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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011


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I never thought that I would feel the Dragons mantra of "packing light" the most when I came back home. Now that I'm here in the United States, here in St. Louis again, I feel... heavy. Not physically, of course--but mentally, very much so. I am not used to doing different things here in St. Louis. I pretty much never spend that much time outdoors here in St. Louis. I was light, free, and ready to do anything that was planned out for me in Guatemala. Now, I am tied down by the lack of opportunities to do new things every day, and the overwhelming feeling that eating, sleeping, and spending time in the house are the things that I spend 99% of my time on.

My thoughts are essentially in this one question: How do I figure out how to deal with, and even how to change, how I've been living for 16 years? I know that this weighed-down lifestyle is the lifestyle that I had before. It is the lifestyle that I chose. Now, I have the option to become a different person, because it has become much more clear to me the kind of person that I always have been. I see that, for the most part, I was lazy. I liked to spend my time on Facebook and hanging out with my friends. Now I see all the opportunities I have to become someone else--now I see the promisein becoming a different person, in taking advantage of other opportunities. Maybe my lifestyle doesn't have to be so heavy in comparison to my life in Guatemala. I can spend less time grounded in my house; I can donate any stuff in my room that I don't really need; I can spend less time doing the same thing, day after day.

But I'm just starting to figure this out. Coming home from Guatemala began a long process. Traveling around that amazing country stirred up all my thoughts and feelings about life; now I have to decide how to guide all those thoughts and feelings as they start to drift back down into place, in order to be in a slightly different position than it was in before. How can I change how the pieces fall, and consequently, how I will lead my life from now on? Can I become closer to the person that I want to be?

I guess we'll see.

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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Drifting down back into place

Catherine Von Holt,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

I never thought that I would feel the Dragons mantra of "packing light" the most when I came back home. Now that I’m here in the United States, here in St. Louis again, I feel… heavy. Not physically, of course–but mentally, very much so. I am not used to doing different things here in St. […]

Posted On

08/2/11

Author

Catherine Von Holt

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As my dad put it, I'm going through withdrawal. Withdrawal from a continuously overstimulating way of life. Both my body and my brain were almost "addicted" to that level of intimacy and adventure, so when I returned home, it's like I had been thrown off a rollercoaster, and like my mom said, l landed in a field isolated and confused. I would say that's a very accurate way of putting my experience, except that there have been about a thousand other emotions that have come along with that; one of the biggest challenges today has been to sort them out.

The way I see it, the weird part isn't "being home", it's "being home". I know that sounds contradictory, and on some level it represents how my brain feels right now, and on another level, there is an explanation. Walking into my house last night wasn't as crazy of a feeling as I had expected. The color of the kitchen walls and the wooden staircase didn't feel foreign to me. Everything felt normal. That's what I mean: being inside my house seeing my bed and the tv wasn't weird because those things have been engrained into my memory for 17 years. The weird part was being home: physically being in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in the United States of America. It wasn't a good-weird feeling either, it was a "Oh my god what am I doing here?" type of reaction. Stepping into the comfort of my two-story house made the memory of living in a one-room house with a mayan family feel like something I made up; like it never happened.

I feel like a fish out of water, I can't breath and I'm constantly disoriented. Though I am with my family, I feel somewhat alone. Going from living with 14 other people 24/7 for a month, to living in my bedroom waking up to only 3 other people in the house makes me feel lonely.

This morning I woke up crying. I didn't have words to explain it; all I knew was that I wasn't with my dragons family anymore and I definitely wasn't in Guatemala anymore. I think the overwhelming emotion was loss. I am grieving because the adventure I had anticipated for so many months is over. I am also grieving the loss of my dragons family. And I am facing the realization that it will take time to re-adjust to being at home and that it may not be an easy or pain-free process.

Living in Guatemala, traveling everyday with 14 other people became my normal life, though it was far from ordinary, so coming home is what feels new and uncomfortable.

Today, I didn't leave the house. I've been too afraid to face the real "American" world. I haven't even told anyone I'm home.

