Day 7: Vuelta Grande/Antigua

Written by: Eric Wells

Today we met at 8:30 for a full workday at Vuelta Grande. We stopped at the store to pick up the remaining supplied needed, then we headed over to the school. The project is coming to a close and we only have one planned workday after this to finish our remaining projects at the school. At the start of the day all the trenches were mostly finished. With a little more digging, we were ready to glue the pipes and backfill the trenches. Midday we had lunch and afterwards we played a game of soccer with some of the local kids. We lost. 10 – 1. at the end of the day only a few more tasks remained and we headed back around 5. We had dinner with the homestay families and then we all met up as a group celebrate a hard days work. We launched one firework leftover from new years, then the majority of us headed to los palmas, and then went home to rest before our next and last day of work.

Day 6: Vuelta Grande/Antigua

Written by: David Vaiz

Today marked our fourth work day at Vuelta Grande. All the projects are starting to come together. The digging and excavating is about done and we’re laying the pipes in the trenches. The three 660 gallon tanks we bought for the village are all set, pipes attached and ready to be filled with water. Connected to these tanks are spring boxes that are just about cleaned out. We draining the old, dirty water and shoveling out settled sediment at the bottom of the tanks (spring boxes are big concrete tanks that can store water and filter sediment by drawing water from a couple inches above the bottom of the tank).

After a long work day, we took our beautiful bus drive home to Antigua, overlooking Volcan de Agua–topped with a white cloud cap. All showered up and ready to relax, we made our way to Evan’s host home where we all ate dinner together. We ate “enchiladas,” which is the Guatemalan way of saying what Mexicans call “tostadas”. We had plantains and habiscus juice as well; it was all muy delicioso!

The night ended quietly as we all walked to our homes to catch up on some much needed rest.

Day 5: Vuelta Grande/ San Antonio

Written by: Thomas Martinez

Captain’s Log, star date…1/3/2015, The day started off a hot cup of tea. We we’re all a little groggy and sore from a hard days work yesterday. We arrived at the work site, the children of Vulete Grande were awaiting our arrival. They like to call me…Batman, I have now achieved a lifetime goal. We had been awaiting for the arrival of the 3 water tanks to be placed down on our freshly finished graded soil foundation. When the tanks arrived, it was like the videogame “Picman” as Karl stated, “It looks like the 5 block!” The tanks looked beautiful, the two days of hard work all summed up to that moment. I took a step back and admired our hard work. We only worked a half day today, we had a special occasion that we had to attend to …my wedding. We visited a Mayan community and the Mayan women showed us how a traditional Myan wedding goes. All of them were below 5 feet tall, they made me feel tall. Traditionally, Woman drape a piece of cloth called a sute over their shoulder. This shows the men that they are single. The men try to grab the sute off of the woman’s shoulder. If she likes him, she’ll let him have it. If she doesn’t like the man, she can try to rip the sute out of his hands and throw dirt in his face. They wanted to demonstrate the entire wedding process, so Mel and I volunteered to be the star crossed lovers. She gave me her sute without a fight. It was meant to be. My parents (Kalika and Jose) were thrilled to hear that I was getting married. It was a beautiful ceremony, but Mamá Kalika was wanting 12 grandkids, this was too much for the wife so right after the ceremony and dancing she divorced me. It was the happiest and saddest day in my life. After the ceremony, we made corn tortillas. My last tortilla was so badly formed, one of the women laughed, pointed at me and asked, “Do you like to dance? Because that looks like a shoe!” My tortilla might have not been pretty but it was delicious! We had the freshly made tortillas with pepian (a traditional Myan dish) with tè de canela. A sweet tea with cinnamon in it. Satisfied and full we returned to the bus to go back to our home stays to relax for the night and prepare for another day of hard work… End Log

