After six weeks of being in Guatemala, our team’s work at Mayan Families finally, and sadly, comes to a close. This week the team wrapped up both of our projects. The computer integration plan that we have been working on since the start of our internship was presented to the Panajachel preschool teachers and the Mayan Families education department members. Afterwards we held a Q & A session with everyone in attendance. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive which was SO rewarding! We also completed our report on the Spanish language evaluations and presented that to members of the Education Department as well. Because the report involved a lot of tedious data entering and compilation, it felt great to finally be done! To top it all off, the Department threw us a surprise going away party with cake, coffee, and speeches! It was such a nice gesture and a perfect last day at work.
We leave for the airport at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow and all of us have so many mixed emotions about going home. We will be happy to see our families, but we’ve also created a life for out here in Pana…Words cannot describe what an amazing experience we have had and the memories we’ve made, the friendships we formed, the inspirational people we met, and everything we have seen will not soon be forgotten….
Well, golly do we have a lot to catch you up on! Life has been pretty crazy here in Panajachel, Guatemala the last couple of weeks, SO crazy, in fact, that we have just had not a moment to blog! But never fear…. I have a couple of nice, juicy paragraphs to update you!
The computer officially arrived from the United States and boy, is it glorious! It’s so shiny and new, even though I won’t be able to actually see the kids using it, I can only imagine their excitement when they get to play on it for the first time! Now that we have the computer, we were able to start downloading and saving all of the educational games and resources we found to go along with the school curriculum. The best part about this was actually getting to play the games—I PERSONALLY learned a lot of Spanish. After we finished downloading everything and organizing it all into folders based on grade (maternal, pre-kinder, kinder) and category (vowels, animals, etc..), the head of the preschool here at Pana came to the education office and Luis (bless his fluently Spanish heart) explained to her in detail where everything was and how to work it all.
In the last few weeks we have also finished up the Spanish-language evaluations in all of the preschools—Panajachel, El Barranco, Chukmuk, San Antonio, Tierra Linda, and San Jorge. Unfortunately, I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t go to two of the schools, which I was really bummed about… Nothing like sitting at home by yourself bored, as the rest of your team gets to play with the sweetest, cutest kids ever. Maybe I’m biased, but something about the children here is more heart-melting than usual. On the bright side, while I was stuck at home, I had plenty of time to enter individual evaluations from the preschools into a Google Drive spreadsheet. We are currently working on analyzing all of the data from these evaluations and writing a report on our findings—which schools did the best, which children improved, under which circumstances do the children succeed the most on the evaluations, etc. It is very interesting looking at all of this information. In the different schools, 77% to 100% of the kids do not speak Spanish at home, only Kaqchikel, the local Mayan language. Yet despite this most of the kids were very successful, which really shows how beneficial the Mayan Families preschool program is.
Today is our roommates’, the IU Nourishers, last day at work which is a bittersweet occasion indeed. They have made so much progress on their garden and the department they were working for game them a heartfelt thank you for their work this morning, our house will feel so empty without them!! One of the members from the VT team returned home after week, so after this weekend the total number of people in our house will have dwindled from 10 to 3. Therefore there is only one thing to do, have a going away party! Tonight, we are splurging on a piñata, cake, and will spend the evening listening to some classic Latino tunes and relaxing under the pomegranate tree in the yard of our lovely, pink casa. I can’t imagine a more perfect way to spend the night. Over the last 5 weeks, the Virginia Tech and Indiana University teams have gotten so close, we are all really sad to be saying goodbye. I guess this is one of the beauties of Nourish International though… Not only helping the community and making a serious impact on the people here, but also forming lasting friendships with other students doing the same thing. I wonder if the IU girls will ever see this….. (HALLOOO LADIES!!)
As for exploration, we spontaneously ventured to Semuc Champey last weekend, which we all agreed was quite possibly the BEST and MOST AMAZING experience of our entire lives. Not only did we hike through the jungle to get to the pools of Semuc, but we also jumped off of a bridge and flew off of a rope swing into the river, and went caving by candlelight (all for one cheap price of 190 Quetzals–$25 USD). The weekend before we boated over to another town on the Lake called San Marcos to jump off of their famous “el trampolin” which is, in reality, not a trampoline, but a huge wooden platform that you leap from into the lake 30 feet below. I’m sure you must be thinking, “Gosh, how many things can these people jump off in Guatemala?!” …It does seem like a lot.
Virginia Tech has now spent two weeks in Panajachel, Guatemala! This week, we did a lot of exciting things! We visited three of the six Mayan Families preschools to help do the Spanish language evaluations. While the teachers evaluated students one at a time, the team was tasked with leading games and activities with the remaining children. It is always so amazing to get to meet and play with the kids that Mayan Families works with. The help that these kids are getting, both educationally and nutritionally, really shows. A challenge the team encountered was that some of the kids only spoke Cachiquel (the local Mayan language), which made communication difficult at times. However, despite the occasional language barrier, the kids were very enthusiastic and chatty. Every time we walk into a classroom, they all shout “Hola! Bienvenidos!” grinning and waving at us.
The preschool visits are definitely a highlight of each week even though we only go in the mornings. In the afternoons, we work in the office. We have been continually working on integrating computer activities with preschool curriculums and translating all of our work into Spanish to present to the teachers. We have also been entering the data from the Spanish evaluations into a series of spreadsheets, which we will later use to write a report on the progress of the students.
Over the weekend we ventured to Antigua, only a few hours away from Pana. The architecture there was stunning! Being able to travel on the weekends and experience all of these great places is one of the many awesome aspects about our project!
Until next week,
It has only been a week in Panajachel and we have accomplished so many things already! The team has had a great time getting to know both the Mayan and Guatemalan people, as well as all of the Mayan Families staff. After running all over the place for a week, we are really familiar with the town and following a little exploration, we have picked out our favorite spots to hang out and to EAT! Not only is the food here amazing, but it is also cheap! We have greatly enjoyed the mangos, avocados and most of all, the fresh bread…
At Mayan Families, we immediately felt very welcomed by everyone. On our first day of work, the preschool children welcomed us with handmade posters, songs, and best of all, with their beautiful smiles! The rest of the week we were really productive and actually finished the Maternal, Pre-Kinder, and Kinder (3-5 year-olds) year-long computer curriculums! On Thursday the electricity was turned off state-wide, so we had the opportunity to help in the preschool at Pana and interact with the children. It was so great to talk to them and hug them! Over the weekend, we traveled to San Pedro, which is a 40 minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan. We explored the town and went horseback riding into the mountains… it was such a beautiful place! I’m excited to continue learning from the community, working with Mayan Families, and exploring more places in Guatemala for the next 5 weeks!
Well hola everyone!
In less than one week we will be in Panajachel, Guatemala!! OUR LEVEL OF EXCITEMENT IS JUST THROUGH THE ROOF! (Can you tell from the caps?!) Despite being swamped with finals up until 2 days before we depart, the project team has maintained a level of sanity which we are attributing to our eager anticipation for the project to begin. We met for a few hours in the library today to take a study break and hammer out some final preparations for the trip. We finished outlining our year-long curriculum for a computer training program and Luis showed us a cool way to install a Spanish “computer” within our English computers so that we can learn what a Spanish desktop looks like and how to navigate it. Oh, another thing we did at our meeting…. Google image searched “Panajachel” and swooned for a while. We are #readytorumble.
Hasta la pasta,
Kate, Virginia Tech