I didn't know what to do with myself today. It's like I've forgotten how to act at home. I was a mess. I cried every time I re-lived the goodbyes. It was painful, but at the same time I fear that if I stop feeling sad, what am I going to feel? Will I stop feeling anything at all? I am so afraid of forgetting the adventure, my host families, my dragons family. It seems the more seconds that pass while I am home, the more unreal the trip seems. Being in Guatemala felt so real, why does it feel so distant to me now? I hate this feeling, and the feeling of not knowing. I want to be back in Guatemala with everyone anticipating a new day, a new adventure. But I am home.

Even though I am very upset, I don't think culture shock has hit me yet, probably because I still haven't stepped out into reality yet.

I'm afraid that all the things I learned and the motivation to make changes at home aren't coming with me from Guatemala because I don't feel motivated right now. I feel like moping around the house because I miss everyone and am overwhelmed by emotions. I want to feel inspired and I want to feel the way I did during our deep discussions in Guatemala. I hope I will soon and that this is only the intense adjustment period that is preventing me from doing so. I am incredibly sad to be done with dragons and not be in the beautiful country of Guatemala. It will be a hard process of letting go of the experience and allowing myself to move forward while, hopefully, taking with me the important lessons I learned. I'm not sure when I will be ready to take off my friendship bracelets or bead necklace from our dragons ceremonies, or put away the items from Guatemala. I'm not sure when I will be ready to accept that what happened in Guatemala is no longer happening; it's only memories.

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Best Notes From The Field, Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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Withdrawal

Emma Share,Best Notes From The Field, Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

As my dad put it, I’m going through withdrawal. Withdrawal from a continuously overstimulating way of life. Both my body and my brain were almost "addicted" to that level of intimacy and adventure, so when I returned home, it’s like I had been thrown off a rollercoaster, and like my mom said, l landed in […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Emma Share

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    [post_content] => Two days ago, thinking about the inevitable plane-ride home, I was just as nervous as the night before I left my home one month ago at 5:00 in the morning to catch a plane to Guatemala. Everything I was heading towards seemed unknown and intimidating once again. I wasn't sure how I was going to communicate with people, to tell them my stories, although at home we speak the same language. I didn't know how I was going to hold on to the voices and faces of the beautiful people I met, the mountains and clouds, the smell of the smoke in the kitchen, the annoyance but mostly excitement of being crammed into a pickup truck or a bus heading somewhere new every couple days, and the fifteen person family that I grew so comfortable with to during my month away from the home that I left for a month. I didn't know how I was going to hold on to the person I had been the last month. Riding on the plane I wanted to shout and ask to turn around and go back to the country I have fallen in love with and hold onto the trip for a little longer. I heard the pilot's english-speaking voice announcing the time we had left on the flight over the loudspeakers as I put my tray-table in its proper position, put my seat back in the upright position, buckled my seatbelt, and prepared for landing.
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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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Home?

Rachel Lieberman,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

Two days ago, thinking about the inevitable plane-ride home, I was just as nervous as the night before I left my home one month ago at 5:00 in the morning to catch a plane to Guatemala. Everything I was heading towards seemed unknown and intimidating once again. I wasn’t sure how I was going to […]

Posted On

07/30/11

Author

Rachel Lieberman

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We just wanted to take a moment to notify everyone that the Guatemala 4 Week Group B group has safelyembarked on their trip home after an amazing experience. In many ways the biggest adventure of the coursebegins now as students work to carry their experiences into their home communities and country. We thank you all foreverythingyou did to make these past 4 weeks such an inspiring success. On the part of our instructor team it has truly been a gift to have been able to travel, teach and learn along side this phenominal group of young adults. We ask that you all welcome these returning travellers with open arms,patiently encourage them to share their stories and be sure to share yours as well. Over the next weeks they will likely be internally piecing the learning and transformation they experienced.

Thanks you again from the bottom of our hearts.

Emanuel, Regina and Steve

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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The next adventure begins

Streman,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

We just wanted to take a moment to notify everyone that the Guatemala 4 Week Group B group has safelyembarked on their trip home after an amazing experience. In many ways the biggest adventure of the coursebegins now as students work to carry their experiences into their home communities and country. We thank you all […]

Posted On

07/28/11

Author

Streman

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    [post_content] => We have very succefully finished the 3 day trek. We are very busy enjoying Lago Atitlan and wrapping up the last few days of our course... Just wanted to send a quick hello all of your ways and there shall be more to come shortly. 
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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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We have successfully finished the 3 day trek!

