jueves, 17 de mayo de 2012

Learning Continues to Happen...More pictures of spanish class

Gunner, despite missing the first week, has jumped right in!!
What a fantastic Spanish school this.  I along with many others I believe will truly miss all the great people here upon our departure on Saturday!  The owners, Rolando y Nora are some of the best people imaginable and all the teachers are professional, patient and competent.  All of us have learned a tremendous amount of Spanish!

These are the fantastic owners of the school, Rolando and Nora.

A view of the lively Street the School is located on.  Just down the street is a fantastic Panederia, where you can buy fresh bread and pastries.
Josh plays an interactive game with his teacher!
Playing Scrabble in Spanish!

Occasionally two teacher will get together with their students to change up the class.

Sara working hard!
Students engaged in learning the Spanish.

Hot Springs

Yesterday afternoon, after classes everyone went to an amazing hot spring in the jungle.  We started our afternoon with and bumpy 40 min. mini bus ride past some traditional Mayan villages up to the hot spring.  The ride, while scenic, did get a number of kids, and me a little car sick, but we made it without a problem.  The hot spring is located a totally different ecosystem than Xela.  It's a full on tropical cloud forest, a jungle really, complete with multi-level canopy and huge leafed trees, mosses, and ferns.  What a spectacular place.  There are a number of pools to relax and soak in.  In the afternoon a huge thunderstorm came in soaking the place!  It was great!

This hot spring was completely wiped out by a flash flood just years earlier and then rebuild.

Students enjoy a cold coca-cola in the restaurant
Ariana is able to withstand one of the hottest pools.  Notice, anyone else in this pool?

Traditional Mayan Textiles

The last few days in Guatemala have been been filled with fantastic outings.  Students continue to study with their teachers for 5 hours each morning.  On the hike up the volcano the other day, I encouraged students to talk to each other in Spanish only, and students took me up on the offer.  It is amazing how much conversational Spanish everyone can now speak!!  On Monday afternoon, students had an afternoon off to do laundry and relax.  Many students spent the afternoon exploring the city.

On Tuesday afternoon, we went to a Mayan village.  We were allowed the special privilege of entering the house of a family who makes rugs, clothing and other woven handicrafts in the traditional Mayan way!  This family has been creating textiles using only natural and traditional methods in their family for over 6 generations.  Students got a chance to actually help in the process of creating wool yarn from raw sheered wool, and participated in the actual weaving using machines that have not changed in 150 years!  All the spectacular colors are naturally made from plants, insects, bark and rocks.  Afterward the family served us corn tortillas and queso fresco that they make themselves.  Afterward, everyone had the chance to buy some  of these incredible items.
Hannah helps turn sheered wool into yard!!
Here, The head of the household explains how the wool is dyed using all natural materials which are layed out on the table in front of him.  Behind him, you can see the myriad of wool bundles that are already dyed and ready to be used in the weaving machine.
This weaving machine is over 150 years old!!  Here, Ariana works with the son.  Everyone in the family works everyday and the designs, which are ancient and symbolic within Mayan culture are kept and passed down through memory only.
Check out these spectacular natural colors!

lunes, 14 de mayo de 2012

Mayan ruins, a coffee farm, y la piscina

 Sunday was a very big day.  We drove down near the southern coast to visit some Mayan ruins - some of the oldest Mayan ruins discovered to date - believed to be the beginning of the Mayan civilization.  Thursday's lecture on the Mayan calendar and "cosmo-vision" was essential for understanding the tour and the significance of what we saw.

A group shot at a lookout on the coffee farm... 

 Y, por fin, la piscina!


On Saturday, we hiked for several hours around Santa Maria volcano to "el mirador" - a perfect (and safe) viewpoint of an active part of the volcano that erupts every half hour or so.  It spews out gas high into the air that is almost 600 degrees celsius!
The hike back down...

Vamos XELA!

So we had a great opportunity to go to a semi-final soccer game and Xela won!  Xela made it to the finals and will be playing this week.  It was super-divertido (super-fun). 

domingo, 13 de mayo de 2012


Hello Moms!

