Thursday July 5, 2018
Hola from Antigua Guatemala! Yesterday our staff team spent the day receiving students at the airport in Guatemala City – we were excited to see students in blue shirts coming out ready to start their Guatemalan cultural adventure! Students on the earlier flights had a chance to try Pollo Campero – a famous Guatemalan chicken franchise – for lunch before heading to our hotel in Antigua for some icebreakers and R&R.
They later had dinner at Doña Luisa, a restaurant serving American and Guatemalan food in a refurbished colonial mansion. Students who flew in later grabbed dinner (also Pollo Campero – we’re keeping that place in business!) in the city before riding to Antigua and heading to bed. This morning we’ve just finished our breakfast and are off for a full day of travel and exploration. More updates to come soon!
Friday July 6, 2018
Hey everyone! It’s day 2 and we’re loving every minute. We started off the day in a beautiful indoor/outdoor hotel. We then headed down to San Antonio to learn about the unique cultural practice of weaving. The women of San Antonio explained to us how the unique process has become industrialized and demonstrated their continued efforts to conserve weaving by hand. We then watched as our fellow group-mates participated in a traditional wedding ceremony that was complete with woven gifts and dropping white flower petals on the couple to wish them a happy (pretend) marriage based on the traditional Mayan wedding ceremony. To conclude our visit, we all got to try forming and eating a tortilla.
From there, we took a quick roadtrip to the beautiful coffee plantation, Azotea. We were led through the steps of crafting artisinal Guatemalan coffee while surrounded by amazing natural sights. After a four hour roadtrip to Xela, we arrived at our Home Base for the trip! We all bonded during our first dinner as a whole group. We heard about everything planned for the rest of the trip, and everyone is so excited! It’s going to be a blast!
Madeleine & Olivia
Saturday July 7, 2018
DUCK! Don’t let the hanging plants touch you! Holding on in the back of an open-air truck, we make the trek to our first adventure of the day: Zip lining!
As we zoom among the treetops, we’re surrounded by the most expansive view of Guatemala we’ve seen so far. As we make our way through the nine lines, it’s easy to be distracted by the waterfall below us and steaming volcano above us when we should be preparing to stop. After a few rough landings, we got used to breaking and eventually made our way back to the Home Base.
Not nearly exhausted enough and taking full advantage of the beautiful weather, everyone decides to play soccer or start up a game of cards. This helped pass the time and bring us closer together as we waited for our guest speaker.
Arturo, our amazing guest speaker, shined a light on both past and present injustices in Guatemala’s society. From the sunlight of the late afternoon to the darkness of night, wee stayed fully engaged in the extensive information he presented to us. Thankful for his openness and ability to answer our questions, we headed in for a delicious dinner!
To broaden our understanding of this vibrant culture, we will now receive our nawals (Mentor Note: these are the Maya spiritual symbols/animal guides). These will be used tomorrow as we continue our journey! To find out about your nawal, visit http://mcd.gob.gt/calcular-nawal/.
Sarah & Sophie
Sunday July 8, 2018
Hola de Xela! Today was a very busy, but also a very exciting day. First off, we drove to Chikabal for an authentic Maya ceremony with a shaman. He spoke in Mayan dialect and led us through giving offerings to our Nawal spirits. We all found out our own Nawales based on our birth dates the night before. We even got to place candles into the fire as offerings when our specific Nawal was called. It was a a really once-in-a-lietime experience for all of us.
Ok, ok…now I have to back track. In order to get to the ceremony, we had to hike a dormant volcano. We split into two groups–fast and slow. Let’s just say everyone in the slow group was happy to be there. A lot of us weren’t used to hiking this steep, but we all pulled together and bonded an insane amount when finally reaching our destination. The views were amazing, and our constant dance parties and breaks on the hike were definitely highlights.
The way back down (about an hour each way) was insanely funny. We all kept laughing as we went down the steep path trying not to slip. When we made it back to the trucks, we were all happy and tired from our hike.
After lunch, we had about 3.5 hours to ourselves to rest. To sum it all up, we found our true laughs, played pickup games of soccer and handball, and basically just had a great time with each other. Next, we had a group discussion about safe and responsible travel. It was all about respecting the culture/people while making our hopefully long-lasting positive impact.
After an amazing dinner from our wonderful kitchen staff (of locals), we had our first mentor group meeting. There were three groups and we all had different activities to not only get to know each other, but what it meant to be leaders and more. Tomorrow is our first day of service with the kids and we all could not be more excited to meet them!
