Photo of the Week
Central America B
Photo Title


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    [post_date] => 2014-12-08 09:58:25
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-08 16:58:25
    [post_content] => Just wanted to quickly check in to let you know that Central Amerixa B made it safely from Antigua to the airport and the students called us from the gate to let us know they are all doing well as they board AA flight 1290 to Miami. Smooth end to a great semester!
    [post_title] => Students on Flight!
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Central America B

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Students on Flight!

Instructors,Central America B

Description

Just wanted to quickly check in to let you know that Central Amerixa B made it safely from Antigua to the airport and the students called us from the gate to let us know they are all doing well as they board AA flight 1290 to Miami. Smooth end to a great semester!

Posted On

12/8/14

Author

Instructors

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Dear Family and Friends,

 

As our journey comes to a close, we want to tell you as a group that we are excited to come home to shower, to sleep in our own cozy beds, and to see all of you. But with this excitement comes some apprehension. We thought we would add a list of "do's and don'ts" to try to make our transition after Monday as smooth as possible.

Please Do:
  1.  Forgive us if we lapse into Spanish. We have forgotten some English words.
  2. Ask specific, genuine questions about our experience. They're much easier to answer than "how was it?"
  3. Vacate the washing machine to make way for our smelly, likely flea-ridden clothes.
  4. Be considerate of what our dietary habits have been for the past 3 months. Some of us will need more eggs, beans, and tortillas to feel comfortable and some of us will refuse to look at the above.
  5. Remember that some of the stories we have heard have been and are hard to process. Treat them with sensitivity.
  6. Be open minded about some of our new political views.
  7. Tell us what's been going on in your lives for the last 3 months. We want to hear your stories as much as you want to hear ours.
Please Don't:
  1. Get mad if and when we throw toilet paper in the trash can. You can't flush it in Central America.
  2. Be surprised if we can't sum up our 3 month experience in a few tidy words.
  3. Be disgusted by our hideous stench and longer than usual body hair.
  4. Worry when we miss the people we have been in close contact with for the past 3 months. Just as we missed our family at home while we were here, we will miss our family here when we are home.
  5. Expect us to know all the answers; we have more questions than ever before.
We can't wait to see you all and we love you so so much. Thank you again for allowing us this space and opportunity and we look forward to sharing it all with you. Love, Your Dragones.   [post_title] => Homeward Bound [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => homeward-bound-3 [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2016-02-01 12:29:21 [post_modified_gmt] => 2016-02-01 19:29:21 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://wheretherebedragons.com/?p=113493 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [categories] => Array ( [0] => WP_Term Object ( [term_id] => 129 [name] => Central America B [slug] => central-america-b [term_group] => 0 [term_taxonomy_id] => 129 [taxonomy] => category [description] => [parent] => 239 [count] => 175 [filter] => raw [term_order] => 7.1 [cat_ID] => 129 [category_count] => 175 [category_description] => [cat_name] => Central America B [category_nicename] => central-america-b [category_parent] => 239 [link] => https://my.wheretherebedragons.com/category/fall-2014/central-america-b/ ) ) [category_links] => Central America B )
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Homeward Bound

Los Dragones,Central America B

Description

    Dear Family and Friends,   As our journey comes to a close, we want to tell you as a group that we are excited to come home to shower, to sleep in our own cozy beds, and to see all of you. But with this excitement comes some apprehension. We thought we would […]

Posted On

12/7/14

Author

Los Dragones

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    [post_content] => As a group, we have posted many yaks that mention our daily staple of Morning Meeting: poops and vibes. But as readers of our yak board, we're sure that you all are very curious what the specifics of those poops actually are. After 93 morning meetings together, we feel well-versed enough in each group member's poops that we would like to share just how close we have all become. Below is an average value on the poops scale for every group member. (Remember: Zero is peeing out of your butthole, five is a perfect, solid poop (no strain necessary) and ten is squeezing out a baby grand piano).

