Lago Atitlán

Today was our last full day in Guatemala. Our group decided to spend our last day on a lake. We woke up at 5:00 am to travel 2 hours to Lago de Atitlan. The roads were twisty and windy, and they snaked down the sharp mountainside that lead to the shores of the lake. By car we arrived at Panajechel. Panajechel is the most developed town on the lake. It has hotels, restaurants, and shops. We first arrived at the docks and a tour guide took us to a boat. We were the only group in the motor boat. The scenery was beautiful; the dark blue waves crashed against the sides of the boat. Surrounding the lake were huge jagged mountainsides, volcanos, and cliffs. The mountainsides looked as if they where quilts separated into squares by the farmlands and vegetation. We had had tons of smiles as we admired the beautiful natures and shared jokes on the boat ride over. There is three volcanos that tower over the Lago de Atitlan: Volcan San Pedro, Volcan Toliman and Volcan Atitlan. Even though we would not swim in the water it was still a gorgeous site in Guatemala.   image

We travelled to three villages other than Panajechel by boat. The first village that we boated to was San Juan La Laguna. The village was built on a hill and to reach all of the shops we had to walk up the steep hill. The majority of our group spent an hour walking around town, shopping, and hanging out on the dock. We also enjoyed looking at all of the amazing art in the art galleries. The art often depicted scences of the lake and the Guatemalan people. The paintings were vibrant and full of color. Some members of our group enjoyed going to a coffee shop to get drinks and get out of the sun. In addition, others group memebers rode tuk-tuks to go to a weaving demonstration and a medicinal plant cooperative.

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The second village we visited was San Pedro La Laguna and it was similar to the first village. It also had shops and art galleries. We spent only 30 minutes in this village before moving on to our last stop, Santiago Atitlan. This village was the largest of the three villages that we visited. It had numerous amounts of shops and restaurants. We ate our lunch in this village in a small restaurant.  The majority of our group ate quesadillas. We spent the most time in Santiago Atitlan, the town with the greatest indigenous presence. In addition, we enjoyed our long boatride back to Panajechel laughing and breathing in the fresh air. We ending our experience in Guatemala with a great dinner out in Antigua at Quesos y Vino.

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Guatemala Trip 2015 was a huge success!

– Sage Fletcher

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Some Things Are Sweeter Than Chocolate

Today was our last day at the Miguel Magone orphanage which was definitely bittersweet. Finishing a second half of the concrete slab job was satisfying, especially to see all the work we put in during our past few days which has since dried. We labored hard all morning mixing dirt, concrete mix, and gravel by using only tools and our backs and then dumping it into the concrete site to make sure that the girls get a really nice, flat area to play. Personally, I felt like the first half of the day was extremely accomplishing seeing all the work we helped complete.

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After lunch, a few of us went to the music room to listen to Pablo sing and play the guitar for us one last time. Pablo has been at the orphanage for much of his 17 years. The rest of my time was spent playing soccer with a few of the older boys and saying my goodbyes to all the children we met this week and to Karen and Estuardo for their extraordinary kindness and love that they have for Hogar Miguel.

It was sad to say goodbye because it has truly hit me that these are the last few hours that we will be spending in Guatemala together and as our time slowly comes to an end, I keep thinking back to the past two weeks here in Guatemala that have been so impactful and meaningful.

After lunch, a small number of us opted to visit the Choco Museo in Antigua.  We left the orphanage shortly after finishing the morning labor and lunch and drove back to our hotel to shower and get ready then walked 15 minutes to get to the museum.  Even before we entered, we could smell the museum a few feet out the door.  When we entered the shop, cast before us was an ocean of chocolate products ranging from the generi bars to creative confection with pecans, oranges, spices and other assorted ingredients.  Chocolate shampoo, lotions, and beauty products lined one wall and a case full of gourmet treats such as truffles with coconuts, pecans and strawberries dominated the center of the floor.  We met our guide Edwin and were issued brown aprons embroidered with the Choco Museo logo.  Edwin began by walking us around a room packed with exhibits displaying the various processes of the chocolate making.  First, giant seeds are scissored from trees and cut open to reveal the beans inside.  Those beans are then fermented in large wood boxes covered with banana leaves.  The chocolate beans, called “Cacao” by Guatemalans, are then laid out and sun dried before being roasted and removed of their outside layer.  The remaining bits, called nibs, are then ground into a paste using either a mortar and bowl, or a large stone rolling pin called a “mano” and a flat slab called a “mataste”.

