July 6, 2017
Blog by Molly Ellner
My flight from Atlanta arrived around 12:00 pm. I was the first one off of the plane and I waited outside of customs to group together the rest of the GLA kids from my flight. We all got to know each other during the long wait going through customs. I felt like going through this foreign airport together really built some close friendships between people on the trip. After grouping together and meeting up with everyone else at the hotel we all made our way to the rooftop. It was an amazing view and sharing this with everyone together made it that more special. We listened to music, did some icebreakers, and watched the sunset. Soon after it got dark we stayed on the roof and saw fireworks. It was really cool! Around 8:00 pm we walked a few blocks to go to dinner. Walking into the restaurant smelled like fresh bakery which is the best. We all sat around a huge table and ate and talked for a while. We were all so exhausted so we were happy to make our way back to the hotel to go to bed. Overall today was really amazing. I’m looking forward to the adventures to come and the friendships to be made.
– Molly Ellner
(Not included in the photo and arriving tonight or tomorrow: Emma M, Mizuki I, Esmeralda G, Jewel M, Maria T, Nicholas B, Maria M, Chandni S, Kaitlyn R)
July 7, 2017
Today, we had a breakfast of beans, eggs, and fried plantains on the roof of our hotel in Antigua. We played a game of get-to-know-you bingo before loading the vans and departing for a Mayan wedding demonstration. After watching a Mayan woman describe the traditional weaving techniques, Diego gave it a try. We experienced a traditional wedding ceremony firsthand, where Molly “married” Sam, and Emma and Greg watched over as the parents-in-law. When the “wedding” was over, everyone got a chance to cook tortillas, try handmade bread, and buy different Mayan crafts.
From the wedding, we took the GLA vans to a coffee farm, where we were led through the coffee-making process and walked through a museum describing Mayan culture. At the end of the tour, we had an opportunity to try medium-roasted coffee and buy coffee and chocolate to take home for our family and friends. We drove to lunch and met up with a group of students that had just arrived from a delayed flight. For dessert we had ice cream, and then got back in the vans for a four-hour ride to our Home Base. We stopped half-way through the ride at a gas station, where we all stocked up on “American” food (chips, candy, and Gatorade) and struggled to conserve our limited supply of toilet paper.When we arrived at the Home Base, it was raining, and we all went inside to unpack and rest. We ate a dinner of tamalitos and went over house rules. Now, we’re all preparing for bed and tomorrow’s a new adventure.
July 8, 2017
Blog by Mizuki
Today, we had a rather adventurous day where we enjoyed a nice zipline through the jungle. Although many of us were nervous at the beginning, we all ended up having a great time. The view whilst we were ziplining was absolutely mesmerizing and a great experience overall. Even during the short moments where we were waiting, it allowed us to bond with one another and learn more about each other’s lives. On the other hand, despite being told to spray bug repellent and to cover up the ankles, I decided to see what would happen out of mere curiosity. Unfortunately, my curiosity got the best of me and my bug-covered legs proved the legitimacy of the mentor’s recommendations…
After ziplining, we came back to home base and ate a lunch which consisted of rice, corn, and other miscellaneous foods. The food was great and it was nice to have the rice although the bean paste has been an exotic food to taste. In addition to this, we went to the school in the afternoon and were introduced to the gist of what we would be teaching at the school. The introduction gave us a nice opportunity to not only see the place where we would be for the next two weeks but it portrayed a vast difference between the two worlds in which we are used to and the life in Guatemala.
Despite living in this home base for only a day, we are already becoming a close-knit community and creating countless memories. Hopefully we will continue to create these connections with one another and cherish the memories from this 2 week experience.
