Friday, July 23, 2010

Coatepeque - The Access Education Project at La Union

We were meant to be painting a new addition of the school that was built with funds from Access Education.  We pulled up to the school on Saturday expecting paint and the principal.  They definitely had other ideas.
There were 250 children in uniform and their parents waiting for us in assembly chairs.  There was a stage set up and when we walked through the court-yard the applause began. They were there to thank us.
We were treated, for the next two hours, to presentations from all the children.  There was marimba dancing, a demonstration by primary children of how the corn is tilled in the fields and a lot of singing.
The Minister of Education spoke and I had a chance to say a few words.  I took our kids up on to the stage to show the village that we are all the same when we persevere and when we work together.  Our kids served as a testament to change.  They were extremely engaged and changed by this display.  That day we announced that La Union would now begin offering Basico (middle school) as of January in addition to Primary school.  This is a HUGE deal.
Afterwords we did indeed paint the school, played soccer (Mario rocks) and we took a foot tour of La Union and in fact visited relatives.


We are all sad to be going home....It was a truly amazing experience.

I would like to personally thank Ryan, Helen, John Way, Claire Dallies, Ruben Gonzalez, Josue, and Aeshwarya on the home team for making this an incredible experience.   AND hats off to the amazing students - Giselle, Myles, Kate, Alana and Jack for bringing everything into focus.  They were always in awe.  They always had questions.  They were always grateful.  They were frequently moved.
I feel blessed to have gone down the road with such fine people.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Today we took another huge metaphysical, existential and historic turn to ChiChi.
Chichicastenango is the centre of the Maya universe.  Although the government and temples were and are located in Tikal, Chichi was and is the spiritual centre.  This is where the Popal Vuh originated. 
Sunday and Thursday are market days and this is the largest market in Guatemala.  The Maya people come from hundreds of kilometers around to bring their goods to market.

This is an intense experience.  There are two churches at each end of the market.  San Tomas y Calvary.  San Tomas has historic roots with the Maya and to this day shares the church with the Catholics.  The Maya make sacrifices of flowers and corn on the steps of the church and make similar offerings inside.  The rectory of the San Tomas church was a place of torture during the civil war.
On Sunday the priest does Mass and quickly turns his back as the Maya people start moving in their offerings.
Between these two churches there are hundreds of vendors selling hand made clothing, pottery, and jewellery to the public.

I hope Kate has kept us up to date....

We have had a spectacular time.  I would be adding exclamation points if they were findable on this latin keyboard.  We spent two amazing days on Lake Atitlan at Casa del Mundo near Panajachel. We all zip-lined hundreds of feet above the canopy at the  Atitlan Nature Reserve. A twenty minute boat ride took us to a pristine point on the lake that is only accessible by water.  There are several stories of stairs and rooms dotting the mountainside.  The view of the three volcanoes and the lake is unspeakably beautiful.  While the kids were trapped in classes I was able to jump on a boat and beat it back to the mainland where I toured the Atitlan Multicultural Academy with Vice Principal, Reuban Gonzalez.  This was followed by lunch and a cerveza.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Study in Antigua

12 Julio, 2010
Today our kids attended lectures, studied and wrote tests again from morning until 6:00 P.M (with breaks of course).
Professor Claire Dallies, Helen Mills and Ryan Burwell gave an interdisciplinary slide presentation and inspired many questions from the group.
Tomorrow we will travel to Guatemala City to the garbage dump.  The people from Camino Seguro (Safe Passages) will lead our class on a tour of the largest dump in the Americas and explain how many generations of Guatemalans are born, raised and ultimately die, here, at their home at the dump. The city is dependent on the people of the dump. 
Camino Seguro's mission statement is to combat poverty through education.The families of Safe Passage children scavenge through the Guatemala City Dump for items to resell. The organization works to enroll these children in the public schools.
This will be an emotional day for our kids.  It is truly a devastating existence.  I leave this post with a photo of the Mayan priest who led us in prayer at a temple cave in Chisec.  It was a prayer of healing that has been recited for over two thousand years.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

11 Julio, 2010

We are busy studying intensively in Antigua.  We have almost the entire hotel to ourselves.  While Giselle and Jack research their essay topics.....I am dreaming about caves.

