All students have arrived safely!
When did I first know I was in Guatemala?
The first answer is when I saw the mountains. Coming from Florida, I haven’t ever really seen mountains. I was completely unprepared for the size and general impressiveness of the mountains in Guatemala.
The second answer is when we, as a group, watched a volcano erupt the night we all arrived. It was beautiful to say the very least. Hot yellows and reds pouring down the side of a black mass in the sky; perfection.
Overall, it was the beauty and magnificence of Guatemala that made me feel both at ease and in an adventure. I couldn’t have asked for a better first day and cannot wait to spend more time in Guatemala.
Today we experienced two very different ceremonies. The first being a recreation of a mayan wedding in that region, where we had four GLA students act as the Bride, Groom, and Mother and Father of the Bride. This included the four students dressing in tradition apparel, trading intricate weavings, being showered with flower pedals, being cleansed by incense, balancing pottery on heads, and dancing while eating traditional wedding cake and drinking coffee. After this we got the chance to buy handmade items from a co-operative, where all of the money goes to five families who contribute to the store.
Later, we went to Ancient Mayan ruins, where we took part in a ceremony to find out about our Nahuales, the animal spirits that you connect to based on your birthdate, and the color associated. I learned that my color is yellow, and that the best way for me to heal my spirit is to be in water, and that my animal is a spider, so I like being in groups and would do well working in Social Sciences, but tend to overextend myself and try to do too much. We learned that by understanding our Nahuales, we can further understand ourselves. After this the woman doing the ceremony asked anyone who was ill or injured to step forward and use the smoke from the fire as a method of healing. The ceremony with beautiful, with different colored candles, flower petals, and plants and chocolate in the fire in order to make it smell nice. After the ceremony we learned about the ruins, and the significance they had on the world.
At the end of the day we came back to Homebase to have our “GLA Family Meeting”, orientation, and play some name games. Overall it was a culturally enriching day that one could only have in Guatemala.
Today in Guatemala on July 2nd, 2015, we went to Totonicapan for Pottery with Julio Lopez. It took us 45 minutes to get there. Julio said that he works eight hours per day, and five days a week. He makes 30 vases and 100 plats a day. Some of the students got to do hands on work with Julio and they all said that it was hard. For example, spinning the wheel with their foot was really hard for them. By the time we finished working with the pottery we left.
Today we started in the school where we had students working on the mural, construction, and in the classroom. With the kids we started by focussing on the parts of the body by teaching them Heads, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes and pointing to a poster that we’d made the night before. The older kids eventually were asking to do it faster, and then were able to sing it on their own. Meanwhile the younger children needed a bit more help copying the poster, but still were able to pick up on it.
After the school we went to a Mini Willy Wonka Factory (as Doña Pancha, the women who owned the shop, called it) where we tasted real chocolate via chocolate fountain and fruit, however none of us lived up to Meagan, who decided to just stick her entire plate under the chocolate fountain, and drank it. After this we learned about the history of chocolate from Doña Pancha, and then had the opportunity to buy some.
After the chocolate we went to learn to Salsa, where we danced off the sugar high and in time mastered basic dance moves. After this we cooled off with lemonade and french fries. After dancing we came back to the house and talked to Don Pepé, who was a member of the Guatemalan military and finished as a major. We learned about the Guatemalan civil war from his perspective and what he believed to be the main factors of it. After dinner we recapped this discussion within our group to solidify our understanding. After this we all went to bed for the night
On Monday, after a successful morning of service, we hopped in our vans and headed about an hour away to a town called San Andres – Xecul. The sleepy town was nestled at the base of a mountainside, and we were greeted with cloudy weather and threatening raindrops. Upon arrival our first stop was at one of the two Mayan-Catholic churches within the town where we learned about the culture, religion, and customs of the local community. Soon after this introduction, the skies opened up and the rain came, and we all decided to boycott the strenuous walk uphill around town and instead drive to our next stops. The drive to our next stop was not an easy one as we had to creep our way up steep, narrow, and rain-slicked streets but thanks to our awesome drivers, Nayo and Don Jose, we made it there in one piece. In total, our stops consisted of seeing another Mayan-Catholic church, meeting a local Mayan woman who creates beautiful embroidered blouses by hand, and a final stop at our guide’s home where we enjoyed hot chocolate and sweet bread (both local to the area) served to us by his adorable family. We finished the day off with a quick internet cafe session, a junk-food Walmart stop, a intense GLA Family Meeting, and a house full of tired girls (and mentors) excited for the next day.
The kids at the school are about as cute as can be. They’re simply cute as buttons! Today in particular, there were some specific moments that stood out with the kids. A girl that was barely up to my hip came up and immediately asked to be picked up, simply by reaching up to me (of course I obliged and held her!). Another girl, Victoria, was affectionately mauled by three children at once! Mae was barricaded into a classroom by several small kids, which quickly became a game of dodging and tagging. Other girls had a child playing piggyback with them.
The children seem to take a particular interest in the hopscotch and the letter filled caterpillars that the group has painted on the concrete. They can be seen at almost all times of the school day playing on them.
The children are one of the main highlights —if not the biggest highlight—of this trip. Helping them by building a library, teaching them english, or painting murals and hopscotch is the most rewarding experience I have ever been a part of.
Also, here are a ton of photos we’d love to share with you from the past week. Enjoy!