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In traditional Mayan drinks, the cocoa paste is then added to water, corn, chile and honey, then mixed by sloshing the concoction between two vessels.  We had an opportunity to experiance this mix after Edwin prepared it for us.  After visiting the room of displays, we returned to the main room with a kitchen and table and were able to choose from a viriety of molds to make our own chocolate.  We chose either light or dark chocolate then were given a bowl of molten chocolate.  We had a variety of ingredients to put in our chocolate pieces:  almonds, macadamia nuts, pepper, chili, mint, cinnamon, peanuts, coconut, oranges and ginger just to name a few.  After creating individual masterpieces, we continued the tour by getting some hands on experience with the chocolate making process, getting to see the beans roast before our very eyes, then peel them, grind them.

Edwin created a variety of delicious drinks from the paste, such as the traditional Mayan drink with honey and chili powder (spicy and fairly bitter), a tea made from the scrapped skins from the beans and a little sugar (sweet, but still a little bitter) and finally, the best hot chocolate I have ever tasted, hands down, with hot milk, chocolate paste, a bit of pepper, anise, and cinnamon.

We continued the tour in another room that briefly touched on the more mechanical aspects of making chocolate such as the tempering of chocolate using temperature manipulation to make it suitable for bar form, and the development of a machine that separates the cocoa butter from the powder.

The tour mostly concluded after that, but we returned to the kitchen to retrieve our chocolate from the fridge and bag it to take home.  Many of us also opted to peruse the shop and acquire unheard of amounts of chocolate products.  While most of the group headed back, Erik and I remained behind for a little bit, and then hit the streets in hope of scoring  a tuk-tuk ride back to the hotel.  A tuk-tuk is a three-wheeled vehicle with motorcycle like handle bars for steering and a small space in the back for passengers.  We saw one almost immediately in the street and attempted to flag it down, only to realize it was a police tuk-tuk with two Guatemalan officers inside.  We continued meandering through the town finding ourselves in the main square asking locals where we could locate the elusive vehicles.  We received several responses and direction before finding a street frequented by tuk-tuks, and even then, the first three or so we tried to flag were occupied (one of which was another police vehicle).  Finally, we attracted a tuk-tuk which veered over to the side of the street, and we enthusiastically hopped in.  The tuk-tuk accelerated down the cobblestone streets, every bump and crack keeenly felt as we jumbled through traffic and around Antigua.  We had some directional difficulties at first before finally pulling up to the gate of the community our hotel was in and making the most stylish possbile entrance, rolling in smoothly just in time for dinner.

We ate, then met upstairs for what we anticipated to be our final meeting as tommorow will be our busiest day yet and we thought we would be too worn out to have a meeting.  We discussed highlights and challenges of the trip and then shared a special thought for each member of the group.  The meeting ended in emotion, tears and a group hug, as we retuned to our rooms to get to bed early as we have a fairly early departure tommorow morning.  Many of us expressed our personal growth and strides made over the trip as well as the deep connection we have formed while in Guatemala with children who never fail to inspre us with their enduring positivity and resilience despite having been in situations that brought some of our group members to tears when the backgrounds of these children were revealed.  Abuse, physical and emotional, has been a way of life for many of the children at the orphanage, and several groups members have seen the past of these children permenantly emblazoned on their skin in the form of scars.  It is with great sadnesss, but equally hope, that we recognized our experiances in both La Limonada and Hogar Miguel Malone, and hope that we have given these children at least a small portion of love, care and compassion that is often lacking in their lives.

We look forward to our special day tomorrow, consisting of a boat trip that will allow us to vist four different Guatemalan towns, but we will never forget the primary mission of our trip was service, and not only the service we have begun in these communities, but also the service that the children have done for us by welcoming us into thier communities and hearts and leaving memories that will surely impact our thinking as global citizens and perhaps motivate us to continue sevice in our everyday lives.

A number of group members have already committed to sponsor children at the Hogar Miguel Malone and will keep in contact with these children in the coming months despite being worlds apart once again.  I am sure I speak for every one here when I say I would also like to briefly thank the parents and families of our group members for making each of our journeys possible and for facilitating and supporting our growth, in terms of knowlege and emotion, in this incredible trip.  We will see you all soon, as our trip slowly begins to wind down, preparing for a day of activities then the long trip home.

