Today in Guatemala we were able to spend the day doing a service project with the cooperative in San Lucas.
We helped to make 5 compost beds so that the farmers could make their own fertilizer to grow the coffee trees. We all worked as a team cutting wood, hammering, and measuring the wood for the project.
It was definitely a dirty and tiring day but in the end everyone in the cooperative was truly greatful for our time and hard work. Also, we as AB volunteers were glad for the opportunity to make a difference and to be able to work as a team and create a stronger bond.
Day 4 in Guatemala brought us yet another new adventure as we traveled from San Miguel to San Lucas which was about a 2 1/2 hour (bumpy) drive. San Lucas is where we will be doing our service project tomorrow, Thursday. After arriving, we checked into our beautiful hotel only about a 2 minute walk from the cooperative that we will be working with for the service project.
We joined the cooperative for a lunch of pork, rice, green beans, and tortillas. Next, the secretary of the cooperative took us all on a tour of San Lucas. San Lucas, we learned, has a rich history and many stories are passed down through the generations. On our tour we visited the cemetery, Maximon, the church decorated for Lent, Lake Atitlan, and of course we had to stop for some ice cream (helado in Spanish).
Maximon is a legend recognized mainly by the Mayans in Western Guatemala. Supposedly, he helped many people during the assassinations in the early 1900’s. The Maximon that we visited today was just a representation or model of what they envisioned him to look like. People come to him for help and leave him various gifts such as money, candles, and alcohol. Unfortunately we couldn’t take any pictures of the Maximon we encountered.
As you can see in the picture, the cemetary we visited is a bit different than we usually see. The graves are above ground and are colorful. Two of the towns priests who were American were put in the center of the cemetary because of their contributions to the town.
Its safe to say that our day wore us out. After a much needed rest, we rejoined the members of the cooperative for a dinner of eggs, refried beans, and plenty of coffee. We’re spending the rest of the night relaxing, playing games, and gearing up for our service project tomorrow!
Today began with another delicious breakfast of fried eggs and bananas, fruit, and of course our favorite… coffee, courtesy of De La Gente.
We then joined our tour guide, Emmy, for another round of shopping in the city. This time the journey was a bit more interesting thanks to the “chicken bus”. These buses are the local transportation for much of the community. They are creatively painted and are one bumpy ride! According to Emmy, the chicken buses have a bit of a competition amd like to race each other to see who can pick up more people.
After doing some more shopping, we got into groups for a market scavenger hunt. Each group was given their own money to buy the part of the meal they were assigned; ingredients for either guacamole, nachos, or a smoothie/ dessert. We worked together to make our recipes and ended with a delicious lunch.
The second part of our day consisted of the artisan workshops. Everyone had signed up in advance for a workshop that they would like to attend; either peanut butter production, bag making, woodworking and iron working. Everyone came back together after dinner with their own fun creations and experiences.
Tomorrow we will be heading out to Lake Atitlan in San Lucas, Guatemala about 3 hours from where we are staying now in San Miguel. Throughout the next three days we will be doing some more touring and shopping, helping with a service project and enjoying our last day relaxing at the lake.
We are all looking forward to the rest of the week and will keep you updated on the blog!
Today we woke up as usual, bright and early and had breakfast at 7:30. Breakfast was delicious and consisted of many fruits, boiled bananas and pineapple pancakes. Yum! (Oh and of course de la gente coffee).
We left after breakfast and walked to a farmers house where we each were given a basket to carry on our backs. We hiked about an hour up volcano agua. It was a very steep and dusty hike, but the views were so worth it! When we finally made it to the coffee farm on the volcano, we were taught about the basics of coffee farming and everything it entails, including the harvesting process. We all then picked the ripe coffee fruit from the trees for about another 45 minutes to an hour. We ended up picking 88 pounds of coffee fruit! (Which the farmer carried back down the volcano in a burlap sack on his back with the handle around his forehead! He does this 2-3 times per day)
We then headed back down the volcano to the farmer’s house and had a delicious lunch, consisting of marinated chicken, arroz and an assortment of steamed vegetables.
After lunch, we walked through every step of the coffee process after the harvesting has been done. We were able to first ride the bike-machine used to separate the coffee fruit from the actual beans inside. We then headed up to the roof to see the drying process of the beans after they are fermented and washed. After drying, the coffee beans are then shelled and sifted to keep the beans uniform size. The defected beans are picked out (individually.. by hand!), and then the beans are ready to be exported to different roasters they are partnered with in the USA, Canada and Europe.
