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Something I love about this trip is the fact that we're always trying something new. We're always on the move and exerting ourselves and putting out energy. Learning to salsa in Xela this week was just sort of a micro-example of our whole trip- it was hectic and fast-paced, but ultimately just really, really fun. Wednesday night after Spanish lessons, we gathered with Luis and Carlos. two of our teachers, in an upstairs classroom of Sakribal, our Spanish school. They taught us about four basic steps and a few turns. It turned out that Eva is something of a secret salsa jefa, or boss. While she is very modest about her considerable talents, we were all very, very impressed! Juancho and I made our spin move much more complicated than it had to be, which turned us into a two-person human pretzel. Despite beginners' mishaps, just being able to spin around on the beat-up wood floor with no shoes was just a really fun release of any stress we might have had. We ultimately took our moves to La Parranda, a salsa club off of the Parque Central, a beautiful granite rectangle that holds all of the city's historical buildings. Salsa became the word of the week on Thursday night when we danced again- this time to the Cuban beats of Ignacio Perez Borrell, a former member of the Buena Vista Social Club. I'm not really sure how to sum all of this up, so I guess Lily says it best: "Xela. Is. Da' boss."

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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Baile, Baile, and More Baile!

Maggie Henry,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

Something I love about this trip is the fact that we’re always trying something new. We’re always on the move and exerting ourselves and putting out energy. Learning to salsa in Xela this week was just sort of a micro-example of our whole trip- it was hectic and fast-paced, but ultimately just really, really fun. […]

Posted On

07/24/09

Author

Maggie Henry

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I am Guatemala

I am the bright and beautiful yellows, pinks, greens, and blues of an indigenous woman's traje

I am the wide, curious black eyes of a baby in the back o9f a chicken bus

I am the towering maghey flower lining the mountainous paths

I am the early morning rooster calls

I am the prickling scent of burnt tortillas, chili peppers, gasoline, and fresh dewed grass

I am the rolling deep green colinas speckled with tin-roofed houses

I am the melancolic good-heartedness all Chapines exude

My name means the land of the valiant

I am Guatemala.

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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I am Guatemala

Leah Varjacques,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

I am Guatemala I am the bright and beautiful yellows, pinks, greens, and blues of an indigenous woman’s traje I am the wide, curious black eyes of a baby in the back o9f a chicken bus I am the towering maghey flower lining the mountainous paths I am the early morning rooster calls I am […]

Posted On

07/24/09

Author

Leah Varjacques

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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A Wonderful Update

Emma Frank,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

Today, I had Ketchup.

Posted On

07/20/09

Author

Emma Frank

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Mid course is a time for reflection. Yeah, we're a little more tired than we were 3 weeks ago, our stuff is dirtier, our bellies confused but our eyes still wide open. This is a great bunch of travelers. I've had so many mornings in the last 3 weeks where I wake up and laugh. I see Lily still in her sleeping bag after everyone else is up packing. She holds on to that sleep and never lets go! I envy that. And usually there is someone's muddy sock by my face, probably dear Dafna's. Today we were in the bank doing a little business when she just said, in Spanish, "I love my homestay family...I love the food...MMMMM...." then whirled around like the main character in a musical. After the first 10 days or so of solid homestays we spent the last several days on our trek together and in Cotzal together. In Xela now there are homestays again... But for awhile we were together 24/7. It's an important time in the Guatemala course because there are so many homestay opportunities...we recognize and appreciate the time we do spend together: snoring, chewing and spitting toothpaste on the ground.

As we get settled into our group dynamic I find it so fascinating how we all connect to each other and the special relationships that form between all of us. I can feel Maggie's forcefield from across a room now. The minute she locks you in, your hers. We have good conversations about important topics and I am so excited to help her with her ISP this summer...She's got a knack for investigating I think. And on our way to Nebaj it was just Oliver and me. We skipped ahead as ol' O was working on fighting a stomach bug. Ol' O is like a friendly dinosaur. I love sitting next to him on public transport even when he feels like barfing. I can say with total confidence he makes us all very happy.

Dana and I are the only actual witnesses from Where There Be Dragons to the greatest dance party ever unleashed in the 21st century. There are about 500 fotos of this event thanks to Gabi and Rosi, Dana's homestay sisters in Concepcion Huista, so no worries. Doña Rosa, the homestay mama, said DANCE. We danced. She said EAT. We ate. She said DANCE again. We danced more. There's nothing like spinning around like a huge doll barefoot on a dirt floor in front of entertained friends to make a night just right. Dana is a great sport. Her family LOVED her to pieces.

