All students are headed home after an amazing program!
Today was bittersweet. We left Xela and drove three hours to Antigua. It was an emotional experience to leave the house and say goodbye to all the staff there. When we finally arrived to Antigua we got settled into our same hotel that we stayed in the first night of the trip. After that we explored the mini markets that were around the hotel and did some last minute shopping. Shortly after everyone came back from shopping we had our farewell dinner. Almost everyone got dressed up and we ate at this chill, relaxing place. We also took lots of pictures together. After dinner we watched a PowerPoint that Amber (GLA student) made of the trip – which was very sad to see. It’s becoming more real that we’ll be home in two days. Shortly after the PowerPoint we all went back to our rooms. Some people went straight to sleep, but others took the free time to reflect on the trip. We have one more full day to look forward to and it’s sad to think about. On the bright side this has been a life changing, amazing experience. We’ve all made close relationships with each other and it’ll be hard to say goodbye. Thank you GLA for giving everyone and I the experience of a life time.
– Tiarah Young
Last Day in Xela
Today was the day everyone realized that the counselors were right when they said, “You blink and it’s all over.” No one was prepared for this. People came on this trip thinking three weeks was too long now people are leaving wishing there was more time. We’ve all become so close; we really are a family. Because this was our last day in Xela it was also our last day at the school too. The kids at the school prepared a dance for us as a thank you. The little girls were wearing their traditional Mayan skirts and Wipels (shirts). The boys were wearing all white pants and shirts with a red belt type thing. We recieved certificates and little pens in the shape of Mayan dolls. When the performance was over we all said our last goodbyes to the kids, took pictures, cleaned up, and had our last ride home from the school.
After lunch some of us went to a park to play soccer. We then went back to the home base to join the rest of the group in piñata making. Three piñatas were made: a beautiful butterfly, a minion from Despicable Me, and a man named Paco. When we finished making the piñatas we went to a town called San Andres to see a really beautiful church, met a women that hand makes Yiples, drank amazing hot chocolate, ate great bread, and watched a interesting traditional Mayan dance with a monkey and a jaguar. Towards the end of the tour it started raining and we had to run back to the vans. When we got home we ate Pache for dinner and then we wrote nice things abut each other as a group activity.
An Adventurous Day!
¨Sometimes on Sunday, you find yourself burning chocolate in the crater of a dormant volcano¨ -Pat.
After a breakfast of cereal and yogurt, we headed out for one of our weekend expeditions to Mount Chikobol, a dormant volcano with a sacred lake in its crater. We drove 45 minutes to the base of the volcano where we continued to make our way up to the start of the trail. Soon the cobblestone road turned into dirt and we were bouncing back and forth between potholes and ruts. When we reached the end of the trail, we began an hour long hike to the summit of the volcano, fueled by cookies, Tortrix and apples, which was immediately followed by a steep descent into the crater. When we arrived, everyone was taken aback by the beauty of the lake. After a quick snack break, we began a traditional Mayan ceremony lead by a shaman where we made wishes using white candles. When the ritual was complete, we hiked back down — not before a few people took some falls. Our ride down was characterized by singing at the top of our lungs to the dismay of other hikers.
After returning home, we settled down to watch Slumdog Millionaire so everyone could see Dharam’s lookalike, Dev Patel. For dinner, the mentors surprised us with much-desired pizza from an Italian restaurant. After, we watched a TED Talk that explored the perception of international service work from the sides of both volunteers and locals. The video then led to a discussion of the topic, where we agreed that service trips alone do not create long term change, but rather the work done afterwards. We learned that is important not to walk away thinking that we’ve done our part, but to instead use this experience as inspiration and motivation to create permanent changes in our communities and beyond.
Today was a interesting day. It started off with a long two hour drive to the Mayan ruins. We went down in elevation to 2,000 ft so it was really hot and humid; and bug spray and sun screen didn’t help. We saw a lot of ruins and we learned that the Jaguar was an important and sacred animal to the Mayan people.
Then after, we had a fantastic, delicious lunch at a resort. Which was 20 minutes from the Mayan ruins. The carnivores had chicken with a sauce, mashed potato’s, and vegetables on the side. For desert we had some type of good cake. On the way back to home base we listened to a jaw breaking podcast about the Civil War between the Guerillas and the Military. It was based on a massacre that took place in a small village called Dos Erres. The Military killed most of the village except for two boys that were spared. I enjoyed it very much and learned that a lot of the Military didn’t want to talk about what they did to many towns in Guatemala during the Civil War.
