Saturday July 21, 2018
Hola from Guatemala! Today our staff met students at the airport in Guatemala City to kick off our two-week adventure. Students that arrived in the morning had a chance to rest and explore a bit of Antigua, Guatemala’s old colonial capital. Our lunchtime arrivals ate at Pollo Campero ( a popular national fried chicken chain they really enjoyed!) then headed to Antigua to join our first group in resting and getting to know each other before heading to dinner in a restored colonial mansion.
Our group of nighttime arrivals came in a bit late, but we grabbed a quick dinner at Burger King (not the most culturally immersive experience, but one of the only places open late in Guatemala City!) and headed straight to Antigua for bed. Tomorrow we have an early start and will make our way to our program home base in Quetzaltenango, or Xela, in the western highlands.
Sadly we didn’t have time to snap a full group picture, but we will post one tomorrow!
Patrick Kennedy, Intl. Program Director
Sunday July 22, 2018
Hi friends and family,
Today we woke up Quinta Santa Lucia Hotel and got a beautiful look over Antigua Guatemala from its roof. After a breakfast of eggs and bean sauce, we left for our 3 hour drive to our home base in Xela (Quetzaltenango). Throughout the drive we took many interesting stops. The first of these was a store owned by 5 Mayan families in which a Mayan woman demonstrated a traditional Mayan wedding for us. She called up 4 volunteers to act as the bride, groom, and groom’s parents in the wedding. I was very excited to be dressed as the groom’s father for our little demonstration (pics below). Zoe acted as the groom’s mom, while Trevor and Conley acted as the two newly-weds.
We learned the Mayan traditional wedding dance and then walked to the back of the shop and made our own tortillas from scratch! We then boarded the buses and set off to our next site, which was the Mayan ruins of the city, Iximche (Ee-Shim-Chay). While there, we were given a tour by Balam, a very energetic tour guide who taught us about the history of the ruins. As we were walking through, Mayan religious ceremonies were taking place. After all the site-seeing we finally got in the bus for the last time and drove to the hotel in Xela (our “home-base). We had some sort of sandwich for dinner with lots of French fries and a flan!
-Blog and pictures by Sophie
Monday July 23, 2018
Today the group took a trip to “San Andres”, a A Guatemalan city whose centerpiece is a surreal catholic church adorned with immensely detailed and masterly crafted mystical designs such as angels playing lutes and a nameless “judge” of sorts who stands proudly and welcomingly at the very top. More interesting than the aesthetic appearance of the church itself is the process by which it was built and painted. A small group of only 13 men (a very prominent and important number in Guatemalan spirituality from what I’ve learned thus far) built the church in 29 days, during which they led an extremely ascetic life; eating very little and unvaried food, never showering or bathing, and sleeping only as absolutely required. This process is just as much a work of art as the final product.
The city itself is so bizarre and out of place in the modern world; many of the women spend their entire lives knitting a specific kind of attire, and pre-Catholic Mayan rituals are performed directly next to a catholic church (even integrating the cross as a symbol into the ancient mystical rituals). Personally, the most jarring and confusing fact about the city was the method by which justice is carried out. While San Andres does indeed have a police force (2 men strong in fact), most of the actual police work is carried out by citizens in a vigilante style. The community members take it upon themselves to capture and punish criminals – while this might seem distasteful to us, this open and known harsh tolerance of criminals helps to prevent crime in an area already so stricken with poverty.
-Blog and photos by Trevor
Tuesday July 24, 2018
Hi friends and family,
We started the day at the elementary school. Splitting in to groups, we taught our lesson plans and started our service projects around the school which included painting murals and cleaning up classrooms to prepare them to be painted. We also had the opportunity to play games with the kids during recess. After we left the school we had a conversation about responsible and ethical traveling. We then went to a Guatemalan chocolate factory and learned the process of making authentic chocolate with raw cacao from an authentically inspiring Guatemalan woman. Our favorite activity of the day was an in depth and thorough salsa class that left everyone sweating.
At home base we started planning our lessons for another day of teaching in the school. Tomorrow the theme of teaching is how people impact the environment and how we can better preserve our planet. To end the night we had a dinner with yummy tacos and delicious jello. Buen Provecho!
