Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Session 1 was a blast. The students were all very engaged and just really got along with each other. The most memorable moments were when the students were hanging out with the home base staff. They were constantly asking questions about everything and everyone. I think one of our best moments for the session was when Don Arturo spoke, and our student Ben stayed with him after his talk and continued to ask him questions over dinner and long thereafter. I actually had to tell Ben he had to wrap up his conversation with him because it was late and Don Arturo had to go home. His response was, “But they don’t teach us this stuff in school.”
Service included creating a curriculum from scratch on teaching English language classes to 5th graders as Escuela Pacajal. This session also was fast working at setting the foundation for the classroom construction project. We had volcano eruptions but we did amazing work. The mural was also measured and draw out leaving a strong base for the sessions to follow.
Summer Blog Posts
All students have arrived safely! Everyone is excited and ready for all upcoming activities.
As our adventure began this past Sunday we had the feeling that we truly had an incredible group of students with us. Their energy and willingness to engage has been apparent from day one. Their flexibility has as well.
Monday was our first true day as a group. We learned early that morning that there would be peaceful protest on the main highway from Guatemala City to our home Base in Xela. Some of the local communities had gather to bring awareness to a birth certificate tax that the government had recently made official. We went had our traditional mornings activities in a small Mayan community where the students were able to participate in a wedding, laugh at each other and just generally get to break the ice.
From there we had to change plans and move our lunch back to Antigua. We also spent the rest of the morning touring a coffee plantation. Again this was met with wonderful flexibility on the part of our students. We left Antigua after lunch and had to wait a brief period while the protests were disbanding and the traffic on the way to our home base began to move. The students shared music and stories while we made our trek home. Our students had a late dinner.
Tuesday we started our community service project. The our students spent the morning getting a tour of our school and going into all of the classrooms and saying hello to all the students. Then they participated in the crazy adventure which is recess. Our 9 students played with over 500 elementary schoolers. Piggyback rides, jump rope and soccer were a must.
In the afternoon we visited family in the hills just outside of Xela. Where the students learned how to make wool into yarn and corn masa into tortillas.
That evening they told stories about themselves and connecting with each other on a deeper level. Our stories are what connect us someone once said and this group has bonded really well over these last few days.
This morning (Wednesday) some of us work up early (530 am) and went for a run. We ran a mile to the public stadium and back.
At 7:45 am during breakfast we experienced our first earthquake of the season with GLA. We had already gone over our safety plan with our students on our first night at the home base and everyone quickly moved to the garden outside of the main house. Though not before one of our boys grabbed a breakfast burrito on the way out the door, “I might get hungry,” he said. Our students like everything else on this trip reacted very positively. We spent the next 10 minutes in the garden where they all talked about how “fun” and “cool” it was that they had “lived through” an earthquake. We all went back inside and finished breakfast and prepared to go to our service site. Again back at the school they went right into the classrooms to continue a project we had previously started, which involved getting each class to make drawing about what they thought about the importance of water. Again we had recess and it was a blast! Everyone is full of smiles, laughter and stories and can’t seem to get enough of their time with the kids.
All is well in Guatemala,
June 15, 2016
In the afternoons, we have been participating in daily excursions. Today we jumped in our bus and headed to the town of San Andres Xecul. Xecul means “under the mountains” in K’iche, and our group headed up steep hills throughout the town. We took a tour and our guide showed us all the unique places of the town. We visited an ancient church, which combined Mayan cultures and Christianity; we continued further into the city and arrived at the town pila. A pila is where the community comes to wash their clothes and get water. The pila is one of the only places to get water and has running water only from 3AM to 7AM. After that, we hiked to a Mayan altar where it is tradition for Mayans to initiate their priesthood. This was the highest point of our hike, and we had a spectacular view of San Andres Xecul. After stopping for a group photo, we headed down to the house of a local elder who is famous for her embroidery of huipiles, traditional blouses. She gave us a quick embroidery lesson, and then we headed off to our guide’s house to finish our tour. We were welcomed with delicious hot chocolate and traditional Mayan sweet bread because in Guatemalan culture, it is customary to offer food to your guests. After packing up loaded with hot chocolate bars, we trekked back down the hill to our bus, tired but satisfied.
Tomorrow we will return to the school and help out with their field trip where we will plant trees alongside the children.
– Akshara, Cody, & Emma
Students watch and take turns stitching as Dona Lupe sews a beautiful huipil, a traditional hand sewn blouse. She is a third generation embroider. A huipil costs about $400 U.S. Dollars. It can take up to 6 months to finish a huipil.
June 16, 2016
Once again, we had an early start, and, after a quick breakfast, we headed over to open fields to plant trees with the school. The fields were owned by a senior home that is run by nuns. After planting a few trees, we returned to the school to help out. Since this was their last day before a two week break, the school celebrated with a small ceremony in which they performed a traditional dance and had speeches from teachers and students. At the end of the ceremony, we were recognized for our help with a certificate and a handmade doll.
For our afternoon excursion, we headed to Totonicapan. There, we visited the home and shop of a local potter, Don Julio, who shared his experiences. He was an elementary school teacher for 20 years and then retired to continue pottery work. He has been working pottery since 1985.He related to us the disinterest for his craft in the Guatemalan community, and he mentioned how children in the area aren’t interested in learning or continuing the tradition. Afterward, he allowed us to try our hand at pottery. Early on, many of us figured out that it was not as easy as he made it look. This experience helped us gain an appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into the pottery-making process.
Tomorrow, we will continue our service work at the school by beginning the mural and the construction of a 5th grade classroom.
Group photo planting trees
The group tries the craft of pottery at Don Julio’s shop.
