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Nourish International

Final Reflections on our Internship with Maya Traditions

June 25, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

Here’s to our internship with Maya Traditions in Panajachel, Guatemala this summer!

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Below is our final blog post, consisting of our individual reflections from our experience working alongside Maya Traditions!

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Kira:

It has been a little over two weeks since my return to the States and not a day has gone by where I haven’t reminisced about my time spent in Guatemala and reflected on what I’ve taken away from my time spent there. If Guatemala taught me one thing it is that flexibility and adaptation are necessary elements for success in any aspect of life. In order to acclimate myself into and become accustomed to the laid-back and slow-paced Guatemalan lifestyle, I had to learn to be open-minded and willing to embrace the unfamiliar. Moreover, this translates into the workplace as well. Being able to adjust when a plan goes awry or when faced with unexpected bumps in the road is needed to overcome challenges faced to make the best of the situation. I’ve learned that plans cannot be expected to work out perfectly, as they often did not in Guatemala, and that having flexibility is necessary in order to move past these unexpected issues. This lesson I will keep with me forever as it will translate into every aspect of my life. I am so thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons during my time abroad, in addition to the amazing experiences I had.

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Gianna:

My five weeks in Guatemala were so incredible, unexpected, and motivational that I find it difficult to describe them in words.  I walked off my flight with a list of expectations and goals only to walk back on five weeks later with an entirely different perspective and list of life lessons learned.  Perhaps these life lessons is what I took away most with my experiences during this project.

To start, I learned just how challenging and rewarding travel can be without parents or close family.  While responsibility and organization fell straight on my shoulders this trip, I made amazing connections with the other project members as we all grew to depend on and share our experiences with each other.  Through my constant interaction with Guatemalans I discovered just how similar I am to those whose cultures and lifestyles which appear so different from the first impression.  My host family and coworkers helped me to realize all of our common values, goals, and interests.  Finally, this trip to Guatemala helped me to adapt to and make the best of any situation.  Travel, group work, and international projects hardly ever go exactly according to plan, and my five weeks in Panajachel were filled with adjustments, cooperation, and unplanned changes that benefited the entire project as a whole.

 

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Anisah:

It has been nearly two weeks since returning from Panajachel, but it feels like only yesterday  we were savoring our first taste of street food in the form of lime-squeezed corn-on-the-cob along Calle Santander, biking beside gleaming lakeside views of Lago Atítlan, and cooling off with well-earned Sarita’s banana splits. The past two weeks have hit me with a punch of suburban banality — sinking back into summer classes, catching up with high school friends, and readying myself for family roadtrips. A distinctive element of Pitt Nourish’s project this summer for me was how culturally immersive the entire experience was. Although nobody could mistake the seven of us for locals, hailing down tuk-tuks became commonplace after six weeks, and we had become so familiar with Pana’s marketplaces and shortcuts that none of us felt at all like tourists by the time we had to leave. Our host families embraced us into the amiable Guatemalan lifestyle with open arms and plates of steaming tamalitos and exchanging ¡buenos días! every morning to our neighbors helped to smooth our transition into the tranquil work life at Maya Traditions Foundation. Volunteering at Maya Traditions allowed us to experience the ways of life at different communities around Sololá through a local lens and better sense the foundation’s aim to preserve indigenous heritage by sustaining rural communities’ livelihoods through weaving cooperatives and community health clinics. Through the relentless rainy season and insects aplenty, we each learned lifelong lessons in adaptability, global healthcare objectives and necessities, and nonprofit-powered international development. I am so excited for our chapter to return next year to contribute to the success of Maya Traditions’ initiative, and I know our upcoming interns will have an incredible journey traveling through Guatemala and sharing an unforgettable adventure with each other!

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Jenny:

There were several times during my stay in Guatemala when I questioned my initial reasons for going. Was I making the impact that I wanted to make at the NGO? Was I getting the cultural exploration and exposure I wanted? When will this god-awful traveler’s diarrhea end?

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one mulling over these worries. In fact, these concerns helped our Pitt Nourish team members truly bond with one another and also became the driving force of our internal growth.

We divided the work to be done among the seven of us hungrily as we eagerly did what we came to do in Guatemala. We gained a sense of accomplishment as we created the products to sell in the States to raise awareness for Maya Traditions Foundation’s work and benefit the Maya artisan women. We gained a new insight into these women’s hard work and talent after learning how to back-strap weave from the masters themselves. We became honorary family members of our host families and enjoyed some of the most delectable Pepian chicken, rice, and tamales I’ve ever had. And on the days our colons pleasantly surprised us by adapting to some of the ethnic cuisines we were devouring, we were reminded of how far we’ve come–mentally and physically!–from being the people we were before we came to Guatemala.

