Monday, April 21, 2014

Guatemala in 2 minutes

Here is a 2 minute photo slide show of our time in Guatemala.  

There will be much more to come! 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

At the airport

We are all checked in, we've passed through Guatemalan exit immigration and we will be in the air shortly.  As part of tradition I got us all Giatemala bracelets.  Just like the travel experiences we share we are the only ones who will have these bracelets.  

Just to recap here is a list of the things we've done:

-Spanish classes
- volunteering
- living with host families
- hiking 
- Pacaya volcano
- visit to Colegio Boston
- visit to US embassy
- Lago atitlan 
Salsa dance classes
- traditions of Guatemala
- Mayan ceremonies 
- uses of corn in Guatemala
- meeting new friends from all over the world  
- catholic processions & carpet making
-international exchange rates. 

If you look at this list above you will see that we learned across the curriculum.  Every subject these men are taught in the classroom came to life here in Guatemala.  

So the only thing there is left to do is ask, where are we going next year?!

On our way home- 11:36pm arrival

Today is the day to say our final goodbyes to all the good people we've met.  Just as a reminder our flights gets in at 11:36PM tonight.  Our layover is in Ft Lauderdale.  There we will pass through immigration and customs, so the  boys still have more things to learn before getting home.  
At Spanish school Sevilla they are preparing the carpet this morning.  The staff there promised to send me pictures of the final product. Ctheybwill not finish until 5pm and the procession will come by at 6pm.  The carpet will be destroyed in less than 10 minutes.  Many ask why one would spend so much time and money in something that will for such a short period of time?  As a religious practice they are "rolling out the carpet" for Jesus, the king.  For them it is worth every penny (quetzal) and every minute.  No other city does this like Antigua. It's a very important part if their cultural identity and beliefs, and that is worth more than time and money! 

Here are a few pix of how far they've gotten with the carpet. 

Later they will use the stencils to add the colored sand and sawdust.  Each year the designs are different. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Classes and procession prep

After classes today the boys got together to help prepare for the procession carpets.  The preparation consisted of them shifting the sawdust and sand to separate the large chunks from the finer particles.   Later they added water and dye to each pile to give it it's bright colors.  Their hands were dyed all different colors but it definitely looked like a lot of fun.  I'm excited to see them start with the carpet tomorrow even though they won't be able to finish it.  

After carpet preparations we went to Antigua's famous arch to take yet another group picture.  After the pic it was lunchtime.   Before we knew it we were back at the school on our way to the basketball court so the joys could work off some of their energy.  They met new friends at the court.  Then after hours of playing it was time for dinner.

I can't tell some of the boys are sad that we have to leave tomorrow.  Some are asking for another week.   What I am hoping to do, however, is set up and exchange program with Colegio Boston. For the exchange we can send students to Colegio Boston in June and they can send us students in November.  Now does that sound parents? Let me know. 

Our going away party

Last night after so much action at Lago Atitlan, we arrived at Spanish Academy Sevilla at 7:30 Judy in time for our going away party.   We has a BLAST.  The host familieS, teachers, and staff were there, to celebrate a job well done by both Spanish Acadmey Sevilla and BEST Academy High School.  Each student was presented a certification of completion for Spanish classes and volunteering.   We eat a great dinner of steak, Spanish style rice, refried beans, guacamole, and tortillas.  The meal was great.  Afterward we danced for over an hour.  
My phone was so full of videos from the lake that I wasn't able to record with my phone, I was able record withy camera, however.  Unfortunately this means I'm unable to upload the video to YouTube today, I have to wait until I can connect my counter to a laptop.  I have great footage of the boys dancing merengue with their host moms.  Dancing the nae-nae, receiving their certificates, and have a really great time.
After dancing the students and teachers  sent off a miniature hotair balloon into he beautiul moonlight night.  It was truly a magical night and we all felt it.  Once again I'm so proud of this group.
Currently they are in class, their last time with their teachers.  After class we will go to lunch, help with the alfombras preparation, play basketball and spend time with our new family, friends, & teachers.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Lago atitlan videos (6 videos!!!, omg)

Here's the video of the first town San Marcos 

Here is the video of San Juan

Here's is the video from the women's weaving cooperative

Médicinal plantsof Guatemala 

San Pedro, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Right before boarding our van to get back to Antigua we saw this high school
band playing in the streets,  and they were jamming!  Banda Latina from a high school in panajachal, Guatemala. 

Lago atitlan pix

We began our morning with an 8am breakfast at our hotel kaqchiquel in the town of panajachal, that also borders Lago atitlan.  The hotel breakfast prices were pretty good at Q25- Q30.  After eating we went to meet our tour guide Arturo.  The tour consisted of visiting 3 towns that border Lago atitlan.  San Marcos, San Juan, and San Pedro.   Our first stop at San Marcos was like a visiting a sleepy Caribbean island.  There were many expats there and many yoga retreats.   While there we saw the towns main church and got to watch some of a 7 and under soccer game. 

