Central America, Spring ^10

January 31, 2010

Weekend in Chichicastenango

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 11:43 pm

We visited the town of Chichicastenango this weekend. The town is about two hours away from Xela and is famous for the largest indigenous market in Central America. Next to the market is the Church of Santo Tomas. The church is 400 years old and was built directly on top of a Mayan temple.  Today Maya priests still use the chuch for their ceremonies and burn incense and candles on the steps. The mass combines both Catholic and Mayan practices, and the priests speak in both K’iche’ and Spanish.

On Saturday morning we visited the weaving cooperative Ruth and Naomi, located about a half hour outside of Chichicastenango. The cooperative was formed by a group of widows after their husbands were killed in the Civil War. With the help of the Methodist chuch, they organized and purchased materials to begin making goods. Now they sell their work overseas through the fair-trade organization 10,000 Villages and also bring their work to the market.

Saturday afternoon we visited the church where some of the widow´s sons work in Chichicastenango sewing together fabrics. The men showed us how to operate the sewing machine and sew together a bag.

This morning we went to mass at the Church of Santo Tomas. The ceremony is very unique because it is one of the few churches where both Mayan and Catholic spiritual practices are so integrated. There was also marimba music, which is very popular in Guatemala.

After mass we walked around the market a little, which was very overwhelming since people were shouting at us in all directions. The market is most famous for embroidered textiles, but has other things such as CDs, sneakers, American clothes, food, etc. Tourists come to buy things, but Guatemalans also go to the market for clothes and food.


January 29, 2010

Guerrilla Talk

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:28 am

Had a talk with a guerrilla ex-combatant at the school today. He told us about his experience as a guerrilla during the Civil War and answered lots of questions.

Tomorrow we leave for Chichicastenango for the weekend to visit the market and participate in Mayan ceremonies.

January 28, 2010

The Army, a talk

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:25 am

Last night went to screening of film, ´Como Agua, para Chocolate.´ (Like water for chocolate) Really weird movie from Mexico, funny.

After class today my group met with an army official. He gave us a presentation on the structure and purpose of Guatemala´s armed forces, and answered some questions about the army´s history and new image. There´s troops from Guatemala in Haiti now, and Guatemala and Uganda are the only countries to have troops in the Congo. He also explained how Guatemalans are reguired to serve for two years either in the army or through a civil service program, which can be building houses, teaching children, etc, and the state pays their expenses during this period. Although the United Nations recognizes the military of Guatemela, the United States still is withholding military funding because of human rights violacions during the Civil War. Now the main purposes of the army, which was reduced 60% to 15,000 soldiers, is to maintain the peace and respond to natural disasters.

The officer was real nice and eager to answer our questions. He acknowledged the controversies. We have copies of the ´Libro De La Defensa Nacional´(Book of National Defense) to skim through during our free time. There´s a lot of pictures.

January 27, 2010

A Tuesday

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 12:04 am

Yesterday afternoon watched the documentary ´Descubriendo a Dominga´ at the language school. It´s a film about a Guatemalan woman that is adopted by a family in the United States after her village was massacred during the Civil War. She returns to Guatemala to meet her surviving family and ´discover´ her culture.

Watched another film today, ´La Hija Del Puma.´Also about a Mayan woman searching for a missing, disappeared, brother.

Lots of hours of Spanish. This afternoon I went on a trip through the language school to the neighboring town Salcaja. This town has the first Catholic Chuch built in Central America, the Church of San Jacinto founded in 1524. Sacaja is also the largest manufacturer of textiles in Guatemala, and 80% of the town works producing corte, the traditional Mayan dress for women. We met with a textile manufacturer and he explained the final process of weaving and showed us how the machines work.

January 25, 2010

First day of school

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 9:18 pm

Met the rest of my family last night, the kids are all excited and like to bounce off the walls, actually. Real good food – lots of tortillas.

I have five hours of Spanish class in the morning, and then go home in the afternoon for lunch. It´s really easy to learn Spanish when my classes are one on one. There´s a bunch of new students at the language school, and I´ll probably get to know them in the afternoons. The school offers different trips and programs – we´re watching a documentary later, I forgot the name.

The school also has a computer lab and library. We have snacktime at 10am.

January 24, 2010

Sunday in Xela / Pictures

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 8:04 pm

On volcano for 12 hours. For about five hours, before the sun starting coming up, all we had was light from our flashlights. And as we got higher up the trees thinned and we could see the lights from the city. A lot of people were camping on top of the volcano, we shared a fire pit with a family that had been there for four days. As the sun came out, a group of Mayans started a religious ceremony. From the top of the dormant volcano, we could see the top of the nearby volcano which erupted every half hour. During the eruption it made a little bit of noise and then shot out a big cloud of smoke. On the walk back we passed a lot of families hiking to the top for the day, and some donkeys carrying wood at the bottom. A dog followed us the entire way up and down.