Lewis: surprisingly high number of 5s, occasionally punctuated by a very high 9

Henry: stable 3s and 4s

Rowyn: 4s with the occasional 5 or 3

Lily: aside from her 2 bouts of traveler's diarrhea, consistent 4s and 6s

Matt: a straight month of 1s (2 bacterial infections can do that)

Lila: usually high 7s or 8s, if not T-a few days

Mateo: consistent 3s

Ashley: all over the board, fluctuating between 1s or higher 7s

Willow: 6s or T-a few days

Mackenzie: consistent 4s and 6s

Javier: T-a few days or a perfect 5

Pat: straight 3s and 4s

Abbie: varies between T-many days, high 7s, or low 2s (oh so many parasites!)

Samantha: T-several weeks or high 8s (recently, even more confusing. For details, ask her personally)

 

We hope the Dragons office allowed this yak to go through and that you enjoyed the details!!!
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Central America B

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Warning: Graphic Content

Central America B,Central America B

Description

As a group, we have posted many yaks that mention our daily staple of Morning Meeting: poops and vibes. But as readers of our yak board, we’re sure that you all are very curious what the specifics of those poops actually are. After 93 morning meetings together, we feel well-versed enough in each group member’s […]

Posted On

12/7/14

Author

Central America B

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    [post_content] => Yo soy all that I was before I arrived to Managua, September 6th, but

Yo soy diferente, ahora. I've absorbed and listened and left behind, and now

Yo soy diferente. Can you not see it? Hear it? Feel it?

Concentrate:

Yo soy the first silent hike in La Garnacha, facing NorthSouthEastWest under Lila's direction

Yo soy sleeping six girls in a row, with the boys' voices on the other side of the wood

Yo soy dancing to new music, sweating to new beats in front of curious, open brown eyes

All before I even trekked those hot trenches of Nicaragua and shared my first five minutes, heart beating fast. Next day, I arrived in Lagartillo. There,

Yo soy the endless repocheta, frying over an earth oven

Yo soy the afternoon rain pounding our tin roof, deafening the pauses between me and Fran and Papa Marcelo

And yo soy the stone memorial erected in the memory of their brother, their niece, their son

Yo soy the white, blinding frustration of learning those histories, and the red, licking flames that have continued to push me forward to learn more

3 weeks -- yo soy una Perez Arauz -- and then, to Leon. There,

Yo soy the rushing waves, cool salty excitement, and starting to deal with long bus rides, cramped tired bodies occupying less space than ever.

Quickly, to San marcos. There,

Yo soy an enveloping hug from a quiet girl named Yahosca

Yo soy a zooming tuk tuk, bravest of all transportation

Yo soy the intake of breath before letting something out, and someone in

Those breaths that bring me closer, bridging some distance between 13 friends

And so, now a family, since the real one is so far away, we traveled to Ometepe

Yo soy volcanoes sprouting from the agua dulce of the lake

Yo soy whole fried fish, picking away to waste nothing

Halfway there, but not even yet close to our second homeland

First, buses to Ocotal

Yo soy a day with no obligations, yo soy sitting in circles to share, and yo soy the joys, the hopes, the connections, the weight in a candlelit ceremony

All before we left for Part Two. Arriving after border checks to a real city, though not New York. There,

Yo soy bustling bodies, big buildings, barbed wire

Yo soy a walk to class every day, head held high to stare ahead past catcalls and swiveling glances

Until arriving at class, or the outdoorindoorunderground market. There,

Yo soy the hoarse call for mamon chinos, pirated films

Yo soy overflowing stands and withered hands passing out chicken, beef, or armadillo

Until arriving home, mosquito-fear free, for a change of pace. There,

Yo soy eager questions and probing hands, a cramped kitchen with plates of Salvadoran specialties, smooth casamiento and bulging papusas

But so soon, we left. Onto our third home --

Yo era Nicaragua and then a flash taste of El Salvador, but now

Yo soy Guatemala

Yo soy higher hills and cooler air, drifting white neblina covering everything I can see

But somehow, I find clarity

Maybe because Lago Atitlan was so bright

Yo soy sparkling waves, jumping off a dock in a small town, next to a woman washing family clothes, soap bubbles drifting away