Next stop was the town of San Juan.  I didn't take many pictures here but I got amazing video footage.  We had a live demonstration on how the Mayan women weave their beautiful clothes and textiles.  They grow their own cotton then spool their own thread, dye the thread and weave their clothes.  They do it the same way they've done it for thousands of years.  I'm sure you'll love the video when I'm able to edit and post it.  In San Juan we also learned about the medicinal herbs they use in the Mayan culture.  That is also a great video. 

Lastly we went to San Pedro.  San Pedro was bigger than the other towns and had a population of about 20,000.  We walked around a bit but didn't stay long. 

Once back at Panajachel  we walked, put our feet in the lake, and had lunch.  It's now 5:30 Guatemala time and we are headed back to Antigua for our farewell party.  Even though we aren't leaving until Sunday our farewell party will be tonight. Tomorrow will be their last class and in the evening we will help prepare the carpets for Sundaýs procession.  
I will post videos tonight as soon as I get a chance. 

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Safe arrival at Lago atitlan

We've made it safe and sound to Lago atitlan however, we arrived shortly after dark so we haven't really seen where we are.  We are at hotel kaqchiquel.  The boys are paired with their same roommates.  Dr Malik seems to have fully recovered from her stomach woes and ms Venisee is still sick but hanging in there like a soldier.  
After we put our stuff away in the hotel we found a nice little spot for dinner.  Once again it's windy and cold, mainly because we are located off a large body of water.  Currently half of the boys are in bed (asleep or watching TV) and the other half are up talking and on the free wifi.

Diplomatic conversations

The US Embassy visit turned out to be quite a treat.  We had a chance to sit down and talk with two foreign service officers, who happened to be married.  As always with the US embassy we were not able to bring in phones or cameras so unfortunately I don't have pictures or videos. 

The boys asked great questions and seemed genuinely interested in hearing about different ways in which people can serve our country.  The diplomats were happy to receive us, especially since they don't get many high school groups visiting from home.
Everything we discussed was "off the record" and "confidential" so I cannot go into detail about what was discussed and disclosed to the boys.  Just trust me that it was all valuable information!  After our briefing today I'm convinced that we have several future diplomats/ world leaders in our group.  Good job boys! ❤️👏

We are currently (5:39pm Guatemala time) in the van with our driver Alan heading to Lago Atitlan.  We should be there in about 2 hrs. 

Hitting the road

We are on our way to the US Embassy for a briefing and then off to Lago Atitlan. I'll update the blog as soon as we get settled.

Cerro de la Cruz video

Yesterday Cerro de La Criz was beautiful and of course I made a short video in addition to the pictures I posted yesterday.  

La velacion de la virgen de Dolores

Last night after hanging out at the school we went to la iglesia escuela de Cristo to see la velacion de la virgen de Dolores.  It looked like a street festival.  It has been very cold and very windy here in the mornings and evenings.  According to Carlos (school director) this is the effect of mars, earth, and the moon being in alignment.  The mayan's look to to the sky for their answers, so far they've never been wrong. 

Here's a video of what it was like to be at la velacion last night. 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Antigua City tour

After classes we went to our host families for lunch then we met up at the school again for a city tour.  Unfortunately Dr Malik is not feeling well at all, but luckily her loving host family is using natural herbs to help her feel better. 

Our first stop on the tour was the jade factory.  If was ah-may-zing!!!  And not because of the jade but because of learning about the history of jade in Guatemala.  We learned more about the Mayan's advanced civilization, calendar, and practices surrounding jade than we expected.   Unfortunately all the boys are out of money and couldn't buy anything at the pricey Jade factory.  Sorry moms!

Here's a short video that summarizes our tour.  

After the Jade factory we went to the Santo Domingo Hotel to look at their museum, garden, and parrots. Our last stop was at Cerro de La Cruz.  This is a hill that overlooks the city of Antigua and seems to look volcano agua right in the eyes.  The view was captivating and we spent a long time up there talking and taking pictures.

After the view the boys were ready for basketball.  No surprise there,  at the court they met new friends from Denmark and played a good game with Canadian friends from the school.

Right now (8:30pm) we are at the school.  Together as a group we will go to a festival (velacion) at a nearby cathedral. 
Ms. Venisee has also just fallen ill.  Both teachers are vomiting, weak, and nauseous.  There may be a flu or bug going around Amadou Dem was vomiting yesterday.  I hope they feel better soon <3


Mayan cleansing ceremony

Last night's Mayan cleansing ceremony was like an awkward scene from a movie.  In Mayan tradition in order to purify and bless a a person you must be taken through a few steps.
 1. You must stand with you arms out surrounded by lit candles
2.  You must smoke a cigar 
3.  The holy man must take a bushel of a certain plant that is sprinkled with holy oil.  He will then beat you with that plant all over your head and body
4.  The holy man will then fill his mouth with alcohol and spit it all over your back. 