Linda:

Six weeks of culture, of experiences, of memories that will be cherished, laughed about, and definitely remembered for a lifetime.

As we worked alongside a well-established NGO and lived outside of the country independently, it has been a rollercoaster ride– one that was a bit rough in the beginning but smooth sailing by the end. Throughout the experience, I have learned to say guatever to times things haven’t gone as planned, and definitely learned to be flexible and to be creative with backup plans when the first and sometimes the second plan falls through. Working in the Maya traditions garden-cutting weeds, carrying rocks, digging dirt, I’ve learned a lot about naturopathic medicine and the importance of these preserving traditions.  I’ve come to realize how often these roots are lost in this fast-paced modernized world, especially since I live with my first generation parents in America. I myself do not know much about my past generations and their Chinese heritage and traditions celebrated. Seeing the weaving that the women who work for Maya Traditions do for a living  and actually trying to weave ourselves left me with a sense of awe and also appreciation for the hard work they do. And after this trip, it has really motivated me to dig deeper into my own culture and to learn more about my own history and heritage.

What I will take alway the most from these 6 weeks of  Guatemalan culture is how I live, I mean really live. Being in America, I always look towards the future and never really appreciate each day as its own and I’m always so worried about the future that I forget that there’s only time to live in the present. It is important to live with an open mind, an open heart, ready to embrace everything and everyone that comes into your path, and the people that I’ve met in Guatemala have all taught me that. I without a doubt have had a wonderful experience here in Pana, and cannot imagine it any other way. And as the days go by from the daily adventures of boat rides across Lake Atitlan and buying 15 cent chocolate cupcakes from the local panaderia, I miss Panajachel and the people I met more and more.

 

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And here’s to more adventures next year.

With Love,

Pitt Nourish

Our Final Goodbye

June 6, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

With endings come new beginnings.

The river flowing with water from the 24 hour rainstorm on Monday

The river flowing with water from the daylong rainstorm on Monday

These past couple of days have been quiet without the rest of our Nourish intern group, who have all settled back in the States. Starting on Monday during the 24 hour tropical storm, Linda and Anisah finished braiding the headbands made from the recycled scraps that have been accumulating in Maya Traditions for years. Once the braiding was finished and our designed bags were made and picked up from the tailor on Tuesday, we tagged all the products- 33 headbands and 25 bags. And just like that, we can call our designed products project a success! Now, time to make space in our suitcases to bring these products back to the States … Our intentions for the headbands we made and the bags we designed are to increase awareness about the work Maya Traditions Foundation does for the community and and also to support their efforts with the money we raise.

Kira modeling the bags with Shakira

Kira modeling the bags with Shakira

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Our headbands tagged!

Our headbands tagged!

On Tuesday and Wednesday, we began figuring out ideas for the video we plan to make to encompass what we have done and learned these past six weeks with Maya Traditions. Linda and Kira also set up a spreadsheet for the products to account for the manufacturing costs in order to make a profit from the designed products. Anisah interviewed Mayan healer Juan to write a biography about him, which will be added to a collection of Mayan healer biographies that Maya Traditions is working on to create. On Thursday, we  spent the morning in the garden working with Edgar and Eko to help tidy the garden up for a mid-morning tour. Kira, Linda, and Anisah worked hard to sweep the stairs and the pathways in addition to cutting down bamboo and moving piles of weeds and plants off to corners of the garden.  It was hard work but it was a great last time spent in the garden surrounded by the herbal plants and the gardeners. In the afternoon, we talked to the Maya Traditions director Erin about the Theory of Change and the partnership with Maya Traditions for next year’s Nourish Interns. Through the discussion, it is a definite option for Pitt Nourish to come back next year and spend six weeks in Pana!

Anisah interviewing Juan

Anisah interviewing Juan

During this week, we have also met with Dr. Carlos and the volunteer coordinator Susie from NMGH [Naturopathic Medicine for Global Health] , who set up a naturopathic clinic here in Pana for the indigenous community, and talked to them about starting the first undergraduate club back at University of Pittsburgh next fall. We are very excited to be given this opportunity and hope that Nourish can also partner with NMGH next year for their internship.

NMGH's medicinal garden

NMGH’s medicinal garden

Today marks the last day here in Pana and our final day of our internship. We will spend our last hours checking the inventory of the teas at a local grocery store called Sandra’s and finishing up any last-minute ends.