Day 4: Vuelta Grande

Written by: Jack Fogelquist

There I was, hanging out in the bike shop with my father. The next song came on on the shop stereo; it was catchy and upbeat – I’d never heard it before. We enjoyed it in the background, and after some time went by, realized it was still going. Time went on and it wouldn’t stop, so annoyed, I walked over to the stereo and turned it off. The song didn’t stop though. Puzzeled, we stepped outside, and looking around, noticed others doing the same. We all began to start walking towards the music, with the crowd growing as the music continued. We ended up at a large parking lot to find a tall red cylindrical machine with a large amplifier on top. The song had been going on for some time now, and frustrated, we hurried toward the machine to find some way to turn it off. As we got close, we found Karl dancing next to it. We asked him to turn it off, but he showed us his iPod screen, and there were only 15 seconds left. We understandably let Karl enjoy the rest of the song, anticipating it’s ending. It faded out, and as everyone celebrated, it started right back up again. We were furious, and all of a sudden I woke up to see that this song had been on repeat as David’s alarm clock on his iPod. We had slept through who knows how long of that song playing over and over and over, and David was still asleep, despite the iPod being three inches from his head. “Dang…those must be some good earplugs,” I thought to myself. As funny as this coming to consciousness was, I was still annoyed by the song and wanted to stop it. “Tap, tap, tap, tap,” before I knew it, Jose was knocking on our door, so I got up to let him in. “Breakfast is ready guys,” so I threw my stuff together and David pulled his earplugs out, realizing the alarm had been going off for a while. We went downstairs to meet Thomas, and had a good laugh about my dream over a tasty desayuno of watermelon, pineapple, bread, cream cheese, and homemade jam. Stoked, we headed around the corner to La Union, where we met with everyone and hopped aboard the bus. Our first stop was the hardware store. I’ve been on the digging crew, so we didn’t need anything in particular. Erbin entertained us by telling us the names of a bunch of powertools en espanol, and we had fun exploring the upstairs area. I’d never seen a hardware store with such nice display cases – all glass and well lit. Shae, Mel, Kalika, Jose, and I all had to use the bathroom, and when we looked for it, only found one. Unsure of whether it was for guys or girls, we found that it was for both! I’d never seen that before. After a quick bus ride to drop some food off at La Union, we picked everyone back up at the hardware store, and embarked up the windy road to Vuelta Grande. Eager to get started, Janaye, Thomas, Nick, Jose, Kelli, Erbin, and I got to digging and surveying, realizing how close we were to finishing leveling the area for the tanks. Thomas and I working on digging steps that went into the pit, while everyone else worked quickly to finish the leveling. Erbin had some great techniques for smoothing and packing the finished product, and we cut up some water bottles to sprinkle water on the top-soil so that it could soak in evenly. Two of the girls from our homestay arrived on a scooter to drop off our lunch, which was super nice of them, considering we were so far away. It was even still warm, and we all shared almuerzo together under the shade of the centro del salud. With the digging on track, I decided to see what everyone else was working on, and take some pictures. I was blown away with how much had gotten done! Everyone has worked so well together, it was really amazing seeing the difference between today and yesterday morning. The springbox no longer had random pipes, pumps, and wiring in and around it (not to mention all the landscaping and machete tree chopping that had been done), and looked really good. Nathan and David took one for the team and delved into the enigmatic main chamber of the spring box to get the remaining mud and water out. It was greasy down there, and being as careful as I could, I climbed down and still got a big mudspot on my back. It was sweet seeing Evan and Josh’s gutter reinforcement project; they somehow got around needing to weld with some crafty cutting and bending with the angle grinder and vice. When I went back over to the tank site, there was a mass of locals, all stoked to help, digging a trench where the piping was to be layed. Things are going smoooth, plus there was a bonfire going to get rid of the excess shrubbery. Everyone was cranking; there weren’t even any excess tools lying around, so I couldn’t help dig. I went down to visit Kalika, Eric, and Pablo, who unfortunately haven’t been feeling very well. They were hanging out with Christian and Marvin, two of the local kids, who were absolutely captivated by the games on Kalika and Thomas’ smartphones. That was fun to see, and definitely raised the group energy. As dusk neared and clean-up went on, Christian walked up and took my camera off from around my neck, setting it on a nearby slab of concrete. He grabbed my wrist and started running toward the steep grassy hill, pulling me along, and yelled “rollando!” as we jumped off the edge and rolled down a ways. I hadn’t done anything like that since I was little, and we laughed the whole way down. We raced back to the top, and I let him use my camera, which he seemed to enjoy. He even took some pretty cool shots, which impressed me. We got a big soccer ball juggling session going, and gave some high fives and “hasta mananas” to the kids before getting on the bus and cruising back into town. Janaye, Nathan, Nick, Thomas, David, Jose, and I went on a little shopping adventure to the market, which was crazy! It was like a full city in there, with tons of little alleys and nooks and crannies between stores. There was definitely some cool stuff for sale; we’ll have to make another trip when we have more time. On the walk over there, there was an amazing sight; one of the distant volcanoes was smoking, which was backlit by the setting sun, giving orange and purple tones. As if that weren’t enough, the nearby 400 year old church filled the foreground; incredible. When we got back to our homestay, Mama Cony welcomed us with a delicious dinner of rellano, ensalada, aroz, chips, y pan dulce. So good. Jose, David, Thomas, and I had a great time talking about around the dinner table, and continued the conversation at la cantina next door over a couple cold Gallos. What a day! Everyday has been an entirely new adventure, and I feel so blessed to get to have this experience. To top it off, there was just an earth-shaking rumble of one of the distant volcanoes – I’d never heard anything like it! Who knows what tomorrow will bring!

