The Spanish, Service and Mayan Culture program in Guatemala has officially begun! After long flights and equally long layovers everyone has arrived safe and sound and spirits are high. We are now settled into our home base in Quetzaltenango (aka Xela) and are looking forward to a summer full of excitement, learning and adventure. Updates to come soon!
Greetings from Guatemala! Only three days in and so much has been accomplished: community service, Spanish classes, cultural activities and group meetings.
For our service project we are painting Garibaldi School in our local area of Quetzaltenango. Garibaldi school serves 400 elementary age students and is in need of a major facelift. We are working hard to make Garibaldi school a beautiful place for children in Quetzaltenango to learn and play.
The past few days have been full of new experiences, people, and places. Whether painting the local school, taking Spanish classes, or hiking through beautiful Guatemalan towns, GLA has given all of us the opportunity to fully immerse ourselves in the vibrant culture that surrounds us. Learning about different local traditions such as traditional Mayan weaving and embroidering have opened our eyes to the rich history of this country, while also bonding with each other and forming lasting relationships with each other. Living together so closely in this type of foreign environment has clearly been a catalyst to making friends and enjoying each other’s company. I am confident in saying that we are all looking forward to the challenges and exciting adventures that await us over the next couple of weeks. Here are a couple of group photos that exhibit both our camaraderie while experiencing the Guatemalan culture.
– Alexander de Liagre
Today we visited a town called Totonicapan. We were given a lesson on pottery where we each got a turn to make a plate.
The man who owned the pottery shop had many beautiful plates, tiles, and cups. Most of us ended up buying at least one.
On the way home, there was a beautiful view of the town, and a double rainbow!!
We’re all having so much fun!
– Mary Shkouratoff and Sarah Suttner
Written by: Vienna Roche and Athena Rubin
Service, Salsa and Chocolate!
Today was a great day!! We started off the morning with painting at Escuela Garibaldi and then played with the children during their recess. It was filled with what seemed like hundreds of piggyback rides and lots of chalk! The older kids enjoyed playing both basketball and soccer. Many of them were eager to learn English and get know us. We are so happy to be experiencing this new culture and making new friends.
After service we headed back home for lunch, where we were able to reenergize ourselves for the activities to come. Then we set off to learn about (and eat!) traditional Mayan chocolate! We went to a chocolateria called Doña Pancha, a small family business that has been passed down for generations. They started off with a delicious chocolate fountain complete with fresh fruit. The women then taught us about the original Mayan currency, cacao, which is the raw form of chocolate. They also used it for medicine, food, and offerings to the gods. At the end of the presentation the women gave us drinks similar to hot chocolate. In their culture it is customary to make a wish before having the first sip of this chocolaty drink, which we made happily!
Once we drank the chocolate we were ready to Salsa! In order to learn the dance we went to a traditional Guatemalan Salsa club. This dance includes many complicated steps but we had an amazing teacher and an absolute blast!! Salsa was then followed by chili cheese fries and fresh limeade. Overall it was a really incredible day!!
Written by: Emma Seidler and Carmen Harris
The past few days have been full of fun activites and adventure! On Tuesday, we began painting our mural for the school where we volunteer. We can´t wait for the kids to see it after they come back from their vacation. We included many different aspects of Guatemalan culture and landscape that we´ve experienced over the past couple weeks. So far, we have painted the beautiful mountains, farmland, sunset, forest, and the nation´s Quetzal bird. As we painted, we decided to film a time-lapse video to document our progress. We included the first part of it for you to see how far we have come already!
After a long morning of painting, we got to relax at some nearby hot springs. We went up in the mountains, which was about a 45 minute drive from our home base in Xela. There were three pools that were all heated naturally. Each one was a different temperature, and we had fun relaxing in all of the different pools. One of the pools was built into the side of a mountain, and had a lot of caves were the hot springs filtered into the pool. The landscape was so beautiful because we were high up enough in the mountains that we were surrounded by mist from the clouds. Also, there was a path behind the pools that we decided to take an adventure on, and we could see the view even better from where we hiked to.
To finish off a great day, we had a ¨bond¨ fire (pun intended, thanks to Athena, our wonderful team-building leader). We walked a few blocks from our home base to our director Orlando´s house, carrying all the candy and snacks we could possibly eat. We chatted and bonded over smores and ghost stories. Since smores are very American, a lot of our Guatemalan leaders and friends had never tasted them. We got to give them their first bite ever, which they enjoyed. What a great end to an amazing day!
This morning, we continued our volunteer work at the school. We have almost completely finished painting all of the school! Thanks to Carmen, the team leader for the mural, the mural was also completed. Tomorrow morning, we plan to go back and finish a few final things, including adding our hand prints to a wall upstairs, painting a quote underneath the mural, and coating the mural with a protective layer to make it last for years to come. Here is a picture of the completed mural:
In the afternoon, we were able to enjoy an activity hosted by our leader, Lisette. The activity was only listed on the calendar as “Lisette Activity”, so nobody had any idea what it was. Lisette told us that it was designed to strengthen our Spanish skills, so from that, we guessed that we were going to the movies, and we were right! After lunch, we went out to see Jurassic World in Spanish. None of us were able to take pictures of the event, but we can all attest that the movie did involve several very large dinosaurs and many smaller dinosaurs, all of which were incredibly cool when seen in 3D.
Tomorrow, we look forward to finishing our work at the school and beginning our final weekend here in Guatemala!
Written By: Carrington Metts