Kayaking, Tikal, ARCAS and some Reflections

(A combination of bad wifi and a busy scheduled has made it impossible to get anything up on our blog until this morning. Here are some photos and reflections from the kids from the last few days.)


Giana’s prompt: How do you think this trip changed your perspective on yourself, your country, your world…?

Sam: There is always something going on that is much worse off then what is going on with me…or what is going on in America is not as much of a big deal as what might be happening in another country. Our problems in America might be not as big of a deal.

SE: A lot of minorities in America like to proudly show their culture. Here, the indigenous are the majority, and yet it seems like they are more suppressed. The billboards only have white people, yet, no one here is white. It just seems like clear suppression or favoritism

Kargil: It makes me think about how great it would be to start or be a part of an organization like Doctors Without Borders where you could graduate and just go to the place where you could have the most impact.

George: Sometimes people complain about waiting for a meal in a restaurant. People here might be thrilled to have 2 or 1 meals.

SE: people here put so much more effort into living. We hardly put in any effort, and here they are making tortillas, carrying wood, and so many other things we have seen.

EM: I think of the man who gave up his job to sit next to Maximon for a year to protect it. Is there anything you care about so deeply that you would sit by it for a year?

SE: That’s like asking if I would sit next to the Declaration of Independence for a year to guard it. I love it and believe in it, but I don’t know if I could make that sacrifice

Giana: When we were playing soccer with the children in the first town, they had so little, and they were so happy. Their soccer goal consisted of two plants, and they were having a blast. At school I noticed that we have so much competition. Sometimes we forget to take care of ourselves. We learned about children that wanted to be the first in their family to go to college, and we stress ourselves out about which college to go to.

SE: It seems like we often sacrifice happiness or even sleep to strive for goals.

Giana: sometimes we brag about how much happiness we have sacrificed to reach our goals. We compete to see who got less sleep or who has been busier.

Samuel: Just how compact all the living spaces are. Sometimes we think houses are small in the US, and families here seem to have no space whatsoever.

Caroline: I feel like people are so much less selfish here. Just willing to be friendlier and more neighborly.

Lauren: People in US often don’t want even want to talk to you.

Grant: We use the adjective “poor” about things that are luxuries (like your phone is so poor). Seeing what poor is makes me never want to use that term that way again.

Giana: I feel like everything is family oriented here. Walking to the market we saw a playpen for babies while people were selling goods. When we were doing the stoves, it seemed like everyone was living together. Some of that were space and poverty issues, but a lot of that was social connectivity. I feel like isolation is a big problem in the US, for mental health and happiness.

EM: What changes could we make in our lives in light of this?

Kargil: We can go outside when we hang out. We tend to sit next to each other and text or check Instagram. There is so much we can do that is not checking Instagram.

(Previous reflections)

Grant: I thought it was cool to be working with all the workers from AIR; they’ve been doing that for years; cool to do it side by side.

SE: I wasn’t thinking the service would be fun but it was; everyone was so nice

Giana: At the school, it was interesting to see how we are the same; the awkward laughter

Lauren: I realized just how important the trees are; what they do for the community

George: even though everything isn’t as modern or the materials aren’t as good, everyone was just as happy or even happier than in the US

Sam: I thought the assembly today was cool – even though we couldn’t understand them, they put all this together to show off their culture. The stoves were fun because you could see the change for the better immediately.

Lauren: the performance was really interesting; I thought it was neat because they could show what part of their culture was important to them. The stoves: making a difference immediately; playing with the kids was really fun. I wish we could go back.

Marielle: I thought the stove building was a really great opportunity to refine upon speaking skills. I got to learn conversational Spanish while I was working and thought that was really cool.

