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 thoughtful 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 watching the sun set while contemplating big thoughts. Let’s not forget market adventures- how great you became at bartering and the poncho 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. And of course, all our dog friends from throughout the trip!
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 during the blind-fold obstacle course activity. 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) to ‘Apply Yourself’. 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!
Cheers to one more spoonful of Pepto,
Sheila, Javier and the Guatemala Squad
P.S. Are you a ninja or a raccoon?
Friday July 5, 2019
The students arrived safely in Guatemala through the day. They meet at the Hotel in Antigua and we took dinner at a local restaurant. We are waiting for 4 students more (Vivian, Carolina C, Shalini and Antonio) who will arrive later tonight. Everybody is excited to meet them and start the activities tomorrow.
Saturday July 6, 2019
The last students arrived safely last night and, this morning we took our way to the home base in Quetzaltenango (Xela). On the way, we stopped in cooperative of Mayan women who showed the group how is a traditional Mayan wedding.
After lunch, we visited the Mayan ruins of Iximche and we had the chance to learn about how was the lifestyle in their old days.
Now we are in Quetzaltenango, getting ready for our next day and having some rest.
Sunday July 7, 2019
Today, Sunday the 7th we went on an adventure through the mountains of Xela. We arrived at Retaluleu, a zip lining site with beautiful views, and started our course consisting of 11 zips. One of which was over a beautiful waterfall!! After our zip lining journey we headed back to our home base to eat lunch.
In the afternoon we drove to a local plaza which is a place where many people sell their works of art such as colorful tapestries and jewelry. After looking around the colorful plaza we were given a special treat of going to an ice cream place where we were able to have traditional Guatemalan ice cream. Today was a fun day with lots of adventure and color!
Monday July 8, 2019
Today we visited one of the schools that GLA has worked with here in Guatemala. It was so cool to see how GLA affected the school and we could picture how our work will affect others in years to come! Then we went to the school we will be working with. We arrived at recess and got to play with kids of all ages and practice our spanish. After recess we began work and started to clean the walls we will paint. We scrubbed the dirt off the walls and prepped it for painting.
After lunch we drove to the town of San Andres. We explored the town and walked up the steep hills. We visited the home of a local mayan woman who showed us her embroidery. Then we visited the home of our tour guide where we had traditional Guatemalan hot chocolate and bread as a snack. We took incredible pictures of the mountains, church, and the many local dogs in San Andres! The day was so fun and we got a real taste of how mayan culture is preserved in Guatemala. Now we are planning and preparing our English lessons for tomorrow to teach to the children! We can’t wait to start painting and teaching tomorrow.
Tuesday July 9, 2019
Today we went to the school we have been working with. We split into 4 different groups and taught 4 different English lessons to different age groups in the school. We taught the children how to say the different farm animals in English, as well as colors, body parts, days of the week, and the months. While groups were teaching, the others would be painting the walls of the school in colors of yellow and blue. During recess we had fun playing with the children and practicing our Spanish while getting to know them!
In the afternoon we went to visit the Quetzaltenango general cemetery. We were taught the story of the gypsy Vanushka. The legend says that if you lay a rose on her grave, she will bring you love. We all had fun placing our roses on her grave. We walked through the cemetery and saw one of the Presidents of Guatemala’s grave. After we visited the cemetery, we went to Walmart to stock up on necessities like all the snacks we’ve missed. In the evening at home base we had a guest speaker from the Civil War come and talk to us about the history of Guatemala and the Civil War. After dinner at home base we had a game night where we all hung out outside playing games with each other. The day was full of activities and bonding and we are ready for tomorrow.
Wednesday July 10, 2019
Today we went back to the school and we all began the day by continuing to paint the walls we started yesterday. Two groups went at the same time to teach colors, days of the week, months, and body parts in english to a different class in the same grade level as the first day.
Two groups taught in the morning and the other two later in the afternoon. While groups were teaching the other two groups continued painting the walls. We finished second coats of the first walls we painted and later moved on to new walls in the hope of painting the entire inside of the school by Friday. During recess everyone enjoyed playing with the kids and getting to know their stories. People played soccer, games in spanish, and used their spanish to try and make conversation and connections.
