Sorry for the lack of posts, the wifi in Guatemala is not the most reliable source.
Today we arrived in Guatemala, or what we thought was a whole different world! When we left the airport terminal we were standing beside army-like forces armed with machine guns and tanks, which was a bit intimidating. We rode on the bus from Guatemala City to Antigua (about an hour and a half), and then we were brought to our host families homes! The groups were split up into two homes, four in one home ( Aideen, Bree, Alissa, and Haele), and six in the other ( Nicole, Kendall, Conor, Christina, Sister Sean and Sister Betsy)! After arriving at our host families houses, they fed us lunch... Out first Guatemalan meal! After lunch we met up with Mary Florence (the volunteer coordinator for the school), who then showed us around Antigua and brought us to some helpful local spots, such as the grocery store and the bank! After our mini tour we headed back to our houses for dinner and called it a night after our long and tiring day to Guatemala.
First day at school!!
Our days start around 6:30am for breakfast, then the two groups meet up to go to school together... We take the "Chicken Bus"! Chicken buses are old, broken down, yellow school buses that are driven down from the states to Guatemala and used as public transportation! Theses are your usual yellow buses.. They are very well decorated with many colors and blast music! So much fun. Mary Florence took us the first day then have us a your of the school and explained how school is free that many children don't attend because the families can't afford them. The original school was closing down and a volunteer and her father saved the school and now has a motto that says "only education can break the cycle of poverty". Then we met Hyliem who is in charge of the education and we talked about the school and everyone went into to a classroom of a grade (each grade has an English class and a Spanish class). The kids are AMAZING! We stayed and helped the teachers then ate with the kids (which was very yummy)! We stayed with the kids until 2:30 which is when they get out of school. We got a chicken bus back to Antigua and went to the market afterwards to buy some souvenirs! We then dispersed to head back for dinner.
Today we split up into groups to do a clean up! One group of five stayed at the school and did what was done yesterday! The other group of five (Conor, Christina, Alissa, Sister Sean, and Haele) went to a home of two students and helped the mother of the family organize her new home she is renting out.
When we arrived at the home we walked into what seemed to be an apartment building (but was a normal house) and rather than renting an apartment, each family rents out a room of this home/apartment building. The room was the size of our dorm rooms at Saint Rose, and there were two full sized beds along with a portable stove top on a wooden table as the kitchen. We reorganized and cleaned the room, as well as folded and put away their clothes. After we finished, we noticed that the family flipped a stool upside down and put a garbage bag around the four legs of the stool and used it as a trash bin and they put their dirty clothes in a different garbage bag. It was then that we decided to venture off and look for a trash bin as well as a laundry bin. When we arrived back at the home, the look on the mothers face when we gave her both a garbage and laundry bin as well as a ton of garbage bag can not be described. She was unbelievably thankful for all that we did for her! After, we went back to the school to meet back up with the group to catch another chicken bus back to Antigua. We again split up for dinner and called it a night!
Today we split up into groups again, but this time for a repair! The group of five who cleaned yesterday stayed at the school and did what was done on day two! The other group of five (Bree, Kendall, Aideen, Nicole, and Sister Sean) went to a home of one student and helped repair the roof of the home as well as clean and reorganize the home.
The group that went to the home went to help fix the roof of the house. When we got there it was very interesting to see. They had dogs, a cat, bunny, duck, chicks and a rooster. They had two walls and a metal roof where the wife made tortillas(source of income). There were two rooms. The girls helped sweep and get the spider webs off of the wall. The husband of the house and the carpenter did the roofs themselves and did it very quickly while we watched and just took in what we were seeing. The daughter gave us some tortillas with salt while we watched the men work. They were soooo good ! After the roof was done the husband thanked us so much. He was telling us how it's expensive for him and how he wouldn't be able to buy the roof if it wasn't for us. He was explaining how the economy is bad, jobs aren't consistent and how grateful he was. He told us "although I can't repay you, I will repay you with prayer." It was so genuine and nice that it was hard not to tear up! The wife also thanked us and showed much appreciation (even though we felt we didn't do much because we watched). But it was great that we were able to help the family of a girl who is in the kindergarten class at the school. What a great experience !
Today was just another day at school! Woke up at 6:30 for breakfast, then headed to the bus for school at 8! Thursdays and Fridays are different at the school. Rather that the teacher standing in front of the same class, the teachers rotate! Ms. Claire (the kindergarten English teacher) teaches gym, Ms. Jessica (the first grade English teacher) teaches art, Ms. Sarah (the second grade English teacher) teaches music, and Mr. Chris (the third grande English teacher) teaches conversations in English! The day went until 2:30, and then we headed back to Antigua!
Today was the same as yesterday, minus the fact that Fridays end at 2:00! At 2:00 we headed back to Antigua for a walking tour of Antigua! The waking tour consisted of walking through Antigua learning about certain landmarks, but specifically two of many churches in Antigua. The first church we toured, Saint Joseph's, was very interesting! When you first walk into the church it is fairly large, and was recently refurbished... What we didn't know was there was more! After the tour inside the main church we went to the ruins of the church. There was an earthquake in 1976 that killed 22,000 people and also took down a lot of the church. The church had several different parts to it and we explored all of them! Next we ventures to El Barroco En La Merced, which was also a beautiful church. We learned a lot about Antigua and it culture including Holy Week and different holy days celebrated here in Antigua. After the walking tour we called it a day and headed home for dinner!
Today, because there is not school held on Saturday, we painted the front of the school! What you would think to be an easy task, painting in Guatemala is not easy, AT ALL! It started off with the mildew on the lower half of the wall being a problem, so our job was to scrub it off... It was not easy! After about an hour and a half on our hands and knees scrubbing mildew off the wall we began painting! First we had two people from the group run to the supply store and get painting supplied, and then when we realized how bad the mildew was we had two others from the group run to get a mildew killer base coat I'm hopes that it would stop the growth of new and more mildew growing! So throughout the day we had a system, a group working on the lower half of the wall applying the mildew killer base coat, a group working on painting the middle parts of the walk and we also had ladder duty who did the upper half of the wall as trimming! Our system worked quite well thanks to Sister Betsy (basically our professional painter), and we finished painting one half of the school! We hope to work on it throughout the week in order to finish the whole front of the school!
Actually today!!! Today we visited three Mayan islands... First stop was San Juan! San Juan was beautiful, and there were a ton of art galleries and shops to look in. We went to a shop where the woman showed us how they make the thread they use to weave all different things like scarfs, shirts, skirts, bags and pants! It was crazy! They use all different natural dyes such mint plants, flowers, cherries, carrots, and even avocado! The process to do all of this is extremely long. After San Juan we took the boat to San Pedro, where we only went to swim! Some swam while others walked around to explore different parts of the island. The third and final stop was Santiago. Santiago was a little different than the other two, being less of a tourist attraction. It also had a market, and church that we went to! The boat ride back to the dock was a bit bumpy but good, we missed the rain that was coming! We are now on our ride home, all very tired and tan from a nice trip to three Mayan islands. All ready to go home and rest up for the week ahead of us!
Adios for now!