Time Capsule Letter
It seems like just yesterday we were all together in Guatemala! It is wild to think how much time has already passed since we gazed into the flames during the Mayan Fire Ceremony. Or when you showed your skills with new moves on the Salsa dance floor. Your group brought a powerful dynamic which showed through tight friendships and a meaningful program in Guatemala.
Something I reflect on fondly is your stoke for the drives…bus rides became the heart of this trip, whether we were cruising the winding roads to Lago Atitlán or the route past the cemetery. Our weekend trip had many unforgettable experiences such as taking the boat past the towering volcanoes, learning about traditional medicine women, and our bonfire with marshmallows!
Let’s not forget market adventures- how great you became at bartering and the crystal trend that took our group by storm. I can still picture the mist moving across the sacred Lago Chicabal as we peacefully took in all the beauty. The days were long but the moments worthy.
We really felt the appreciation of the students during their welcome and goodbye ceremonies at the school! It was so impactful to see you change during your time at service. From owning your English classes, to practicing Spanish and playing with the kiddos!
Don’t forget those lessons the children taught you too. The children at the school will continue to learn lessons of curiosity, creativity, and knowledge wandering amongst your beautifully painted walls. Thank you for your hard work to complete all our service goals.
You were truly part of a group of leaders. Everyone showed personal growth throughout Mentor Group Discussions. This includes having some laughs as well as philosophical debates about truth, perception, and life experiences.
Despite coming from so many different backgrounds, your group really came together to hear out everyones side to a story. I feel like your understanding of perceptions became powerful. I hope you continue to apply those lessons.
I was really impressed when the group came up with the One Meaningful Goal (OMG) of ‘Purposeful Positivity’. This goal is so powerful because each person in the program had their personal plan for how they could apply themselves- whether for personal growth or within their community.
Do you remember what you felt compelled to apply yourself towards?? Well in case you forgot, I included our epic picture from the rooftop in Antigua set amongst the mountains and volcanoes.
GLA loves to hear about how you are BEING the CHANGE so please share your personal goals and initiatives. This summer will be unforgettable thanks to YOU and the positivity you brought to Guatemala!
Good Vibes Only,
Sheila, Javier, Joseph and the Guatemala Squad (Nayo 🙌)
Sunday July 21, 2019
Today we welcomed the first 13 students to Guatemala! After some long flights and airport pickups, we brought the students to lunch so that they could get to know each other. After that, we made our drive to our home base in Antigua, where we introduced the students to their home for the night. The group enjoyed a delicious dinner before walking back to the home base for lights out! Our last few students are not pictured due to late arrivals, but all students are here and we’re excited to get our adventure started!
Monday July 22, 2019
All the student arrived safely in Guatemala, the group is complete.
Today we visited a cooperative of local women who works to keep their traditions and share it with the word. Also, they did a demonstration of a Mayan wedding with the participation of some of the students.
After lunch, we had a tour at the Mayan Ruins of Iximche to learn more about Mayan culture and their calendar.
We are now in our home base in Quetzaltenango, ready to start our services!
Tuesday July 23, 2019
¡Hola! We started our day bright and early with breakfast at 7:30 AM. After breakfast, we went to an old GLA service site; we saw how GLA helps in the long-term. We then went to the school that we will be volunteering at. We were welcomed with a ceremony where all of children greeted us. We got to hang out with the children during recess and get an idea of what our service days will be like. On the daily, children participate in their own games of dancing, jump rope, soccer, and duck, duck, goose during recess and lunch. They’re very enthusiastic and many of our peers commented on how interested they were in learning the English language.
Later on in the day, we drove 45 minutes to San Andreas and ended up at a church. The church was unique because it was a reflection of dual religions of Christianity and Mayan culture coexisting peacefully within one another. Each statue of the church was relevant to this conjoining of beliefs, in which the right side of the church represented heaven in both Christian and Mayan culture and the left side represented hell.
After our tour of the church, we followed a tour guide who went by the name of Juan through the streets of San Andreas. Here, we took many pictures of the mountainous land and colorful houses surrounding us. Next, we stopped at a Doña Clementa, a Mayan woman’s house, where we saw her hand-weaving a shirt. It takes six months to weave a shirt, and each shirt costs about $400 USD. Eventually, we reached Juan’s house and were offered tea, hot chocolate, and sweet bread. The students ate in a dimly lit room brightened with laughter and joy. We discussed sports, and our favorite things, and after our discussions we were given the opportunity to buy Guatemalan hot chocolate, as well as hair clips and hand woven scarves and pouches.
After, we went home and ended the day with team bonding, dinner, and planning for tomorrow’s service in the school.
Wednesday July 24, 2019
Service work started at 8:30 am. When we first arrived at the school two groups began teaching their english classes while the other three began painting a classroom. The first two groups taught for 20 to 40 minutes. After the first groups finished teaching everyone enjoyed a 30 minute recess. After recess the other three groups taught their classes, and the remainder of students finished painting the classroom.
As a group, this afternoon we went to a chocolate demonstration and then followed up with a salsa lesson. When we arrived at the chocolate house, we had samples of the fresh chocolate with local fruits, absolutely delicious and everyone enjoyed it, enough for seconds and thirds. Doña, the leader of the chocolate company, spoke to the group about the development of the families business and history background.
