Wednesday June 20, 2018
The day is finally here! The students have been arriving to Guatemala little by little throughout the day. We couldn’t be happier to be receiving them with open arms like buenos Chapines.
Faith and Angela, our first students, spent the day getting a quick tour of Antigua, visiting a an art exhibit, and eating comida tipica. As they rested, we welcomed another two groups at the airport.
The afternoon groups, although a little delayed, walked out of the airport with big smiles. As we had dinner at Pollo Campero, the students discussed their excitement over being in Guatemala and working with the children. I was delighted to hear their enthusiasm over our community service project.
Tomorrow morning we start our day’s events with a demonstration of a Mayan Wedding at San Antonio Aguas Caliente. Soon after we start our journey to our HomeBase in Xela. Along the way we make a stop at the Mayan ruins in Tecpán.
Throughout our program the students will be updating the blog daily with pictures and daily events. Keep a look out!
Hunter and Maria are not pictured as they had not yet arrived during the time of the post. Update soon.
Thursday June 21, 2018
Our whole group is in country now, as Hunter arrived later last night and Maria arrived this evening to Guatemala City. After a long day of traveling yesterday, morning came early for us today. And yet, we all found a great deal of energy and excitement as we looked forward to our first activities together. After breakfast and a view at the lovely hotel in Antigua, we boarded the vans to San Antonio Aguas Calientes for a visit to an artisan cooperative.
Here we learned how five local Maya families independently created a project for cultural preservation as a response to increasing manufacturing and decreasing self-sufficiency. The students were awed by the beautiful variety of handcrafts, but I think we were all even more impressed by the skill and hard work it takes to maintain the traditional practices of weaving, tortilla making, and coffee grinding. Just ask the students, who had the opportunity to try a little of each.
We also learned about the traditional Maya wedding ceremony in the local culture. Students had a lot of fun performing the ceremony and were introduced to some considerations of poverty, nutrition, gender roles, and changing societal norms…all topics which the leadership staff are looking forward to exploring deeper with the students as we continue our journey together.
After the artisan visit, students continued onward towards Xela with Eunice, Jordan, Nayo, and Diego. Heading through the mountains, we quickly learned that music inspires bonding in our group, as one van energized with reggaeton and another proudly sang Disney soundtracks. On the way, the group visited ruins in the Maya city of Iximche, where they were introduced to the Maya spirit animal symbols, each referred to as a Nawal. They are greatly looking forward to learning about their individual Nawal later in the program.
Students arrived safely to HomeBase in Xela and spent the evening getting to know one another with games and orientation to the program. Tomorrow, students complete their first visit to our service site and engage in some more cultural activities. Due to late arrival today, Maria and I will make our way to Xela tomorrow morning to unite with everyone.
-by Tiffany Mead (mentor)
Friday June 22, 2018
Today’s Authors: Pravi and Cameryn, students
Hey! It’s Poppin’ Pravi and Cool Cameryn!
We started our fun-filled day meeting the adorable kiddos at the school/day care that we will be doing our service at for these next few weeks. The kids all greeted us with open arms and big smiles and were so excited to have us to play and interact with. We toured the school and observed ways to implement our ideas to better their learning environment. Some of the ideas that we are interested in implementing are education murals on their bare walls, a small flower garden to symbolize growth, and to better the playground area in ways such as trimming the grass. We bonded with all the kids, and it’s safe to say that we all had as much fun playing with them as they had with us. As we said goodbye for the day, we were all sad to leave our new friends, but we were excited for our future visits and way we planned to benefit the school.
We took a quick trip to a local flower shop and we picked out different types of beautiful flowers to put in the garden at the school. After a long morning, we headed back to home base for lunch and got excited about our chocolate tour and salsa dancing class. Not only this, but we were all thrilled to welcome our last member to arrive, Maria, who completed our group. We played a competitive game of Jeopardy about what we learned during our orientation for this trip.
After this, we left home base and visited a local chocolate factory ran by the fifth generation of a family. The owner, Doña Mirna Rojas, who explained that her dream as a child was to own a factory like Willy Wonka. We ate chocolate covered fruits, and pure cacao hot chocolate. We even got to try the cacao fruit, which tastes like mango on the outside, but is very bitter on the inside. Doña Mirna Rojas taught us about the history of chocolate in the Mayan culture and how it is supposed to make you strong and energized!