Posing for a picture at the potter’s workshop with Nayo, GLA Guatemala local staff.
One of the “arbolitos” or “tiny trees” that the students planted
June 17, 2016
Early morning run team left the house at 5:45AM. Smiles and good times were had by all! #noexcuses
June 17, 2016
Students at the school after an eruption of the volcano Santiaguito
Students learning how to construct the first wall of the classroom
Enjoying a chocolate and strawberry drink at Doña Pancha’s chocolate workshop
Students getting chocolate from the chocolate fountain
Since the students were out of school today for Father’s Day, we were able to get a quick start on our two summer projects. The first is the construction of a fifth grade classroom on the second floor of the school. GLA has been constructing classrooms at the school since 2010. Today, we began by clearing the foundation and stacking bricks to form the outside wall. The second project is a large mural that extends across the length of the basketball court. The theme of the mural is water so we had been collecting drawings and ideas from students throughout the week. Our work today included making a grid across the mural wall to help with further planning. While we were working, the volcano Santiaguito, 50 km from the school, erupted, forming a giant cloud of smoke. We momentarily stopped work to take pictures as it was the first volcanic eruption that many of us had seen. (We were a safe distance away, and it was not a concern to our safety.)
After lunch, we went to a chocolate workshop owned by a fifth generation chocolatier, Doña Pancha. At the workshop, we got to try natural chocolate from a chocolate fountain and a chocolate strawberry drink. At the same time, she gave us a summary of the history of chocolate and how it had been passed down through her culture and from her Mayan ancestry. In the end, we had the chance to buy some of the chocolate that is made at her shop.
After spending a couple of hours in a local mall, we headed back to home base to listen to a lecture by Don Arturo. Don Arturo spoke of the history of Guatemala and the US involvement in its history and civil war. Through his lecture, we were able to understand one cause of the poverty we have come to see in Guatemala over this past week.
Tomorrow, we will head out on an excursion for the weekend to Lake Atitlan in Panajachel, taking a break from our service. The blog will not be updated for those days so stay tuned for an update after that.
by Akshara, Cody, & Emma
Authors: Cody and Haley
This weekend, while on a two day excursion to Lake Atitlan, Panajachel we visited craft markets in the town of San Juan and Atitlan by taking a boat. We stayed at the hotel Paradise Inn right on the beautiful lake. After a day of shopping and boat rides from market to market we went back to our rooms with amazingly soft beds until it was time to drive to our next destination, Chichicastinango, the biggest craft market in this hemisphere.
Boat ride to San Juan on Lake Atitlan
Group photo at the Mirador of Lake Atitlan, Panajachel
Parrots in Chichicastenango
Upon arrival we talked to parrots at the hotel that would be our temporary home base until it was time to venture out onto the streets. The market was filled with people of all ages trying to sell us things. It was a beautiful, colorful, and almost overwhelming place. After the market we ate our lunch then began our journey back to home base.
Today we continued with our service project. After lunch we also went to the bakery, XelaPan, two coffee shops in Historic Downtown Xela, and a bookstore. On our way home we stopped to get pupusas, a Salvadorian food that is a corn tortilla stuffed with cheese and beans.
Once we returned home we ate the dinner prepared for us even though most were stuffed with fresh bread and pupusas.
Mochaccino at Cafe Armonia
Pupusas in the making
June 22, 2016
Loud blasts of fireworks woke us up at 7 this morning for fellow GLA-er Audrey’s birthday. After wishing her a happy birthday and getting over the initial chaos, the day continued as usual; we headed up to the school to wrap up whatever we could on our service projects. The construction group continued adding cinder blocks and concrete to the walls, and the mural group began adding color to the outline. Both groups took a short break to have ice cream, tortrix, and play a friendly game of soccer. Once we had finished up, we cleaned out our equipment and said our final goodbyes to the school, taking pictures and expressing that we would love to come back some day.
Mural group after last day of work
Construction group after last day of work
Gathered at the school for the last time
Learning how to play the marimba / xylophone
Students learn how to salsa dance step-by-step
Students take turns taking swinging at the piñata for Audrey’s birthday.
Students at a local bowling alley
June 23, 2016
Our morning started out 30 minutes earlier today as we began the hour long drive to the town of San Martin Sacatepéquez and Volcán Chikabal to go for a hike. From the base of the volcano, we stuffed into an open-roofed truck and took a bumpy uphill drive to the start of the trail. Soon after, we began hiking up the side of the volcano, taking breaks as needed. It was a challenging trek, but we soon made it to the lookout about a mile and 50 minutes later. From there, we had a beautiful view of Laguna Chikabal, a crater lake located at the center of Volcán Chikabal. Once we had finished taking pictures, we descended a separate trail which consisted of over 600 stairs. At the bottom, we were at the shore of Laguna Chikabal, which was enveloped in a thick layer of fog. We walked around the outside of the lake until we arrived at where our shaman Don Santo was setting up for our ceremony. The ceremony was complicated and each separate piece symbolized a different element of nature that was important to the Mayan people. During the ceremony, we were encouraged to take pictures and give white candles as an offering in exchange for something that we needed in our lives. In the end, we asked any lingering questions to the shaman and returned back up another slippery trail to the lookout and back to the base of the volcano.
Hiking up to Laguna Chikabal
View from the top of Volcán Chikabal
Students gathered next to Laguna Chikabal before the ceremony
Students offered white candles during the ceremony
“El Torito”, the vehicle that took us back to and from the base of the volcano
Today was our last day at home base in Xela/Quetzaltenango as tomorrow we will be returning to Antigua for our flights back home on Saturday. As a farewell activity, our group wrote letters to the incoming group with advice and warnings and statements of good luck.