-Blog and photos by Zoe and Grace
Wednesday July 25, 2018
Today was one of the most jam packed days yet! We started off the morning completing our third, and messiest, day of service yet. My group and I started off our class with a review of our previous lesson, and then dove into the various biomes of our world. We covered climates and the animals that inhabit them in biomes like, desiertos, bosques, tundras, and bosque lluviosa. We followed that lesson with an art project and a quick game of “rain,” where the students slowly, but effectively, created “rain” with their piernas, manos, and pies. We really enjoyed today’s lesson and the enthusiasm the students and their teacher had for the game, something we hope they continue in the years to come. Teaching the students almost entirely in Spanish is a challenge, but it’s a challenge we’ve accepted with open arms and minds.
For our second part of service, we gave a fresh face to one and a half classrooms. Painting is a small thing that goes a long way, and it is also something the teachers really appreciate. Today was different than most days at the school because today the government had planned a program to get the children up and moving. Each child received a t-shirt, hamburger, and fruit, as well as the opportunity to participate in a fun set of games on the blacktop. We all found this very interesting because being active is not a challenge for Guatemalan children. They seemed very excited and happy to be given this fun day, but for us volunteers we were fascinated by the way the government chose to aid these rapidly growing schools.
After service, we returned to homebase for lunch and down time, and then we headed out for our afternoon activity. We drove for an hour through town, farms, and mountain roads to finally reach a haven deep within the clouds. We reached Fuentes Georginas and quickly jumped into the natural hot springs. Overall, today was fun, eye-opening, and very rewarding, and luckily for us we get to do it all again tomorrow!
-Blog and photos by Abby
Thursday July 26, 2018
Today we woke up to the delicious smell of eggs, beans, and pastries. Community service was my favorite part of the day. I got to spend so much time with the kids and they were very happy to see me and sad when I had to go. My group and I taught two classes, which at first I thought would be nerve-wracking but the lessons went by pretty smoothly. Plus, I was the photographer today which was awesome because I loved seeing the beautiful children smile and I will always have these memories whenever I look through my phone. After service we stopped by home base to eat lunch and watch a very interesting but brutally honest documentary about the Guatemalan Civil War.
Afterwards, we put back on our shoes and headed to Walmart and grabbed a whole bunch of snacks, then to Magapaca which is a huge thrift store with many great selections, everyone probably spent most of their money on big T-shirts and sweaters, it was a lot of fun. When returning to home base we were visited by a speaker on Guatemala civil conflict, and finally ate green lasagna for dinner which at first seems questionable but turned out to be very good (director’s note – it was gluten-free chicken and chile lasagna made with tortillas instead of pasta!). I’d have to say today was pretty great, but I’m sure tomorrow will be even better!
Blog and photos by Grace
Friday July 27, 2018
Hi family and friends,
My name is Ava and I am the blogger for today. It has been a very exciting 6 days in Guatemala! Today GLA went ziplining across Guatemala’s beautiful forest. The view was absolutely breath taking I have never experienced something so exciting yet terrifying at the same time. There were nine separate ziplines that took your across the forest. One exciting part was all of us cramming into the back of a truck and driving all the way to the top of the mountains to start. We went over waterfalls and we also would look down and see many people farming and planting crops. After taking a little break after lunch we all headed over to the school for our community service. When we arrived there we heard Spanish music playing and we realized that the middle schoolers who were in school were having a promotion or homecoming dance.
It was very interesting how Guatemalans throw school dances compared to schools in America. While we were all painting we got the enjoyment of watching them dance and listening to their music on the loud speakers. Me Abby and Grace continued our mural painting on one of the schools walls of the food pyramid. Next to us Kenzie, Zoe and Ciara were working on another mural with the theme of sports. A couple feet away from them Dori, Caroline, Sophie, Maddie and Lindsay were starting their mural of a globe with beautiful detail. The rest of the group was down stairs working hard on painting one of the classrooms and making sure everything was dusted and taken off of the shelves so they would get every inch painted. Overall it was an amazing day that not many people can experience.
I was born in Guatemala but raised in the United States, but it was an eye-opener and an amazing opportunity to see where I came from and understand this culture. I look forward to the next couple days on learning many new things along this trip.