After this delightful experience, we got the change to dance off all the chocolate we ate in a Puerto Rican salsa dancing class. We all struggled at first, but all got in the groove and had so much fun dancing with each other to some simple salsa steps. As we jammed to some fun music on the way home, we all reflected on the amazing day we had just experienced. We enjoyed dinner, joining all of our tables together as one united group. Another rule we recently implemented was keeping our phones with GLA staff during the day. We have all been in support of this, and believe that not having our phones today made it easier to connect and bond with each other during times that we would usually be tempted to be on our phones. (Mentor Note: Students have agreed as a community to cell phone use at night after activities and before breakfast each day.) We are all excited about new experiences and more group bonding. Over and out!
Saturday June 23, 2018
Some of us started out our day by waking up an hour early to go on a walk around the home base. After observing our surroundings and picking up objects that we connected with, we painted said objects and the landscape. We were only allowed to draw by looking at the subject and sensing where we painted, rather than focusing on the canvas. Later, the whole group began the adventure by traveling an hour and a half to the friendly little village of Momostenango. Our trip was accompanied by some amazing early 2000s and Disney jams. When we arrived, we ventured down a hillside and began a lesson on wool processing. We not only saw how wool was spun and made into blankets, but we did it ourselves. Maria was the best at it by far, but no one could beat the exceptional skills of Louis’ and Telma’s family. We also learned that all their wool was dyed with natural substances and no chemicals to create a rainbow of vibrant colors. They preserve the fabric with ashes and calcium so it’s all washer friendly!
Since we couldn’t get enough of the wool, we were invited to their tienda. In it were blankets, sweaters, headbands, pants and more, all for us to buy. Many opted for sweaters, but I chose to get myself a pair of pants and a bag. While we happily indulged ourselves in the clothing, Telma prepared tortillas and tea for us all to enjoy. She even decided to whip up some quesadillas for us as well. We were all grateful for the warm welcome and our full stomachs. After stuffing our faces and saying our goodbyes, which may have involved passing out dum-dum lollipops to the adorable children, we made our way back to home base.
As soon as we got home, we sat down for lunch in silence. We were all so tired from jet lag and all of our exciting journeys that we needed a break. However, that didn’t stop us from eating. We stuffed our faces once again before going upstairs for our talk on cultural awareness. Today’s topic was nutrition, so we calculated a typical Guatemalan family’s budget and then built a meal plan around it. It was important for us to recognize that one’s economic status can lead to a lack of nutrition, which is something we may take for granted in the states. We also connected malnutrition to height, which allowed us to see a physical representation of how malnutrition affects us as humans. Before transitioning into our lesson plans, we got up some energy with a dínamica
(ice-breaker activity). First, we played a tournament-like game of rock, paper, scissors that turned us into eggs, chickens, and dinosaurs. We finished up with a round of telestrations (Mentor note: think telephone meets pictionary), although there were some conceptual struggles that made the game a bit confusing.
After visiting the school on Friday, seeing the facility, interacting with the kids, and starting to think about improvements, we began creating our lesson plans. After coming up with multiple ideas as a whole, we split into three groups. One group planned lessons on emotional awareness and learning basic English words for 2-3 year olds. A second group focused on music/nursery rhymes and shapes for 0-2 year olds. The last group started planning to teach the 4 year olds about geography and basic football (soccer) skills. Each group will teach their lessons on different days, while other groups work not he mural, fixing the playground, organizing the classroom, planting a garden, and other projects. Everyone is very excited to get back to working at the school on Tuesday.
Later, we celebrated Angela’s birthday. We surprised her with balloons and party hats as we sang “Feliz Cumpleaños” to her in the dining room. The GLA staff taught us authentic Guatemalan birthday traditions. We also played pin the tail on the donkey and a game where a string with a stick was tied around someone’s waist and they had to squat to get the stick in the cup. We played other games, like ninja and limbo too.
After a lot of dancing, a relay race, and sardines (Mentor note: think reverse hide-and-seek), we also bonded as a group by coming up with a team name, song, signal, and handshake. After a great dinner, we continued Angela’s sweet sixteen celebration with a piñata. Angela took the first few hits and after everyone had a turn, the piñata was still mostly intact. So, the stick returned to Angela who was able to knock the piñata down and get the candy out. We finished out the celebrations with birthday cake. To end the day, we had movie night and some of us gathered around to watch.”Coco,” about Día de los Muertos, in Spanish.
We’re all excited to share our future adventures with ya’ll!
