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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008


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While trekking along the mountians surrounding Nebaj, we had several opportunities to have "solo time," where we could think about the significance of our journey and write in our journals. For one solo, Eva gave us an assignment to write a poem based on our experiences in Guatemala. This poem was structured in a unique way so as to describe Guatemala through colors, emotions, descriptions of the landscape and people, etc. The following is the poem which I completed during my solo time:

I am Guatemala

I am the moist, earthy brown of trampled roads and freshly plowed fields, vibrant green of a tropical rainforest.

I am the small children gazing curiously through broken window panes, dirty calloused fingers, tangled braids, a rainbow of colored cloth.

I am the exotic flowers and sun shining through large overhanging leaves, fincas of Macadamia, cafe, and frijoles.

I am the smell of ground maiz, the patter-clap of forming tortillas, the pungent mixture of tierra and human waste.

I am the maiz lining rutted dirt roads, lush mountains, twisting rivers, small pueblos.

I am a small country bursting with a clash of cultures, languages, ceremonies.

My name means past suffering and a future dream of further development, stray dogs, scattered trash littering the streets, mercados.

I am Guatemala.

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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I am Guatemala

Elisabeth Ward,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

While trekking along the mountians surrounding Nebaj, we had several opportunities to have "solo time," where we could think about the significance of our journey and write in our journals. For one solo, Eva gave us an assignment to write a poem based on our experiences in Guatemala. This poem was structured in a unique […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Elisabeth Ward

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Wow...what a past 3 days. I have officially gained a new-found reverence for villagers who live high in the mountains. Continuous uphills climbs sprinkled with very few flat sections made up the most part of our trek. I honestly think that if I were to walk un poco más, I might just collapse; I'm already in a state of dilerium, laughing at everything. But throughout the pain I'm still currently in, the several bad moods, and a somewhat broken spirit, I do think that this trek brought us closer...in some odd, strange way. Take last night for example, we pulled a group member's name out of a hat which in turn we were supposed to write, sing, dance something nice about them. Oddly enough, even though some off us were this close to sabotaging another's trekking experience (cue the rocks in the backpack trick), we all had some pretty nice things to say about each other. Love consumed us!! It provided us with a nice break from exhaustion, monotonous dinners, and the cold.

Our trekking guide...well what can I say, you lose some and you win some. I swear that you could ask him when we would reach our destination, he would answer "Soló dos horas más." Two hours later I would ask him, "¿Santiago, cuántos horas más?" He would then reply, "Soló dos horas más." Ohhhh, the classic time keeping of the Guatemalans. What can you do? But besides the whole confusion concerning time, tomorrow we are 'venturing to Laguna Lachua, and we have the lake to ourselves! Woo! I am beyond excited, even if it does take a 7 hour bus ride to get there. At least I'm not trekking there. Love to all!

-Lauren

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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Blistered Feet and Weathered Hands

Lauren Rice,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

Wow…what a past 3 days. I have officially gained a new-found reverence for villagers who live high in the mountains. Continuous uphills climbs sprinkled with very few flat sections made up the most part of our trek. I honestly think that if I were to walk un poco más, I might just collapse; I’m already […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Lauren Rice

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I believe in my last entry I left off in Xela. Well now it has been almost a week and in it I have done more than I ever thought possible.

We left Xela and went to Cotzal, a little village where we met women from a co-op. The women were all affected by the civil war here, many lost their families to the violence and now bravely continue their lives. We each got a homestay, and after the luxury of Xela, a rural setting caught us off guard. When I say rural I mean that we were sleeping in one room with an entire family, sometimes in the same bed as the family (I had the luxury of having my own bed, and when I say bed I mean bed frame, no matress) and a kitchen that consists of a fire and some dishes. All the houses were equiped with saunas which were LOVELY after our long days. We helped the co-op by preparing and planting a bean field, which WTBD bought for the women. The beans will not only feed the women and thier families (sometimes more than five kids) but they will sell the beans and make a profit. Although the work was hard, and the intense culture shock made things a bit shaky the group made it through. We lived, if only for three days, the life of many in Guatemala and that gave all of us a reality check as to our lives back in the US.