Monday July 9, 2018
Today was our first day of service! At the school, we watched an assembly that included dancing and fireworks. We then were part of a chaotic recess filled with games and piggyback rides. We spoke with kids from kindergarten to sixth grade. After our exciting half hour of introducing ourselves, we began our mural project. Some began to paint a classroom mural, and others scraped paint off of a wall outside.
When we returned from the school, we prepped for a mystery activity! We ended up at El Cementario General (general cemetery), and were told the story of Vanushka (Mentor Note: an old tale of a woman who died of a broken heart and gives blessings in areas of love for those who sign their name or give offerings at her grave). We broke into groups for a picture scavenger hung on our way to Central Park. After exploring, we took a break at a cafe for drinks. Then we took a brief walk through the second oldest church in Guatemala. When we returned to Home Base, we eagerly began planning our lessons for tomorrow’s visit to the school.
Tuesday July 10, 2018
Hola! It’s Carolina and Bella.
This morning, we had the most amazing breakfast burritos to start our day off right. We previously had been separated into two groups, one teaching in the morning, and one in the afternoon. The group who was not teaching English to the kids, assisted in preparing and painting the mural. At recess, the kids crowded around us with hugs and we gave them piggy-back rides. All of us really bonded throughout the day. We wrapped everything up, said our goodbyes and headed back to Home Base for a delicious lunch of chicken, rice, and watermelon.
Soon after, we went on a very informative and tasty chocolate factory tour. After everyone purchased some authentic Guatemala chocolate, we drove to a super cool and fun salsa class. There, we learned new dance steps which we practiced with partners. When we got home, we had some free time and took advantage by watching a movie as a group. Later, after dinner we wrapped up with mentor groups before bed.
Wednesday July 11, 2018
So…it’s been a week now!!! Today was our second day of teaching at the elementary school. Just like yesterday, we were split into two groups; thirteen people taught the kids while thirteen worked on the mural, and vice versa. The theme of the lessons today was art, so we taught the kids English and fine motor skills through different craft projects, such as fortune tellers and self-portraits. As for the murals, we started by grid ding in the places we are going to paint. Recess was crazy as always, and it was great to see the volunteers interact with the students.
In the afternoon, we experienced the more rural side of Guatemala in the village of Momostenango. We saw how the families handmade different items, from making and dyeing the thread to weaving the pieces into pants, blankets, and more. We also got to try delicious tortillas and tea!
Back at our Home Base, we had time to rest, socialize, and plan lessons for tomorrow. We ended our day in our mentor groups with compliments and leadership activities. It was such a fun day, and we can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!
-Katie D. and Stella
Thursday July 12, 2018
Today, we visited the school for the third time. We taught life skills in the classroom. Additionally, we worked on the murals and made great progress, but sadly it was the last day of teaching.
After we got back to the Home Base, we ate lunch and then went to the hot springs. We had an adventure getting stuck on a side road for half an hour (mentor note: due to road paving trucks passing by). When we got to the hot springs, we got in and hung out for a while. The ride back was not as bad as the ride there. We ate dinner and then watched a documentary on the Guatemalan civil war.
Friday July 13, 2018
Today, we went to the school and worked on the murals all morning and made lots of progress. It’s all finally coming together!! We all were very excited to go to Walmart this afternoon and stock up on snacks. Next, we went to the Mega Paca (pretty much Goodwill of Guatemala) and made some quality purchases.
Afterward, we had a speaker, who was a military fighter in the Guatemalan Civil War come talk to us about his experiences. For dinner, we got to enjoy Domino’s Pizza and then closed out the night with a dance party, so it was a pretty successful day, I’d say.
-by Katie H.
Saturday July 14, 2018
We started the day with a deliciously nutritious breakfast before embarking on our journey to Panajachel. Upon arrival, we were settled into our rooms and then went on a boat ride. The water and scenery were absolutely beautiful! We took the boat to two different places, one of which was famous for its pottery.
In the other town, some opted to hike and see the beautiful scenery while others . hose to wander the whimsical streets. After exploring the two towns, we headed back to Panajachel on the boat and some of us were lucky enough to have the boat splash water on us.
Once we returned, we did something called a privilege walk as a group activity. In this, we were asked questions that we either have to step forward or backwards for. Those at the front of the line are considered to experience more privileges in life. It was eye-opening to see the end results, and despite our backgrounds we can still come together as a group.
