionary. The first time was in preparation for a trip to Coban for zone conference. The zone leaders were in charge of getting us sisters a place to stay for the night. Unfortunately for us, it was near the end of the month, and the ZLs had run a little short on their pouch money, the monthly allowance they received to spend on the zone. They put us up in the cheapest hotel in Teleman, and calling it a dive would be insulting to genuine dives. This place was horrifying. I wish to the bottom of my heart that I had taken pictures of this place, but I was too afraid my camera would get stolen. The door had at least five locks, and the only one that worked was held in place with duct tape. The beds had a single blanket but no sheets, and the blanket smelled very, VERY strongly of body odor, alcohol, and various other stenches too heinous to mention. The bathrooms only had water for an hour a day. It was not a good experience. To say the least, there was no sleeping going on that night.
The other time I stayed in Teleman, the elders got smart and did not put us in that hotel. Instead, they lent us their mattresses and put us up in the church. This was infinitely better in the sense of cleanliness, though four sisters sharing a twin mattress could have been worked out better. Also, the elders had neglected to mention that the church had a little, teeny infestation of living things. Spiders, mosquitos, and who knows what else. Also, churches do not come equipped with showers, so that could have been better.
My point is: I was not expecting great things from Teleman.
Since I know you're wondering, the hotel we stayed in was actually pretty nice. There was one minor hiccup when we got home one evening and found this little guy waiting for us:
but other than that it was pretty good! The hotel had a restaurant upstairs with a roof but no walls, so it stayed pretty cool.
The next morning was Sunday, and we were given the choice between going to the Teleman branch, just down the road, or the Sacsuha branch. I chose the Teleman branch, mostly because it was close and I wanted an extra few minutes to sleep. I'm not super great with the getting up early thing. Attending church in Teleman was an experience. My branch in El Estor definitely had problems with attendance, but we still usually had 80-100 people in attendance each week. The Teleman branch was tiny. The chapel didn't even have pews; the deacons had to come early to set out chairs. I actually knew this, since I had slept in that very room. The services were done in a mixture of Qeqchi and Spanish. One of the speakers gave his talk bilingually, repeating everything he said in Spanish, while another speaker had one of the elders serving in the branch translate for him. I don't know if they always did this or if it was mostly for our benefit, but there was a lot of translating going on, because a lot of people in our group didn't speak Spanish, either, so those of us who spoke Spanish were translating that as well. It may sound strange to think of it this way, but I have found that I actually prefer attending church in a Spanish (or Qeqchi). I don't understand everything that's said when Qeqchi is the spoken language, but if I pay really close attention, I can get the gist of it. Even though I speak fluent Spanish, I still sometimes find myself translating into English in my head, which also forces me to pay close attention. I think I get too complacent in the listening department when I hear things spoken in English, so attending church this way was a nice experience, forcing me to really pay attention and appreciate the simple, heartfelt message the members shared.
After Sacrament Meeting, we American split up. Some stayed behind to attend Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society or Priesthood, but several of us wound up in the Primary room. There was only one Primary teacher, and she had no manuals or children's songbooks, so she was having the kids draw and color. Hoping to help her out a little bit, we threw together a very simple lesson about obedience and helped the kids to memorize part of 1 Nephi 3:7. Okay, we mainly got them to memorize just the beginning: Ire y hare! I will go and do! We explained the rest of the verse as well, but they really got pumped about that part. Then we had them teach us how to do Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes in Spanish, and reciprocated in English. Maybe it wasn't the most spiritual lesson in the history of Primary, but the kids enjoyed it. We especially enjoyed talking to an investigator who had come but felt a little reluctant just leaving her children in primary by themselves. By the end of the lesson, she was chanting ire y hare right along with the other kids. We got lots of hugs as we left, especially because a few of the women in our group had purchased traditional Qeqchi clothing and worn it to church.
After church, we got on the bus and headed for Sacsuha, where we were going to have our fireside for the day. The local couple missionaries had packed us a paper bag lunch of chips, juice, raisins, and other snacks, and so we sat around and chatted and ate. We got a good laugh out of a few tiny Qeqchi kids who kept coming up and asking us for treats. They were so adorable, and we had so much food, that we all wound up giving them a lot of what we had.
We had a great turn out for the fireside, including several missionaries who wouldn't have gotten to see the fireside otherwise, and the whole event went pretty well. Somehow I don't have any pictures from this particular fireside, besides this one taken outside the building when we were preparing to head out.
Since it had been so little time since I had been in the mission, I knew all of the elders in the field. This elder, Elder Tambriz, was a hilarious guy who stood about five feet tall. Next to him is Andy, one of the talented members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir who was with us. Andy has a way of making friends with everyone and somehow made friends with Elder Tambriz even though he doesn't speak any Spanish. Andy thought it was pretty funny how much shorter Elder Tambriz was, so he had him stand up on top of a spigot that is located just outside of the church building. Since so many of the members walk to church, and since so few have shoes, this spigot is placed outside the doors so that they can rinse off their feet before entering the church.
After the fireside and chatting with many of the members, we got on the bus to head back to Teleman. It was a long day of lots of travel, and I honestly don't remember too many of the specific details of this particular day, but it was great fun, as always.