After Cotzal we traveled to Nebaj, where I am writitng this now. But for the last three days we have been treking the Ixil triangle. A tough but beautiful journey through the mountains of Guatemala. Tonight we are back in a hostel, all very ready to have a meal that does not consist of tortillas, frijoles, and sopa.

Tomorrow we are off to Laguna Lachua, where we can FINALLY wear shorts.

Things have been great, and are looking to continue that way.

Until next time,

Ailie

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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for mom and dad AND everyone else too

ailie kerr,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

I believe in my last entry I left off in Xela. Well now it has been almost a week and in it I have done more than I ever thought possible. We left Xela and went to Cotzal, a little village where we met women from a co-op. The women were all affected by the […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

ailie kerr

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To have your eyes widened and your organ of belief stretched, whilst remaining discreetly submissive, seems to me a faculty the (traveler) ought to cultivate. When you have submitted to looking about you discreetly and to observing with as little prejudice as possible, then you are in a proper state of mind to walk about and learn from what you see. – Philip Glazebrook, Journey to Kars

Our experiences in Cotzal brought our students to this state of mind. It was definitely the most challenging experience they have had during this trip, certainly out of their comfort zones with daily hard work in the fields, simple food and homes with mud floors, sleeping together with the home stay mom and their children in one and the same bed. We stayed in Cotzal for 3 days and 3 nights, working together with a Guatemalan women’s cooperative which produces beautiful and unique textiles, giving them the opportunity to plant their own piece of land with beans, providing them food for the winter time. And although we didn’t speak the same language (the women spoke Ixil, only some of them Spanish), the intensity of emotions we shared in this place, together with the community and the depth of feelings each students felt for the women, gave them such a unique experience that will stay with them their whole lives. Every single student was out of their comfort zone in the beginning but at the end, all of them wanted to stay. They had the chance to experience a true cultural exchange; the women gained a new sense of empowerment through their own fields while the students grew and learned much more about themselves and the Guatemalan culture. It is almost impossible to put this experience into words. The only thing I can say that this experience is what Dragons is all about…off the beaten path, exchanging culture and personal feelings with the community, the students emotionally and physically present every single minute.

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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The beauty of Cotzal

Eva Jahn,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

To have your eyes widened and your organ of belief stretched, whilst remaining discreetly submissive, seems to me a faculty the (traveler) ought to cultivate. When you have submitted to looking about you discreetly and to observing with as little prejudice as possible, then you are in a proper state of mind to walk about […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Eva Jahn

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As we left Cotzal and traveled in a microbus to Nebaj to spend the night before our three day trek, I had some time to think about the journey we were about to begin. I have never trekked before, and wasn´t sure of what was to come. I knew I´d get into better shape, which I have, but I was also worried about getting tired really quickly. The Ixil Triangle Trek is in the mountains at a very high altitude, but the one thing I was sure of was that the views would be beautiful and the experience would be unforgettable.

Guate A started its journey to the glorious mountains on the 16th. Backpacking up and down the hills was surely an interesting experience, especially for a beginner like me. The first day of trekking was from Nebaj to Xeo, a rural village consisting of about 55 people. I worked hard to walk up and down the hills, but always tried to enjoy the views and keep an open mind to get the most of the experience. Looking around and seeing the lush green mountains as well as the areas of shade caused by fluffy clouds, I was in awe that I had the chance to see such a sight. The views during the trek made up for the hard effort we all put into our walking. In Xeo, we heard an indigenous man, Don Tomas, talk about his experiences during the Civil War. We went to local houses and got a taste of the culture in Xeo.
The next morning, we all put our packs on our backs and embarked on our trek to Cotzal. The second day of trekking was by far the easiest. The great uphills were all in the beginning of our trek, and we had plenty of energy to quickly get through them. The second half of our trek that day was downhill and was made much easier by a break at a vista point. We stopped to have lunch at one of the highest points on the mountain and enjoyed the scenery while doing yoga. I was one of the leaders and led everyone through the Sun Salutation. We were all able to stretch our muscle and loosen up before our final descent to the village of Cotzal. Once again we ate in homestay families and interacted with indigenous Guatemaltecos. Cotzal was a larger pueblo and more people knew Spanish thank the people in Xeo. We stayed in a cabin for the night and this morning, we left for our final day of trekking.