Blog by Molly Ellner
We all left Saturday morning to explore the huge market called Chichicastenango. We all split into our small groups and went into the overwhelming market filled with tourists, venders, and locals. A little girl, named Marta, followed my group around the market for what seemed to be hours. She was probably around 10 years old and was trying to sell products to support her family’s business. I have never met such an amazing saleswoman. She managed to get money out of all of us! As time went by we all learned how to barter our way to receive the prices and products we wanted. It was an awesome way to practice my Spanish as well. After spending a few hours shopping and touring the market we all grouped together and ate lunch at a hotel next to the market. We all shared our stories and showed each other all the cool things we bought. After lunch we took a short bus ride to Panajacahel, where we spent the night. The hotel was beautiful and the views of the mountains and lake were insane. The most eventful part of my night was having to trap/kill a cockroach before going to bed. One of my friends was awesome and went full on “Hulk” to kill the bug. Afterwards we calmed down and went to bed shortly after. The next morning we had breakfast then got ready for our boat ride on Lake Atitlan. The boat ride was amazing. The water was so clear and the scenery was beautiful. We stopped at San Juan and walked around the area. They had many shops there but had a completely different vibe than Chichicastenango. The vendors talked to us and told us their stories which I really liked. I walked around and bought many things for my family and friends. Some friends and I walked to the top of the hilly road and found this beautiful church overlooking the lake. It was so pretty and different than other churches I’ve seen. (Which isn’t many because I’m Jewish, but still it was cool). The boat ride back was so bumpy but also super fun. After going back we left to go to another market in Panajacahel. We walked around and me and my “husband” (from the first blog) got matching turtle henna tattoos. Don’t worry mom, henna is temporary. Right after, we went to the vans and drove back to the home base. After we got settled in, ate dinner, and watched the movie Ted, I led a workshop for everyone to get to know each other better. I felt like everyone enjoyed talking and sharing. It felt like as a whole group we all connected and formed a stronger bond. Now everyone is settling down and getting ready for bed.
Blog by Molly Ellner
Today was the first day we got to go to the school and start our service work. We walked through the school gates into the courtyard and were greeted by many students of all ages. Some of the kids ran up to us and gave us hugs. We went around meeting the kids who were outside. Some of us went to play soccer or basketball while others talked to the kids and tried getting to know them. Once school started we spilt into our three groups, teaching, painting, and construction. I was in the teaching group today. My group walked into our classroom thinking that we had everything planned out but it was initially crazy. The teacher wasn’t there and the class was very loud and distracted. It took a while to get everyone settled down and to listen to the lesson we were teaching. But once we got the hang of it, it was so much fun. The kids seemed to really understand what we were teaching which made my group feel accomplished. After our first class we went to recess. Children excitedly ran to all of the volunteers ready to play. A group of five year old girls crowded me and my friend Jazmin. They all wanted to be picked up and go on our backs. We raced and played games with the kids for a long time. After recess we taught another class with different students. This class was so perfect. They were more engaged and participated during the entire lesson. We all left to go to a chocolate workshop after leaving the school. We ate and drank the samples they gave us. It was a really cool and tasty experience. We were supposed to go to a salsa dancing class after but that got rescheduled so we ended up going to a mall. We spent a couple hours walking around and exploring the different stores. Me and some other girls went to a 5D movie. Other people ate and shopped at the mall. Not much went on there. After, we all went back to the home base and cleaned up for dinner. Then we planned our lessons for tomorrow’s class lessons.