In the afternoon, we visited a local chocolate business and learned the history of chocolate making in Guatemala. We had the opportunity to sample the chocolate and traditional mayan hot chocolate drinks. After this we went to a salsa dancing class where we leaned to salsa dance from a local dance instructor. Overall, today was another inspiring and educational day at the school followed by a exciting afternoon.
Thursday July 11, 2019
Today we continued our service project at “Inter Vida”, a school GLA has been working with for many years. We painted the exterior of the building with vibrant blues and yellow and managed to restore the beauty to the school’s building for the awesome students there! All the volunteers had an opportunity to conduct a lesson with the students and enjoy recess with them in between.
After our long morning of service, we headed to a weaving factory where we got to explore awesome tapestry and purchase some cool blankets, sweaters, and bracelets. We met the talented Don Luis and his family at his factory and he showed us how he dyed wool. We also got to enjoy some tasty tortillas and tea at his home! Today was full of fun and adventure. Can’t wait to see what awaits tomorrow!
Friday July 12, 2019
Today, after a delicious breakfast of pancakes, we headed out to service to continue painting. The kids had the day off from school, so we painted the entire morning and made a lot of progress! We’ll finish up at our last day of service on Monday.
After lunch and a break at home base, we drove for an hour to beautiful hot springs in the mountains. We spent a couple hours there laughing, talking, and swimming. Unfortunately, it started raining while we were there, but it was still very enjoyable for all. The day ended with a fun game night with the whole group. It was another successful, amazing day in Guatemala!
Today we started off with an awesome hour long car ride to lake Atitlan that was filled with spectacular views. We hit the hotel we’d be staying in first and then afterward we walked around to a dock to board a boat that would take us across the lake to the town of San Juan. In San Juan we primarily went and learned more about herbs and their medicinal uses from comadronas or midwives. These women were a group that tended to pregnant and birthing mothers using herbal medicine.
After that we went across to the shops to look around for nicknacks and things to get as souvenirs and memories for ourselves and our families. After spending time in this town, we scurried back onto the boat and left. A gorgeous day on a beautiful lake with “smooth sailing” (it was actually exciting and a fun ride:). After we got back to shore we went back to our hotel for our break/lunch and then went back out to go and take a walk a little ways around the lake.
During this part of the day we reflected on what we had learned so far in the trip about what the people around us valued and looked more into what we valued. We wrote these thoughts in our journals while the sun went down and that was the end to our day. We went back to our hotel and bedded down for the night. Apparently some ghosts stories were told but that’s for them to talk about.
Sunday July 14, 2019
Today we got to go to the city of Chichicastenango, which has the largest open air market in the area. We learned safety precautions and how to barter, which helped us understand the culture of the market and of the city. We all got to purchase souvenirs and stuff for our families, and we got to have a super delicious lunch at a local hotel.
After that, we came back to home base and played some games as a group. We did an obstacle course where one person who was blindfolded had to be guided through a course by other team members, who had to work together to tell the blindfolded person what to do.
After dinner we did a discussion about our beliefs and stood in a section that described how we felt about that belief. This helped us learn to understand others’ opinions and know why they thought that way. I thought this was a super cool chance to see things from other people’s perspectives and go into the next day’s activities with a more open mind.
Tuesday July 16, 2019
On our 12th day, we began with an adventurous hike up to Lago Chicaval. The hike was about 3 miles in total; 1.5 miles up to the lake, and 1.5 miles back down the hill. The way up was a lot steeper than expected, but we all made it! Once we reached the beautiful viewpoint of the lake, we had to make our way down to the water. This included 670 wooden steps! As we walked down, we could see the fog over the water, and we all took in the view. At the lake, we all enjoyed some snacks, took photos, and a few honored lost or important family members, as this lake is sacred in the Mayan community.
After we hiked to the lake, we drove back to home base and watched the movie The Maze Runner in the living room and ate some popcorn. Once the movie was finished, one of our drivers, Nayo, told us his amazing and inspirational life story. Later during our last mentor group, we discussed Nayo’s story and how we will use the lessons he taught is in our day to day lives back in the US. We are very grateful for this story, because it provided perspective and motivation to pursue our goals in the near future.