Destination Guatemala

December 2009 - January 2010

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In December 2010 a group of Cottey students, faculty, and staff set off on a 12-day journey to Guatemala.  Our objectives: get immersed in the culture, learn about some of the social justice issues in the country, do some service work, and have a great time!

Itinerary:

day1 - volcan paycaya

We arrived in Antigua late the first night. The next morning, the first full day, we left at dawn for Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano. We hiked, with a guide of course, up the volcano. We couldn't go the to very top, but we went very close. High enough that we  got to an active lava flow coming out of the side of the volcano. Most years the group takes marshmallows and sticks and toasts them over the lava, but our leader forgot them this time. Darn it. I have some awesome lava photos though!

After, we returned to Antigua and had a late lunch at the Cafe Condessa.  From there, we loaded into vans for a 3-hour drive to San Lucas Toliman, right on lake Atitlan. We met the staff at the parish mission there, were given our rooms in the Hotel Iquitiu a block away, and had dinner in the mission dining hall. That night we had our first reflection meeting. Recording our reflections was part of the trip so we'd meet most nights to discuss our observations and changing perceptions about developing countries and social justice. There was a lot of personal introspection too.

I really liked journaling at night in San Lucas Toliman.  I would sit on the second story of our hotel, enjoy being outside and write about my day. It was peaceful and was an excellent time for me to do some self-reflection.

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days 2-8 - san lucas, toliman

Over the next week, we visited the different projects the mission sponsored and do a few hours work at most of them. The clinic being the notable exception as none of us were trained medical personnel. We filled bags with soil at the reforestation project so seedlings could be transplanted; we moved heavy rocks by hand to build a road between the coffee roasting facility and the drying pads; we helped level ground around the women's center for a playground; and we spent a morning picking coffee beans so we could learn how labor intensive the process is. We also had a morning lecture on human rights and Guatemalan history from Father Greg Shaffer, a diocesan priest from Minnesota who has been at San Lucas for the last 47 years.

We ate our meals in the mission dining hall and took our turns serving food and doing dishes. That was part of our service work.

We also had lots of opportunities to get out and meet local people. Several of the store owners are good friends of the parish, and we had a great time visiting with them and shopping at the same time. The local people were very warm and accepting, and I loved learning about their culture.

The students liked to visit Maria and Martha who sold clothing. I was partial to Antonio and Crusanto who were woodcarvers. We also made sure we visited the local bakery and the ice cream shop.

One of my favorite memories was playing with the children that Saturday afternoon. It was so great to see everyone come together and combine our cultures to play calles and abenidas! Seeing those children smile means so much to me and made me feel very happy! The entire trip was a good memory, it was amazing!

We all learned from each other while having fun and laughing. It was a great experience, and I truly hope we left a lasting impression on those young children and teenagers because they definitely left a strong impression on me.

One night, we all attended a local soccer match as well.  I loved that night. Though the field was short and surrounded by a fence, it was still an enthusiastic game. Especially, when the intercom speaker called GgggggggggOoooooAaaaaaaaaLLLLLLLLLL! (Goal) :)

We also met three girls from San Lucas who are being sponsored by the Cottey student group Change in Action, and, possibly, the first Guatemalan Cottey student. She will be the first recipient of the Friends of Peace Scholarship from Cottey, established specifically to bring Guatemalan girls to Cottey College.

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new year's eve

New Year's Eve we all went to a local cantina to celebrate.  They played lots of great Latin music and the occasional disco hit.

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new year's day trip to santiago and panjachel

Since it was a holiday, we took a boat ride across lake Atitlan to visit Santiago and Panajachel. In Santiago we visited the church and saw the chapel where an American priest was martyred during La Violenca-the civil war. Panajachel was just for fun.  We shopped and snacked before getting back on the boat.

I loved the boat ride.  The lake was beautiful, and I loved hearing stories from other people on the trip.

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day 9 - guatemala city

After a week, we left San Lucas and drove to Guatemala City where we spent the night.

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day 10 - tikal national park

We left for the airport and took a small plane to Flores and then drove to Tikal National Park, where the ancient Mayan Ruins are. We took a guided tour of the ruins and climbed a couple of temples and one pyramid. We had the chance to see coatamundis, spider monkeys, and howler monkeys in the rain forest. We ate dinner at a very rustic local restaurant inside the national park, and spent the night in grass-thatched bungalows where the electricity was only on for a few hours in the evening.

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day 11 - rain forest

We took a canopy tour of the rain forest via zip lines. It was great fun and we even saw a couple of toucans in one of the same trees we were in. After that it was back to Flores for a flight to Guatemala City.

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day 12 - home

One last night in Guatemala City where we reflected on the journey, what we learned, and what we enjoyed, then we wer off to the airport for the flight home. Interestingly enough, in the Guatemala City airport, Amy Sue was walking around wearing her Cottey College shirt, and was stopped by a woman who was a P.E.O. and knew of the college. She came back with Amy Sue and had her photo taken with our group. It really is a small world.

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