Saturday July 28, 2018
Today, we began our journey with a protein filled breakfast before we left for our weekend excursion in Panajachel. We drove an hour away to our destination of Lake Atitlan. Upon our arrival, we were split into our groups for the rooms at the Paradise Inn Hotel. We then took a rather rough 20 minute boat ride to the opposite side of the lake where we broke into two groups. Six students volunteered to join a hike with our director, Patrick; which lasted 30 minutes each way and went up to a viewpoint overlooking the lake and surrounding towns. The rest of the group was given time to roam and shop until taking the boat back to the hotel for lunch. After lunch the group shopped in Panajachel for several hours. Part of the group dispersed with Eunice, a mentor; to go to a local coffee shop and to visit a chocolate shop owned by an old friend of hers. Groups were able to split in groups of 3 or more before we met at a coffee shop in the town to walk back to the hotel. During our walk to the hotel we got to see the beauty of the lake as the sun set. Dinner was prepared by the hotel shortly after our return, thereafter we all got time to rest before another full day of shopping the following day.
blog and photos by Bela and Lexi
Sunday July 29, 2018
Hola Amigos! Today was a very relaxing and fun day in Guatemala. At around 5:45 this morning seven girls were taken on a hike to view a beautiful site at the top of a mountain. The girls took a vehicle up the mountain, and hiked 45 minutes back down. Followed by breakfast and a long car ride to Chichicastenango. Everybody shopped in the market for about two hours and found souvenirs and hand made gifts. We got to buy clothing items, jewelry, and table clothes. At 12:30 we met up and ate a delicious lunch at a very nice hotel and bonded with our peers. We rode back to home base and got free time to talk and hang out with our new friends. Around 5:30 we had mentor groups about where we want to be in the future, and learned new things about each other. Also about gender issues in Guatemala.
Blog and photos by Jaiden and Alyssa
Tuesday July 31, 2018
Hola family and friends!! Today was by far the most emotional and heart wrenching day of our trip so far. We started the day with a traditional Guatemalan breakfast of eggs, beans, and galletas. Even the last van ride to the school was bittersweet. Half of our group finished painting our three murals, while the others taught a final lesson of life skills to their classes. After putting the final touches on the murals, and saying goodbye to our classes as “seños” (the Guatemalan term for female teachers) we gave our last piggyback rides and played a final game of “tenta” (tag) with our elementary school friends.
Then we gathered as group to watch our farewell assembly. A kindergarten class performed a traditional Guatemalan dance and two of our students performed a song with fourth grade music students. As a token of their appreciation the school gave each of us an angel pen. After our final and tearful farewell, we took into account that statistically 1-2 students from each of our classes would attempt to migrate to the United States at some point in their lives. Once we returned to home base we had a delicious lunch of barbequed ribs, mashed potatoes, and watermelon.
After lunch, we embarked on an hour journey to Momostenango. There we had the opportunity to observe and learn from the family who owns and operates the family business of dying wool and making an array of rugs, blankets, clothes etc. We each had the opportunity to practice spinning thread and weaving parts of a blanket on a traditional wooden loom.
After a karaoke-filled van ride back to home base, we had time to rest before dinner. Since today was our friend Grace’s birthday, we had pizza from Domino’s and cake covered in chocolate and fruit. After dinner we had a surprise activity that turned out to be a piñata and dance party! Some of us thrived on the dance floor, while calmer souls went to their beds to read. Then we wrote this blog… it took us about 40 minutes and our international director Patrick is telling us to hurry up and sleep because of our volcano hike tomorrow, so bye!
Conley and Claire
Hi family & friends,
Today was our last full day in Xela! After waking up and eating a yummy French toast breakfast, we headed out for a strenuous volcano hike about an hour away from home base. It took us about 45 minutes to get to the top and there was a great view of Lake Chicabal from above. We hiked down a long flight of stairs that led to the lake and we took part in a traditional Mayan ceremony. Each student recognized their Nahual during the ceremony by placing two candles in the fire when the Shaman announced it.
After hiking back down the volcano, we headed back to home base where we rested and packed until dinner. After a delicious tamales dinner, we wrapped up the trip with our final group leadership activity. We were placed in 4 groups and each group had to create a proposal that would be funded to help improve some of the social issues in Guatemala. This allowed us to apply our knowledge and observations from the past two weeks in a fun and educational activity! We’ve had such a fun two weeks with lots of new experiences and are super excited for tomorrow in Antigua! See everybody soon!
Blog and photos by Lindsay and Caroline