 

Last time walking the streets of Pana

Last time walking the streets of Pana

It has been a great six weeks learning about NGOs, experiencing Guatemalan lifestyle, and also becoming a part of the community. We are all sad to be departing and will definitely savor the last corn tortilla we will eat for cena. The people we have met, encountered, worked with in these forty two days have all been so eagar to help us and also to teach us. We can all say we’ve gained  a mass knowledge about herbal plants and natural medicine, acquired an interest about the traditions including weaving, and also learned to be appreciative of the beauty around us that we often neglect to notice. We will most definitely be taking a part of their easygoing lifestyle back to the States and will surely miss Pana and its people. Thank you to everyone at Nourish and Maya Traditions Foundation who made this internship possible. A special thank you goes out to Erin, Alison, Marisol, Oseas, Isabel, and Flori, who were there with us from the beginning of the internship and helped guide and lead us through our many projects with the foundation. Without them, our success with our internship could not have been possible. Muchas, muchas gracias.

The director Erin trying on our headbands!

The director Erin trying on our headbands!

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Daily lunches filled with tortillas and baked sweets from the local bakeries

Daily lunches filled with tortillas and baked sweets from the local bakeries

Getting fresh corn tortillas from the grill

Getting fresh corn tortillas from the griddle

See you back in the States!

Saying goodbye to the Maya Traditions workers

Saying goodbye to the Maya Traditions workers

-Linda, Kira, and Anisah

Nearing the End

June 2, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

This past week has been a busy one. On Tuesday, Kira and Anisah traveled an hour and a half to the village of Chirijox, accompanied by Marisol and a few healers from surrounding communities. Here, they participated in a clinic funded by the money that Pitt Nourish raised. The clinic was much like the one that Aarti, Gianna, and Jenny attended the previous week. Chirijox is affected by high poverty and has one of the worst problems with teen pregnancy in the area. That being said, the clinic saw many young mothers come in with their children plagued by the ‘evil eye.’ In addition, back and foot problems and insomnia were some of the most common ailments affecting individuals of the community. Being in the clinic was a wonderful chance to see exactly how the teas, tinctures, and creams created through Maya Traditions were dispersed throughout the Lake Atitlan communities in conjunction with the expert knowledge of the local healers that work with the Foundation.

Mayan healer providing care to a local

Mayan healer providing care to a local

Fresh herbs given at the clinic

All the tinctures, dried herbs, and creams

Various tinctures, dried herbs, and creams

On Thursday, Linda alongside Marisol and the Mayan healers set up a community clinic in San Francisco, a small village forty minutes ,by a chicken bus, from Solola and Panajachel. Families of men, women and children of all ages traveled from a far to come to this clinic for free health care. The health care that was provided consisted of natural medicine from the tinctures we helped make, to the various dried herbs we helped bag and tag over the past few weeks. From nine in the morning to three in the afternoon, we were able to provide care to over eighty indigenous people. Each family was given a number, and by numerical order, each number was called and the corresponding patient would be seen by the Mayan healer. The patient would tell the Mayan healer, who is specialized in traditional healing methods and natural medicine, where he or she was having pains or what was hurting. The Mayan healer would prepare a bag of either fresh or dried herbs, tinctures, and creams from the pacient to use as treatment. Most of the problems consisted of headaches, stomachaches, or indigestion. Over all three clinics, over 180 people were provided with free healthcare.

A loud megaphone helped announce to the surrounding communities that a healthcare clinic was here

A loud megaphone helped announce to the surrounding communities that a healthcare clinic was here

San Francisco clinic

San Francisco clinic

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With the Mayan healers

With the Mayan healers

Aarti, Kira and Anisah roamed the streets near the Maya Traditions garden on Wednesday going door to door speaking to the neighborhood about the compost project. The Foundation hopes to be able to collect compost from surrounding households to incorporate into the garden as a source of natural fertilizer. Each home that agrees to help the Foundation on this will be given a bucket, where each home can to place their organic trash that will then be collected weekly by a member of the Foundation. The girls received positive feedback from everyone they reached out to in the neighborhood.

The flyer handed out for the compost project

The flyer handed out for the compost project

Wednesday afternoon we were privileged enough to learn to make mashed black beans with Oseus’ wife. We were able to enjoy the beans with chips and guacamole. On Friday Oseus made us tamilitos with chipilin, an herb that we picked fresh the day before in the garden. We enjoyed these with salsa and queso fresco, along with a good conversation with Oseus, his lovely wife, and their three adorable children.