Speaking of love, I love Leah's soccer skills. I told her she plays like me. Which I guess in traditional senses in not necessarily a compliment but to me the greastest compliment ever unleashed in the 21st century (clearly this is a record breaking trip). I wish I could explain it better but let's just say when playing soccer I might get the ball if it comes near me. I might not. Maybe I'll just act like I want to kick the ball. Whatever. At least I'm out there.

Cotzal was a success because we have Leah the soccer jefa but also because we have Mariah. Mariah stormed the castle walls in terms of mural accomplishment. It was awesome. The group worked together so awesome to pull this project off and it was great to have someone like Mariah with amazing artistic skills. Plus, Mariah is always up for whatever. She never backs out, never doesn't participate. Awesome.

Where in the world is Molly Knox? She's in Xela. And she knows it. I love that Molly is probably the most interested in where we are and why and how and when and what it smells like in the morning. Plus, if she were a cartoon character turned good she'd be a Koopa Trooper. Meaning she is a solid traveler. The girl knows how to carry a bunch of stuff on her back through the mud for 3 days. I rely on her a lot because she is so strong.

Yesterday we arrived in Xela and, admittedly, I was a bit delirious. The bus rides were rough and tumbly and all I ate was jelly beans. I really like the assortment of tienda dulces in these parts. Well when we sat down upstairs at the big table in the Spanish school I encouraged the students to fill out their registration form the school had asked for. I was a big help. Ask them, they'll tell you. Well whenever I feel like using my jelly bean power coupled with being tired and dirty, I turn to Emma. No matter what I know I'll have a partner in crime for all things silly. I love it. It's, for me, what this is all about.

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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This is why

Colleen,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

Mid course is a time for reflection. Yeah, we’re a little more tired than we were 3 weeks ago, our stuff is dirtier, our bellies confused but our eyes still wide open. This is a great bunch of travelers. I’ve had so many mornings in the last 3 weeks where I wake up and laugh. […]

Posted On

07/20/09

Author

Colleen

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    [post_content] => In Cotzal we stayed at a women´s weaving co-op. Our last night we had a dance party in the roof-house where we slept. They even brought a marimba all the way up the narrow stairs that led to our room.All the women came to the party, and danced to the music of the three-man marimba. The music was amazing. Basically each man had a set number of keys he played, one for the top, one in the middle, and one for the base notes. The man playing the base part set the rhythm. Other than the octave and the beat, the songwas completely improvised. Each song lasted for about twenty five minutes, so it was hard to know when to switch partners. We danced with the older women and younger girls alike. One little girl took my camera and shot a series of pictures of her blury hand infront of the dancers. I think we´ve created a batch of amature photographers. 
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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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dancing to the marimba

molly knox,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

In Cotzal we stayed at a women´s weaving co-op. Our last night we had a dance party in the roof-house where we slept. They even brought a marimba all the way up the narrow stairs that led to our room.All the women came to the party, and danced to the music of the three-man marimba. […]

Posted On

07/20/09

Author

molly knox

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Since it´s been a while since i last yakked, there is way too much to recount than i can manage. The trek was fun, minus the food poisoning, but it´s all good. Nebaj was a nice day of relaxation. Cotzal was my attempt at being a painter, and it was fun, although i in no way contributed to the creative artsy design. Basecoat was my domain, painting the just out of reach ceilings my game. Xela has awakened in my a love for urban environments that i have never known before. And now i leave with a haiku regarding my title:

Damn, I got to go

The toillet always flushing

Hey, this one flushes!

hasta luego

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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My Phd in Guate plumbing

Oliver Shirley,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

Since it´s been a while since i last yakked, there is way too much to recount than i can manage. The trek was fun, minus the food poisoning, but it´s all good. Nebaj was a nice day of relaxation. Cotzal was my attempt at being a painter, and it was fun, although i in no […]

Posted On

07/20/09

Author

Oliver Shirley

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Since the start of our trip, Xela has been referred to constantly. It is the place where we can do as much laundry as we want, use the internet freely, and shower as much as our hearts desire. In times of ruggedness, Xela has been a beacon of hope. The second largest urban area in Guatemala, Xela is wrought with cafes, language schools, and tourists. The fact that it seems to be living up to all of the expectations we have made for it, is truly remarkable.

I am currently living in a much larger house then ever before, with a ladino family. I have parents, a ten-year old sister, and 14 and 16 year old brothers. Spanish is their only language, and sothere is no longer the indigenous banter I am used to. They joke around while watchingLos Simpsons, the 16 year old begsfor a eyebrow piercing, and they eat dinner around a diningroom table. In many ways, it ismore similar to home thenI could have ever imagined.