And yo soy San Lucas. There,

Yo soy tiny tortillas and roof views, smoky and gray in the morning mist

--until the sun clears for a drive

Huddled together, hair whipping, hips bumping

Yo soy a medicinal garden, spiral soil hosting albahaca and sabila and magical leaves brewed in a tea by women in every conversation

And there,

Yo soy Halloween, costumes more appropriate than all of high school, not pretending to be something I'm not

All before November 1st, when we landed in San Antonio. There,

Yo soy the real holiday, of fragile rainbow kites over power lines across the hillside

Yo soy my first tortillas, fingers sticky with masa

Ground from fat yellow kernels in a whirring machine

Yo soy a hand gesture, filling in language gaps, and the gutteral "maltiox" of my unpracticed throat

There, yo soy closer than ever to myself in ten years, the woman I dreamed about, secretive at first, beautiful and blossoming over lime light candles and familiar chocolates, in a room full of my female inspiration

And two months in, we moved again. Leaving that lake for the final time

To speed to a blockaded city, colonial buildings, and more people who looked like me than ever before. I stared too. There,

Yo soy a few solitary hours, an ivy courtyard and wafting jasmine tea

Yo soy a traveler, a real one, with an abundance of intestinal flora and the first red bites of my persistent fleas spotting my sides

Yo soy flexible, too, leaving one day late

Before arriving in another high, foggy town. There,

Yo soy bundling at night, and another early stroll through another fresh market before another trek. There,

Yo soy a burning blistered foot, made humble by stories of blistering feet in the desert before my country

Yo soy sitting in a row, served boiling water and days of beans

Before silent walks down muddy slopes, to arrive in town

For a day of November Christmas lights and warm legs by an orange fire

The same fire of Cotzal, of their kitchens and spirits. There,

Yo soy searing smoke and a new native tongue

Yo soy Magdalena's small fingers, stronger than mine, arranging a coal black temascal and preparing all three meals

Yo soy more tamales and more tortillas, cool moist ones over lunch

Surrounded by dry, towering milpa over a field of weeds

Yo soy hunched backs, and brisk tugs of green

But just two days. Not a lifetime. And then,

After moving to a beating marimba, under a clinging red huipil and a corte fastened by four tittering girls, we said goodbye

To our last stop: yo soy an expedition, an adventure, an exploration

Yo soy cool ceramic pots, a bank of seeds, waiting patiently to grow

Yo soy tall magenta amaranto, sprinkling over a stiff tarp

And for a while, yo soy a quiet lancha ride below a concrete monster

Yo soy majestic greengray mountains above inundated homes

Yo soy plodding footsteps, hauling the same path as 177 innocents

And yo soy the overwhelming despair of stories of a massacre, of massacres

And yo soy tiny, little Lily, adding more to an open brain and an open, breaking heart

And the cracks in my corazon grow larger as we leave Rabinal, they whimper and whine, sensing it's time to go home

And here I am. Yo soy aca, transferring with all of you.

And yo soy diferente, but I am still me.
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Central America B

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Y Yo Soy Diferente

Lily Meyersohn,Central America B

Description

Yo soy all that I was before I arrived to Managua, September 6th, but Yo soy diferente, ahora. I’ve absorbed and listened and left behind, and now Yo soy diferente. Can you not see it? Hear it? Feel it? Concentrate: Yo soy the first silent hike in La Garnacha, facing NorthSouthEastWest under Lila’s direction Yo […]