We returned quite late from a full day of visiting Mayan ruins and a coffee farm down near the southern coast.  We had intended to return in time for students to send a quick "Happy Mother's Day" email, but ended up getting back several hours later than we anticipated.  So on behalf of all of them:


We will try to provide opportunities for students to send emails out to you tomorrow, but we have another full day and there may not be time for everyone to get on the computer. 

viernes, 11 de mayo de 2012

San Andres

Students visited the small town of San Andres this week, learning about the concept of "synchronization" - the mixing of Mayan religion and Catholicism.  This is a catholic church with many Mayan symbols embedded in its construction.  The colors each represent important aspects of Mayan beliefs and each symbol is representative of Mayan world view. 

We also had the opportunity to watch a few Mayan ceremonies where someone asks the gods for something, and gives some kind of offering to both the heavens and the earth.  A Mayan priest stands with the person giving the offering and interprets the flames and smoke on whether or not the gods have accepted the request (we weren't allowed to take pictures of that part of the ceremony).  People ask for all kinds of things: work, enough food, to help with an illness of a loved one, or perhaps protection when a person is about to emigrate from Guatemala to the United States illegally.

Feliz Dia de la Madre

Mothers day was celebrated this week in Xela.  Thousands of people visit their mothers and grandmothers who have passed away over the years in the cemetery, bringing colorful flowers to decorate the graves.  The cemetery was buzzing with activity - live music, lots of people, and the students' teachers told them a lot of Xela history and well-known stories of some of the tombs.

Las Cumbres Sauna

A view from the road to Las Cumbres, a sauna resort that was built over an active volcanic area where natural steam columns rose from cracks in the earth.  Each sauna room had its own hot column of steam... and it was HOT!  And relaxing!  Some students spent the full 20 minutes moving to and from the hot sauna and the cold shower and others lasted no more than a few minutes in the hot room. 
Checking out the grounds of the resort...

Friday, May 11

This is Calais, on the Friday of our first week in Guatemala. We are having our morning pausa (break), and hearing everybody accidentally break out into Spanglish, it is easy to tell how much everyone is improving and learning. So far everyone has been more or less healthy and happy, and without the foretold dip in group morale near the half way point (fingers crossed). My house is just around the corner from the school, and since we have no roof in part of the house, you can see into it from the roof of the school. My homestay mother is named Pati, and she has two children, Carlos (16) and Ana (8). I think there is a father, too, but he is never home and always talking about a hospital when he is, so I'm a little confused about his role in the family.

One thing about Guatemala, though, is that everyone eats bananas constantly. The food is, over all, quite similar to the food we had in Nicaragua, except that I seem to have some banana dish with every meal. We've had boiled bananas, fried bananas, and bananas in our morning "oatmeal" (I think its just milk with a couple oats in it). But on the whole, the trip has been pretty good, so far, and everybody seems to be learning a lot.

miércoles, 9 de mayo de 2012

Here are some more individual pics:

el miercoles, 9 de mayo

This is Erin on day four of our trip to Guatemala. It has been a great, Spanish-filled start. Ariana and my homestay house is less then five minutes away from the school. Our grandma is named Annamaria and her two sons are named Antonio and Anvil(I think). Antonio and his wife, Carla, have a cute little girl, Marianna, who is one year and ten months old. On our second day in the house Ariana was attempting to explain to the family that Marianna reminded her of her sister and accidentally said "comer mi hermana" which means something along the lines of "I eat my sister." We have had many Spanish mishaps but that was probably the most hilarious.

martes, 8 de mayo de 2012

el martes, 8 de mayo

Hello everyone!
It was fun to check in with all the students during their 10:00 break this morning and hear how positive and excited they were about their Spanish classes and their home stays.  Clearly, things seem to be going well so far.  This afternoon we went to a natural sauna - quite a nice place that was built on top of an active volcanic area.  Each of the rooms had natural hot steam rising from a hole in the ground.  
Here is a pic from yesterday's city tour:

It takes a while to upload photos, so although we would love to add a picture of every student with his or her teacher, we would be uploading all night.  Here are a few:

We'll try to get more pics in as we have time.  :)