Wow ........what an amazing several days........I have lost count

We have been SO busy and SO inspired by what we have done, seen, and experienced óff the grid´for the last several days.
The Temples at Tikal were gasp worthy and students at the top of Temple One (gigantic) got a taste of what it was like to be a Mayan Priest at the top of a temple when the skies opened (as in really opened).
The trip to the indigenous community near the town of Chisec was so inspiring.  These Maya people refused to flee during the civil war.  The town of Chisec was virtually wiped out by the soldiers and thousands of Maya people were murdered.  This brave group of 23 families stayed on their land and have retained the land.  Others who ran away had their land confiscated.  The people of this community, Candelaria, found ancient caves on their property including Mayan temples.  We walked the land for hours and toured caves on foot and tubed through the caves with flashlights.  The day at Candelaria culminated in a Maya ceremony with a priest and priestess who led us in procession through a field of unspeakable beauty to the ceremonial cave where blessings were bestowed in the Q´quiche language and the kids were included in prayer to the four directions.  It was so moving to see our children walk for half an hour without speaking a word and to see the emotion on their faces.  I will have pictures of this day soon.
I am behind in my blogs because we are frequently busy and not in front of computers. YAY.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Quiriguá - A National Treasure - six hours along the road from Antigua!

Quiriguá (Spanish pronunciation: [kiɾiˈɣwa]) is an ancient Maya archaeological site in the department of Izabal in south-eastern Guatemala. It is a medium-sized site covering approximately 3 square kilometres (1.2 sq mi) along the lower Motagua River,[2] with the ceremonial center about 1 km (0.6 mi) from the north bank.[3] During the Maya Classic Period (AD 200–900), Quiriguá was situated at the juncture of several important trade routes. The site was occupied by 200, construction on the acropolis had begun by about 550, and an explosion of grander construction started in the 8th century. All construction had halted by about 850, except for a brief period of reoccupation in the Early Postclassic (c. 900 – c. 1200). Quiriguá shares its architectural and sculptural styles with the nearby Classic Period city of Copán, with whose history it is closely entwined.[4] (Wikipedia).

This was a total we spent 8 hours in the bus traveling to the Peten area of Guatemala.
After 6 hours we came to Quirigua and our first, up-front, jungle field trip.  It was probably about 39 C and with the humidity, it felt like 49C.

Our students enjoyed their box lunch and thorough tour of the ruins before heading off to Tikal for dinner and check in at the Camino Real hotel.  At the hotel they were happy to change into swim suits and dive into the pool.
Tomorrow we are all looking forward to Parque Arqueologico Tikal for a full day at the pyramids and the centre of the Mayan universe.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Colonialism and lost luggage!

We had an incredible day today! We started the day with a walking tour of Antigua with Professor Way. The kids learned about colonialism, the German Peasant Wars, mercantilism, and drew a metaphysical and at times physical line from the conquest to the genocide of the Maya people during the 1980's and early 1990's. During lunch the sky opened with the daily deluge and I appropriately left for the airport to find the missing luggage myself.

I did indeed find the 12 missing bags and somehow managed to stuff them into a very small Renault. There was not room for a hamster.....

The kids spent the afternoon in class time and at this hour they are just finishing their studies.

We will have dinner and an early night as tomorrow is the long bus ride to the Peten (8 hours).

They are having a great time - especially now that they have clean clothes.

Hopefully Kate will have some pictures or posting on her blog soon:

Giselle Wenban is doing a great job running the video camera. We will try to upload to youtube perhaps.

Hablamos pronto!


Friday, July 2, 2010

We are here. Having a blast in Antigua

Most students and teachers were up at 3:00 A.M today in preperation for a 6:00 A.M departure from Pearson International Airport.  After a half hour delay in departure we had clear skies on our flight to Houston......or so we thought........
After circling Waco, Texas for 45 minutes the Captain calmly informed us that we were flying above a level five electrical storm courtesy of Hurricane Alex.  He told us we couldn't land in Houston or the plane would be "torn apart."  He told us we needed gas.  We diverted to a College Station airfield to wait out the storm and of course, get gas.  Some 45 minutes later we headed off to Houston where we discovered the airport had been open for some time and that our plane had departed.
After having a chat with some Continental personnel I was able  to secure 10 seats on the next flight (which was fully booked) AND get upgraded to business class. Our luggage didn't make it but we had a great day.
Thanks to the Atitlan Multicultural Academy, Professor John Way and Vice-Principal Rubin Gonzalez for being there for us and making our first day a memorable one.

Ablamos pronto