Posted On

12/7/14

Author

Lily Meyersohn

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    [post_date] => 2014-12-07 09:41:35
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    [post_content] => Pictured here are two crosses memorializing the massacre of 70 women and 107 children in Río Negro, Guatemala on March 13, 1982.  We were led up to this spot by our guide Juan, who, along with the 70 women and 107 children, a handful of eventual survivors, and a combination of Guatemalan soldiers and patrulleros, or local patrollmen, marched up the same mountainside that morning in 1982.  The scene was one not entirely unusual for the time or place.  The events at Río Negro form just one of countless massacres of Mayan people at the hands of the Guatemalan government in the 1980's.  Río Negro, an Achí Mayan community, was targeted in particular for its residents' refusal to abandon their homes to make way for the Chixoy Dam, a large, World Bank-funded hydroelectric project.  The government at first attempted to convince the residents of Río Negro, in all likelihood falsely, that they would be fairly compensated and given new land somewhere else.  And when that didn't work, they sent in the army.  Shortly before the events memorialized by the crosses, the military had taken and killed as many adult male members of Río Negro as they could find.  And on March 13, 1982, they came back for the women and children.

Juan's stories of what followed depict some of the worst imaginable acts of human cruelty.  Women were forced at gunpoint to dance for the soldiers who they knew would soon kill them.  Teenage girls were taken off to be raped.  Women were strangled to death with rope.  Children were smashed against a tree until they died.  The bodies were thrown into an unmarked pit just below where the crosses sit today.  It's a difficult thing to process that these things were done by humans.  I-m having a lot of trouble with it.  I have found myself unable in this last paragraph to use anything but the passive voice - it's easier to write that children were killed than that soldiers killed children.  People killed children.  Humans killed children.  It's difficult to think or to say or to write but it's important to acknowledge that humans did this.  Humans who are just as human as you and I.  As Sam brilliantly pointed out in her last yak, we love to think in terms of "us" and "them."  We love to think that the average Guatemalan soldier or patrullero, or for that matter the average whoever else committing unthikable attrocities, is something different from us / a monster.  But the reality is that the average soldier presebt that day in Río Negro was like us in more ways than not - they had families and they had loved ones and they experienced joy, and sadness, and anger, and love, and pain, and everything in between.  I say this not to defend or to imply that we're being to harsh on those who commit acts of genocide.  I say this because I believe that in this case the "us" and "them" mentality blinds us to our own capabilities and the injustices we may commit - "bad things are committed by monsters - 'they' are monsters - but I'm just a regular human being, so I must not be doing anything that bad."  It's a cop out to believe that the world is inhabited by a bunch of normal human beings and that injustices happen when we are unlucky enough to be overrun by a swarm of mindless, heartless, soulless inhuman evildoers.  Injustices happen when human beings allow them to.  The question is how do we allow them to, why do we allow them to, and how can we make sure we never allow them again?

But the story of Río Negro isn´t just a story about the worst things about humans - more than anything it's a story about the best things about humans.  It's a story about the incredible perserverance of the human spirit.  It's a story about how the human capacity to do evil is and will always be outweighed by our capacity to take those things that are most ugly and most evil and turn them into something beautiful.  The community of Río Negro, though devastated, survived.  Survivors appeared from various places.  Some had been out of town chopping firewood when the soldiers had come through.  Some had been working on plantations near the coast.  Juan had survived among a group of 18 children whom the patrulleros had spared in order to force them into labor in their homes.  Two and a half years later, they were able to leave.  And so, today, in a country run by a man who helped commit the massacres of the '80's, on a mountainside overlooking the dam that drowned their old homes, against all odds, the community of Río Negro lives on.

And as for the crosses, the one in the foreground was once shot down by a group of soldiers, trying to erase the memory of what happened at Río Negro.  Today, not only is it standing again, but behind it stands a new, even stronger one.
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Río Negro

Henry Hauser,Picture of the Week, Central America B

Description

Pictured here are two crosses memorializing the massacre of 70 women and 107 children in Río Negro, Guatemala on March 13, 1982.  We were led up to this spot by our guide Juan, who, along with the 70 women and 107 children, a handful of eventual survivors, and a combination of Guatemalan soldiers and patrulleros, or local […]

Posted On

12/7/14

Author

Henry Hauser

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    [post_date] => 2014-12-04 09:00:35
    [post_date_gmt] => 2014-12-04 16:00:35
    [post_content] => ¨Write the names of as many people that you know as you can in the next two minutes.¨

Forty-nine names. Family, friends, the thirteen people sitting around me—each name on that list carried love, a relationship, a personality, a story. We were then asked to calculate how many times this number goes into 200,000. In the most math that I had done since May, I roughly estimated 4,000 times.