We all enjoyed some solo time during the trek. Spacing ourselves about a minute apart in walking time, we all had time to think to ourselves and enjoy the beautiful mountainside. Our solo trekking time ended when we all arrived at the river at the bottom of the mountain, where we took a snack break and had some time to relax. After the break by the river, we started on our journey to reach the top of another mountain. During the couple hours we trekked uphill, we all gathered our energy and worked through the last hours of the trek. The scenery was beautiful and the physical activity put all of us in better shape. Once we reached the top of the hill, we had about an hour of walking on relatively flat terrain before getting onto a microbus to get back to Nebaj.

I really enjoyed the trek and the beautiful mountains in the Ixil Triangle. Not only did I get into better shape, but I also learned a lot about myself. I had a lot of time to reflect on my trip so far and think about my Guatemalan experience. I felt on par with nature and learned about myself, both physically and emotionally. I grew as a person and developed character as well as stamina. I´m really glad that my first trekking experience was in Guatemala with my fellow Dragons members. I loved meeting people from rural villages amongst the mountains and getting a feel for the different environments in Guatemala. The trek brought me closer to Guatemala, closer to my Dragons mates, and gave me a better understanding of myself.

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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Trekking the Ixil Triangle

Nisha Dhawlikar,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

As we left Cotzal and traveled in a microbus to Nebaj to spend the night before our three day trek, I had some time to think about the journey we were about to begin. I have never trekked before, and wasn´t sure of what was to come. I knew I´d get into better shape, which […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Nisha Dhawlikar

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I didn´t think that I could experience more culture shock than I did on the first day in antigua. Then we went to the remote indigenous village of Cotzal, and I felt that uneasy feeling creep up on me again. Everyday necessities were missing: sufficient food, plumbing, electricity, and beds. Unknowing how to react to the scarcities, we all went into a panicky state after the first night.

After spending the three short days in Cotzal, I realized that what we experienced in the village was less of a cultural shock than a jolt of discomfort. Nothing was really missing in the pueblo; despite near destruction during the civil war and constant lack of income, the locals retained the real necessities: laughter, family and love. Growing up in a world of extreme comfort, where the line between luxury and necessity is constantly fading, this type of materialistic discomfort was completely new to me. I never thought a night without electricity or plumbing could make me so upset.

All of the precourse prep could not have prepared me for what I gained in Cotzal--an open mind. I was blinded by my own American eyes from the reality of my host family: They were sweet, wonderful, and happy people in their simple lives.

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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Cotzal

Laura Distel,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

I didn´t think that I could experience more culture shock than I did on the first day in antigua. Then we went to the remote indigenous village of Cotzal, and I felt that uneasy feeling creep up on me again. Everyday necessities were missing: sufficient food, plumbing, electricity, and beds. Unknowing how to react to […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Laura Distel

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    [post_content] => A Guatemalan man takes shelter from his days work under an aguacate (avocado) tree.  In the shade he takes out his lunch of one avocado and before eating it he carefully opens the shell and thoroughly cleans the seed before enjoying this simple treat.  A group of men walk by and ask him what he is doing.  He genuinely responds that he is cleaning the seed so that later he can plant it.  

¨How long will it take for this tree to grow and produce? The group asks with a snicker. The man tells him something like thirty years and the group responds, ¨why would you waste your time, when you won’t even live to eat and enjoy them? And the man responds ¨The aguacate I eat today was planted by my ancestors and one day my children and grandchildren will enjoy the tree I plant today¨. At the tree plantation we visited in Chico Mendez, their philosophy is that trees produce air, which will always be valuable to all humans. They tell the government that they would rather plant trees than mine gold because this hurts the environment and only gives the world a greedy wealth. They believe in creating a better world for all today and in the future.