It is possible this may be our last blog post before retuning, depending on our feelings tommorow, and if it is in fact to be our last Guatemalan post, we would like one message to be overarching.  We have learned so much during our seemingly brief time in Guatemala, and if emotions are like skin, then we all must have stretch marks.  We have learned about the power of love, and the essential human necessity of being loved and we have had to opportunity to see a small act of kindness go a long way.  We have forged connections and friendships in some of the harshest environments many of us have experienced.  We have laughed, we have cried and we have perhaps scratched the surface of problems that cannot simply be fixed with a single hug, act or trip.  Guatemala and its people hold new meaning for each individual, and we are writing new definitions for words we may have thought we knew the meaning of already. It has been a wild ride, but I believe that we will leave truly the better for each day we have spent pushing and working, serving and touring. It has, in the words of Lisa Scarry, really been “an honor and a privilege” every step of the way.

-Katie Ball

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Hardworking and Impactful

As the trip comes to an end, we have reflected upon the community service we have done at La Limonada and the orphanage.

IMG_9011At La Limonada when sorting thousands upon thousands of beans we felt that we were able to help the teachers of the academys spend more time with the kids. We bagged around 250 bags that contained two bags of rice, one bag of beans and one bag of oatmeal.  We helped organize classrooms, medicine rooms, and piles of donated clothing. We also painted the outside of the last academy, Lima, that had been vandalized by gang grafitti. We felt that we were only scratching a small surface upon the thousands of La Limonada kids and their  families, but doing something rather than nothing was going to make an impact. In a community like La Limonada, there was a lot to be done with all the schools and with the poverty of the slum. With the work we did, we were satisfied, but after the four days of seeing and helping this community we wanted to help out even more.

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At the orphange we spent the first two days cleaning and preparing to pour concrete over a piece of land outside the girls’ house. First we had to take apart a play structure and remove the piles of rocks and weeds around the area we are going to concrete over. IMG_1543-0Then we had to tamp the dirt for hours to get the dirt firm and flat to place the concrete. Today, we had to manually mix the concrete powder with the the dirt and rocks. Then after mixing them by shovel, we added water and shoveled that into a wheel barrow and placed it on top of the dirt. We finished one third of the concrete job today. Another job we did was painting the cones on top of the girls’ castle blue. We made quite a mess cleaning up but we managed to leave the job cleaner than when we started. The end product of the cones was super cool!

 
imageAlthough the jobs we did were different than each other the community servivce we did at La Limonada felt as if we helped more and it felt more special than the service at the orphange. At the orphange a lot of groups come from all over come monthly and help out. Since more people went to the orphange going to La Limonada felt more impactful because we felt that we helped more of a community. La Limonada is unfamiliar to some service groups, so we feel that we created more of an impact helping at La Limonada because not many people come to help the kids and schools like they do at the orphanage.
The service work we have done has been rewarding and eye opening. We hope to end our last day at the orphange successfully!!!image

Emma Kelly and Kiara Vazquez

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Riding High in the Land of Eternal Spring

Today started out at 5:30 in the morning when Sophie came around to each student’s room to inform everyone about the upcoming sunrise. As we all stood around wondering where the sun would rise from, somebody pointed out the large mass of clouds, which was blocking the sun. Overall it was a good start to the day because we had some group bonding and a refreshing awaking that came from Guatemala’s atmosphere.

After an amazing Guatemalan breakfast served from the hands of the great staff at the El Palacio de Dona Beatriz, we took a scenic bus ride with the legendary driver Reneé to the orphanage. At the orphanage we worked on taking apart a play structure, then setting up the ground in preparation for a cement layer. I feel that the most challenging part of this process is going to be the reassembling of the play structure.

Lunch.

After lunch, we had a loose schedule due to the fact that there is a 30 person mission group also at the orphanage. As you probably guessed by now, they all wore matching green shirts. We have a great respect towards them because of the fact that they are dedicated to helping the kids. Additionally, each member of the group brought 100 pounds of donations with them. That’s roughly 30000 pounds of donations total. It’s all about the kids who need hope, inspiration, knowledge, and love to become great people. The main pastime is soccer on a really cool mini court. We have intense scrimmages with kids from 8 to 17 and the skill level for most of the older kids is easily varsity at Proctor. I was impressed with the younger kids because they could easily hold their own against the bigger kids with passing and skill. Also, while one kid did a rainbow over me and scored, I was thinking about how these kids had soccer as more than a sport, but a way to forget about the unfairness of life, and the total equality of soccer.