¨200,000 people died in the thirty-six year Guatemalan Civil War. Look at that list again. And imagine that.¨ My breath caught in my throat as the magnitude of this number sunk into my mind, my body. This was far from the first time that I had heard a sickening statistic of the death toll of a war, a massacre, a genocide. But suddenly this number had faces and feelings, had a reality that made my stomach churn and heart sink. The next hour was an instructor lesson on the Civil War—a rough timeline, a couple staggering statistics, the key players. This lesson carried a magnitude of weight and somberness that I don´t often feel during history lessons. It´s not that I don´t care—I care very much—but it´s hard to make something distanced by years and mile so personal. Yet in that moment, as I held my list of names with shaking hands, it was all too personal. 2,000 times these names. It wasn´t my loved ones, but it was people. It was someone´s loved ones. It was someone´s list.

We have talked at length about the idea of ¨us¨ and ¨them,¨ a seemingly simple and incredibly common mentality that seems to be at the root of so many of our world issues. Development, imperialism, foreign policy, systems of thought, military practices—all can be thread together by the commonality of the us and them mentality. This mentality is the only feasible way that human rights violations can be committed; you first must separate yourself from them. The them can be for a lot of different reasons—geographical distance, cultural differences, development discrepancies, differing ideologies—and usually involves a sense of inferiority and superiority. Though I have never used this mentality to inflict anything on anyone, I am eequally guilty as a bystander. History class bored me, the news depressed me. Why would I have an obligation to learn about the bombings in Syria when I cannot help, when it is their problem, when they are halfway around the world? It´s sad, it´s terrible, but it´s them—not me, not us, them.

I now look at this naieve mentality with regret, but not without understanding. When learning from a textbook, from a US newspaper, there is maximum separation, minimal overlap, no faces, no stories. During the last three months I have had the immense privilege to hear countless first-hand testimonies, both formal and informal, of the horrors of war, the oppression of governments, the unjustness of the world, the resiliency of human kind. Looking into someone´s heavy, deep-set eyes and seeing the entire story in them as they tell it, being able to put a hand on their back in solidarity, all but wipes the us and them barriers. Most recently we heard the first-hand account of Roberto, our trekking guide´s, experience crossing the border and trying to work in the United States. Immigration is never an issue that I have felt very personally connected with—my family has been here for so many generations that we barely know our own immigration story. But hearing about Roberto´s blistered feet as he spent days crossing the desert, about how he left his family in order to try to give them a better life, it was suddenly reachable, relatable, real. It was my problem too.

I know I´m not going to be able to hear a first-hand testimony of every major world issue. But just picturing faces, love, and stories can be enough, can erase us and them. If the president pictured the women breaking their backs carrying water jugs as his daughters, if the military commander pictured the child soldier as his son, if the policeman saw the gang member as his little brother, the world would be a very different place. Because we would never treat ourselves like that-- only ¨them.¨

 

I wrote this on 11-22 and never got around to posting it. We just finished our expedition in Rio Negro—perhaps the most difficult story we have heard yet. 150 families, two horrific massacres, 36 survivor. I walked the path they walked, I saw the sight where the 70 women and 107 children were killed, and I can´t even begin to understand. Henry articulates this much better in what I hope he is also posting as a yak, but I don´t understand how hands made out of the same skin and bones, with the same blood coursing through them, could tie up those same hands of little children and beat them against a tree. How heads with pulsing brains and chests with beating hearts could hang 70 women. And so now, in any naive effort to distance myself, I have to resort back to the us and them mentality. Them- the government, the soldiers, the patrol men, the murders. Us- the victims. Though I only know the story second-hand, I still feel. I feel the crushing weight of broken bones and broken hearts. I feel utterly confused and completely helpless. Because, for one of the first times in my life, I just can´t see the other side—no means of understanding or rationale, of justification or acceptance. How could they do that? How can we prevent anything like this from happening again?
    [post_title] => Too Close for Comfort
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Central America B