Afternoon snack of tamilitos

Afternoon snack of tamilitos with queso and salsa

Friday was also the day that the two teas, designed the week earlier, were completed and ready for tasting. Linda worked hard to create the packaging for each of the teas, she described the ingredients to us, in both Spanish and English, so we could understand there unique uses. Both teas tasted fantastic and quite different. The Stomach Strengthener, a blend of peppermint, green ginger, and apazote; is for relief and prevention of stomach aches, diarrhea, and parasites. This tea was refreshing and had a nice mint aftertaste. The other tea, deemed the Cold Crusher, is made from a combination of ginger, lemongrass, and sweet herb. As evident by its name, this tea is for the relief of cough, fever, and flu, and had a light, sweet taste. As we were conducting taste tests on our two tea products, a few visitors arrived at the Foundation for a tour. One of the visitors was suffering from parasites and tried the Stomach Strengthener blend. She liked it so much she requested to take some of the leaves with her when she left and as soon as that our first outsider taste test was a success! We hope to produce more teas this week so that they will be ready for distribution in the area.

Tasting the teas!

Tasting the teas!

The teas in production!

Gianna, Anisah, and Linda started making the headbands from the scraps hemmed by the local tailor. The handwoven multicolored fabric make for a sturdy and beautiful accessories. After hours and hours of accidentally sticking ourselves with the needle, hand stitching each piece of fabric together, and squinting to thread the needle with yarn, we have finished braiding the headbands. We hope that the headbands will be a hot commodity back in Pittsburgh next fall; while also being a way to raise awareness for Maya traditions.

Hemmed scraps of fabric

Hemmed scraps of fabric

Braiding the fabric into headbands!

Braiding the fabric into headbands!

The finished product!

The finished product!

Saturday morning we bid farewell to two more of our team members – Aarti and Gianna – who headed back to the States to begin their summer jobs. And then there were three. Kira, Linda, and Anisah spent their weekend relaxing and taking in Panajachel for one last weekend. On Saturday we completed our last-minute shopping and when the usual afternoon rain began we retired to our favorite coffee shop to read. Sunday we rented bicycles, explored the beach area, and enjoyed the sunshine with some refreshing ice cream.

Biking to the beach by the lake!

Biking to the beach by the lake!

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Cooling off with some Saritas!

Cooling off with some Saritas

The beginning of this week marks the last days of our journey. As Monday closes we only have four remaining days to finish up all of our projects with Maya Traditions, wander the streets of Panajachel, and lastly to be immersed in the easygoing Guatemalan culture.

With members of the Maya Traditions Foundation

With members of the Maya Traditions Foundation

A Productive Production Week!

May 27, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

The past week, we have been busy traveling and experiencing more of the culture here in Pana and in the towns around the lake.

Last Tuesday, we spent the morning in San Juan, where we met Joel who is a part of a clinic called ODIM (Organization for the Development of the Indigenous Maya). Joel gave us a tour of ODIM’s building, including the pharmacy, the dentist office, and the doctor’s check-up area. This organization works with the indigenous Mayan and helps provide free health care and western medicine to those who need it. The western medicine is funded by many methodist church groups back in the states, and US doctors and nurses travel to Odim to work for a year and provide care to the indigenous people of San Juan. Joel expressed how many of the Mayan people who come to their clinic trust western medicine more because western medicine is made with better technology and stricter regulations and therefore the medicine is more trustworthy and reliable.  Within the community, ODIM also sponsors the creation of homes for families who are unable to afford a sustainable shelter as well as educational scholorships to students. To learn more about ODIM, check out their website here: http://www.odimguatemala.org/

Arriving in San Juan by boat

Arriving in San Juan by boat!

Last Wednesday, we traveled back to San Juan for a cooking lesson with one of the weaving cooperatives. We learned how to make tamilitos–small corn pancakes steamed in banana leaves,  a traditional chicken soup—using all the parts of the chicken for the broth with mixed vegetables including potatoes, uisque (a native-Guatemalan squash) and carrots, and rice steamed with cilantro and carrots.  To complement our meal, we drank a refreshing hibiscus iced tea sweetened with sugar. We all enjoyed the fresh, simple, and very tasty home-cooked lunch, using a wood and fire stove!

The kitchen we cooked in!

The kitchen we cooked in!

Making Tamilitos!

Learning how to make Tamilitos!

On Thursday, Linda, Anisah, and Kira spent the day in the garden, where they helped pave the way for the new stone staircases that will be built, and in the afternoon, they organized and sorted the scraps of fabrics for the headband product that will be sold back at Pitt. Over the past week, we have finalized the design for our bags; our designed bags will have a zipper on the top and a zipper in front for a small pocket and will be made out of the Maya Tradition’s handwoven fabric. Yesterday, we placed the order with the local tailor for the bags and also for the scraps of fabrics to be hemmed, which we will then braid into headbands!

