Time Capsule Letter – October 2016
Session two was Children of the Maya’s largest group with 20 students, and they all managed to connect with each other and get along remarkably. The ice was broken soon after the students arrived in Guatemala when they all learned about and participated in a traditional Mayan wedding ceremony. From the beginning of the session, the students voiced their excitement about beginning work on the service projects and getting to know the children at Escuela Oficial Rural Mixta Pacajá. At service, GLAers worked on a water-themed mural, made progress on the construction of a classroom, and gave English lessons to fifth graders. One student, Julianna, took the lead of the English teaching, causing her and her team to receive rave reviews from the fifth grade students and teachers alike. But it definitely was not all work and no play. In the afternoons, students were immersed in Guatemalan culture by participating in activities like salsa dancing and marimba lessons, a chocolate workshop, a coffee factory tour, a sacred ceremony with a Mayan shaman, a visit to a family textile business, an adventure through downtown Xela, and much more. Some memorable moments were Garrett’s salsa dancing moves, Kathryn’s bus ride playlists, the spontaneous dance party, the boat rides across Lago Atitlan, and, of course, Martha’s session-long digestion troubles.They were all tears when it was time to say goodbye at the end of the two weeks, but excited to take another trip with GLA in the future !
Summer Blog Posts
First group Photo – Everyone is here!
July 1, 2016
Our First Few Days
Hola, from Xela! Sorry this is our first post, we’ve been super busy having the time of our lives. We all arrived safely Tuesday and Wednesday morning and then jumped right into the swing of things. So far we’ve experienced numerous authentic Guatemalan meals from restaurants, our home base, and an adorable hotel. As of 9:20 on Friday July 1st we’ve consumed a collective total of 7,912,400 tortillas and counting. Other than eating, we’ve toured a coffee plantation, participated in a traditional Mayan wedding ceremony, visited a local family of wool artisans, tried delicious chocolate covered fruit made by a 5th generation cacao artisan, and even took a salsa class. We’ve immersed ourselves in this colorful culture and have been practicing our Spanish along the way.
In addition, we started our service project after taking a tour of the school. The kids were adorable and we got to know them by giving piggy back rides, playing tic tac toe, and sharing laughs. After meeting them, we learned more about their backgrounds and home life from one of their loving teachers. The next day we broke into groups working on either construction of a new classroom, a mural, or teaching English to the fifth graders. Our projects were interrupted today by a distant volcanic eruption (calm down Mom and Dad!). It was an amazing once in a lifetime occurrence that we were excited to have witnessed. Xela is at a safe distance from Santiaguito.
Every night we have a scheduled evening activity, which has left us all laughing, crying, hugging, or all of the above. Some examples of activities are telling our personal stories to each other, silly improv skits, and a powerful talk from a former guerilla fighter during the Guatemalan Civil War who also holds two Masters degrees, and is a karate and yoga instructor.
Currently we are cuddled on the couch in our PJ’s, drinking tea, reflecting on our time so far, and getting ready for our adventures to come. We will travel to Panajachel where Lake Atitlan is located. We will then have the opportunity on Sunday to shop at the largest market in Central America.
Stay tuned, hasta luego!!
– Media Team: Emma Oriol, Elena Filson, Martha Dean, Hannah Touhy, Kelsey Kestenbaum
Pointing at the Santiaguito eruption during community service.
Learning new moves and enjoying salsa dance lessons
Meeting children at Pacajal Elementary for the first time
At service site at Escuela Mixta Pacajal
Greetings human beings. We are back and better than ever, decked out with pounds of new Guatemalan goods after spending the weekend bartering with venders. We arrived in Panachel on Saturday morning and checked into our hotel. We hopped on little motor boats and sped across the famous and incredible lake Atitlan. The boats brought us to two towns along the lake called San Cristobal and San Juan. Here we had our first experiences with bargaining and getting the most out of our Quetzales. Then we took the boat back and had our first meal prepared by the hotel. This consisted of more authentic Guatemalan food. After lunch we had more shopping until we were ready to drop.