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Too Close for Comfort

Samantha Pearl,Central America B

Description

¨Write the names of as many people that you know as you can in the next two minutes.¨ Forty-nine names. Family, friends, the thirteen people sitting around me—each name on that list carried love, a relationship, a personality, a story. We were then asked to calculate how many times this number goes into 200,000. In […]

Posted On

12/4/14

Author

Samantha Pearl

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    [post_content] => For the entirety of our course, the i-team has reminded us of the three stages of a Dragons program: skill building phase, practicing phase, and expedition phase (followed by a few days of transference, which we begin today). Practicing phase went by in a heartbeat and in a lot of ways, the last week of it in Cotzal felt like we were in expedition because we did so much of the planning and scheduling, including transportation. We struggled to find times for evaluation and group self-assessment, and felt more tension with one another than we usually do, especially as we began to fully step into our individual roles (and naturally fail to execute those roles at times). Personally, I even started to get a little frustrated with the lovely i-team, who sat with sneaky smiles as we worked through our difficulties, not wanting to influence our decisions too heavily.

Thus began real expedition phase, during which students are in charge of planning logistics, travel, food, housing, daily budget, interactions with communities, group goals, activities, lessons, schedule, individual responsibilities, and most daunting of all: risk assessment. The hardest test of this last aspect of expedition phase came on the very first day of this week. On the day that we left Cotzal for Rabinal, November 26th, we loaded our oversized backpacks onto the top of Saul's minibus as the rain began to cover the town. We said brief goodbyes to our families, pressing last minute cards into our mothers' hands and hopping into our seats for the anticipated 6 hour car ride. Little did we know that the drive would actually take us 16 full hours -- from 8am to 12am the next day.

After around 3 hours of planned driving, moving through the hills on the only direct route from Cotzal to Rabinal, we began to encounter rockier roads in addition to the extremely curvy ones we usually deal with (always fun for our carsick-prone group members). We slowly made our way up through the mountains, the bus swaying over potholes and gravel, until we were meet by a few cars and buses coming down the opposite way. They all stopped, telling us that our way to Rabinal had been blocked that morning by derrumbes -- landslides. Five of them had been created from the rain from the past few days, one of which had opened up a river tributary that we would have to cross to continue our journey. My heart sank lower and lower as we received more news; everyone looked around nervously, tittering, as we faced our first challenge just a few hours into expedition. The first car told us the road would be cleared by the next morning, others said it could take 3 days. This was the one straight road to Rabinal.

As a group, we decided to continue driving until we found an official on the road who could give us more information, but there was no such person present. We began to try to call our contact, Rosalia, from Rabinal, for advice. We debated going back to Nebaj for the night to wait for the roads to be cleared, but we had no idea if or when that would happen, and an extra night in a hostel would put a new dent in our budget. The group considered returning to Nebaj to take public transportation, but would have had to wait for new bus times and an uncertain road schedule. After talks with Saul and Rosalia, we calmly started (with a few helpful words from the i-team) to take a totally new approach: looking at a map of Guatemala and haggling with Saul, we decided to pay an extra 2,500 quetzales to have Saul drive us all the way to Guatemala City to find the only other route to Rabinal. This additional leg of our trip would take another 11 hours, but we were determined to get to Rabinal that day to start our planned expedition in earnest.

Throughout the day, we stopped at roadside meals (at dinner, Matt found an unhatched egg in his chicken! Mmm.) and for plenty of snack and pee stops. We switched seats repeatedly to try to get a tad more comfortable, to no avail. We played various mood music and tried to sleep the hours away. We did our daily morning meeting, exchanging poops and vibes over the sound of the rumbling bus. We giggled with Ashley, who spent the entire day thoroughly drgged out on Dramamine. As night fell and our energy waned, we debated spending the night in Antigua or Guate and finishing the drive next day. This brought up a new host of questions: Should we spend the night in Guatemala City? We had no hostel plans and would arrive in the dark to an unfamiliar neighborhood. Was it safe to make Saul drive in the night and for so many hours? He could get tired on the road, or worse, we could get lost in a rural area with no cell service. After figuring in our energy and budget assessments and talking with Saul and Rosalia (and two new contacts from Qachuu Aloom who agreed to wait up for our arrival) for clear directions, we stuck to our original decision.