July 13th, 2017
Blog by Megan R
We started off the day with a breakfast of french toast and fruit. I think that most of us have been hoping for some food that is more common in the United States, so french toast was perfect. After breakfast, we headed over to the school to continue our service projects. Some of us continued to paint and plaster while others went on to teach English to a few of the classes. I was in one of the teaching groups. As a member of this group, I helped to teach three classes. The first class was composed of younger students. We went over colors, fruits, and numbers with them for fifteen minutes. My group then proceeded to teach one of the classes that we have been regularly teaching for the past three days. In this class, we reviewed previously taught material with a game of human bingo that we all created the night before. The end of this class marked the beginning of recess. At recess, we all stopped plastering, painting, and teaching to play with the students. Recess usually consists of carrying the kids around, giving them piggyback rides, and playing tag. After recess, we all continued our service projects. For my group, this meant teaching our second regular class of the day. Once the class was over and everyone had wrapped up their service projects for the day, we all headed back to home base for lunch. Lunch included a beef and lentil stew, rice, and fruit. After a delicious lunch, we proceeded to the town of San Andres. While touring the town, we had the opportunity to see a church that exercises a combination of the Mayan and Catholic religions. We also had the chance to see a Mayan shrine, the outdoor facilities where the townspeople are able to do their laundry, a person performing a traditional dance, and the home of the tour guide. At the tour guide’s house, we were offered drinking chocolate and bread, both of which were delicious. Once the tour was over, we returned to home base to listen to a veteran of the Guatemalan armed forces. Through his talk, we were able to gain a new and different perspective on the political and military history of Guatemala, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The talk was extremely informative and interesting. Once the talk was over, we ate dinner, which consisted of chicken wings, coleslaw, and jello. We then proceeded outside for reflection. At reflection, we were told to take notes as an article was read aloud to us. It was revealed at the end that the article was about American culture and some of its customs. However, the language in which the article was written had completely altered our perspective of the culture being described to us. We then mimicked the language used in the article to describe American customs of our choice. This activity helped us to fully understand the impact of language and diction and served to enrich the idea that a single story can greatly affect the opinions that people gain of a culture. Once reflection was over, we called it a day and went to bed. We can’t wait for the adventures that lie ahead!
July 14th, 2017
By: Liam Kingsbury
Today was our last day with the kids at the school, and the final day of us teaching them. The service was just like the other days, and those of us who were teachers wrapped up our lessons with the students. Since it was our last recess with the kids it was the craziest and we made the most out of it. As the school day started to wind down, the students started to set up a farewell ceremony for us. The students did cultural dances for us and then gifted us handmade dolls with the words ‘thank you’ written on them. The farewell was a very emotional time for all of us because we were saying goodbye to these kids that we had bonded with for 5 days. We knew that even if we never saw them again, they would go on to do good things in their lives because of our positive impact on them. After the school we ate lunch and went to a marimba workshop where we watched a teacher and his students play an array of pieces from cultural Guatemalan songs, to a song by Paul McCartney. Then 8 of us were invited up to practice and play a riff from the song Heart and Soul. They then invited up 8 more of us and we had to teach the rhythm to each other. After Marimba, we headed to a salsa class. The salsa workshop was fun whether or not you could dance. We had an instructor teaching us step by step different moves for the salsa. There were some naturals on the dance floor like Diego, CiCi, and Patricia. And some that couldn’t dance like me, but it was a fun time overall. Shout out to Talia for being my dance partner. After salsa we visited the 8th wonder of the world once again, Walmart. At Walmart everyone stuffed their bags with snacks for the remaining days and the plane rides home. We also got food and ice cream at McDonalds and other fast food restaurants in the mall. After an hour in the mall we headed home for dinner which was tacos. Even with everyone eating at McDonalds, we still had room for tacos. After dinner, just like the night before, we had a speaker talk to us. It was another veteran of the war but instead of being a soldier for Guatemala, this man was a Guerilla. He talked to us about his experiences in the war and what we heard was very different from the soldier. But, unlike the soldier, this Guerilla had proof and documents to back up the tragedies that he told us the Guatemalan Army committed. After the speaker finished we reflected on what he said and ultimately passed out in our beds that night.