After the trip to the orphanage, we arrived back at the hotel. Most of us went out for a walk to a bakery and a cafe, where the desserts were top notch. Dinner at the hotel was next, and then a group meeting lead by Sophie Nasvik. Overall we learned a lot and are excited to learn more tomorrow.

Luke Weber

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New Beginnings in Antiguas

Antigua Day One:

Yesterday we traveled from Guatemala City to Antigua, Guatemala. We were excited to begin our new adventures during week two, but sad to leave the people of La Limonada. Our day began with riding in a van for an hour in order to reach our destination of Antigua. As we drove on the twisty-turny road, the elevation increased and the air quality began to become more clean. Our group left the busy traffic of Guatemala City and admired the views of the countryside and rolling mountains. The sky was a clear blue dotted with clouds as we pulled into Antigua. One of the first aspects of Antigua that we noticed was the cobblestone roads and the architecture of the houses. Once we arrived at our hotel, we gazed at the pool and the beauty of the building that we were going to be staying in. The hotel has three floors and spiral black stairs that lead to the lookout on the roof. The view from the rooftop overlooks other buildings in their gated-in area. The hotel rooms are also amazing; Kiara, JoJo, and I have a jacuzzi in our room that we all enjoy bathing in. Our first impressions of Antigua was that it was almost an opposite world than La Limonada and Guatemala City.

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Once we were settled into our hotel, we took a walk into town to go to a restaurant to eat lunch. We found a restaurant and sat at a long table where the majority of us ordered chicken, guacamole and tortillas. After the meal, we walked furthur into the town in order to exchange our money in the bank. While the leaders went in to the bank, we went to the town square. Many Guatemalans, of all ages, were trying to sell us braclets, necklaces, scarves, and other trinkets. There was one woman who was doing tricks with a hula-hoop in front of most of the people in the town square. She came over to us and asked us, in English, if we wanted to try hula-hooping. Katie Ball had the most success at trying to accomplish the tricks. Almost fifty Guatemalans were looking at us trying to hula-hoop. We were not that good at hula-hooping. Meanwhile, there was a protest against corruption in the Guatemalan government during the time when we were in the town square. Once the leaders came back from the bank, we could not go to the market as originally planned because we needed a passport to exchange money. Therefore, we went back to the hotel to swim in the pool and relax on the rooftop. The first day in Antigua was super fun!

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Antigua Day Two:

Today we drove an hour to go hike near a volcano. We started at an elevation around 6,000 feet and ended around 7,000 feet. The volcano last erupted in 2010 and destroyed many homes. The eruption was the biggest one that the volcano had experienced. The cities surrounding the volcano had three inches of ash raining onto their homes. The hike was around 2 miles long up to the summit of the trail. The trail was made of black and grey ash, rocks, and poop from the horses that went up the trail. The trail was steep, but beautful as we began to reach the top. We felt as if we were in a tropical jungle; we could see our breath due to the humidity. As we made our way to the top, we began to be immersed in the clouds. From the top we were supposed to be able to see the volcano right in front of us and Guatemala City on the distance, but we could barely see a few feet away from us as the clouds made the top foggy.

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Our guide Walter took us to a gift store called the Lava Store right next to the top of our hike. As we walked to the store the clouds cleared enough so we could see the volcano. The store made jewelry made of coconut shells, and dried lava. Also next to the Lava Store was huge pile of hot rocks that filled a crater when the volcano erupted. We roasted marshmellows using the heat that steamed out from the black and grey porous rocks. The scenery was absolutly beautiful. The mountains were ragged and green, and the volcano was a dusty ash grey. The clouds and raindrops felt during our lunch made us shiver, but we had raincoats to keep warm. I was surprised how we felt hot from hiking, but cold from the air. The hike was super cool and I am glad that our group got to experience the view.

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Today we also went into town to eat dinner. We all ate crepes and smoothies that varied in flavors and types. We enjoyed the evening walking through town and eating great food. Today was a fantastic day full of a great day of hiking. We are all super excited to work with the children in the orphange tomorrow. Antigua is a fun town full of activties to participate in and places to visit!

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– Sage Fletcher

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Endings in Guat Week 1

Yesterday was our last day at La Limonada. It was a very bittersweet goodbye for me because the kids at Lima were by far my favorite. At all of the schools, I was put to the task of speaking most of the Spanish for my group. Walking into a school full of kids that experience such a harder life than me took my breath away everytime I entered a classroom.

