All students are on their way home!
After waking up slightly earlier than usual, we met downstairs at 7:15 for a breakfast of pancakes. Once we finished, we grabbed our raincoats and water bottles and hopped in the vans to make our way to our hike. We arrived and shortly after we all squeezed into the back of a pick up truck that would carry us up to the base of our hike. After plenty of bumps and a few bruises from the bouncy car ride, we prepared ourselves for the steep hike to the top of the volcano. Slowly we started the trek up taking frequent breaks to catch our breath and drink some water. The high altitude was chilly at first, but in no time the climb caused us to shed our jackets. Halfway up we paused again to take photos and admire the thick greenery that surrounded us. After walking a lot more, we reached the top of the volcano and lookout point. Looking at the Crater Lake surrounded by trees and greenery was so pretty. Then we hiked down a long stretch of steps to get to the lake. After a quick snack, we witnessed a lake-side traditional Mayan ceremony. Once the clouds started to roll in over the crest of the volcano, we made our way back down to the base of the volcano. After a few trips and falls, and another bumpy ride in the truck, we successfully arrived at the vans. We rode back to the home base and relaxed, ate, watched videos and talked for the rest of the day.
Today we started service with a new wall to paint within the next three hours. Service flew by with us relying on each other in order to finish the mural by noon time and welcome the young women to their new home. Despite the rush we were very proud of our work and we felt nostalgic as we left the orphanage, now a new home for young mothers, for the last time. The rest of the afternoon was spent in the city center as we ate at the café, shopped in the artisanal markets, and enjoyed the atmosphere at the park. After this we all laughed and shared ghost stories after dinner. Our evening was punctuated with an interesting and mind opening activity that taught us to be more accepting to new cultures and more questioning of our own. On this note, we all went to bed feeling rewarded by the completion of our service project and enlightened by our evening workshop.
Today we woke up, ate a delicious breakfast, and then went to service! At service we finished the paintings on the wall. After service we went to lunch and then went to a women’s co-op were we bought matching bracelets. We then drove up a mountain to go to the hot springs. We drove back to home base where we ate dinner. Then we had a workshop where we talked about our goals!
Today in the morning we did service. We learned that the orphanage is being turned into a home for teenage mothers. After lunch and showers we took a trip to a chocolate factory and tried hot chocolate originally made by the ancient Mayans! Afterwards, we had the chance to buy some. To work off all of the chocolate, salsa class was next. After twirling and lots of steps, we listened to a former guerilla tell his side of the story of with Guatemalan civil war. The day ended with dinner and then a workshop based on feminism and equality.
One More Week
Today, after a delicious buffet style breakfast, we headed toward the orphanage. At the orphanage we started to actually paint the designs on the wall. Everyone contributed in making the bottom boarder of flowers, while Camille and Kayle started the elephants. We were surrounded by about 30 little boys running around and playing in the yard. Some of them even wanted to try painting, which we allowed. We all practiced our Spanish with the children and some of us were able to have conversations with them. After 4 hours of painting, and playing soccer, tag and just talking to kids, we headed back to home base for a delicious lunch of beef stew and rice. After lunch, we were able to rest after our exhausting morning. We then headed towards San Andres. This is a town in which the Mayans and Catholics are intertwined to one. At the town we were greeted with a wonderful tour guide that taught us some traditions of the town. We saw a beautiful church that was full of bright orange, yellow, red, and green. All of the colors had specific meanings! After we went inside the church and witnessed women praying, we hiked up the mountain. At the top of the mountain we saw the most beautiful view, which was definitely worth the steep hike! After the view we went to the house of Ms. Clementa. She is a wonderful weaver. Her work is beautiful! Some of us even got to try sewing, which was pretty awesome! Then we went to a place where we got to try amazing hot chocolate and bread, while listening to a teenager play the marimba. After a gorgeous drive back to the wonderful dinner of chicken tacos, followed by strawberries and whipped cream. After showing off my dancing skills, we read an essay by Ivan Illich about how good intentions are bad. We then discussed our thoughts about the essay, in which many of us had different opinions. Lastly, we went to a well-deserved sleep, excited for what’s to come in the next week!
Today we got up and drove to Lake Atitlan. It was a beautiful drive. The lake is surrounded by volcanoes! We then checked into our hotel and then headed across the lake. The area was very hilly but it was breath taking. It was amazing to see the work that these people put into their crafts. Everything is very intricate! We then headed back across the lake, which I may ass was very blue; the ride back was super rough and bouncy. After lunch we did some more shopping on the streets by our hotel. We learned to bargain and everyone’s Spanish is getting better! When we were shopping many people would put their items in our face and try to persuade us to buy it! Some fell for it more than others. Many people would stare at us because we look so different. Most of us got smoothies near the lake which were amazing! They taste so much better here because the fruit is fresh! Today was mainly the driving and shopping day! We all had a blast and are all getting closer as the days go by. We love it here!
First Day of Service
Today was the first day of service! We went to an orphanage and started planning our mural for the walls in the outdoor playground. We focused on happy themes, for the mural: flowers and a rainbow. We spent most of the morning scrapping old paint off of the walls so that the new paint will be applied as smoothly as possible. For lunch, we went back to home base. After lunch, we played a game of human knot. It was difficult because only one person was allowed to talk at one time. After about 30 minutes we couldn’t seem to untangle ourselves, so we let go promising that we would try again later. We headed towards a potters house to learn about his craft. The potter, Julio Lopez, started pottery at the age of 10 and has been maintaining his craft for fifty years so far. As an extremely skilled artisan, he showed us how to make a plate, a bowl, and a mug in less than ten minutes. He let a few of us try pottery but it was much more difficult than we imagined. We also spent some time admiring and purchasing some of his beautiful piece of work. All of his pieces were handmade and hand decorated. Afterwards, the mentors treated us to ice cream, which we ate while enjoying the view. We then headed back to home base for a delicious dinner. Afterwards, we watched a documentary on the Guatemalan civil war which lasted from 1960-1996. The movie portrayed the guerrilla soldiers suppressing the locals for fighting for what they believe in. Many found the movie shocking, unexpected and heavy. Overall, the first day of service was a success. We all can’t wait for more adventures in the several days to come.
San Antonio Aguas Calientes
Today we drove to a small town called San Antonio Aguas Calientes. In San Antonio we learned about the culture of the locals. Once we got to the cultural center where five families live, our group of 10 girls took a seat on small plastic chairs. An elder woman wearing a traditional Maya skirt continued to inform us in Spanish about how she weaves blankets that can take more than six months to create. She kept saying how everything was artisan and nothing was made with machinery. I could understand some of the Spanish but not quite form the full sentences. Thankfully, one of our mentors translated along the way. After the weaving lesson we went through a traditional wedding ceremony using volunteers from our group. I was the groom due to the lack of males in our group. It was extremely interesting to see how they get married and it was great to actually be a part of such a religious custom. Following the wedding ceremony we learned how to make tortillas and coffee. In the cultural center we all purchased amazing woven items or bags of coffee. After these adventurous cultural immersion we took the 3 hour bus ride back to home base. I am pleasantly surprised about how close the group has already become. It has only been a full day and I feel like I have been here for a week. I cannot wait to see how this trip will turn out.
All students have arrived safely in country and are ready for an amazing program! Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!