Shortly after we got back, some of us walked to a mall to access wifi. I got to face time my family which made me happy, especially talking to my little Ironman aka my little brother. After facetimeing, we went to a bakery and got cake for Orlando’s birthday. Once we got back we continued the Spit tournament. Sadly I got out in the first round #cardsarentmything and I played connect four with Max and lost three times #connect4isntmythingeither. As loser I had to get him a cup of tea with honey. Tonights dinner was good, we had hamburgers and some bomb fries #thatmeansgood. Lastly we had a small dance party to celebrate Orlando’s birthday. That basically concludes our day. #icantwaitforthehiketothevalcano #thatsalonghashtag
An Eventful Day
Today was an eventful day. Sadie, Christian, Max, Patrick, and I decided to go for a run around Xela. Everything was going well until we came upon a huge hill that Sadie and I struggled to run up. Then we came home to a breakfast of French toast, one of our favorites, and pineapple. We then headed off to service at the school where we our finishing up our projects. Our artists, Sydney, Phyllis, Amber, Tete, Kate and I, finally finished our beautiful heart shaped mosaic. We are now starting to mosaic the sink, which we hope will help to brighten up the atmosphere of the school. The wall builders are putting the finishing touches on the wall, and we are all excited to see the final product. During recess, the kids at the school were enjoying taking pictures with Rachel and Talia’s cameras. Also, many of the kids volunteered to help with our mosaic, which warmed our hearts and also sped up the process.
We then returned to the house for lunch. After lunch we finalized our bracket for our Spit (a card game) tournament. Then some of us went to a field to play soccer, although some of us opted out of soccer for the chance to jam out to the High School Musical soundtrack. After soccer, we headed straight to Spanish class, which consisted of a trip to the Zoo, where we talked with our teachers about the animals, and a trip to the local mall, where we got ice cream and Domino’s Pizza, a much needed treat.
Finally, we returned home, and the Spit tournament began. Each game was heated, with many interesting quotes coming from Dharam, including ¨Do you even lift?¨ The first round is now over, and all of us are looking forward to the next round. After dinner, we watched an interesting documentary about Cracking the Maya Code, which should help us with our excursion tomorrow, a trip to the ancient Mayan ruins.
We are now 2 weeks in and we’ve been having so much fun. Can’t wait for the next week!
Spanish is definitely making its way into our everyday thoughts and experiences. Last night at 1am Sadie began sleep-talking, “te gusta… te gusta.” Aside from that, we slept soundly. This morning, we gobbled up some breakfast burritos (eggs, beans, and tomatoes in a tortilla) and piña before heading off to service. Not everyone was feeling one hundred percent – there is a cold going around – but we were all looking forward to the day ahead. On the way to school, I worked with today’s teachers (Avery, Mike, Dharam, Peter, and Max) on our lesson plan to teach English to our class of 24 third-graders. Today’s topic was vocabulary on family members.
We arrived around 8:30 and started teaching at 9:00. We introduced the vocab in the classroom and then split into our 3 groups. Activities included “Around the World” and “Duck Duck Goose” (a.k.a. Mother Mother Father). We then asked each student to draw and label a picture of their family.
“One girl had nine siblings and didn’t know their names,” said Avery. It was a great opportunity to get a deeper understanding of these children, with whom we’ve been working for the past week and a half. When one boy in my group, Christian, showed me his drawing, I asked if he had any brothers or sisters. “Mi hermana se murio,” he said. “My sister died.” He explained to me that his baby sister had passed away. I was unsure of how to respond – it’s a difficult situation in a language I know, let alone one I don’t. I said sorry.
Today was Dharam’s first time in the classroom. I checked in with him afterwards to see how it went. “They picked up vocabulary very quickly and were eager to learn,” said Dharam. “I didn’t realize how much planning was needed for a lesson.” “It was good but they had a hard time with the concept,” said Mike, a slightly more seasoned teacher. “Like, they could’t even remember ´mother´ and stuff.” Overall, class went well and the kids were invested.
During recess, I hung out with some friends at the school. I asked Caterin what she got for her birthday yesterday. “Una cartera, una camiseta, una blousa, y los pantalones.” When Noemi, Sofia, and Angela were asked what their favorite class was, they all responded with “mathematica.” They then asked me for a “caballito” – a piggy-back ride – which I gave to each of them at full speed. We also played around with the video feature on my camera.
At the end of recess, Eric approached me. Eric loves hugs and taking pictures with my camera. “Vamos a mi clasé?” he asked. “Will you take me to class?” Of course, I did – caballito style. After recess, I decided to visit my fellow GLA-ers who have been working on beautification projects: Sydney, Phyllis, Kate, and Lindsay. It was Phyllis’ first day back at service after being out sick for a few days. She told me that she was “tired but good.”