Our sample bag to sell back in Pittsburgh

Our finalized sample bag to sell back in Pittsburgh!

While Linda, Anisah, and Kira were busy in the garden and office on Thursday, Jenny, Aarti, and Gianna traveled to San Lucas, a small community about an hour’s drive from Pana.   After unloading and organizing boxes of medicinal herbs, they spent the day housing a low-income medical clinic with other Mayan healers from around the Lake.  Men, women, and children of all ages came to visit these volunteers, paying what they could to receive consultations and herbal remedies for ailments such as stomach parasites, sore knees, and “the evil eye,” a spirit that takes control of infants and causes long-lasting tantrums and crying.  The long day ended with an eventful pick-up truck ride in a storm, but Aarti, Gianna, and Jenny arrived home just as satisfied as they were wet.

Members of the San Lucas medical clinic

Members of the San Lucas medical clinic

Just several of the many medicinal herbs that were given out in San Lucas

Just several of the many medicinal herbs that were given out in San Lucas

 

In addition, we have decided on two new tea creations; one of which will be a stomach strengthener made out of menta pipierta, apazote, and ajenjo, and  the other is a remedy for colds and is a concoction of  orozuz, ginger, and lemongrass.  This morning, we began the chopping and cutting of herbs from the garden to be dried for our teas, which will begin hopefully bagging on Friday.

Aarti chopping the ginger for our teas!

Over the weekend, we spent Friday morning on a hike to the Indian’s nose in San Juan and spent Friday night in San Pedro, the neighboring town near San Juan. We met up with Indiana University’s Nourish group for the hike and had a great time climbing 3km up to the Indian’s nose. On Saturday, we had a farewell barbecue with Anisah, Kira, and Jenny’s host family to send off Jenny as she left this past Sunday for another internship back in the states.

 

Indian nose hike rest stop! With some of Indiana University’s Nourish group

Chilling by the lake for the barbecue

Chilling by the lake for the barbecue

 

For the rest of the week, we plan on working on the compost project, which will help promote increased compost material for the garden and also help the environment,  starting to braid the headbands when we get the hemmed scraps back, and also to continue to visit the community clinics with Maya traditions.

 

The bamboo fence we helped build for the garden in the past weeks

The bamboo fence we helped build for the garden in the past weeks

Halfway Point!

May 19, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

The past week, we have been traveling to various communities around Pana to help administer literacy tests to the various weaving cooperatives that Maya Traditions works with. On Monday, Linda and Anisah hopped on many chicken buses to arrive at Santa Catarina and Santa Clara, where they watched Isabel, Maya Tradition’s Artisan Development Coordinator, test the recognition of various written Spanish phrases and letters. Many of them had trouble processing the letters printed on the paper; although it was difficult for them, the literacy test will help gauge their current level of proficiency in Spanish literacy. The literacy test helps Maya Traditions prepare Spanish lessons that are reasonable for their current Spanish comprehension level, which will be provided to the weavers later in June. The indigenous communities we visited were a stark contrast to our daily life here in Pana and gave us a new perspective on what life is like for a weaver for Maya Traditions. Santa Catarina and Santa Clara are both hikes to get to, about two hours away by chicken bus from Pana, and the villages are much less westernized and the houses have minimal electricity.

On Tuesday, Aarti and Jenny visited the village of Quiche. It was quite the trip! They took two chicken buses, a shuttle van called a microbus, and a pick up truck into the mountains. It was interesting to experience the time and distance that the cooperative travels in order to come down to the foundation and teach us how to weave. Once we arrived there were many young women speaking in a language very foreign to us. We performed literacy tests, and the women did very well with the names of the letters and naming words with those different letters. A lot of the women said elefante for e and Walter for w which was surprising because we expected them to say words associated with weaving and household items. The pick up truck on the way down was definitely an extreme sport experience. What we took away the most from this experience is that these cooperatives are spending day and night to produce these handwoven items and we need to think about the hard work when we bargain on the streets for their products. Also, side note, the kids were very fun to play with:)

Aarti and Jenny with the kids in Quiche

Aarti and Jenny with the kids in Quiche

On Wednesday, Gianna and Kira took three chicken buses to Chuacruz, a village that was massacred during the Civil War. As a result, the majority of women in the cooperative there were widowed or grew up without fathers and brothers. This particular community provided an eye-opening view into Guatemala’s past and the hardships that the indigenous people have faced. Here, Gianna and Kira helped administer literacy tests to the women, who all had a good level of Spanish literacy.