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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Chico Mendez tree plantation

Brooke Lederer,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

A Guatemalan man takes shelter from his days work under an aguacate (avocado) tree. In the shade he takes out his lunch of one avocado and before eating it he carefully opens the shell and thoroughly cleans the seed before enjoying this simple treat. A group of men walk by and ask him what he […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Brooke Lederer

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    [post_content] => Its been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened. I posted while in Xela but didn´t write anything on how it was. A quick overview: I ate a lot of XelaPan, learned a lot of spanish, learned a bit of salsa, saw a lot of culture and generally had a good time. But more fresh on our minds (and honestly my scent is a little fresh too) is the time we have spent in the I´xil Triangle. We traveled for most of the day on Saturday, from Xela to Cotzal. We arrived in Cotzal and after a brief intro to the coop through which we were staying, we headed to our families. My host mother was named Maria Lopez (which is funny to those who know me). She was the single mother (as far as I could tell) of two young children (sorry, I don´t know ages) and she spoke next to no spanish. The girl, slightly older, was named Maria and the boy was named Juanito. They lived (literally) in a one room mud hut that was probably 10 by 15 feet. On one side was the kitchen and on the other was their only bed. They fed me well but as I lay down on the bed (also known as the wood plank with rocks on top), listening to Juanito cry ¨Mama, mama¨I realized just how much I wanted my mom to be sitting beside the bed rubbing my back and comforting me. I realized that the whole sleeping on the bed thing was a bad idea, the blanket didn´t cover me, I took up half the bed and I kick in my sleep. With quite a bit of difficulty I described/showed her that I could sleep on the floor and spent the rest of the night in relative comfort. The next day we worked in a field preparing to plant beans until lunch. After lunch we listened to stories about the civil war. This pattern was repeated, minus my homesickness, for three days, with different activities every evening. By the time we were preparing to leave I was sad to have to leave behind my smiling younger siblings and caring mother. We travelled by microbus to Nebaj to spend a night in the great comfort of a hostel that served something other than beans and tortillas for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The next morning we headed out for our three day trek, after climbing into and out of a valley everyday for three days, we are all very tired, very sore and very stinky. Tomorrow we head out for Laguna Lachua, a very pretty lake where we will be cooking for ourselves (aka not beans and tortillas every meal).
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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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The I’xil Triangle (and a little Xela)

Jen Reeve,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

Its been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened. I posted while in Xela but didn´t write anything on how it was. A quick overview: I ate a lot of XelaPan, learned a lot of spanish, learned a bit of salsa, saw a lot of culture and generally had a good […]

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Jen Reeve

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I wish I had more time to write, but for now, I´ll let the images do the talking. Don´t they just look like the most amazing group of young people ever?

All returned safe and sound from our 3-day trek. Now on to Laguna Lachua for some rest and relaxation.

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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More pics

Stacy Gery,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

I wish I had more time to write, but for now, I´ll let the images do the talking. Don´t they just look like the most amazing group of young people ever? All returned safe and sound from our 3-day trek. Now on to Laguna Lachua for some rest and relaxation.

Posted On

07/18/08

Author

Stacy Gery

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To all of Group A:

Thank you for the postings that let those of us homeward have a glimpse of your adventure. I have been looking at the full moon this week and thinking that you are perhaps seeing the very same moon from such a beautiful and different world while we are all still on the same planet together. How amazing. Thank you for being who you are and doing this learning together. Love from the folks at home..

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Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

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Greetings from the North

Carol Kerr,Guatemala 4-week, Group "A", Summer 2008

Description

To all of Group A: Thank you for the postings that let those of us homeward have a glimpse of your adventure. I have been looking at the full moon this week and thinking that you are perhaps seeing the very same moon from such a beautiful and different world while we are all still […]

Posted On

07/17/08

Author

Carol Kerr

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