George: the conditions in the village was surprising; the poverty they live in; it puts things into perspective. In Atlanta you could get upset if your order is late and there they are living in their own trash

Lauren: It was interesting how the whole community helped each other, not just their own family

Grant: all the kids had different roles; everyone was working as a unit, kids were carrying bricks

George: I saw a 4 year old carrying like 8 bricks

Giana: we came into this with no expectations and no judgments. There was a language barrier but we all just helped each other out – hand gestures, piecing words together

Samuel: sometimes it was really hard to communicate; I thought they knew English

Lauren: It was really interesting how much they valued nature; we just look at nature as a way to get to the product we want

Samuel: I didn’t know that the Mayan culture was still going on – so that was interesting to see

Marielle: I thought it was interesting that Josue said he had to learn about the Mayan culture. This made me think about the US and how heritage is not as important

Caroline: I thought it was cool how in one of the rituals where the girl was pouring water on the fire, she was using a fanta bottle so it was kind of a mix of old ad new

SE: During the year I don’t really get to be outside in nature: it was really nice just to be outside with trees and just to think

George: I thought the ideas of the Mayans about protecting nature – I thought we could learn from this; a lot of cultures don’t think about it.

Lauren: The little kids didn’t care that we couldn’t speak Spanish – we could just connect through playing



Monday Team Guatemala visited the Ancient Maya City of Tikal and did some zip-lining over the tree canopy.  

Sunday we kayaked Lake Atitlán after taking a boat from our hotel deck in Santiago over to Panajachel.   Petén is the department we visited where Tikal is located.

We also visited ARCAS to learn about the illegal pet trade in Guatemala and see the animals that they are rehabilitating to put back in the wild.  Unfortunately, this jaguar will never be able to go back into the jungle as he never learned to hunt after being captured and caged at a young age.  He is a funny guy. He likes to pretend that he isn’t there and then when visitors get close to his area, he leaps at them from inside the fence.


View of Lake Atitlán and volcanoes from the Lookout “El Rey Mirador”

Getting ready to hike in a cloud forest.

We had a fairly strenuous hike through the cloud forest as our guide, Herman, pointed out the properties and uses of various plants. We were looking for the Guatemalan national bird, the Quetzal, but he proved illusive today. We also saw several men carrying 90lbs each of firewood with straps around their foreheads. We learned each man of the family might do this on average about 4 days a week in order to provide cooking fuel for the family.

Mr. Anthony arrived last night and joined the hike today.

We visited the Maya idol, Maximón, who resides in Santiago-Atitlán. He moves from house to house during Holy Week each year. The man who hosts him must quit his job and care for him the entire year. Maximón is a powerful idol for the Maya in this town. They come to him to make requests for health and fortune and when their wish is granted, they bring a new scarf or tie for him to wear. Even though almost everyone is Catholic or Christian in this town, religions and beliefs mix in harmony here. Images of Maximón are carved into the altar in the Catholic Church here.

In this church, Catholic beliefs live side by side with Maya beliefs. The American priest of this church was killed by the army during the Revolution, as he was accused of treating guerrillas in the hospital he started here. His body was taken back to the USA but his heart is buried in this church, forever with the people he loved and cared for.

We had some time for shopping and bartering for handmade crafts after lunch and had a ride back to the hotel in the local form of transportation, the tuk tuk,

Last Day in Antigua

Today the Guat Squad took on the mountains of Antigua, despite some “light” uphill terrain. Due to volcanic eruptions, the original plans of this crew were revised, but not tempered, thanks to the adrenaline packed attitudes of the bikers. After several miles of bumpy riding, the view was worth a few bruises. Antigua’s volcanoes were fully in view, as well as several century-old churches. Needless to say, the bike tour was an incredible experience packed with muddy, exciting, and invigorating fun. Unfortunately however, the brilliant Dr. B had to depart for Atlanta, but not before sending a wonderful chaperone, Mr. Anthony, to take her place. Adios y Buenas noches from Guatemala. Hasta luego!


This is the public washing area where people bring their clothes to be washed because they do not have enough water in their houses. Some people bring their clothes and hire others to wash them here.

Our fearless biker gang

Fearless biker gang with volcanoes in the background

There was an elementary school having field day activities at this church when we stopped by.

Dormant Agua volcano

Marielle was our only female student who made the whole ride!

The group enjoyed some obstacles in the park.

Our last stop in Ciudad Vieja, the former capital of Guatemala.

Colorful bikes in a colorful town.

Catholic Church that was ruined in an earthquake long ago.