I've seen a similar cleansing ceremony with the Quechua of Ecuador.  Our young men found this quite hilarious and enjoyed watching other or participating in the ceremony (without the smoking the cigar).

Here's a video of me getting cleansed... And yes the man behind me really did spit all over me!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Volcano Pacaya (pix & video)

We all had early breakfasts and met up at the school at 7:30am.  The drive to Pacaya Volcano took about 40 minutes and when we got there the climb was long and grueling.  We climbed a steep incline for over an hour.  Some had to give in and rent horses on the way up.  
No matter how hard it was though we all agreed it was worth it.  Breath-takingly beautiful!! 

The volcano is active and we could feel the heat coming off of it.  It was so hot in fact that you could roast marshmallows.  So that is exactly what we did!  

Here are some video clips of the climb, us climbing over hot volcanic rocks and roasting marshmallows.  What an amazing experience we had today!!!

Currently we are at the school and the kids will be in class until 6pm at 8 we will come back here and learn about Mayan ceremonies.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Volunteering video

Here is a short click of our time spent with the kids at Hermani Pedro:

Here is another clip of the traditions of Guatemala show out on by the teachers. Sorry it's so dark but the lighting isn't that great for video in that section of the school.  The traditions they covered were "el convite" in which people in costume invite others to participate in the day of the dead celebrations.  They also talked about the December procession in which they dipict maria and Joseph in processions and a fake bull that shoots off live fireworks. 

Rainy Monday & and a new host family

This morning was rainy and chilly.  While the kids were in class I was updating the blog and working to make sure daily needs were taken care of.  I went to the bank to exchange more dollars to Quetzales, stopped by the post office, grocery store, and what feels like a hundred other things.  When I got back to the school Carlos (the school director) had taken the boys and ms Venisee to pick up colored sand for an alfombras that we will help make this Saturday.  We agreed that the boys would be great at helping lift the 50 100lbs bags of sand.  Even though they complained about the lifting they effortlessly lifted and carried each bag.  We all stand at least 6 inches taller than everyone here so their muscle power and strength is appreciated by all they help. 

During lunch Amadou Bah and Amadou Dem were moved to a new host family.  After numerous request their host mother still refused to serve them meat and they didn't like the dogs in the house either.  They had lunch with their new host mother and were thrilled to have so much good food.  Even though we will miss their hilarious stories about their first host family we are all happy for them. 

After lunch we went back to volunteer at Hermano Pedro.  This time we came with  4 decks of playing cards.  We mostly played I Declare War with the kids teaching them their numbers in English while playing.  Lotus was so happy to teach 3 little girls how to count from 1-10.  Really cute!  This may be our last day with them.  Tomorrow we will not volunteer instead we will go to Volcano Pacaya in the morning and have Spanish classes in the afternoon.  On Wednesday we will volunteer at a new site.  A public school that has hundreds of kids for us to meet, tutor, and spend time with. 
Right now we are at the basketball court. We leave here around 6:15 our time for dinner then meet up at the school at 8pm for another presentation from the school, tonight's theme is "tradiciones of Guatemala"

In the van leaving Hermano Pedro

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Use your head & family day videos

Everywhere we turn there is a Mayan woman carrying something on her head. Usually people associate this means of transporting goods with Africans but it is also the norm amongst the indigenous of our hemisphere.  Here's a short video of what we see so often.

Here is another short video of our Sunday dia de familia (family day) around town.  You will see the beautiful "alfombras" (carpets) being made, us walking around, the crowds, playing cards in the park, some of the boys talking (JUST TALKING) to pretty girls, and another huge procession.  During the procession you will see smoke that is sage incent being burned.  Ms Venisee so eloquently describes this all as a spiritual mardi gras! 

Right now the students are in class (it's Monday morning) and I'm about to go to the bank to change money.  Most of the kids have also dropped their laundry off at the lavaderia and will have clean clothes by noon. 

Tikal video part 3

On Guatemala there seems to be an infinite number of rolling hills that strangely have cone shaped pointed tops.  According to our guide, Antonio, under each and every one lays an uncovered pyramid.  They have kept their form but they are covered in thick grass and in some cases bushes and trees, their pyramids shapes, however, are deniable.   Approximately 1,800 uncovered pyramids are in Guatemala.  1,800?!?!?! Just looking at the hills you can see the pyramids underneath, in some areas they reach as far as the eye can see, too numerous to count.  