After the coffee tour, we each were given a bag of coffee (for free!) and had a chance to buy extra bags for a lower price than what you pay online. Then, we met with the director of De La Gente coffee, and he gave us more insight and background into the company and co-op as a whole.
Lastly, we went back to the farmers house we had worked with previously to have dinner.
All in all, I can safely say that today was a VERY humbling experience for everyone. Here are a few quotes from those nearby (including myself).
“Seeing all the work farmers do… they’re very under appreciated. The work they do is crazy. And seeing behind the scenes gave me such insight” -Rosa
“I can’t believe how little compensation as well as appreciation we give to the farmers. This goes for not only coffee, but pretty much everything we import in America. The money mostly goes to the roasters (brand names) and shipping companies! Buying fair trade products is so important because they work to give the farmers a fair-er wage” -Cora
“I loved seeing the entire family process and how much unity there is. The family all helps out with the farming, and it’s passed down for generations” -Hannah
Day 2 in Antigua brought us many new experiences and adventures. We started off our morning with a tour of Antigua. Throughout the tour we were able to observe the traditions of Holy week in Guatemala. The cross overlooks Antigua and is directly across from Volcan Fuego. Next, we hiked to Cerro de la Cruz; a cross overlooking the city of Antigua and directly in front of Volcan Fuego.
All if that walking wore us out and we refueled with lunch st Sky Cafe. The views as well as the food were incredible.
After lunch, the group returned to the house for a coffee activity. Emmy, our tour guide taught us about direct trade vs. fair trade and the amount of time and money that goes into the coffee business.
To end day 2, we joined a local coffee farmer, Manuel, and his family for dinner. He talked more about the coffee process, his involvement with De La Gente, and more about Antigua.
It is safe to say that today was an exhausting one but tomorrow, Monday, we look forward to learning about the coffee growing process with a hike up Volcan Agua and a chance to help the farmer pick the coffee beans.
Today is 3-18-2017 and it marks our first day of spring break. Today, we are traveling from UWO – Chicago O’ Hare – San Salvador – Guatemala City! It has been a very long day of travels, but nevertheless, WE ARE EXCITED!
There are so many things we are looking forward to on our trip, here are some responses…
“I’m excited to go hiking and sightseeing!” -Ari
“I’m excited to eat yummy foods and (hopefully) see lava coming out of a volcano” -Cora
“I’m excited to learn how to salsa dance!” -Sarah
“I’m excited to hike on the volcanos” -Katherine
“I’m excited about the food and the volcano climb thing” -Rosa
“I’m excited to work with coffee farmers and learn how to make peanut butter” -Hannah
“I’m excited to learn about a new culture and embrace it in my life” -Lexi
“I’m excited to speak Spanish and take advantage of this once in a lifetime experience” -Katy
“I’m excited to see the second co-op, and learn more about the Mayan culture” -Nicole
Our second day in Honduras started bright and early with a tour of the heart of El Progreso, a beautiful park located in the center of the city. In the park stood the symbol of El Progreso, the clock tower, and the municipal building where the mayor’s office is located. We learned so much about the culture of the city through this tour, and seeing it just showed us how much beauty this place has to offer!
From the tour we headed to Pronino for a jam packed day of soccer, games, painting and crafts with all of the boys in the organization, and some of the girls even got to meet the five girls that live in a separate location from the boys.
We played a pick up game of soccer with some of the Pronino boys, and even the OYE students and once again learned that they will always beat us no matter how hard we try! The mural is coming along nicely with help from the OYE students, some of the Pronino boys, and we even chimed in a little bit. Board games are an endless adventure as we learn new ones everyday, and are reminded that even if we happen to win, they’re almost always letting us!
One of our groups went to the girls home with some of the OYE students to sew, and create pillows to bring a little more into their home! They taught us as much as we taught them along the way!
The rest of the group stayed back with the boy’s of Pronino and continued painting the mural and working together to teach each other and even work together to complete some puzzles that are much harder than they looked!
We ended our day with dinner at some of the OYE’s scholars house, a night filled with delicious food, homemade bracelets, a game of sharades, and endless laughter!