The group was finishing up a lovely heart-shaped mosaic on the playground wall. “It’s colorful,” said Sydney. “I scraped my fingers a couple times. But it´s worth it. We’re almost done.” “It’s good,” Kate confirmed. Unfortunately, her hands were cold from the cement. Lindsay agreed. “It’s more tedious than painting but the result is more rewarding.” As far as what the future holds for these artistes, she says, “We’re going to mosaic the sink.” Hopefully, their hard work will create a warmer learning environment for the students of Pacaja.
Finally, I headed over to the wall construction site, where I work in the late morning. “We’re almost finished,” said Christian. Once the final bricks were laid and the final cement batches mixed, I climbed onto the scaffolding to soak in the view one more time. Rachel, Christian, and I took a few minutes to scan the cluster of houses with tin roofs, and the mountains beyond them. We returned to the ground for a quick photo op and the chance to admire our work. “We built a wall,” said Lila. Indeed we did. Tomorrow we will begin the drywall.
We returned home for a lunch of lasagna, spinach salad, and watermelon. “Lasagna was bangin´,” said Peter, marking his approval of the meal. At 1:30 we broke out the shorts and tank tops (which we don´t get to wear in Xela, since it´s fairly conservative), packed up our swimsuits, and left for our afternoon excursion: a trip to the hot springs.
“It was pretty majestic,” says Mike. We lounged in the nature-made pools of warm water and grabbed some snacks at the restaurant. “I thought I was hot but hot springs was hotter,” remarked Tete. Some people did overheat a bit, but the experience was very relaxing.
On the drive back to home base, I asked around about expectations for this evening’s activity: a lecture by guest speaker and former member of the Guatemalan military, Jose Ruben, on the Guatemalan Civil War. He would likely give contrasting arguments to last nights speaker, a Guerrilla activist.
“It’ll be interesting to hear the other side of the story but I already have my opinion. I’m with the Guerrillas,” said Peter. “I’m interested in how they could defend what they did,” said Lila, referring to the atrocities that last night’s speaker discussed. It was fascinating to hear the speaker give an almost completely opposite account of the war from what we had heard. Afterwards, we discussed our own opinions. It didn’t sound like many people were swayed by Señor Ruben, but we all took into consideration the fact that both speakers were very biased.
Dinner was pizza – something that many of us have been craving for a while. We wrapped up the day with a quick mentor group session. We shared “roses and thorns” (the good and bad parts of the day), our goals for the remainder of the trip, and “rosebuds” (what we are excited for). Personally, I’m looking forward to a good night sleep, a productive day at the school tomorrow, and a hike up a volcano this weekend.
P.S. Nicole is looking for a roommate in Cambridge, if anyone is interested.
P.P.S. I apologize for any mistakes in Spanish. No hablo español.
Happy Friday to all.
A Great Day!
Today was an interesting day. The day didn’t start off so well, with three people unable to attend service due to health reasons. While the sick sat in the comfort of home recuperating, those well enough to work worked hard. Those constructing the wall managed to fill in the gaps between the sections and construct another row. Simultaneously, those working on the mosaic crushed pieces of different coloured rock, and slowly pieced together what will soon be a beautiful mosaic. After a hard morning of work, Patrick surprised everyone with a trip to Walmart. After a lunch of beans, rice and beef, the students went to their language class. The teachers took everyone to a nursing home for women. The experience was out of the ordinary to say the least; the students helped out by first talking to the elderly, then serving them food. After, the teachers took us to a square nearby and made everyone have a conversation with at least one person. Once that was over, they surprised us with a trip to a local ice-cream parlour and McDonalds. After an intense day out, we went home to be enlightened by a Guatemala civil war veteran who imparted his knowledge of the war on us. Dinner was pasta and salad, which was delicious. What followed dinner was a game of Pictionary which everyone participated in. A great way to end an amazing day.
-Dev Patel (Dharam Madnani)
So far this GLA Guatemala experience has been mind changing and impactful for people. It has change peoples perspective on the World and Even Friendships. Since we have been here in guatemala, We have experience’s New Friendship, New People, New Culture and a New side of the World. As we have been in guatemala we have experience the beautiful views in panajachel, boat rides to 3 important towns, We have seen and been to mayan markets. We also have had other activities such as Pottery workshops, Sala class, Chocolate cooperatives, Spanish classes. Today we had cooking class and also went to momocastenango. So far this experience has been amazing and different from what people are used too.
Today we woke up at seven at the hotel in Lake Atitlán. We had eggs, a bean paste and plantains. After enjoying our last minutes of free wifi, we left the lake and headed to Chichicastenango. Once there, we were given two hours to enjoy the biggest market in Central America. We learned how to bargain, sometimes removing a couple hundred quetzals from the original price and Nicole bought a useless marimba in the hope to start a band with the other mentors (Patrick and Celina on the flutes). The market was very beautiful, with all the different colors and the commotion. However, the vendors were very pushy, sometimes sending 8 year olds to guilt us into buying objects. Later we regrouped at a hotel with parrots who could say “hola” and ate from a delicious buffet. After a one hour digestive break, we returned to the home base. There we played Mafia, ate dinner and then saw the first official gig of the mentors. It was a memorable, eventful day.
