Guatemala International Development
June 25, 2018
The crew has landed in Chajul! For the next week we will be living in this beautiful community amidst the lush, verdant mountains of Guatemala. From here we will be diving into our service projects, getting to know local community members, and exploring!
Before our journey along the winding mountains to Chajul, this morning we enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the Hotel Los Lagos in Guatemala City, where we also met a new friend- Lulu the tortoise in residence.
After breakfast we traveled by bus to check out the ancient Mayan ruins of Iximche, where we learned a bit about some of the Mayan ceremonial traditions. We also began to discuss the impact of the Guatemalan Civil War on the ruins, some of which were burned down at the time. Throughout the trip we will have the opportunity to learn more about the war, which continues to impact indigenous communities like Chajul even decades after its end in 1996.
Before lunch we wandered around a beautiful garden courtyard in Chichicastenango, and then explored one of the most famous Churches in Guatemala. The church embodies a mixture of both Catholicism and indigenous Mayan practices, truly representing the complexity of the regions.
After a long travel day on the bus, tonight we will be settling into our new home, eating a lovely meal of tamales and jamaica (hibscus juice), creating our group contract, and having some free time before bed. Everyone is well and excited to begin meeting community members tomorrow!
June 26, 2018
Today we woke up to a beautiful breakfast prepared by the women from Limitless Horizons Ixil, which is the organization we will be working with throughout the next week. Breakfast included various fruits such as mangos pineapples and oranges. There were also pancakes! Once we were all introduced to the ladies, it was time to meet the children of Chajul. They came to our hotel to get to know us and play games. We played one game where we tied balloons to both of our feet and around our waist, and then the goal was to pop the other players balloons while keeping yours intact. Then we played another game where we weren’t allowed to let a balloon hit the ground- so whenever the balloon came even a little bit close to the ground, all the kids would scream at the top of their lungs!
When the children went home we walked to the nearby market in Chajul, where they had a ton of fresh vegetables and exotic fruits. They also sold clothes and various jewelry items. The atmosphere of the market was very busy and the group tended to get a lot of stares, but all stares were kind ones. After the market we went to the limitless horizons office to be assigned to a house where we would soon learn how to make tortillas. Making tortillas is an absolute art form that none of us could master on the first try, but over time we figured it out. When the tortillas were done being made, we sat down with our families to eat the tortillas got to ask each other questions. Most of the elders in this village do not speak Spanish, as they speak the indigenous language of Chajul called Ixil, so we had to speak to them through a translator.
Back at the LHI office we were greeted by the office dogs- finally the kind we could pet. After petting the dogs, a group of limitless horizon employees told us what they do, and in the middle there was an impromptu Zumba lesson. Next Antonio, who is a local English teacher and former Limitless Horizons Scholar, gave us a tour of the beautiful village of Chajul. The views of the green lush mountains were absolutely breathtaking. My favorite part of walking around Chajul is all the friendly faces that smile to you when you walk down the street.
When our tour was over we went back to the office again to learn some of the native language of Ixil. This language is no ordinary language- it is much more complicated. We learned the numbers, one through twenty, and how to conjugate verbs. After our lesson, we walked back to our hotel, which is already starting to feel like home. Soon after arriving, we were greeted by small village children knocking on our windows, so we went outside to play soccer or “futbol” with them. We got to know them and their bright spirits in a matter of minutes. When it was time for dinner we said adios, yet they still waited by the window for us to come out and play, but then it started raining and it was adios till tomorrow. As a group we had an amazing dinner with pineapple juice, chicken, and tortillas.
June 27, 2018
Greetings and Salutations! We started today off with yet another wonderful breakfast from our friends at LHI. After a 20 minute hike, we arrived at the place where we would be doing our service project. We are tasked with marking and digging 100 holes to build a fence around the land that will eventually become a school for LHI scholars. Despite the daunting work ahead of us, we took the project in stride (we did however, have a minor situation with some fire ants).
To refuel we had an excellent lunch of rice tamales (and pineapple juice!) at the home of one of LHI’s staff, Vero. We then left for story hour at the library, where we assisted with reading alongside the librarian, David. After 4 books and 1 craft, we had the chance to take a bus to a class with local students, taught by the one and only Zuli! After sweating it out for over an hour, we went back to the hotel to shower, snack, and relax. We then regrouped to watch an amazing documentary called “The Voice of the Mountain”, which follows the causes and impact of the 36-year long civil war here in Guatemala. After a long and fascinating discussion, we, in our sleepy state, had a very silly and long dinner followed by Oreos and peanut butter.
– Phelan H.
June 28, 2018
Hello from Chajul! Today was started off with a lovely traditional breakfast made by the LHI youth. After the yummy breakfast we headed to the library to play games with the children. Everyone was in charge of one group and rotead with them to the different activities which included janga, musical chairs, legos, and face painting. When finished with the rotation we were suprised with a scavenger hunt, which tested our ability to navigate through the community. We we’re tasked with purchasing do from the local market, finding buildings like the church, and taking pictures of prominent places within Chajul. Once done with the hunt we went to local families houses to learn how to make the traditional dish, boxbol, which is made of masa wrapped in leaves and server with pumpkin seed sauce.
When we returned to the library after an amazing lunch we played games with the children again and created an even stronger bond than before. Once we got back to the hotel every one was exhausted from the busy day we had just had, and we were able to rest a bit before eating dinner made by the staff at the hotel. We ended the day with Oreos and peanut butter and went to bed excited to see what the next day would bring.