When we were not traveling to the other communities, the rest of the group spent their mornings in the garden to help with the reconstruction of new bamboo fences and a new stone staircase. Massive bamboo shoots grown in the corners of the garden were chopped down with machetes and trimmed to make the poles and grates of the brand new fence. The head gardener Geraldo was an expert, but he had enough patience to allow all of us to try our hand with the machete and the wiring necessary to link all the shoots together. It was amazing to see the progression of the garden and how efficiently all of its resources are used every day.

We’ve done a little bit of traveling on our weekends off, spending two days north of Pana in Antigua last weekend and three days even further north in Semuc Champey this past weekend. Both trips were a ton of fun, a great opportunity to get to know each other better, and allowed us to learn even more about Guatemala. We took a walking tour of Antigua with a very friendly guide, Roberto, where we saw ancient ruins of cathedrals and learned the history of Jade throughout Central America. He claimed he was in the Olympics for Judo. Also we were introduced to the typical Guatemalan dish of Pepian chicken, MUY delicioso!

The beautiful architecture in Antigua

The beautiful architecture in Antigua

Pepian Chicken!

Pepien Chicken!

Church in Antigua

Church in Antigua

Celebrating with a bbq for Erin's 21st  Birthday

Celebrating with a bbq for Erin’s 21st Birthday

Just before leaving for Semuc Champey we had to say an unexpected goodbye to Erin. She struggled with a stomach illness for the last three weeks and knew it would be best to head home in order to take care of herself. She made it home safe and sound but we miss her every day. Semuc Champey was quite the drive, but after nine hours we found ourselves in the middle of an incredible jungle at a Hostel Utopia. We spent two nights getting to know the volunteers, reading in hammocks, and taking an incredible tour through Semuc Champey National Park. We were able to wade through dark caves holding only candles, hike up and down a mountain in order to reach a beautiful lookout point, and swim between crystal blue pools inside a huge valley. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.

The mountainous valleys near Semuc Champey

The mountainous valleys near Semuc Champey

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The lookout point after the 1.2 km hike in Semuc Champey

The lookout point after the 1.2 km hike in Semuc Champey

This week is a very packed week! We are focusing on the development of our new design product that we will market in the United States to promote the Maya Traditions Foundation and the weaving cooperatives. We have been able to see how these products are produced, their natural dyes, and their tailoring. Here are some of the beautiful fabrics we are working with and we will have more information later this week on the actual design product. Feel free to give us feedback! We are also designing two new herbal teas that we hope to sell through the foundation to the local community where they already sell their bagged herbs. We have collaborated with Dr. Anabella and Oseus the head gardener on which properties to focus on in our designing of the teas. We are planning to work with stomach illness, bug bites, and cold/headaches. Also Aarti, Jenny , and Gianna are heading to their first community clinic this week, in San Lucas to work with the local Mayan healers and teach/distribute about the tinctures that we produced two weeks ago!

Keep reading we have a lot more coming:)

Learning about Natural Medicine

May 12, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

Today one of our volunteers, Aarti, had the opportunity to sit down and discuss natural medicine with Dr. Anabella Perez who is a doctor that treats with natural medicine. Coming from the United States, where western or conventional medicine is the primary treatment, it was interesting to see how other fields of medicine work. Dr. Anabella explained that the primary goal of her treatment is to treat the patient in a way that the patient is confident in the treatment.

She has knowledge of both conventional and natural medicine and she says that often many patients who come visit her are people who are not being able to be cured from solutions developed through conventional medicine. Natural medicine is a field where herbs from medicinal plants are used to treat the whole body and mind. It is also often used for common illnesses and as a preventative measure. Often times when the illness is more complex it is recommended to visit conventional medicine doctors for antibiotics that can directly target the specific illness. Dr. Annabella uses a treatment plan called pharmacopia, which is a diagnostic technique in which you use medicinal plants and their healing properties to treat the patient. This technique does not involve using treatment that has chemicals. She also treats with a conjunction of both western and herbal medicine, because she supports both fields and often times the two fields can work together.

For example if your head hurts and you have a fever, with natural medicine, the doctor will use the properties of different plants to treat the pain. One benefit of natural medicine is that many side effects present in western medicine are avoided. Therefore, it is not doing as much harm to your body because there are no chemicals in the tinctures used. Dr. Anabella said that when she first started out practicing medicine she went into rural areas and found that her patients were using natural medicine and Mayan medicinal knowledge passed down through the ages. She found it important to treat her patients within their culture because it was a process that the patients had confidence in.

The big mystery behind natural medicine is, whether it actually works in treating illness. While talking with Dr. Anabella Aarti learned that a lot of research is being done on the function of natural medicine and its effects, medicinal treatment has been working for years and students study the properties of the plants very thoroughly in order to have the knowledge to treat patients with natural medicine successfully.