Sanjana and Hunter
Sunday June 24, 2018
Hey it’s Emma and Bella! We had a super great time yesterday. To start we drove from home base to the Chichicastenago, where the biggest craft market in the Western Hemisphere is located. We made our way through the streets and the tents set up bartering for Guatemalan gifts.
After eating lunch in a hotel that housed Spanish-speaking parrots, we met and performed for the other GLA group. They were a little bit confused by our A cappella rendition of “Since You’ve Been Gone.” Then we loaded back into the vans and drove through beautiful winding mountain roads to Panajachel (on Lake Atitlán).
Here, we shopped some more, and took in the beautiful scenery. By this point we were masters at bartering and saying “no, gracias” to the street vendors. One of our favorite vendors was a Guatemalan named Clemente. He was selling jewelry made out of recycled materials like silverware and old Guatemalan currency. After shopping, we all paid 5 Qs to ride in tuk-tuks back to our hotel. The ride was bumpy but exciting.
As we arrived to the hotel, the sun was setting behind the volcanoes over the lake. It was truly a breathtaking sight. After the hotel staff made dinner for us we gathered around to hear the story of Nayo, GLA’s director for Guatemalan programs. He told us about his amazing journey from a rural plantation to a leader for his town and for GLA. It was inspiring to hear how much those around him praised him for his leadership and handwork. It left us feeling motivated to become leaders in all of our futures and to work with the children in the coming days. Hasta luego!
– Emma and Bella
Monday June 25, 2018
Guats up?? It’s Spectacular Sarah and Goofy Gabby here!
So today was our last day in Panajachel. We stayed the night at the Paradise Inn along Lake Atitlan. A small group of early risers decided to get up early and take a Tok-Tok ride to an overlook of the lake, which was beautiful. And then they walked down to meet the rest of the group for breakfast.
After breakfast, we headed out to catch our boat called a “Lancha.” We then took a 30 minute boat ride across the lake to the lakeside town of San Juan. This town is known for its fantastic art galleries and woman’s cooperatives. We were then given 2 hours of free time to explore the town and shop. Some of us decided to look at local galleries, while others sipped on some local coffee.
Around lunch time we were given the option to stay at the hotel and rest or to make any last minute purchases in Panajachel. We were scheduled to leave Panajachel at 1pm, but we were given an extra hour to rest before leaving because a lot of us were starting to feel under the weather. The staff provided us with Pepto Bismol, electrolyte drinks, and Dramamine for the 3 hour trip back to home base. Most afternoon activities were cancelled in order to give us more resting time, If anyone was up to it, we worked on the lesson plans for our next day of service at the local school. We finished the night off with dinner of soup and toast to make everyone feel a little better. We were all very glad have had this day to catch up on some much needed rest.
Tuesday June 26, 2018
Yo parents and our fans from the Estados Unidos! Its Casey and Katherine here blogging. Today, thanks to Nayo’s pedialyte, we all rose from bed to go visit our favorite kids at the school. Today was our first day beginning our projects and lesson plans. We split up into three groups: teachers, grass-cutters, and painters.
A group of us worked with the two and three year olds, teaching them emotions, animals, numbers, colors, and little bits of English. The two year olds loved interacting, and singing songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” The three year olds were a little hard to control but were bundles of laughter and energy. Casey, Max, and Pravi worked on the tall grass in the children’s playground, using many tools to power through and clear some space underneath swings, slides, and general playing areas. The rest of the group painted the walls, and began painting the designs Jordan expertly planned for the mural! We are super excited to see the turnout.
After work, came play, and we all got to spend time bonding with the kids. There are classrooms ranging from 0-4 years old, and all are so cute and happy to see us when we come to play with them. We’ve really begun to form bonds and create many memories with the children there.
In the afternoon, a group of us went to San Andres, while some of us stayed behind to catch up on sleep. In San Andres, we learned about the history of the Catholic/Mayan church. It was vibrant with colors that signified many different meanings. They repainted it in 2016 with money donated from the U.S. Over 70% of the people living there have moved to the U.S. The people living there now are very in sync with their culture and only speak the native Mayan language. Then we hiked up a very steep hill to our tour guide’s house, and it’s a tradition to give people who come to your house hot chocolate and bread.
Back at the Home Base, we split up into mentor groups and went through different bonding activities. It was super nice to get to know each other on a closer level. We’re so excited to go continue working on our projects tomorrow!
– Casey and Katherine
Wednesday June 27, 2018
Hello from the Guatemala Gang!