Day 3: Vuelta Grande – Our First Day of Work

Written by: Nicholas Greene

After a very fun and completely unique New Years experience, we all woke up and climbed aboard the bus, eagar to start the project we had been planning for so long. Upon arrival, we all split into our groups and layed out plans, then got to work. As to be expected, no project can go perfectly as planned, but fortunately, the setbacks we encountered were relatively minor. It was amazing to see people walking by smiling and waving at us with excitement, and some kids and young audults that last years group met came over eagar to help. I still cannot get over how beautiful the area is that we are able to work in, and the work group that I was with with made several pauses to take in the scenery and surrounding wildlife. After a successful project start, we all went back to our house to freshen up, and then met for dinner at a restaurante called Fridas. The food there was great, and after a hard day’s work, it was great to be able to have everyone in the same place, and to share stories together. Every day I find myself enjoying my experience even more.

Day 2: Antigua/Vuelta Grande

Today, December 31st, 2014, we awoke at La Quinta for a breakfast around 8, some of the group went for as run around 6:30, while others went for coffee. Breakfast was at 8, a typical Guatemalan breakfast consisting of beans, eggs, and platanos. At 9 we all piled into the bus with all of our luggage. The bus was headed to drop off our belongings and meet our host families, you could tell everyone was eager. After going to each host families house for a quick meet and greet, we headed for Vuelta Grande. We got a quick tour of the school from Irven and then assessed our situation. Vuelta Grande is very high in the mountains and there are very beautiful and amazing views. We came back around 12:30 and had lunch with our host families. We then had a walking tour with them before meeting at La Union at 3. We had a meeting and decided groups for different projects and split into those groups for brainstorming ideas. We decided to go to the market and get some things we needed and then went back to our host families at around 6:30-7:00 for dinner. We met at La Quinta around 8:30 for the new years festivities and the night started with a bang, slowly moving to the whole city exploding at midnight.

Day 1: Antigua

written by: Shae Connor

We have arrived in Antigua! After many hours of sleepless travel we were very warmly welcomed by our hosts at La Quinta Hostel. After a whole semester of anticipation and planning it feels great to finally be here. After getting through customs we were reunited with Kalika and we met Erbin, Carlos and Edgar from La Union language school here in Antigua.

The bus ride from the airport to Antigua was one was of the highlights of the trip so far. Driving through Guatemala City it was interesting to see familiar things like fast food restaurants and gas stations, and new things like men armed with guns and old buses painted decoratively called “Chicken Buses.”

Later on, we got a chance to meet to Juan Carlos at La Union. We learned more about Antigua and what to expect on our journey. The school there was beautiful and I can’t wait to spend more time with the people here.

Today is the first night we get to spend with our host families! Now, off to our first visit to Vuelta Grande, where we will be working on the water systems for the rest of the week. Later, we plan to meet on the rooftop of La Quinta to watch New Year’s Eve fireworks.

Happy New Year from Guatemala!