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The day started off with everyone waking up to a heavenly aroma that wafted throughout the house. Beth made a dish called ‘Strata’ which she describes as a “yummy mix with crusty stuff on the top”. After breakfast, we drove to Lima, our final destination at La Limonada. The first class was what I have become accustomed to: a bunch of kids around 3-7 years old in need of attention and love. The teacher for that class, Vero, handled these kids amazingly. That class came and went, and Lizza told our group that we had time to help clean up the school. Kiara, Addy, and I were put to the task of painting the walls outside the school. Ronnie, the principle at Lima, wanted the walls painted yellow and red. One of the main reasons why he wanted us to paint was because the gang in the area that Lima resides in had painted graffiti all over the walls and Ronnie didn’t want the kids seeing that everyday. The one bad decision that Ronnie made was letting Kiara, Addy, and I paint. Within the hour we were covered in red paint; our pants were plastered in red and our faces splattered. The teachers had to spend about 20 minutes trying to wipe us off. After that attempt, we looked like rosy tomatoes.

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The last class of the day was probably the class I had with the kids at La Limonada that was the most impactful on me. In the cemetery, our tour guide had said, “do you want to befriend these children or save them?”. Going into our last day there, I thought a lot about what I could do to help save them. Walking into that last class, all of the kids were chanting ‘Hola Gringos’ (which is a stereotypical insult for white people). I immediately thought to myself, ‘oh boy, this class is going to be hell’. But, as soon as I started talking, the kids realized I could speak Spanish and they immediately quit their insults and started to form a bond with our group. The reason why I loved this group is because as soon as I finished talking and all the kids starting decorating their cups, they would keep walking up to me asking for me to draw hearts on their cups and write my name near the heart so they could remember me. The boys, while troublesome and sneaky, had the biggest hearts I’ve ever seen. At one point, they wanted me to teach them English and immediately starting asking me what several swear words were and I would turn to them and they would turn to Chris and just start cackling. They had such awesome attitudes that were huge, but kind and loving at the same time. When I had to say goodbye, they held on and wouldn’t let go.

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Today was our last full day in Guatemala City. We spent most of the day cleaning the new Lemonade House where we will stay next year. The day was mostly uneventful, but at one point Beth, Luke, Jacob and I went to an open market to buy weird food to try for dinner tonight. Everytime we walk around in public, we’re the center of attention. Once we bought the fruit and started walking outside, Beth began having a conversation with several little kids and two mothers. Luke, Rousseau, and I decided to play on some monkey bars and look like American idiots. I began having a conversation with this kind Guatemalan woman who was wondering why we were in the city when Beth called me over. She was having trouble understanding what the women were asking her. I began talking to them and explaining that we were in Guatemala City because we were helping the children of La Limonada and that soon, we would travel to Antigua to help out an orphanage there. One of the mothers told me she used to live in a town near Antigua and she knew of kids in need there. She asked me if I could help them. I told her that I would try to do anything I could to help those kids if we found that town. Later today, Chris and Erik told me that we are going to help kids in a town called Mixca: the town the women who wanted help was from.

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Adios,

– Sophie

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Especiales momentos con madrinas  (Special moments with sponsors)

Addy Shannon ’17 showing  us all that the connections we make in La Limonada are impactful. image  

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After the market and cemetery which is pictured above we all went into the town square. A huge fountain was in the center, and we were surrounded by pigeons  who scattered around us because our leader had just bought us food for them. We all took in our surroundings knowing that even though we were not in La Limonada, there is also poverty elsewhere in this country. Boys and girls ages 10 and under  approached us, offering peanuts and shoe shines. The look in their faces of exhausation and sadness made our answer “no” extremely challenging.

The rest of the group went to McDonalds, while I went with Lisa into La Limonada to pick up the children that Proctor sponsors, and the child I sponsor, Emily. While at McDonalds the children had the biggest smiles on their faces. The girl I sponsor constantly kept offering me her food, and even though this would be her only meal of the day, selflessness consumed her and she asked with the deepest sincerity. After refusing many times, Emily and her brother went to the McDonalds inside playground. Sadly we then had to depart and while dropping Emily and her brother off, we both started to tear up. Emily asked me when the next time would be that I would be coming back to see her.  I responded solemnly with a “no se” which means I don’t know and her smile got a teeny bit smaller. I got out of the car and said goodbye to them and as they walked down to the slums, they held hands and held the happy moments in their hearts.

-Hannah Friedman ’17

 

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