The things I had become so used to in Guatemala are no longer present. Thereis nofire stove that the other families made tortillas around.Instead, thereis a modern stove that cooked pancakes, eggs, and sausage for dinner. (breakfast for dinner was THE BEST surprise after beans and eggs for three days in Quetzal).Instead of rice drinks,there is nesquick. And instead of thelittle sister preparing most of the food, she asks to flip a pancake while the family sits around together in the kitchen. It is all very very different.

My family is warm and welcoming, and ask me a lot of questions about myselfand my interests. They are impressed that I am only17 andaway from home for so long. When they asked if Igo to church,I told them ´´soy judia´´. They proceeded to ask if my parents were fromIsrael.Afterthinking that Ihad convinced them that there are many jewsin NY, butnot from Israel, the father nodded and said´´so your grandparents are fromIsrael.´´ When I told them I was not Isreali at all, they were baffled. Probably, they still do not believe me.

I am very excited for what the rest of Xela will bring. Between seeing McDonald´s, internet, andlanguage classes; I can not wait to explore more.

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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Xela

Lily Gutterman,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

Since the start of our trip, Xela has been referred to constantly. It is the place where we can do as much laundry as we want, use the internet freely, and shower as much as our hearts desire. In times of ruggedness, Xela has been a beacon of hope. The second largest urban area in […]

Posted On

07/20/09

Author

Lily Gutterman

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    [post_content] => I am currently writing to all of you from Nebaj, in an Internet café. I smell wonderful, I am clean and am wearing immaculate clothing. Quite a change considering that my fellow Dragones and I have been trekking for three days straight, backpacks wearing out our hips and shoulders, drenching our clothes with a somewhat strange mixture of all sweat, rainwater and mud combined. 5 AM on 13th of July. All of us meet in front of Don Mateo’s home to get on a chicken bus back to Todos Santos, where we will begin our trek. As we ride in the bus, 2 bags fall off at different times off the roof thanks to bumpy roads, forcing us to stop and get all the bags back every time. As we reach Todos Santos, we eat our ‘scones’ and tortillas for breakfast at our dear Roman´s and get anxious to start walking. We finally get on another bus which drops us off in the middle of nowhere, and when I mean nowhere, try to picture getting out of a bus and seeing absolutely nothing around you except for a steep hill. That is when the rain started to pour, just in time to boost us for the next few days.We marched, yes, and heroically so, in a slow motion dynamic as mud kept pulling our feet into the ground, up the daunting mountain. We were freezing cold, our rainjackets pretending to shield us from the rain as our fingers turned increasingly numb. As the path started flattening out, we walked into massive fields with horses, pigs and sheep running around, all slightly hidden due to the fact that a huge cloud was fogging the entire area and hiding what was ahead from us. At some point, I looked around and it was just all smokey, I realized that I was walking in an actual cloud. When the mountain finally decided to bend down for a while, we were relieved, but there had to be something to kill the music. What could it be? Just an eternal, ancient path so muddy that it caused three quarters of our calves to sink and our shoes to flood. It was quite a scene, watching everyone trip and fall into the mud. By the end of that hill, my pants had turned brown and my shoes had more mud on them than actual fabric. No one could’ve guessed their initial color.We finally got to the bottom of the hill, and were allowed to take our lunch break on a bridge crossing a beautiful river, rocks spotting the water all around creating a somewhat perfect scene to rest. We ate our bananas, our tortillas, our infamous trail mix and chickys gleefully, as we stared back at the hill right beside the river, terrified by the concept of climbing up another hill. By then the weather had cleared up, but the ground was still extremely muddy. We then walked up 300 meters up the mountain. Might not seem like much when its on flat ground, but I must admit, it was the most challenging part for me on the trek. Oh, it was steep and slippery. It never ended. Everyone was so exhausted that as we approached shelter it was as if someone had opened the gates to paradise. We spent the night on a dirty classroom floor, all together. We had a great dinner to reward our first day: really spicy rice (Dana still felt the need to flood it with hot sauce), tamales, and tortillas. We had a kind of slumber party, it was hilarious to see everyone get ready for bed. To brush our teeth, people just spit on the ground, it looked like a dalmation´s coat. It was charming. We then fell asleep, proud yet aware that we had 2 more days to go. In total, we had walked 5 hours.We left the classroom at 7h30, knowing that we had another 300 meters of the same hill to climb. It was hard, but the notion that we were going to have breakfast on top kept boosting us to go further. When we all reached the top, we had toasted tortillas with cheese and ´cat poop´and oil along with our fruit. Best breakfast I´ve ever had. The sky was clear; we were all lying in the sun, our hands on our stuffed stomachs. We then began walking on FLAT ground, giving us the opportunity to truly admire what was around us. It is impossible to describe the beauty of it all. Every way, every single direction I pointed my head towards caused me to constantly say, ´Oh my god.´ It was unbelievable. During most of the flat hill I willfully walked on my own. I was absorbing everything to such an extent that I was incapable of actually talking with my fellow Dragons, and that means something.We reached our peak of the day at around 2 oc´clock, and decided to have lunch there. Eva then gracefully threw Snickers bars to us as we ate more tamalitos, tortillas, avocado and bread. We were overjoyed. We were sitting at a spot overlooking a fantastic view of the mountains, relieved that it was all ‘downhill’ from there. After lunch we walked down 1200 meters down a rocky hill to another classroom. It was cleaner, with a pila and bathrooms but no lighting. To get around when it got dark, we all put our headlamps on and lit the room. We then all squished together to go to sleep, could´ve been one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life, despite the warm company of my dear Maggie laying there next to me. We had walked in total for 10 hours on our second day.The third and last day finally came up, and we were only 2h30 away from our final destination, and fortunately it was mostly downhill the whole way. It was sunny, and time went by extremely quickly. We finally got to a cheese factory, where we got a personal tour and got to have an amazing meal, with dessert so good it made all our eyes close. We savored every single moment of the whole meal.We then took a bus to Nebaj, all of us getting pretty excited about taking a shower. When we got to the hotel we all said goodbye to Roman, our unforgettable guide from Switzerland. He hugged us all goodbye, making us both ecstatic and depressed at the same time. We then showered and came out looking like different people. After that, we all lived happily ever after.
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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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The Odyssey