Today was a very productive and fun day for us! In the morning, we woke up ready to work with the kids. Today, our groups made progress in the mural, playground maintenance, and teaching in the classroom. The first grade spent time working on the mural that incorporates moral values for the kids to follow.
The next group continued to rid the playground of overgrown grass and weeds that made it hard for the kids to play and prepped for the garden we are going to grow. The last group worked in the classrooms and taught the 4-5 year olds landscapes, animals, and plants in English. They also worked with them to draw their favorite animals after learning how to say them in Spanish and English. To end our morning with the kids, everyone was given an hour to play outside with them or spend extra time not he mural.
The afternoon was also busy as we set out on an excursion to local hot springs. After spending an hour driving through the beautiful mountains seen in Xela, we reached the hot springs. The afternoon was chilly and rainy, making the hot springs even better. We spent around 2 hours in one of the large natural pools just swimming and chatting. We also got to take in the scenery as the hot springs are surrounded by lush greenery, almost as if it were in a rainforest.
The hot springs filled up most of the afternoon and left everyone tired, so to finish our night, we broke into smaller groups with a mentor to reflect on ourselves and the day.This was a nice end to the day as we got to take in the day’s work. I’m looking forward to finish the mural and teaching the 0-2 year olds tomorrow!
Thursday June 28, 2018
Hey guys! It’s Maddie here to update you on today’s events. We started off the day by going to the school. Some people continued painting the first mural, while others started a new one. Some people cleaned up the weeds int he playground, and others painted the walls. Even with people doing all of these tasks, there was still one more group of people teaching. They taught the 0-4 year olds shapes in English and Spanish and where they can find them throughout the classroom. This group also taught all the other ages nursery rhymes in Spanish and English.
After the school day, we ate lunch and then headed out to our surprise director’s activity. This turned out to be us going to a beautiful lookout where we could see the whole town. While we were there, we went into the woods surrounding the area. In the woods, we played multiple versions of tag and went down the slides multiple times. Once we were finished at the lookout, we went to the mall. At the mall, there were many different places people went, like Domino’s, Walmart, Ice cream places, and Panda Express. Next, we went back to home base and heard from a man who was a rebel during the Guatemalan civil war. To end the amazing day, we winded down to a nice dinner and a game of cards.
Friday June 29, 2018
It’s Faith here to update you on what we did today. This morning, we all went to work on the mural and garden area at the school. Everyone worked really well together (while jamming) to some of our favorite bops), and we completed the final project. One of the best parts of painting the mural was painting the kids’ hands and putting them on the wall to make handprint flowers. After an exhausting morning, we came back to home base for lunch and some rest time. Because today was our last day at the service site, we got to go back for a despedida (goodbye).
We stayed at the school, running around and playing with the kids, for about an hour and a half. It was an emotional afternoon for many of us as saying our final goodbyes to the kids was ver hard. We are grateful that we had the opportunity to make a difference in their lives in the limited time we spent with them. After coming back to home base, we listened to another speaker share his experience of Guatemala’s civil war, only this time from the perspective of a member of the military. Then, we had dinner and shortly after, we had a bonfire. It was a long, physically and emotionally exhausting, but fun day. We are all excited for the hike tomorrow and the next few days ahead of us.
Saturday June 30, 2018
Today, our adventure started out with a 1.5km hike up the mountains to a sacred volcano lake known as Chicabal. We first took trucks up to our starting point and began our trek. Do not be fooled by the short distance we needed to travel to get to the lake. The hike was pretty difficult (at least for a good chunk of our group, maybe not the other GLA group as much); lots of upward hills, but absolutely beautiful views of the nature around us. Once we reached the top of the mountain, we made our way down to Laguna Chicabal. Around 1,000 steps later, we reached the lake and participated in a traditional Maya ceremony. The Maya priest burned 5 different colored candles, along with a block of brown sugar, each having a different presentation/symbol. The conductor of the ceremony would call out each Nawal (Maya spirit animal), and those who had that Nawal would place their individual candles in the fire as an offering to that Nawal. Following the Maya ceremony, we made our way back to where the trucks initially dropped us off, which was easier for the most part.
Once we got back to the vans, we set off to home base for lunch. Thankfully, we were able to have a few hours to recover from our hike and rest. We then did mentor groups and afterwards we did bookends where we discussed and debated on the creation of a woman’s organization in Guatemala. This discussion split us into 4 groups: the Amazons, the Church, the Machismo somos, and the artisan women. We then enjoyed a delicious dinner and we finished up the night by watching “When the Mountains Tremble,” a movie on the recent civil war that took place in Guatemala.
