Thursday August 8, 2019
Today was day five of our stay in Guatemala. It started out with an amazing French toast breakfast at our home base (which really has started to feel like a home). After that we hopped in the GLA vans for a short ride to the school of our service site. This is the third day of applying plaster to the walls of two classrooms.
The entire group has gotten so much better at mixing paste and slathering it evenly on the walls. When we were done plastering for the day we washed out our buckets and spatulas in the pila. A pila is a Guatemalan washing station used to clean items such as clothes and kitchen tools. Pilas are usually placed in a center gathering point for the community, in this case the courtyard of the school. When taking turns washing our utensils we had the opportunity to talk and play with the students. Even though we have only been at the school for a short while, the students run up to us for hugs and remember our names.
After service we hopped in the GLA vans for a two hour journey to ChiChi. While this bus ride was a little long, it was a great opportunity to look out the window and experience more of the Guatemalan country side. We also used the time to speak with our amazing GLA leader, Brian, about his experiences living in Guatemala. Upon arriving in ChiChi we ate in an beautiful hotel with fountains and live parrots. After enjoying our delicious meal and snapping a few cute pictures we headed out into the markets.
The streets were filled with beautiful colorful objects and intricately woven cloth. After bargaining and purchasing, my group headed back to the hotel with our new scrunchies, sweaters, hammocks and more. We then hopped back into the GLA vans where I took a much needed nap! Back at the home base we had down time. The group played cards, ate dinner, and prepared questions for our next speaker. We tossed around a football outside and played with the cuddly house cat Pricesa. At 10 it was lights out and we all hopped in our beds to prepare for the next day.
Friday August 9, 2019
Hello, my name is Ryan and I guess it’s my turn to write a blog. I’m seventeen, going to be a senior in high school, and am really here in Guatemala because I wanted to travel outside of the US but didn’t want to have to be in charge of finding things to do. For me, those things that were planned have been thoroughly more enjoyable than anything I could’ve come up with reading a tourist guide to Guatemala.
There was the best (and only) salsa class I’ve been to, and even though I was a very below average student, that experience means at my next school dance I can’t justify standing and/or shuffling around with the time old excuse: “oh, uh I don’t know how to dance.” While the big, planned events have for sure helped make this trip so far, they make up probably only half of the good times I’ve had on this trip.
The other half is random, smaller moments, like when the road to ancient Mayan and Olmec ruins (Ruinas Abaj Takalik) was closed because of construction. Loitering around under the hot sun with dwindling water supplies sounds like the stuff of vacation nightmares, but for me the wait wasn’t all that bad because of the game of conquian (an ancestor of rummy) started by our two drivers and GLA local director.
The opened trunk of our van provided the shade, and the raised bed of the trunk provided the table. I started by watching, and then was invited to play. I didn’t know the rules, and could only communicate through translated bits of conversation, but learning (and losing every game) helped pass the time. Going forward for the rest of the trip, I look forward to more of both the big and small moments.
Saturday August 10, 2019
he students of Hopkins Guatemala 2019 had a jam-packed day. A delicious selection of fried eggs, bean paste, plantains, and assorted pastries were served to accommodate the hungry students. Immediately after, the students made their ways into the van for hour long ride to a zip lining place. With a harness and helmet equipped, everyone experienced great height, speed, and gorgeous views as they passed by the Guatemalan jungle. After arriving back to home base with new experiences formed, the students had some time to relax before they were headed off to the next objective of the day.
The students arrived to the same school they had previously worked on the previous four days. Without the vivacious crowd of kids, the place seemed lonely, but the students worked hard to paint the walls of two classrooms for the same kids to enjoy. As we left, all the students could not help but ponder and think about the experiences and friendships formed. Around an hour after they came back to home base, the students had a speaker, an ex-soldier of the Guatemalan army during the Guatemalan Civil War, come over.
Together with previously formed questions, the students along with the speak had a well formulated conversation. Along with a new guest, the students ended their day off with a nice dinner of Guatemalan tacos. After dinner, everyone shuffled off to do their own nighttime activities.
-by Matthew Cotaj
Sunday August 11, 2019
Starting off the day, our group began with a delicious breakfast comprising of pancakes. Soon after we finished, we moved on to the hike of a dormant (the area is called Chicabal) volcano’s crater, which had a beautiful lagoon in it. Around this lagoon, Mayan rituals were being performed, allowing us to witness their cultural ceremonies.
After, we headed back to home base to have our lunch of spaghetti with meat sauce. We then made a quick stop at the local Burger King to pick up shakes and fries, and our group later left to visit the town of Momostenago. While traveling, we took a pit stop at a weaving workshop, where we saw the weaving process and bought a couple of “garments”. We later started to pack our suitcases, for it was our final day at home base. Lastly, we had our banana leaf wrapped dinner and were left to relax and absorb the day’s activities.