Dafna Gottesman,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

I am currently writing to all of you from Nebaj, in an Internet café. I smell wonderful, I am clean and am wearing immaculate clothing. Quite a change considering that my fellow Dragones and I have been trekking for three days straight, backpacks wearing out our hips and shoulders, drenching our clothes with a somewhat […]

Posted On

07/15/09

Author

Dafna Gottesman

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    [post_content] => This morning, the last morning of our three day trek, we woke up in the school where we had stayed the night. We packed our sleeping bags, sleeping pads, various accessories, swept the floor, and began to walk down the road toward Nebaj. After about two hours of mostly downhill walking with three minute spurts of uphill, we turned into the driveway of a large farm. There were three buildings attached, surrounded by cow pasture. Guess what, it was a CHEESE FACTORY. Hugo Azzari, the factory owner, let us use his bathroom, and gave us a tour. It´s not a large factory at all. There is only one smallish room where Hugo and one or two helpers work. They heat a large vat of fresh milk, stirring the cream in, until the mixture becomes solid enough to cut. Next they chop off a piece, wrap it in fabric, and stick it into a cylinder with wood disks above and below, and a weight on top. Hugo also showed us the room where the cheese is stored for about forty days as it ages. It was a smaller room, with shelves stacked with cheese all up the walls. He let us taste a bit. It was somewhere between Swiss and Cheddar, but much better than either. Yum.
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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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Swiss and Cheddar

Molly Knox,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

This morning, the last morning of our three day trek, we woke up in the school where we had stayed the night. We packed our sleeping bags, sleeping pads, various accessories, swept the floor, and began to walk down the road toward Nebaj. After about two hours of mostly downhill walking with three minute spurts […]

Posted On

07/15/09

Author

Molly Knox

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    [post_content] => So WE DID IT!!! three days of trek are under our now discusting belts. pre-shower we were all caked in dirt and completely proud of ourselves.we walked down through mud and then up through mud. Colleen, Leah and I rocked the slow walk for a while. But the whole group completley rocked it. We had a couple of bumps in the road, but nothing that our rock solid group couldn't deal with. Sorry this is so vauge, I am still processing this past experience. Just know that all your children are good, and you should be quite proud of them.
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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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Trek-tastic

Emma "Back of the Line" Frank,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

So WE DID IT!!! three days of trek are under our now discusting belts. pre-shower we were all caked in dirt and completely proud of ourselves.we walked down through mud and then up through mud. Colleen, Leah and I rocked the slow walk for a while. But the whole group completley rocked it. We had […]

Posted On

07/15/09

Author

Emma "Back of the Line" Frank

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