Sunday July 1, 2018
Today is the second to last full day with each other. It has been a rocky day as unexpected. We first woke up to get ready to eat breakfast and to start off a great day. While we traveled to go to the zipline location. We waited there for a while and then we were being introduced to the zipline safety. Then we had to go through the 1st zipline, which meant more driving until we got there, although we were in the back of the truck (mentor’s note: what a fun adventure through the backroads of the dry tropical forest!)
Once we got to the place, most friends were feeling excitement, but at the same time it was a nervous feeling about how it would turn out. Especially, because it was the first time ziplining for the majority of our group. Although we overcame our fear, the fear of heights or just the idea of getting out of our comfort zones helped us bond.
This will be an unforgettable experience seeing the beautiful landscapes once we ziplined across the areas. Forgetting about how scared we may have been at the time, when we were surrounded by nature it felt like it was time to appreciate the beauty, as if time pauses in order for us to recognize the adventure is always worth it.
After the 9 ziplines, we came back to the location we started from and got ready to leave to return to our home base “El Pedegral.” While we were coming back, one of our staff started a song with us that defined who we are together as a group, a family. It was a powerful song because she really knew who we were by evening saying that the song relates to us. It was incredible how she was so observant and on point when it came to that idea. Just thinking of it brings me peace and joy from the bond we’ve all created with one another. But knowing that even if we move forward, we will take this within us throughout the rest of our journey. After lunch, most of us started packing, then went to our last mentor groups. They have challenged us to come back to reality.
The idea that back home may be different and hard to adjust to again. It has helped us to open more to our peers in many different ways by just answering the questions in the group, and all the time in my group it’s about really deep conversations that made us stronger or deepened what really motivates us. In addition, we wrote letter to our future selves, which we will receive in December. We might not know what stage we might be in during that period of our lives, but we would want to look back and see the progress we’ve made and just remember the memories that shaped us in this program…what made us feel alive.
Today was our last day together. The initial push to pack and get out the door was delayed, but not by too much. The drive lasted for what felt like forever, but it was broken apart by a break at a gas station where all of us kids got a couple snacks to pass the time a bit faster. Leaving Quetzaltenango at roughly 8:30, we arrived at the coffee plantation at 11:30. The plantation was really interesting, and I defenitely think it’s safe to say that we learned a lot about how different coffee roasts are created and the process behind preparing each individual bean. A cool thing about this plantation is that they’ll hire local families and pay them a bit more quetzales per 100 pounds of coffee beans they collect, that being Q70 compared to the normal Q40.
After that, we went to lunch where a few others and I were watching the Belgium versus Japan world cup match, which was really something to behold. That was a comeback anyone can appreciate. After lunch, the group went to the hotel in Antigua, where we split up into different groups: one group stayed behind at the hotel to rest and the other group went to the local (incredibly fancy) Mcdonalds where they filled out evalutations pertaining to their opinions on the staff and activities of the trip. After completing those surveys, the group went to a local ice cream shop with incredibly exotic flavors, such as strawberry parmesan! They then proceeded to go and purchase gifts for Diego and Nayo to give thanks to them for being such incredible drivers and helpers around the service site and other places. Honestly, there were times when I was certain that our van was going to scratch the side of a vehicle parked on the side of the road, but we somehow managed to wiggle through with only a few inches of space to spare, so I personally think that it’s really important that everyone acknowledges both of our godlike drivers for their incredible driving prowess.
When all of the groups returned to the hotel at roughly 6:00, we had a little chat on the top floor of the hotel where the staff presented each individual student with a commemorative sheet of paper, showing what each of our individual distinctions from the group are. The mentors were incredibly thoughtful with this, and as if it wasn’t enough, they got us all a necklace with our Nawals (spirit animal guides), which touched everyone’s hearts really deeply. We then went to dinner where there was a lot of farewell sentiment, with a lot of people standing up and expressing their love for the group and how sad they are to leave it. All of the kids will be keeping in touch a lot, and we even plan to have a reunion some day.
Personally, this is an experience that I will never forget, with every person remaining very close to the center of my heart. I was incredibly lucky to get to know all of these amazing, positive, and distinct people, including the staff, and I will cherish the memories we created together forever. The standard was set incredibly high for me for GLA, it being my first time. I don’t think anything could ever meet the expectations for a GLA excursion that I developed on this trip.