In the end, we managed to pull into our new home for the week at 12:02am, our latest night of the trip yet and a wonderful way to begin Thanksgiving. Everyone was exhausted and sore, but so proud of the way we handled our first group decision-making challenge of expedition. What a way to start the week!

 
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Central America B

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Team Ex

Lily Meyersohn,Central America B

Description

For the entirety of our course, the i-team has reminded us of the three stages of a Dragons program: skill building phase, practicing phase, and expedition phase (followed by a few days of transference, which we begin today). Practicing phase went by in a heartbeat and in a lot of ways, the last week of […]

Posted On

12/4/14

Author

Lily Meyersohn

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    [post_content] => I am going to start this yak by thanking my parents.  Mom and Dad, thank you for all that you have provided me, and for the opportunities you have made possible.  Also, thank you so much for leting me emark on this gap year experience.  Over the past three monthjs, my politicalk and social awareness has grown exponentially, I have become more conscious of my environment, surroundings and actions, and have become a better-more open mindd listener.  I have travelked to parts of the worlds often looked past in history textbooks and in the news, have learned some often hard to hear informatrion, and have made some really close friendships.  So thank you Mom and Dad for all your support.  Finally, I am sorry my Yaks have been lackluster, and did not contain as much information as they could have, but in 5 days, I will be able to tellyou everything that was left put of my yaks.
    [post_title] => Thanks
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Central America B

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Thanks

Matt Heineman,Central America B

Description

I am going to start this yak by thanking my parents.  Mom and Dad, thank you for all that you have provided me, and for the opportunities you have made possible.  Also, thank you so much for leting me emark on this gap year experience.  Over the past three monthjs, my politicalk and social awareness […]

Posted On

12/4/14

Author

Matt Heineman

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    [post_date] => 2014-12-04 08:49:46
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    [post_content] => More than two months ago in Orientation the instructers talked to us about the three zones of growth and comfort. They set up three circles labeled comfort, growth, and panic zone and asked us to move to the one that suited ourselves best as they read out different situations. I remember situations like seeing a scorpion on your wall, taking bucket showers in the cold, and living with a family that didn´t speak much Spanish (only a Mayan language). I was certain that these things would be incredibly difficult (and in some cases terrifying) but that I could likely get through them even if it wasn´t the most enjoyable experience. I assumed that these zones were set, and that these situations would always be rough and the best thing I could do was to just grin and bear it. I could never have imagined my life two months from then, and even less likely could I have imagined how happy and independent I feel now.

Here in Cotzal, we are staying with members of the weaving cooperative and I am living alone with Doña Teresa, a lovely 67 year old woman who speaks slightly less Spanish than I do (her first language is Achi). We are sharing a room in her handbuilt two room house, both sleeping on sloping wooden boards. The other room is the kitchen, with a campfire built on the dirt floor in one corner for cooking. There is a little pila under a rusty tin roof next to the house for washing dishes and clothes, and the latrina in 5o meters down the steep leafy path.

There are things that I have done here so far like the midnight pee runs down the dark muddy trail, pitch black sitting sauna showers in the tiny temascal that is extremely disproportionate to my height, and accidentaly shining the flashlight on the wall one night illuminating two large spiders a few inches from my pillow that would have all sent me spiraling into the Panic Zone a few months ago. Now though, they don`t bother me as much and I have learned to bring a flashlight at night, appreciate the steamy claustrophobia, and simply turn and face the other way in bed because that is what the people that live here do. The smoke from the cooking fire that fills the room may make my eyes burn, but that is how Doña Teresa cooks everyday. Sleeping on wooden boards for a few days may make me sore, but that is just a normal bed for everyone here. Eating beans and tortillas everyday for the past few days might be boring, but that is part of their culture and making them and asking for my help  is her way of inviting me into it. It is true that the physical living conditions are the hardest I have ever lived in, but Doña Teresa is also one of the most curious, welcoming, and loving person I have ever lived with and that far outshadows the dirt floors.