Next, we went into the town of Panajachel. We had the opportunity to wander around and buy stuff. Afterwards, we went to the top of a restaurant for sunset yoga. The yoga was very relaxing, and the french fries and guacamole certainly topped it off.
After this, we walked home for a team activity and then went to bed in the hotel for the night. Overall, it was an awesome day filled with activity and adventure. It’s hard to believe we’re near the end of the trip. Much love from Guatemala to all our families across the world and we will talk again tomorrow when we go to Chichicastenango!
Miss you mom and dad,
Lilly & Margo
Monday July 16, 2018
It all started with an early sunrise with 20 students going by the lake to paint. Everyone had to wake up before our departure time, which was 5:50am. We were all sleepy and tired. When we were at our destination, we used watercolors and markers. It was relaxing, calm, and beautiful to see the lake. At the end, we all appreciated each-other’s masterpieces. We were told that we had to walk from our destination to the hotel. So, everyone walked as fast as they could, tired and sleepy. We had to pack and get ready to go to Chichicastenango, which consisted of sleeping and singing on our way there.
We drove to Chichicastenango and were given time to explore the market. Here we were able to walk around the town and market, while checking the TVs from time to time for the World Cup final. In the market we were able to use our newly acquired bargaining skills to bring down the price of the souvenirs on sale. After the market, we had lunch at a hotel in the town and then departed back to Xela. There we played cards and soccer while waiting for dinner. After dinner we watched a very eye opening documentary about migrants from Mexico and Central America trying to make their way to the US.
–Julissa & Vid
Tuesday July 17, 2018
Hi everyone, today proved to be bittersweet as we finished up our last day of service and spent our last night in home base.
In the morning, we completed the five murals that we had been working on for about a week and played with the kids during our last recess. Later during the school day, the kids presented each member of our group with crafts and heartfelt goodbyes. It was definitely hard saying “hasta pronto” to the kids we had grown to love in such a short amount of time. There were more than a few tears and group hugs all around.
In the afternoon, we made an excursion to San Andrés, Xec’ul. A town about 40 minutes away from home base known for its blending of Mayan and Catholic customs. Our guide, Don Miguel, gave us a tour of the town, including a church from the 16th century, a site used for religious rituals, and a demonstration of traditional Mayan embroidery and clothes making. Don Miguel was very kind after a long tour around his home town and invited us for hot chocolate and shecas (a traditional bread in Guatemala)!
We started our night with packing and preparation to leave for Antigua the next day. Dinner was delicious as always thanks to our amazing kitchen staff Fide, Pati, Maria Luisa, Irma, and Hilda. Obviously our stay at homebase wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t celebrate our time in Xela with a bumpin’ dance party.
NOTE: Big thanks from the students to the amazing local staff that took care of us at homebase, Don René, Orlando, Fide, Pati, Maria Luisa, Irma, and Hilda. Also to the van staff for keeping us safe on some of the toughest roads we had been on, Chepito, Walter, and Nayo! We have so much love for you all.
Thank you Xela, you were good to us!
Aubri and Eva <3
To start, apologies for any teardrops on Tiffany’s keyboard that may disrupt the blog. Today was a day of goodbyes, starting with Home Base and all of the wonderful staff there. All of the meals they have cooked have been a saving grace for use (the energy difference before and after mealtime was consistently astounding).
After bidding Orlando and Princesa (the cat) adios and thanking them with a very American-accented gracias, we settled in with ur mentor groups for the final ride. Our four hours to Antigua were pleasantly interrupted twice with steps first at Iximche, a Mayan ruin, and then for lunch. our tour of the ruins was a welcome stroll for our cramped legs, which traced the footsteps of Mayan royalty as our eyes surveyed the 5 plazas of Iximche. Each one of us undoubtedly imagined it at its weight, a gem in one of the crowning civilizations of human history. Our second step was for a meal at the quaintest little place you could hope to imagine, a road-side restaurant complete with a picnic courtyard, a playground, and a rabbit arm. 33 satisfied students and staff later, we finished our trip.
In Antigua, we joined our mentor groups for the last afternoon, and our mentors took us to all their favorite restaurants, parks, and shops in Antigua. After meeting back up at the hotel, we ate an Italian dinner on a rooftop and said our final goodbyes, something we continued back at the hotel where we now sit, awaiting and dreading our departure tomorrow. We all feel a unique mix of emotions now, but one thing for certain is mutual. We will miss Guatemala and the people here. We have all become better people, and we could never hope to give back what we have gotten however hard we tried. Adios!