Dr. Anabella specifically discussed diarrhea and the differences in the herbal and western treatment plans for it. She explained that many people think that diarrhea is the disease, but often it is the symptom of many illnesses which makes it hard to treat which just one antibiotic. In natural treatment she would prescribe a tea with a variety of medicinal plants to help cure the diarreah.

Our goal from this meeting is to design two new herbal teas for common illnesses. We plan to sell them to promote Mayan Traditions and Medicinal Plant remedies.Natural medicine is definitely something that should be considered seriously , because of the many benefits it has for the body.

This weekend we had the opportunity to visit the city of Antigua and we will share more about that in an upcoming post!

Hustling and Bustling

May 7, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

So far, the past two days have been packed with a lot of sunshine and hard work. On Tuesday, Gianna and Linda spent the morning and afternoon digging and collecting organic dirt for the Maya Tradition herbal garden. They traveled via pick-up truck to the small village of San Andres. With the help of a local landowner and his workers, they cleared and loaded nutrient-rich dirt into a truck and brought it back to Pana and the Foundation’s garden. It was a great experience getting to know the workers and seeing a completely different town but boy was it tiring!

Anisah, Jenny, and Aarti learned to make herbal creams with traditional Mayan medicine techniques. The herbal creams, consisting of herbs Santo Domingo and Chilca, were made to treat rashes and skin allergies. They were additionally able to converse with the native gardener and discuss the origin of holistic homeopathic Maya medicine and why it is important to preserve such knowledge gathered over the years. An important take-away point from the discussion was that while herbal medicine is proven to work because it has been the sole treatment for common, known illnesses (i.e., sore throats, stomachaches) throughout the Lake Atitlan communities for several decades, the spiritual aspect of herbal medicine also plays a significant role in the potency of the alternative treatment. Also the discussion stemmed questions of the effectiveness and effects of western medicine.

Erin and Kira started their first weaving class, and throughout the week, we will continue to weave and hopefully have a beautifully woven scarf by the end. This kind of weaving is called back strap weaving is the main method used by cooperatives that Maya Traditions supports. It is definitely difficult and takes time and patience to complete. We’ll see how it goes next week!

Preparing to weave...

Preparing to weave…

Kira and Erin weaving

Kira and Erin weaving

At the end of the day, we all had pot-luck dinner with a Maya Tradition friend at her house and enjoyed traditional Israel food and the food we prepared. We had an interesting discussion about facebook and social media.

Today, a couple of us spent the morning in the garden and helped clear out the pathways for future tours. We spent the rainy afternoon indoors and working on a booklet of Mayan medicinal plants in order to share them with tourists. We also had the opportunity to have lunch with the president of Maya Traditions, Murray, where he explained to us the creation of this foundation! La sopa de pollo was delicioso!

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Day by day, we are adjusting to the easy-going Guatemalan lifestyle and are enjoying the daily walks through the markets of Panajachel. We will begin building a fence for the garden tomorrow and will be heading for Antigua over the weekend.

Reflections on Week One

May 5, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

The last four days of our project have involved a lot of traveling. We worked in the garden Thursday morning with a newly-hired gardener. Girard (Jerry). We picked, washed, and chopped Chicory and Long Spine Acacia that was later dried and bagged to be sold at local clinics around Lake Atitlan. The chicory is used to heal colds and stomach aches while the acacia is used to treat urinary infections.

Here is one of the gardeners giving  us our initial tour of the medicinal herbal plants

Here is one of the gardeners giving us our initial tour of the medicinal herbal plants

This is a snapshot of Maya Tradition's herbal medicinal garden

This is a snapshot of Maya Tradition’s herbal medicinal garden

These are just a few of the teas that are grown, harvested, and prepared at Maya Traditions to be sold in communities around the lake

These are just a few of the teas that are grown, harvested, and prepared at Maya Traditions to be sold in communities around the lake

The seven of us had the day off on Friday for Guatemala’s Dia del Trabajo or “Labor Day.” We took a quick ride on the famous tuk-tuk’s to the nearby Reserva Natural de Atitlan. We spent the afternoon hiking to a waterfall and walking through a mariposaria, or butterfly garden. We started the weekend off by taking a boat ride across Lake Atitlan to the small village of Santa Cruz. We spent the night at a well-known hostel called La Iguana Perdida where we met and got to know travelers from around the world. Before heading back to Pana on Sunday we rented kayaks from a nearby resident and spent a beautiful two hours on the lake. Turns out the trip back towards shore is a lot more difficult than the trip out!

The beautiful view from our hostel in Santa Cruz.

The beautiful view from our hostel in Santa Cruz.