This morning our group met our families. I only met my host-dad because my host-mom and siblings are out for the day. He said they have four kids ages 13, 10, 6 and 2. They have a really nice house, close to the school. Breakfast at 6:30 am. Classes start tomorrow.taken at the mid-point of our hikesitting around the fire with our new friendszoomed in, from top of Santa Mariaart the children made at the garbage-dump school in Guatemala CityIMAX too!"When the Guatemalans unite, the future begins to smile upon us"followed us up and down the mountain

January 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 2:50 am

Last night some people from our group played soccer with other students at the language school, I sat on the sides and watched and took pictures with some friends. It wasn’t a full-size court, but Daniel would have liked it.

Today we watched the film ‘Voices of the Mountain,’ which is a documentary about the rural community Santa Anita that we’ll be visiting in a few weeks. We talked more afterwards about the guerrilla movement during the Civil War, how life has changed for rural communities since the Peace Accords, and how communities are trying to own their own land now.

In the afternoon we met the instructors at the language school and had an introduction to the school’s educational and political projects. There’s lots of political posters and literature everywhere, the library has a whole wall devoted to Che. Also, unlimited fresh coffee. The school is a non-profit organizations, and financially supports the Mountain School, women’s organizations, workers groups, and a community center that offers free English and art classes to children in Xela.

We’ve been meeting a lot of other students, it really is a college town and there’s always people everywhere. Tonight we’re leaving at 12am to hike to the top of the volcano Santa Maria. It’ll take us four hours to get to the top and then we’ll watch the sunrise, and sleep all day tomorrow.

January 21, 2010

Quetzaltenango, or Xela

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 2:30 am

This morning we drove from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango. Most people call this city Xela, the Mayan name. The ride was really hilly and windy, we got a nice view of the countryside. A lot of farmers were burning land to prepare the fields, it smelled real nice.

We’re staying at a hotel until Sunday – the TVs play MTV. After lunch we explored the city and spent the afternoon at the market. Later we had a discussion about the minimum wage in Guatemala and the value of the Quetzal compared to price of goods.

Xela is a University town, and there are a lot of neat restaurants and places where students hang out.

January 20, 2010

Arrived in Guatemala, January 18th

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 5:34 am

Hi family and friends! I arrived in Guatemala yesterday. We’re staying in a guesthouse for two nights. Today we traveled around Guatemala City and had two talks with professors, covering a bit about the history and current situation in Guatemala.

In the morning we visited APROFAM,http://www.aprofam.org.gt/  a health center that provides education and family planning for mostly teenagers in the city. They do presentations at schools and use the same plastic electronic babies that we have to take care of in high school. After we walked around Parque Central and saw government buildings and went inside the cathedral.

In the afternoon we met with a teacher at the school in the Guatemala City garbage dump. Children used to pick plastic bottles out of the trash to recycle and make money, but after a methane fire in 2005 the city banned children from working in the dump. Now through a city program the children work in the mornings on various projects and go to school in the afternoon. They learn two years of information in one year so they can sort of catch up with other students. Their teacher showed us all this artwork they made out of garbage surrounding the school and their homes. Here’s an article with more info.. http://www.counterpunch.org/kroth08052009.html

After the dump we drove to the high-end shopping area of the city. There are lots of really nice, new houses on a hill overlooking the city. It was difficult to see most of the houses because they all have really tall gates surrounding them, but the view over the hill was beautiful. We walked around the mall for a bit, it was fancier than the Palisades Mall in NJ, and had a huge IMAX! The mall had a lot of the same stores as we do in America but most of the names are different. Abercrombie is ‘moose,’ all the shirts say ‘moose  est. ’82 NY.’  I got coffee there and the woman spoke perfect English. There is also a Walmart next door, but they changed the name to ‘Hyper Paiz’ and there is a big H instead of W.

Tomorrow we’re leaving for Quetzaltenango. We’re staying in a hotel and doing orientation tours throughout the city and more talks on Guatemalan history, culture, politcs, etc. On Sunday we’re moving in with our families and starting Spanish classes. http://www.hermandad.com/schools.html

The food is great and the weather is perfect. I’ve been drinking great coffee. The sky is really orange in Guatemala City. It’ll be a bit cooler in the mountains.

Hello world!

Filed under: Uncategorized — samanthabass @ 4:38 am

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