Streman,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

We have very succefully finished the 3 day trek. We are very busy enjoying Lago Atitlan and wrapping up the last few days of our course… Just wanted to send a quick hello all of your ways and there shall be more to come shortly.

Posted On

07/25/11

Author

Streman

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    [post_content] => A few days ago I was sitting on top of San Andres, a sacred mountain top  overlooking the tiny rooftops, ant-sized people, and rows of corn all  in the beautiful town of Chajul. The majority of people in Chajul only  speak Ixil, a Mayan language only spoken in three towns now, rather than  Spanish. On top of San Andres I was sitting near smoky, charred rocks  and melted candle wax used in Mayan ceremonies. People have been hiking  up to the space for years to perform rituals, praying to different gods  for specific desires: good harvest, rain, love, wealth, etc, refusing to  give in to ideals and pressures from the spanish. The people of Chajul  have struggled to maintain their traditions and culture. I was able to  stay for two nights with a wonerful family of eight open, friendly, and  extremely intelligent people. This large family lives with three beds no  plumbing, and a few lightbulbs that work some of the time. Every day  the mother of the family gets up at 4:30 to begin the long day of work,  along with the the help of her three older daughters to assist with the  cooking, cleaning, and care-taking of younger siblings. All of the women  wear beautifully embroidered, deep red clothing, hair wrapped up in  woven ties adorned with colorful pom poms, keeping it off their necks,  sweating in the heat of the open-flame stove that they are constantly  tending to keep their families fed. People in Chajul live a life that is  in a lot of ways very difficult and strenuous, but they live a life  full of tradition, ritual, and a rich history that dates back much  farther thatn that of the United States. It is a life that is truly  theirs: seprate from outside influence and pressure. Walking silently  past ornate, carved, religious figures and a magnitude of old wooden  benches in an old beautiful old church , we came upon an older lady  praying in the front. In the middle of the bright and sunny day she was  sobbing loudly; grasping the coat of the large Jesus figure. I felt  really out of place, innapropriately staring at a women I did not know,  pouring out her emotions. I do not know what she was saying, but despite  the language barrier, I felt as if I knew exactly what she meant. As  much as I felt like an awkward, outside observer, I felt the pain and  the desperation that she was releasing. Maybe it is much healthier, and  much more natirual to be able to express yourself out loud in a public  church without being bothered by who is listening, rather than being  locked up alone in a room at home, as it seems that so many people to in  the United States. Sitting on sacred Mayan terrain on top of San  Andres, I realized how incredibly thankful I am that the people of  Chajul have accepted me into their town, and into their homes. I was  able to catch a glimpse of a beatiful, wonderfully open people. I slept  comfortably on the cement floor, not worrying about beetles I saw  crawling in and out of torn pieces of blanket, and using my host-sisters  jacket as a pillow. I do not mis my bed at home, food from home, or  anything else I had thought I might. It is not about that. I love the  authenticity, and the rich history here. I keep thinking about huge  cities and factories and cars, and although I understand, it makes me  sad to hear people wanting to come to the United States. I want to tell  them that here are the huge, mystefying clouds, original languages, and  deep roots that hold such a high value to me. 							 							
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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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Chajul

Rachel Lieberman,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

A few days ago I was sitting on top of San Andres, a sacred mountain top overlooking the tiny rooftops, ant-sized people, and rows of corn all in the beautiful town of Chajul. The majority of people in Chajul only speak Ixil, a Mayan language only spoken in three towns now, rather than Spanish. On […]