The group had many questions which lead to a even more in depth conversation that showed the interest in Doña’s company. We took a quick ride to a salsa studio, where as a group we were shown basic dance moves, very entertaining to say the least. By the end we could form a whole dance, and nailed it.
Thursday July 25, 2019
In the morning, we hiked up a mountain to go zip lining. Our walk included: many bridges, plants, coffee beans, and amazing waterfalls. “Everyone was so nervous to zip….can’t you tell by the photos…” We had four sets of zip lines to zip through. Everyone was safe and had a blast.
In the afternoon we continued our service project by painting. The kids were not in school at that time, so all our focus was on painting. We completely finished painting two classrooms and started the other two classrooms. Overall today was a very exciting, fun day and we are thriving and can’t wait for the next couple of days.
Friday July 26, 2019
This morning we went to the school to teach classes and paint. We divided into groups to teach classes and taught our lesson plans about our respective subjects. While some groups were teaching, other groups helped paint classrooms and hallways in the school.
After service, we went back to home base for lunch and departed for Xela’s local cemetery. While at the cemetery we learned about the local myth of Vanuska. Vanuska is a statue in the cemetery dedicated to a girl who cried herself to death after losing her love. It is said that if you write your name and a lovers name on her statue and leave a rose, you will be together forever. We all had the opportunity to leave a rose and test our luck with the myth of Vanuska.
Next stop: Walmart, the adventure of a lifetime. Well, at least for 21 kids who haven’t eaten junk food in a week. We raided the aisles in groups of four, grabbing as many easy-mac-n-cheese cups and Cheetos as we could fit in our baskets. We then promptly ate half of our food on the drive home, but it’s safe to say we had a very successful trip.
After returning to home base, we listened to a speaker who was involved in the 37-year-long Guatemalan civil war. He shared with us his experience as a military officer while revolutionaries sought to spread communism to Guatemala and all of Central America. His speech was great to keep in mind as we later analyzed the dangers of a “single-story” mindset. We discussed ways to be proactive in changing the ways we view other people and places from the one stereotype we know about them (an example is the phrase, “there are starving kids in Africa”).
Today was a day of both learning and teaching, thinking about where we fit in the world, and having fun while doing it.
Saturday July 27, 2019
Today, our first activity was service at the school we are volunteering at, we were able to finish painting a total of four classrooms!
After cleaning up we had lunch and rested at our home base.
At 2:15 we took an hour car drive where we had the opportunity to learn more about the traditional way that the small community we visited weaves. Don Luis showed us his family business that has been in the family for five generations. They pride themselves on dying their wool with all natural dyes. It is a completely hand made process. Afterwords we were able to purchase some of the hand made carpets, jackets, bags, along with several other products.
We later went back to our home base and had delicious tamales, prepared by the staff working at our home base, which was a great way to end a great day!
Sunday July 28, 2019
Hola amigos y amigas!! Today started with a lengthy car ride, with lots of naps, to a huge market. Everyone made many fabulous purchases and practiced their bartering skills. Next we took pictures at a beautiful hotel garden filled with plants and parrots! We had an amazing lunch at the hotel, then hopped in the car for another long, nap filled ride. We made it to Antigua lake.
Everyone got settled into their hotel rooms and many of us took over the parking lot with a fun made up game. Our night ended with a delicious dinner and a bonfire. We were even surprised by Nayo with marshmallows to roast over the fire! After eating too many marshmallows, we burned off the calories with a dance party. After a long day of bonding and eating too many marshmallows, everyone went to bed with smiles on their faces ready for tomorrow’s adventures.
Monday July 29, 2019
Today after a long day shopping and chilling at the campfire yesterday, the group took a nice boat ride across the lake to San Juan. We went to see a traditional medicine cooperative. They practice herbal medicine and midwifery. Afterwards, the group did a little more shopping and met at a coffee place in San Juan for WiFi and coffee!
After the long trek home, we were so happy to get back to home base and relax. Service starts back again tomorrow and everyone is happy and satisfied with their purchases. We are wore out but happy and ready for the next adventure.
We began our day by packing the vans and heading up to the school for our second to last day of service and our last day of painting. It was incredibly rewarding to finally finish painting the classrooms. After painting our final classroom we were able to step back and reflect on the progress we had made throughout the week, and the benefits it would have for the children. Simultaneously we rotated through the classrooms teaching Engluish and interacting with the kids. Each group prepared a different lesson plan to teach. For example: colors, days of the week, body parts, etc. Although standing in front of twenty eleven year olds explaining how “green” is the same as “verde” required utter most patience, the kids smiles and excitement was worth every minute.
After service, we drove about an hour away from our Home-base at Xela to the workshop of Don Julio. Within the open-concept, clay-filled building was an eclectic collection of bowls, tiles, mugs, plates, and more. There, Don Julio sat upon his rustic potter’s wheel, one similar to that of Spanish – a fact of which he was very proud. He demonstrated the process by which plates, cups, and vases are meticulously handmade within his one-manned workshop. We all fell in love with Don Julio’s gleeful disposition and inherent charm, feel free to take the following group photo as evidence.