– by Andrew Cotaj
Today we had banana pancakes for breakfast that were delicious before piling into the vans. We drove to Chicabal with our new furry friend Luna where we took a bumpy, but fun ride up a mountain in the back of a pick up truck. From there we had a beautiful overview of Lake Chicabal, which was formed from a crater, and were able to take pictures before hiking down to the shore. We learned about the history of the lake and its importance to the Mayan religion.
After some snacks on the shore and a hike around the lake we started journeying back to the base of the mountain. It was an exhausting, but fulfilling hike back to the vans. After a great meal of spaghetti the group took a trip down to the local Burger King for a taste of home. Almost everybody got the classic Oreo milkshake which we all enjoyed before heading out again. We drove to Momostenango and visited a family weaving business. They showed us how to turn sheep’s wool into yarn and string using different machines.
We had an overview of the different dyes they use to change the color of the string. Unlike other businesses they use natural dyes to color all of their yarn. We were then led to a shop where we could see their different products and even purchase some Guatemalan sweatshirts for everyone (which made for a great group photo). We had an early return to home base where we were able to settle down with some hot chocolate and enjoy the rest of the night.
– by Sara Francis
Monday August 12, 2019
So, sadly this is the last day of service with the kids. We have to finish the last of the concrete and the pasting and everything. We were SUCCESSFUL!!! We finished two rooms in 4 days and I’m very proud of everyone. We hung out with the kids one last time and it consisted of lots of hair touching and teaching them a foot dance. It was sad to see them go, but I’m so glad I got to spend time with these kids.
So, after our dirty work we went back to the house to change and freshen up a little and then we went to a CHOCOLATE FACTORY. IT WAS SOOOO GOOD. We walked in and first of all there were adorable dogs and a toddler. We petted the dogs because we all hadn’t been able to pet one in a while. We then went into this room for a “presentation” and all the guy did was say “Welcome to the Chocolate Factory”, his name, and Enjoy.
There was a platter of fruit in front of us and a chocolate fountain. We feasted for about 10 minutes until we had the second part of the presentation. The woman who talked to us was a 4th or 5th generation of chocolate making and she was so very passionate about what she did. She taught us about how the origin of chocolate is not in Europe as everyone thought it was.
There are 4 main countries that worked towards creating the final product of chocolate. The countries were Sweden, Spain, United States of America, and Belgium. Each country was an intricate part on the founding of chocolate, but the techniques and strategies were extracted from the Mayan culture. It gives me a whole different view on chocolate and the “best” places to get it from. Guatemala was voted one of the top 10 places to get chocolate from.
After the woman finished talking she let us taste test some of her chocolate. There was one flavor called chocolate tea, which sounds unnatural, but it was the best flavor. It was so good that almost all of us bought it. We cleaned the woman out of her chocolate tea because it was so good. I bought pure chocolate, chocolate tea, and milk chocolate hot chocolate. I’m so excited to go home and have my family try it. After we bought the chocolate, we pet the dogs one more time and then went back to the house to get some snacks for the families we were going to visit.
Now, this has probably been my favorite part of the trip thus far. We split up into two big groups and talked to families of some of the kids who go to the school that we helped out at. At the house I was at, there were 13 animals and about 10 women and girls who lived on all of the property. I got to try on some traditional Mayan clothing and ended up wearing what one of the women wore to her wedding. The family became much more accepting of us when we decided to try on their clothes.
The fact that some of these houses have one bed and can have up to 5 people living in there is what shocks me. Coming on trips like these give you so much more admiration for where you live. I really enjoyed meeting more kids like Fatima, Daniela, and the 18 month old, Alejandro. All around it was a great experience. The best part of the night, so it seemed, was that we were able to get back to the house early and chill. We got back and killed some time before dinner as always. It was a fantastic end to the work week!
– by Ranease Brown
Wednesday August 14, 2019
Today was mainly a travel day, but as usual, our group found a way to make it fun. We woke up and had a quick breakfast in Panajachel before slowly making our way to Antigua.
Our first stop, however, wasn’t Antigua but an adorable restaurant. Ironically, we stopped at the restaurant as a rest stop on the second day of our trip. Going to that same place for lunch really made the trip feel like it was coming to a full circle. We spent an hour there playing with the bunnies, horses, swing sets… essentially we were acting like four year olds and loving it. In my opinion, that lunch was the best meal of the whole trip.
We then proceeded to Antigua where we had a few hours to explore. We walked around the beautiful streets, making our way to the center plaza, and eventually back to the hotel.
Although lunch was my favorite meal food wise, dinner was my favorite meal experience wise. The restaurant itself was in a gorgeous building with many corners to explore. On top of that, there was live music and a dance floor that a few of us made sure to take advantage of. To our surprise, five dancers in masks came out from the sides of the room and danced for all of us – so much fun.
To close the day, we further reflected on the trip: our favorite memories, the highs and lows… Everyones’ words allowed us to travel back in time and, in a way, relive our time on the trip.
Just when we thought it was time for bed, we saw the volcano, Fuego, erupting from the roof of our hotel. With the whole group soon together again, we watched the lava burst out from the top in awe. This experience, like every experience on the trip, was one like no other.
– by Casey Dies