Posted On

07/21/11

Author

Rachel Lieberman

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    [post_content] => This short week in Pachaj, a town right outside of Xela, I spent two  mornings in the mountains planting trees as part of the Chico-Mendez  Reforestation project. I am so glad that I was able to work on this  project that I think is so incredibly important. I woke up early in the  morning, my wonderful host-mother packing breakfast for me, preparing  her homemade tea, and sending me on my way. We hiked up the steep path  carrying baby trees on our heads and our backs, heading towards the  place where we would plant them. By the time I reached our destination, I  was breathing heavy, with each breath inhaling the scent of pine trees,  and the pureness of the air on the mountain. There is something  beautiful about planting a tiny tree, less than a foot tall, and knowing  that many years later it will be as huge and as important as the other  trees nearby. Chico-Mendez was started by a man named Armando who  explained to us the importance of the work we were doing. Because so  much has been cut down for building, firewood, or room to live and to  grow crops, much of the forest has been depleted. It is important to  maintain a sustainability in the environment, so that we aren`t taking  too much more than we are giving. Essentially we live off of the land,  so it is our responsibility to make sure we are taking care of the  environment in the same way that it takes care of us, and appreciating  what we take.
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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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The Importance of Trees

Rachel Lieberman,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

This short week in Pachaj, a town right outside of Xela, I spent two mornings in the mountains planting trees as part of the Chico-Mendez Reforestation project. I am so glad that I was able to work on this project that I think is so incredibly important. I woke up early in the morning, my […]

Posted On

07/21/11

Author

Rachel Lieberman

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We just finished our last homestay and we are going to go on a three day trek to San Marcos. Yesterday I ate pollo campero- a Guatemalan fried chicken chain- which tasted good.

Jacob

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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hello

Jacob Frank,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

We just finished our last homestay and we are going to go on a three day trek to San Marcos. Yesterday I ate pollo campero- a Guatemalan fried chicken chain- which tasted good. Jacob

Posted On

07/21/11

Author

Jacob Frank

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    [post_content] => Perspective is an interesting thing to assess because we can all agree on a definition of the word, but perspective is completey unique. No matter how hard I try I will never know what it is like to truly BE Guatemala, all I can do is observe ad learn as much as possible about the culture and the people here. They have inspired me and through them, and their teachings I can see myself, and who I am just a bit clearer. I keep searching for, or trying to assign meaning to my month in Guatemala but I am now coming to terms with the fact that this cannot be done. Meaning cannot be searched for, like buried treasure, it is created and formed carefully by adding up experiences and moments. and I have acquired many moments of the course of this week in Pachaj. I cried from cutting onions with my friends, and our teachers in during a cooking competition, I participated in the most exhausting relay race in the world, made tortillas, planted trees in honor of Chico Mendez, taught a few english words, and laughed constantly. I climbed up a mountain in the dead of night and stood in silence with my group at the top, overlooking the twinkling lights of Xela, and marvelled at hugeness of the world, I participàted in a Mayan ceremony, and graduated from Spanish class, during a huge fiesta, with lots of sweet bread. I got up in the morning surrounded by mountains and clouds, while the cold air made my breath visible, at night I stared at the stars, and imagined that I was inside a tin can, and someone on the outside had poked tiny holes in the metal walls, especially for me. These are the important moments, the ones that happen so quickly that you almost don´t notice them, but that stay with you forever. For ¨Life is measured not by the number of breathes we take, but by the moments that take our breath away¨
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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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The day I noticed the world.

Carsen Joenk,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

Perspective is an interesting thing to assess because we can all agree on a definition of the word, but perspective is completey unique. No matter how hard I try I will never know what it is like to truly BE Guatemala, all I can do is observe ad learn as much as possible about the […]

Posted On

07/21/11

Author

Carsen Joenk

WP_Post Object
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    [post_date] => 2011-07-21 00:00:00
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As we embarkon our last days of the trip, I think about how much i will miss all the people i have met,and the places i have seen. I will miss thefriends that i have made, and the people that i shared many memories with. Although i am a little bit sad, i look forward to the 3 day trekk. I will have time to become one with the the natural life of Guatemala, without any contact from the outside world. I have little time to express my feelings fully, but i will leave with this,

"When your cup is overflowing, you must empty it in order to refill."

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Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

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Embaeking on the 3 day trekk

David Grain,Guatemala: Mundo Maya 4 week "B", Summer 2011

Description

As we embarkon our last days of the trip, I think about how much i will miss all the people i have met,and the places i have seen. I will miss thefriends that i have made, and the people that i shared many memories with. Although i am a little bit sad, i look forward […]

Posted On

07/21/11

Author

David Grain

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