Group picture in front of Lake Atitlan and two volcanos. Sorry for the shade!
After we had some practice at other markets, we put our skills to the real test at Chi Chi, the largest market in the hemisphere. Here, we spent the day walking deep into the bustling streets, surrounded by color and vendors and checking in every once in a while to drop bags, eat, and compare our best purchases. After a tiring day, we piled in the van and headed home to eat a homemade meal. We’re now setting up for a movie night, excited to get back to working with the kids tomorrow.
Making friends with young, English-speaking vendor who aspires to become an English teacher.
Boat-ride smiles on Lake Atitlan.
Blue skies and blue waters at Lake Atitlan, Panajachel
Hey guys! We are back with more exciting news about our adventures. Today we headed to the local school for our second day to continue our projects of teaching, building, and painting. The painting team made great process in painting the wall, and were asked by the school to continue the mural into the newly built bathroom. The project should only take about a day, meaning tomorrow. The construction team managed to build the walls up by two more block rows, cut iron rods, and bent those rods into clips. The education team started out with their teaching by giving the children a test to see where they were with their English, and began to teach them how to say things like “I am…short, tall, etc.” and will continue their work tomorrow and begin transitioning into more English instructions rather than Spanish.
Our afternoon activities consisted of a tour of San Andreas Xecul, a tasting of some chocolate, and a trip to a large mall and Walmart. We took about an hour drive up to San Andreas where we were given a tour of the town by a local citizen. We were shown the local church which is large and yellow, and combines Mayan and Catholic religions under one roof. On our walk up to the tour guide’s home, we learned about the town´s limited access to water, and saw a woman making a traditional shirt that the people of the town only own one of their entire lives due to their expensive nature. When we arrived at the tour guides home, we were given hot chocolate and Guatemalan bread called shecas.
After that amazing experience, we headed to the local Walmart/mall to pick up some more snacks for the coming week. When we went to eat dinner, we were called out to the driveway where we were surprised with fireworks to celebrate the Fourth!+
Catch up soon, Adios!
In front of a Catholic church mixed with Mayan symbolism and cosmology in San Andres Xecul.
Many of us watched and “helped” embroider as Doña Lupe worked on a huipil, a traditional mayan hand stitched blouse.
One of our peers got to try on a very expensive, handmade huipil.
July 7, 2016
Sorry for the delay, we’ve been super busy experiencing Guatemala. Since we’ve last posted, we have made huge progress within our service projects while having fun with our afternoon excursions. On Tuesday, we swam in secluded mountain hot springs. We scraped clay off of the rocks surrounding the pool, which is supposed to clean your skin, and coated ourselves with it. On Wednesday, we visited some of the hidden local hot spots that our mentor Joe discovered. We went to a bakery, a book store, the historical church in downtown Xela, a couple café’s, and ended by getting delicious pupusas (Salvadorian tortilla’s stuffed with cheese and beans).
Right now, we just finished a traditional Guatemalan meal of chicken, rice, and potatoes with fresh tropical fruits and are resting for an upcoming busy afternoon of softball. We will meet a local team and share players for a friendly game. Adios!
Authors: Emma Oriol, Elena Filson, Martha Dean, Hannah Tuohy, Kelsey Kestenbaum
At Aguas Georginas, a natural hot springs pool site.
Service Site: Mural Painting 1
Service Site: Mural Painting 2
Service Site: Mural Painting 3
Guatemalan sweet bread (aka: xecas)
A few of us volunteered to make sandwiches to share with a local girls softball team, against whom we played later that afternoon.
Washing apples to share with the Xela softball team.
Play ball !
Group picture with the Xela team.
Saying goodbye to our friends at Pacajá !
Our last picture at Pacajá school. The students and teachers put on a ceremony with performances and thankful speeches, and presented us with diplomas and parting gifts !
Learning to play the marimba at the Bellas Artes Conservatorio de Músico.
Bowling, dancing, and snacking at Brix Bowling Alley ! So much fun !
Sydney and Adriana enjoying ice cream at the bowling alley !
And tomorrow … hiking !