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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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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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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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    [post_date] => 2009-07-15 00:00:00
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We arrived in Concepción Huista last Thursday morning and were instantly challenged to a game of soccer, the country’s favorite game, by the local tercero básico boys- the equivalent of ninth-graders here in Guate. At 8:30 Friday morning, we found ourselves standing in the middle of the muddy local field in mismatched Dragons shirts and hiking boots, completely out of our league against the boys in their professional soccer jerseys and cleats. They took pity on us and we gained three new players- Chume, Francis, and Oliver’s homestay brother Fredi, all sixteen years old.

The game started and everyone was instantly covered in mud, dust, and everything in between. Despite valiant efforts by Oliver, Dana, Leah and Emma on defense, we soon fell behind 2-0. Sweating and breathing heavily, we called an informal half-time and collapsed on the huge concrete blocks that served as stands. The view from our resting point more than made up for the ugliness of the gray rectangles- we could see green, forested mountains all around the valley, jutting up in the bright sunlight. Lily, Eva, Juancho and Colleen entertained the local gym class who stopped to watch the gringos lose in soccer to the chapines (Guatemalans) by showing them photos on their digital cameras.

The second half started much like the first had, although we had more local boys join our team. Everyone was laughing and slipping around in the mud and knocking each other over- I started to feel less and less like an outsider as the half continued. Molly faced off against her opposing player again and again, and Mariah came really close to scoring a goal- extremely exciting for us, to say the least. Dafna’s moves looked like something out of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon- a sort of athletic warm-up to this week’s trek from Todos Santos to Nebaj.

The most interesting thing about the game was that afterwards, I felt less like an outsider. While at half-time, the little kids gawked at us from the stands and we sat apart from the básico boys, after the second half we walked off the field together. Maybe it was just the feeling I got from knowing the local teenagers and responding to them when they called my name in the street- maybe it was the fact that later, at the dance, we knew everyone well enough to pull them out of their seats to do traditional Mayan moves with us. Sometime during that hour and a half, we stopped being random gringo tourists, and started being a part of the community.

It was really, really hard for me to leave Concepción on Monday morning. It felt like we had integrated ourselves into the society we were living in, and it felt great to engage from the inside rather than observe from the outside. The soccer game precipitated our warm interaction with the teenagers, and the mutual recognition made our weekend better and better as time went on. For the first time, I really understood WTBD´s mantra about being travellers and not tourists- the friendships we were able to build with the básico boys showed our committment to living within the culture in Concepción, instead of retaining our normal habits and keeping our distance. Our game built community, and the level of positivity that came from the experience will only push us to build more communal ties in the coming month.

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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Futból

Maggie Henry,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

Description

We arrived in Concepción Huista last Thursday morning and were instantly challenged to a game of soccer, the country’s favorite game, by the local tercero básico boys- the equivalent of ninth-graders here in Guate. At 8:30 Friday morning, we found ourselves standing in the middle of the muddy local field in mismatched Dragons shirts and […]

Posted On

07/15/09

Author

Maggie Henry

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It was very difficult to leave my family in Concepcion on Monday morning. As we drove away in the dark while the sun was slowly rising on the other side of the mountains, my fingers tightly held the bracelet Freddie, Oliver’s brother, gave each of us, and I relived the past couple of days with my family, to whom I became very attached.

The quiet and smart Jenny, who as a girl had to do all the chores, is an extremely mature 12 year old who is determined to become a doctor and, as part of a forward thinking family, will not let the fact she is a female bring her down.

Alonzo, very calm but extremely kind and mature, would surprise me with his responsible attitude, like when he drove away in a very firm and polite manner the drunk 19 year old that entered the hallway through the ever-open door. He was constantly listening to music and slept to the tune of his radio, and I enjoyed giving him music artists to look up so he had something other than 'guns and roses' and 'alan jackson' in his repertory. He wants to go to university and become an auto mechanic like his uncle, and has a little novia called Amanda in the basico school.

Alex, the little one, I talked to less, but he watched television all the time and really liked looking through Paris and New York postcards I had brought along with pictures of my family, and loved to listen to me speak about my life back at home.

Jose, nicknamed chepe, was my dad for 4 days. He was very sweet, very smart, and, loved to joke around. He went once to the states as a mojado and once as beneficiary of a scholarship to Arizona State University. He told us of his three brothers in Tlorida, taught us some 'pop ti’, made us listen to his tapes of Barbara Streisand, and asked a lot of questions about life and customs in the states, where he would like to bring his family but just doesn’t have the dinero as a teacher.

Tina, my mother, was perhaps the most good-hearted woman I’ve ever met in my life. Very generous, all she wanted to do was make us happy. She also asked a lot of questions about our lives and liked to compare it to hers in Concepcion. She liked to laugh and talk to her children, and her permanently cheerful face never failed to brighten up my day.

We exchanged contacts and I have promised myself to come back to Concepcion to see them again, see what they have become, and hopefully help them in some small way from the states.

I know I will never forget my experience, my family, and the people in that village will forever behold a special place on my wrist, and in my heart.

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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A purple bracelet on my wrist

Leah Varjacques,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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It was very difficult to leave my family in Concepcion on Monday morning. As we drove away in the dark while the sun was slowly rising on the other side of the mountains, my fingers tightly held the bracelet Freddie, Oliver’s brother, gave each of us, and I relived the past couple of days with […]

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07/15/09

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Leah Varjacques

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Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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some pics – ENJOY

instructors,Guatemala 6-week, Summer 2009

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07/15/09

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instructors

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