Today was our day of activities we chose to do through AGAIG. We decided on attending an artisans workshop where we learned some common artisan works such as iron sculpting, wood carving and jade jewelry making. Our other activity was a “Market Scavenger Hunt” where we split into two teams and ran through the giant market in Antigua to shop for food we’d later make into our dinner. Both activities were really fun and helped us identify and learn more about the culture.
So first was our Artisan’s workshop. I personally participated in the Jade jewelry making along with Kari, Nikki and Amber. Jane our tour hostess joined us as well! We met our Artisan. His name was Francisco, a friendly elderly man who’s been working with jade for 44 years. Jade is a precious stone used by the Mayans of the Guatemalan area for all different things whether I was art or dental work. The kind of jade found in this area is called jadeite. It’s rare and found in very few places around the world. The other kind of jade you see in Asian cultures is called nephrite. We learned all this and so much more from Francisco though Jane translated most of it for us. We then all got to pick out our own little piece of jadeite to carve and polish into jewelry we wanted! It was so fun and so fascinating to see all the steps it takes to make such a beautiful and rare piece of jewelry.
I don’t know nearly as much about the other workshops but I got a few descriptions. In the iron working, Taylor, Cassy and Mike carved gorgeous animal shaped garden decorations out of giant pieces of sheet metal. It involved a lot of muscle work, patience and rust colored hands but each piece turned out really fabulous.
In the wood working workshop, they made serving trays. Sophie, Daniel and Carter carved the frames of their trays and then sanded them down. They then were able to pick a piece of traditional indigenous clothing to cut up and form as the center of their trays to then cover with glass. They looked really cool and perfect for serving coffee to future guests at their homes!
Once that was all through, we at lunch at Roberto’s house. He was the wood working artisan. We had Pepian, the national dish of Guatemala! It was delicious. Fresh chicken in a slightly spicey and flavorful sauce with potatoes and rice. And of course tortillas. There are tortillas at just about every meal. All handmade from scratch. They’re incredible! But yes, Pepian. Mmm.
It was then off to the market for our scavenger hunt! Now, I don’t know how to really explain this market to you. It’s kind of one of those you gotta see into believe it kinda things. It’s this large complex, indoors and outdoors, with insanely narrow hallways. Each person with a stand inside of this market had it jam packed with whatever they were selling. Each stand was rather small and dimly lit. Each vender was fighting for your attention to show you what they had or how much cheaper theirs was. It was intense and energetic! So exciting! Once you found what you needed you could barter the price down. Everything was just kind of our in the open whether it was clothes, fruit or even meat. The meat hung from hooks at the front of meat stands. You could go to one stand selling dried fish and the one next to it could be selling shoes. It was pure chaos and so much fun!
Once we had all of our ingredients, we then spent an hour in the artisans market where it was again a lot of booths and stands of venders and artisans tying to sell you things but this was a little more relaxed, spaced out and mostly outdoors. This is where we bought some of our more touristy things for ourselves. We also could buy things from our artisans we worked with or those that work locally with AGAIG. There was a little mini store set up at the AGAIG offices for us to look at things in. For example, I bought a bag made by Timoteo’s daughter! It was neat to be able to buy things like that that the people we worked with made or their family made.
Once back at the house, some people showered, others went to check out Timoteo’s bio-digester. It’s a whole sustainable system he’s setting up where he has a tank for methane gas where he will collect manure from pigs he will raise on this piece of land. He then will put the manure in the tank and from there has the methane gas that he can take home for his stove. Once the manure is old, he will take it and make it a compost to use as fertilizer for his banana trees or other crops. He’s got a set up made of brick where he will have his own fish pond filled with tilapia. The tilapia will only cost him Q5 each (something like 70 cents) and once he grows the fish, he can turn around and sell them for Q15 each (about 2 dollars). The pig waste will also create algae in this pond which is what tilapia feed from. So for practically nothing, he can sell fish and make some nice profit all while utilizing other affordable and sustainable ways to live as well as maintain his crops. I’m sure it’s a bit of work putting all of it together and maintaining it, but it’s something simple that is so effective. That’s definitely something we can all take away from this trip: how simplicity can be so effective.
I did not go to the bio-digester because Nikki and I stayed at the house to make the evenings dinner! We made some killer nachos. They were a big hit and mighty delicious. All made with food we got at the market! We had a dessert of fried plantains which we were supposed to make with a side of hot chocolate but we ended up just melting the chocolate and covering the plantains in them. Mmm! Andy from AGAIG even came and joined us for our homemade meal!