July 15th, 2017
By Talia Helmus
We started the day by sleeping in an extra hour, something we were all very thankful for. After a breakfast of french toast and fruit we went back to the school to paint. By breaking into groups we were able to start painting the stairs, desks, repainting hopscotch, fixing other designs on the blacktop, and plastering. Our final goal for painting is creating the multiplication and division tables on the stairs so the students can practice at recess. We left the school and returned to home base to a wonderfully prepared lunch by the kitchen staff of carne asada and potatoes. Then we went to a nearby cafe called La Red Kat. A man named William gave us a very inspirational speech on immigration and balancing our lives. He explained how forgetting time and living by the light and moon is his key to happiness. William also explained certain parts of his Mayan culture and the numerous murals that covered the walls of his business. It was all eye opening and gave us a new perspective on living as an individual while still understanding your roots. William also touched upon the importance of living in the present and not overusing technology. After the talk we were given the option to stay at home or go to a local circus. I chose to go to the circus and it was especially entertaining because none of us understood what was going on. We all agreed it was the best 10 Qs we ever spent. The people that stayed home watched movies and ate Mcflurries. We all had empanadas and flan for dinner.
July 16th, 2017
By Jazmin Bender and Nikki Macolino
We started the day off at the school getting very “handsey” (refer to the picture) in the hot sun, painting handprints, flowers and finishing up the work we had started on Saturday. Scrubbing down the desks with sand paper and washing the paint brushes, our last day of community service was a bonding experience. It was sad leaving the school knowing we would not be able to come back and see the reactions of our students. But after we finished we returned back to the home base for lunch. After lunch we headed out to Momostenango where we went to a weaver’s house. To get to the house, we had to walk down a steep, narrow steps. When we reached the bottom, we walked into an open room filled with different color wool and huge machines that are used to transform the wool into unique textiles. The weaver explained to us how weaving has been in his family for 5 generations and how everyone in his family participates. He also showed us how the machines work and gave us the opportunity to try it out for ourselves. We learned that insects, rocks, and a variety of different plants and berries are used to dye the strands of wools. After learning all about his handmade textiles we were able to buy them. Along with buying their products, we were able to go into their kitchen and eat a homemade tortilla to which we could add salsa, guacamole, beans, and cheese. Once we were all done shopping and eating we headed back up to the vans. But let us tell you something about this walk up. It was longest 5 minutes of our lives. It was very steep and we aren’t sure how our hike up the volcano tomorrow is going to be (Stay Tuned). But after the long ride home we all gathered together and reflected on our trip so far and how it has impacted us all.
July 17th, 2017
Blog by Emma
The day started off with a nice scenic drive through the Mountainous views of Guatemala to a dormant volcano where we would later sacrifice our lungs and legs to get to the top. We reached our destination at promptly 9:00 AM. This day was unlike any other because of the fact that we met up with the other group attending the GLA service trip in Guatemala. It was quite the experience meeting all the other kids within the other session and see how they interacted with each other on the trip versus how we interact with each other and seeing new faces in general. The hike was quite the climb but the view was great. Once we got down to the lagoon in the volcano we were able to open up our snack packs that our mentors had given us for the hike. Inside were many wondrous things such as some frito type chips, an apple, and some granola cookies. The lagoon was a sacred Mayan place where rituals and ceremonies are performed. We got to witness one of the ceremonies and contribute to it. We were able to make a prayer or wish while placing a candle into the “fire of desire” as I like to call it. It was really interesting to actually be able to sit and see one of the ceremonies instead of just seeing an alter. After the treacherous hike back which several of us almost perished on (because of the rain and mud mix) we went back to the vans to head to home base. Later on in the night we had a reflection on our time here and what it meant to be on a service learning trip. We watched a video in which several people’s differing opinions on service learning trips were shared. Its interesting to hear both sides and all the different opinions on whether or not service learning trips are important. I believe it’s important to go abroad and serve even if what comes of the trip is your acknowledgement of our privilege in America. After our reflection some of the girls put together a “last night at home base” talent show. It’s very bittersweet knowing this is our last night here and the talent show was a perfect way to end this unforgettable trip. Thank you to everyone for all the memories, I am excited to see how many more we’re able to make in the very last days.