Here is our last video filmed at Tikal.  The boys asked fantastic questions and were geniuinuely interested.  Each and every parent reading this please give yourself a pat on the back for the jobs you've done in raising such a fine young man. 


It's a good thing that we were forced to stay in Antigua today and not have our excursion to Pacaya Volcano.  We spent the whole day hanging out together.   We had a great time laughing, teasing each other, playing cards in the park, people watching, looking at all the "alfombras".  Just like the local people in Antigua we were able to do this for hours, all day as a matter of fact.  
In Latino culture Sunday is family day, we fit right in because at this point we are all family.  There is definitely serious bonding that occurs when traveling like this.  We all feel such a great responsibility for each other and so far have been through and seen things with each other that no one else will understand.  My BEST travel family! 
At about 5:30 we ended up at the basketball court, having to leave when it started raining.  Now we are all at my host family's house.  The boys are playing cards and using my host's wifi. 

In a few minutes (9pm) I will walk everyone home for the night.  Tomorrow we will begin again with classes and volunteering our evening gathering is about Mayan ceremonies. 

More Processions and no volcano

We had to cancel our volcano plans today.  The procession is too large,  there is no way in or out of the city.  There are approximately 45,000 people in town to see and participate in the procession.

These are called carpets.  They are made  in the middle of the street with colored sand and flowers.  I teach about these in class so now they get to see them in real life.  


Tikal part 2

I'm convinced that our guide knows everything.  He speaks 11 languages, 5 Mayan dialects, English, Spanish, Italian, German, French, and Japanese. He taught us how everything the Mayans did had great meaning.   Please join us in the learning by watching this video.

Enjoy part 2 of our video.

Tikal part 1

Tikal was amazing and I took plenty of video.  We learned so much about the Mayan civilization.  It's a misconception that they are exstinct they are Ali e and well and over 30 million of then are still in Guatemala.  We see them everyday!  The great mystery is why they left huge cities like Tikal.  Our knowledgeable tour guide taught us all about the cause.  The Mayan cities were so huge and elaborate that deforestation became a huge issue and the lack of trees in the area caused a 200 yr drought.  In order to survive the masses had to abandon the cities.  

Here is part one of our time in Tikal.

Nature hike video

In one of the clips you can hear Dr Malik screaming because she saw a frog.  Lol! We had fun.

Home safe

Hello everyone,  
We are all home safe from Tikal it's 2:30am and everyone is in their house resting.  The morning processions begin today at 11am so we will meet at the school at 10am.  Even so early in the morning many people are out in the streets preparing the sand carpets.  I have no idea how to describe them, but I promise pictures and videos tomorrow.

Tomorrow we are also supposed to hike volcano Pacaya at 1 pm.  We shall see if we can keep that schedule.  I'm exhausted so now I sleep. Zzzzzzzzz.......

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Here is a quick pic from Tikal

I'll post more info when I get to free wifi 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Internet problems, movie night, and breaking the rules

Last night was movie night at the school. They set up a huge screen and a projector so we could watch "El mayordromo" the butler.  Everything was going just fine until the expected teenage stupidity kicked in with 3 of our students. To make a long story short they broke one of my golden rules and are being punished for it.  If you were not contacted last night, you can rest assured that your child was not one of the 3 stooges.  
City wide there has been internet problems that seem to be currently resolved.  Classes went very smoothly today.  Afterward, we were able to buy postcards and drop them off at the post office.  

After a super rushed lunch, we headed to our volunteer sight for our "hike".  That hike turned until very difficult, yet team building trek and climb through the beautiful woods on the hillside.  We saw waterfalls, beautiful rock formations, and plants we've never seen before.  It was a difficult hike, but a great accomplishment for us all. 

Our hiking guide showing us an 80 yr old well in the woods. 

Group pic

An usie at the top of a climb

Started from the bottom... Now we're here!!

Prissy girls can be tough too.  No other chaperones can do what they do!  

After our hike we ate cantelope icies and retuned to the school to talk about Tikal preparation and packing.  Our bus leaves for Tikal at 9pm and we will arrive there in the early morning.  Everyone says it's magical!  I look forward when we can say the same.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Random pix from Guatemala

Here are random pix that I haven't added into posts: 

Traffic leading into Antigua our first day here.

A tasty treat that me and some of the boys bought at the panaderia (bakery)

Boys on a walk with kids at the volunteer site.

Rooftop view from Cortez, Marcus, and stigg's house.

BEST ugly usie

Stigg's bedroom

Our teachers <3

Catholic religious figures in Lotus & Kaleb's house 

Grains and beans in huge bags in Lotus & Kaleb's house

Group pic with students from Colegio Boston High School

Me & Mr Downes at Colegio Boston

My dinner soup and doblados