Yesterday morning we woke up early to drive to Lake Atitlan for our overnight excursion. The drive was about two hours which gave us time to rest and chat. As we got closer to the lake, we were able to appreciate the amazing views- the lake looked like it had come straight out of a National Geographic magazine. After we got settle into our hotel rooms, we took a boat to a couple towns across the lake and got the opportunity to go shopping, which most of us (myself included) really enjoyed. We also got to try our hand at bargaining, which I really enjoyed. We went to two towns and had lunch in the second before we headed back to the hotel. At the hotel, we got to unwind and take advantage of the hotel’s WiFi, and we were able to add each other on Instagram and Snapchat. After our brief unwinding, we went into the town we were staying in and shopped and explored some more before heading back to the hotel for the rest of the evening, where we ate dinner and played cards. Patrick told us that statistics show that students tend to bond on the excursion, and while I’m unsure of exactly where these statistics come from, but I definitely feel like I got to know everyone a bit more. It was a really great day because we got to unwind from the jam-packed week that we’ve had and to really appreciate Guatemala’s beauty and to get to know everyone else on the trip a bit more.
Today was a great day. Today we finished painting the stairs at the school we’re volunteering at, and another group was still working on the wall, as well as a couple groups working with kids. When we came back home we had the most delicious spaghetti and garlic bread for lunch. A little Italiano in Guatemala. Later in the day we went to a chocolate factory and we learned a lot about the history of chocolate in Guatemala. The chocolate was really different from what I’m used to but it was really good. I definitely bought some chocolate (vanilla) flavoured, and I plan on making some pretty fetch hot chocolate. Then the squad (Sadie, Lila, and I), took many pictures of our experience; as did everyone else. Then shortly after we went to the chocolate factory we learned how to dance salsa! It was super fun. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Eventually we made our way back to our lovely home and had some down time. Orlando (awesome staff member), told us some history and statistics about Guatemala. That just about sums up the GLA day. Hasta!
– Tiarah Young (Mama T)
An Eventful Day
Today was an entertaining and eventful day. First we woke up close to 6:30. Some people went to run with Patrick. They said that they felt like they could not breathe much and that they were going to throw up (because of the elevation). Patrick must be a good runner. For breakfast we had french toast and watermelon with yogurt. Most agreed that this was the best breakfast yet. After breakfast we went to the school to do service for the children. Some of us taught English classes, while others built a wall or worked on painting the stairs. We all enjoyed playing with the students. They seemed fascinated with our phones and cameras and wanted to take pictures and selfies. After that we ate lunch and went to Spanish class. We learned for a long time and then we went out to test our skills at the market. Later we ate dinner and did a fun activity to see what kind of leaders we are. It was a good day.
A Great Day!
Today was a great day! We woke up and some of us felt the need to workout. Afterwards, we ate breakfast which included eggs, beans, and fruit. After breakfast we went to the school to do our daily volunteer work. Some of us taught an english class including me, Phyllis, Kate, Avery, Talia and Mike. Lindsay, Tete, Sydney and Amber painted stairs and Dharam, Sadie, Peter, Christian, Maxime, and Rachel built a wall for the library. During recess at the school, we have discovered that the kids really love piggy-back rides and helping out with the projects. After that we returned to the home base for lunch and resting. We then traveled to a nearby town to learn about pottery. Afterwards we walked around in groups and explored the town. In the town there was an open market which showcased the different foods and elements of Guatemala. We then returned to the house for dinner and leadership activities. Our leadership activities tonight were focused on stereotypes and “the other”. We watched different youtube videos which expressed the different point of views of people around the world. We then discussed our opinions on the subject. Looking forward to a new exciting day in Guatemala!
First Day of Service
We woke up, did the morning exercise. then had pancakes that tasted like bananas. Today was our first day of service, we had a choice of three projects, the wall, creating a lesson plan for english class and painting. Recess came around, it was chaos, we had a lot of fun, the kids wanted endless piggy back rides. One kid in particular, Gustavo, wanted a ride from everybody. After service, we went home, there was a big bump and the road. We had lunch next, rice with shredded beef, tortillas and the vegetarian alternative. The group had fun playing monopoly and card games until spanish classes, that lasted till six, we were put into groups and got to see the historic center of Quetzaltenango. Afterwards Freddie educated us on the storied history of Guatemala. For dinner we had Spanish tortillas with salad and pink space jello. The day was wrapped up with more games and ultimately the mentor groups where we got to all get closer to one another.
All students have arrived safely and are ready for an amazing program! Stay tuned for blog updates and photos!