The other night, the power was out and so we were sitting together in the kitchen, eating close to the fire so that it would cast light on our plates. We talked for hours, and even though we are both far from fluent we were able to understand eachother for the most part, and even our frequent miscommunications led to other interesting conversations (for example, I attempted to ask her about how she built her own house and she answered by listing all the plants in her garden and then giving me a detailed description of how to make tamalitos).

This was a situation that I originally thought would be incredible uncomfortable, but I am now learning to love, which made me realize all of the other situations that I first feared have all come true in a way. I have taken countless bucket showers, including one late last night when there was no wood for the temascal. I was incredibly gross from our day working in the bean field with the community, an so in an act that I found resourceful and Doña Teresa likely found ridicuous I bucket showered using the pila (the water used for washing dishes) in the frigid pitch black . In addition to the friendly (as I choose to believe) spiders on my wall here, I have lived with many creatures and personaly killed two scorpions and at least three intimidatingly large spiders (a feat incredibly uncharacteristic for me, just ask my sister). Thinking back to my previous idea of the Panic Zone, I realized what really sets the perameters of my comfort zones is based on emotional comfort, not physical. The lack of material distractions in this house has forced me to spend my nights solely talking with Doña Teresa, and because of that I feel much more connected, secure, and part of a community in a way that my own room and a flushing toilet couldn´t replace.
    [post_title] => Comfort to Panic Zone
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Central America B

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Comfort to Panic Zone

Willow Forbes,Central America B

Description

More than two months ago in Orientation the instructers talked to us about the three zones of growth and comfort. They set up three circles labeled comfort, growth, and panic zone and asked us to move to the one that suited ourselves best as they read out different situations. I remember situations like seeing a […]

Posted On

12/4/14

Author

Willow Forbes

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    [post_date] => 2014-12-04 08:45:06
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    [post_content] => With only one week left in the trip, we are all excited and anxious for our return home. Our minds are churning with questions (I know, more questions). How will I use the information we have gleaned from this program? How am I going to interact with my family and friends? What kind of food am I going to eat? And, most importantly, what are our relationships with each other, the 13 other people we spent the last 3 months with, going to be like when we get home?

The recent uncertain state of our future relationships has made us all hungry for each other's attention. We want to spend all of our time laughing, joking, and being together. But our trip to Rio Negro wasn't supposed to be about group bonding. Traveling to the site of the Chixoy dam and hiking the same trek that the 177 women and children made on March 13th, 1982 before they were massacred by the militia and local patrolmen were in no way activities that are conducive to our normal joyful activities: to Matt and Pat playing their upbeat guitar jams, to light-heartedly celebrating Lila's 26th birthday, or to playinhg round after round of our favorite game Jedi Juice. So, we put those things on hold for a few days in order to fully invest ourselves in the realities of Rio Negro. We visited the massacre site, took a tour of the community museum, watched a documentary about a survivor who moved to the United States in her youth, and listened to several disturbing but important testimonies from survivors. We supported each other as we processed the testimonies and stories of community members, even when that meant not interacting as a group at all and giving each other silent, alone time. More importantly, I think we managed to give the members of Rio Negro the attention and respect they deserve. To be honest, all of this reaffirmed my faith in our group and our strong relationships more than any game of Jedi Juice ever could. I have no doubt that these relationships are ones that will last a lifetime, and we still have plenty of time for jokes and laughter.
    [post_title] => Our Final Days
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Central America B

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Our Final Days

Rowyn Paul,Central America B

Description

With only one week left in the trip, we are all excited and anxious for our return home. Our minds are churning with questions (I know, more questions). How will I use the information we have gleaned from this program? How am I going to interact with my family and friends? What kind of food […]

Posted On

12/4/14

Author

Rowyn Paul

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