June 29, 2018
We began our day with a healthy breakfast consisting of native fruits such as papayas, mangos, watermelon, and more. Then David, the local librarian, took us to the site of the new school where we have been building a new fence. From there we painted the posts placed to surround the school area. Afterwards we separated into pairs and ate with local families, where we had veggies, rice, and corn water. In the same pairs, we left to learn the historical and modern importance of weaving before trying it out for ourselves. After our weaving lessons we separated into different pairs and visited local families at home where we learned about the daily house chores. We returned to the library for our second Zumba class with Zuli! We ended the day going to an exciting new families home where some of us stayed the night for a homestay.
June 30, 2018
Hello from Chajul, Guatemala. Today, four out of the six of us awoke in unfamiliar beds in the homes of local families. We rejoined the group early in the morning before heading off to a field with the students. Everyone separated into group rotations around the field and participated in team bonding activities such as puzzles, races, long distance, and more. We enjoyed veggies, chicken, rice, and a fruit beverage for lunch and relaxed and played with students for hours on the basketball court, pool, swings, and wooden play set.
Then we walked back to the LHI office and learned about the artisan crafts and it’s historical importance in Guatemala. We were given the opportunity to purchase some of the necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and clothes made by the women in Chajul. Then for about an hour and a half, we learned about the Guatemalan Civil War firsthand from an ex guerilla fighter, who entered the war at just 14 years old. Not only did we go over the impact and reasons for the war, but also what went on inside of their minds as the rise of the war hit its peak and the aftermath, and how it affected their futures. We spent an exhausting and exhilarating day of experiencing life in the home of Chajul family, activities on the field, and learning about the impact Guatemala’s Civil War has continued to have on their economy, government, and society. We ended the day with beans, veggies, rice, and (of course) Oreos and peanut butter for desert.
-Mary Jane M.
July 1, 2018
Today started with a breakfast of fresh fruit and warm eggs in tomato sauce at our hotel in Chajul. Then we gathered our bags and hopped into one of the microbuses that seem to be everywhere in Guatemala. We journeyed to Nebaj where we stopped quickly at a shop before walking through town to a steep dirt road that would take us to the next part of our adventure. As we walked up the dirt road we took in the views of Nebaj in awe. For me the road felt similar to the climbs I ride my bike up at home in Colorado. On the second half of our hike we slipped and slid on the rocks that would roll out from under you like marbles.
After struggling down the mountain side we made our way to a dairy farm in the lush town of Acul. There we fed our hungry bellies on quesadillas, salad, and herb garnished chicken. On the vibrant green dairy farm there was also a dog that looked a lot like a little bear. We took some pictures with it, and as a group before getting back in the van to Chajul.
July 2, 2018
We woke up and were greeted during breakfast by the scholars. The younger 6th graders prepared and performed a cultural dance in the dining hall. Then we went outside and Tori took photos of us and all of the scholars in front of the hotel. Afterwards we spent most of the day driving to Lake Atitlan. When we arrived, we drove down and ate a variety of pizza for lunch. Then before we checked into our hotel, we exchanged our money and purchased cookies at a local coffee shop. We got on a boat after lunch and sailed across the lake to our hotel. At the hotel, we relaxed and played games in our rooms until it was time for dinner. For dinner, we walked along the island to the small restaurant and ate eggplant soup, green curry, and lemon cake. Returning to the hotel, we did check ins and played games together.
-Mary Jane M.
July 3, 2018
Today we awoke in a strange but amazingly beautiful place in Guatemala- the Isla Verde hotel right on the water at Lake Atitlan. We all woke up early to have breakfast in town before leaving for the Zipline adventure that we all had been patiently waiting for this whole trip. The first three of the ziplines where really high and long, but had a beautiful veiw of the lake we where staying on. After the ziplining we went to see a butterfly exibit, which had one of the most amazing and elegant butterflies we had ever seen! Once we left the “land of the butterflies” we had lunch and ate yummy tacos with chicken, guacamole, and veggies! When we were all done, we went shopping to get gifts for our loved ones at home- there were so many bright colors and awesome gifts to choose from.
When we returned we had some down time to take showers, sleep, and swim!! Even though the water was cold, it felt very relaxing and refreshing. Later we got all dressed up to have a lovely dinner on the deck of the hotels restaurant with twinkling lights, flowers, and candles. We had chicken, soup, and flan for dinner, and we all had very interesting conversation. After dinner we had our closing ceremony where we said our Goodbyes and talked about the future, ending with a group appreciation circle, and writing letters to our future selves. We ended the day by going to bed early and waiting to see what our last day would bring.
July 4, 2018
Hello from our last full day in Guatemala! We woke up in Lake Atitlan and began the day with kayaking, which proved to be far more difficult than anticipated. After about two hours of paddling against the current, we finally got back to the hotel for a well deserved and delicious breakfast. Afterwards, we had time to relax by the lake, and we passed the time by playing cards, sun bathing, and reading in hammocks. Before we left Lake Atitlan, we grabbed some cookies and papusas for the car ride ahead of us.
We then spent about four hours in the van sleeping, talking, or watching the scenery before we arrived back in Guatemala City. For our last dinner together, we had a meal of spaghetti, bread, watermelon, and cookies. We then finally retired for the night, excited to go back home, but sad to leave the friends we made during the journey.