hi everyone! We’re so sorry for taking a whole week to update again, but we have been so busy and the internet has been sparse. We are having an incredible time here in Guatemala, and we can’t wait to share all of our stories with all of you! We’re going to try to work some iphone magic to get some pictures on here soon, so keep an eye out for those.
The last time we posted, we talked about our visit to the school right outside Guatemala city where SIFE has implemented a recycling project. We returned the next day to make presentations in each of the classrooms about the newly delivered recycling bins, and the kids were all really eager and excited for the new color-coded additions to their campus. The kids got a kick out of our attempt at Spanish, too. We stopped for lunch in Antigua (the most popular tourist destination in Guatemala), and then returned to the city.
The next day we were supposed to visit the macrotunnels that SIFE has recently installed in the Maya community about 2 hours outside of the city, but due to the rain, there was too much flooding to visit that day. Instead of doing work in the field all day, we got an early and unexpected day off to visit Antigua again for the whole day! We were able to walk aroud by ourselves (something that is not encouraged in Guatemala City), and we visited amazing ruins, beautiful churches, and colorful marketplaces. We practiced our haggling skills at these markets and came back with lots of traditional Guatemalan gifts for our family and friends. Kristin and Ryan even got some awesome matching pants. We got caght in yet another unexpected torrential downpour in Antigua as we traveled back into the city, and we tucked in early as we had to get up at 5:30am to travel to the macrotunnels site.
Our visit to the tunnel site was definitely one of our favorite days here. We traveled with about 20 SIFE members over to La Comunidad Maya, a community of about 100 families living in exreme poverty in the rural countryside. This visit allowed us to see in action exactly why this SIFE team is as successful as they are. Their team travels out here every two weeks to meet with the community members, check on the progress of the crops, and answer any questions or concerns the farmers may have. During this visit, they were giving the farmers and their families an orientation and skills workshop for the use of the macrotunnels. The SIFE Macrotunnels Team is a perfectly well-rounded team with members who study agriculture, business, industrial engineering, and a newly acquired education major. With each of these members bringing their strengths and knowledge to the project, they community is supported in every facet. The education major created easy-to-use picture handbooks for the farmers to use, as well as an interactive calendar to track the crops. With these tunnels, the farmers are able to grow chile pepper and tomatoes in the off-season for sugar cane. Before this, they were not able to have income for about 6 months of the year because of the harvest cycle of sugar cane crops. After the skills workshop, we hopped in the back of a pickup for a terrifying yet gorgeous drive up the rolling hills to the tunnel site. We even got to go inside and walk around in the tunnels, which are about 6 feet high and 25 meters long. Half of the group stayed down in the town center to have a party and magic show with the children, which is part of the SIFE ideal of community inclusion. Every member of the Maya community is involved and connected to SIFE and the macrotunnels, and they are confident that this will be one of their most successful projects to date. Next week, we will actually be building these structures with our own hands at a new community!
The next activity we participated in was another center supported by SIFE members called Los Romeritos. It is a home in downtown Guatemala City for children who live on the streets. They come here to eat, play, learn, dance, and stay off the streets during the day. They needed help painting the chipped and drawn-on walls, so we offered our assistance for a couple days. The children were from 2 years old to 10 years old, and they were some of the most adorable little kids we had ever met. Speaking two-year old Spanish is actually more difficult than it sounds, so communication was a bit of a challenge. We learned that playing with toys is pretty universal, so we capitalized on that. We were really sad to leave the kids after the 2nd day, but we left them with freshly painted walls and lots of new toys and gifts to play with.
We also went to visit the UVG campus to watch the SIFE Competition Team prepare for the upcoming National compeition in July. While we were there, we saw the recently donated machine for the Eco-Weaving project that cuts the donated plastic labels into the right dimensions for the women to work with. This has increased their efficiency by an huge amount, because they used to cut these small pieces by hand. Our friends Gabi and Christina gave us a small workshop on how to make the simple bracelets, and Kristin, Kate, and I are all proudly wearing our first attempts right now! We spent the rest of the day preparing for our change of venue to El Jicaro, which is the site of the project that our UCLA Nourish Team implemented in 2009. We have big plans to paint the stuido, update the labels of the products, make new marketing materials, update and streamline the personal and business accounting system (Kristin has already begun work on this!), and visit the marketplace to offer consulting on how to increase sales. We will have lots of updates on our first day here very soon, but we have to leave in a few minutes!
This whole first week may seem a bit sporadic and spread out, but it has been extremely imortant for us to see all of the projects that SIFE has implemented here in Guatemala. By learning how they operate and seeing their many projects in actions, we have a much better idea of how our skills can be used for the rest of our project. They have also given us lots of insight on how to improve the operations of our own Nourish Chapter too!
Some last thoughts before we go! Throughout the short time we’ve been here, we´ve learned a lot about the politics, geography, and social landscape of Guatemala. A few important things we have learned during our time here: rainy season is not a joke. It will be sunny and beautiful for hours, and without warning the sky will open up on us for hours on end. Not a day has gone by without a storm. Secondly, the food here is incredible. We actually got to go back into the kitchen at a traditional Guatemalan restaurant and learn how to make tortillas! Ours were quite ugly, but they tasted delicious! Thirdly, we have learned that political campaigning in Guatemala is intense. There are 17 candidates running for president and more political scandal than we have ever seen. There are campaign posters and signs and paintings on every wall, car, lampost, and rock in the whole country. Lastly, the people of Guatemala are incredibly kind and hospitable, and we are so lucky to be working closely with such an amazing team!
We will be back with updates from our work with the women El Jicaro asap!
p.s. sorry for all the spam comments on the past few posts…we’re working on getting those filtered out