Today we traveled across the lake again to visit the neighboring towns of San Juan and San Pedro for market research. We walked through the streets and took note of the goods sold in many of the small stands and local shops. After writing down the prices of goods sold here at Maya Traditions we were able to deliver and update information to help the Foundation properly and efficiently price their goods. During our office hours Linda and Jenny also created a brand new sign that will be hung near the entrance of the herbal garden to increase tourism and raise awareness for the garden.

We’re all practicing our Spanish every day, enjoying the delicious and creative food, perfecting our abilities to escape the rain every afternoon!

First Week on the Job

April 30, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

We made it to Panajachel Monday afternoon after a long but scenic drive from Guatemala City with our favorite guide Esapaldo. We have been greeted with open arms by both the Maya Traditions staff and our host families. Though we have been split into three separate houses we are all within a ten minute walk from each other and the Foundation and have easy access to the city´s center.

A common view of the streets of Panajachel

A common view of the streets of Panajachel

We began our roles at Maya Traditions yesterday with tours of the herbal medicinal garden and a workshop with local healers to learn about herbal tinctures and topical creams. We were able to meet and speak with these women (with a little translation help) as well as assist them in cleaning, cutting, and preparing the herbs. Many were known to us and common in the United States, such as eucalyptus, and basil, rosemary. However others were not so commmon, such as Aztec sweet herbs and plants with distinguished genders.

We spent the morning cooking salves and topical medicines that can be sold in smaller villages around Lake Atitlan

We spent the morning cooking salves and topical medicines that can be sold in smaller villages around Lake Atitlan

We are working on a Facebook page for the Mayan healers in order to promote their work and share their stories. Here is a link to the page, take a look and spread it around if you can!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Asociaci%C3%B3n-Ajqomanela/1408122106116139?id=1408122106116139&sk=photos_stream

We´ve roamed the many streets and markets for hours already and have not even brushed the surface on what there is to see in Pana. Every stand and shop has even more colors, designs, and textiles to see. We have all eaten plenty of black beans and tortillas, and the tacos at a shop just down the street from us called Taquero Mucho were a great find. Tomorrow is El Día de Trabajo, or Guatemala´s version of Labor Day, so we all have the day off. We are hoping to visit a neabry nature reserve to take a few hikes and enjoy the surrounding mountains.

The streets are filled with tuk tuk´s that fly by with peole traveling from one side of the town to the other

The streets are filled with tuk tuk´s that fly by with peole traveling from one side of the town to the other

The Pitt Project Interns

April 28, 2014 | Posted in 2014, Guatemala, Pitt, Summer Projects | By

I’m Kira, the Project Leader. I just completed my junior year at Pitt as an Anthropology and History & Philosophy of Science double-major, and plan to get a Master’s degree in Public Health.

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I’m Aarti, a Project Intern. I just completed my freshman year at Pitt and am pursuing an undergraduate path in pre medicine with a global studies concentration on global health in Latin America and a Spanish minor. Besides being “that” pred med, I also enjoy trying new food (not spicy), dancing, and talking very quickly. I am super excited for this adventure!

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Jenny Park is continuing into her third year at the University of Pittsburgh as a Neuroscience major with a Global Studies certificate. When she is not helping with long-term, sustainable solutions to global poverty with Nourish, she enjoys eating ethnic foods, listening to anything sung by Shakira, and playing the ukulele. She also still has yet to finish packing for her flight in T-minus 8 hours and is procrastinating by writing this bio in third person.

My name is Gianna Callisto and I just completed my freshman year at Pitt. I am majoring in Political Science and Global Studies and am heading to Panajachel in the hopes of improving my Spanish skills on my way towards a minor. While in Guatemala I hope to take in the culture of those around me, take a look into the inner-workings of a non-profit organization, and take advantage of being involved in such a strong and sustainable project.

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Hi my name is Linda, and I am a sophomore and a prospective biology/neuroscience major at University of Pittsburgh. I am so excited to be joining the Nourish team at Panajachel, Guatemala this summer and I cannot wait for the adventures and experiences to come!

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I’m Erin DeLuca! I am a rising senior, graduating in the Spring of 2015. I am currently pursuing a major in Emergency Medicine and a certificate in Women’s Studies. I want to work in global health in the future, and I look forward to all Mayan traditions has to teach me!

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I’m a pre-med sophomore-to-be at the University of Pittsburgh double majoring in neuroscience and Italian. I think science, languages, and literature are pretty rad, and I love traveling and embracing new cultures. I am super excited to get to know the Maya Traditions’ team in Panajachel and help support the local community’s health initiative! – Anisah

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