Exploring the Mayan culture: Iximché and Chocolate Making

Hey y’all. So today we went to some Mayan Ruins with some of our friends from AIR Guatemala, Juan and Josue. They were kind enough to give us a tour of the ruins and told us about the Mayan culture. They had made the experience so meaningful and important. One of the most impactful moments of the experience was at the end when Josue had us close our eyes and reflect on our experience in the ruins. Some of the group said it was really interesting how much they appreciated the environment and how they would always honor the trees that they cut down and how they would celebrate when a new tree was planted. Others mentioned the energy shift. At the beginning of our tour we were running around and joking, but by the end of our experience we all had a new perspective and respect for the culture, its practices, and the world around us.

After our experience at the ruins, we had split off into groups for a class on chocolate making. We had learned the original use of the cacao beans and how it had eventually changed into the chocolate that we have today. We had the opportunity to experience the process of preparing the cacao beans for later culinary use. We also got to make some traditional tea out of the cacao beans (which was very bitter). All in all today’s experiences were definitely impactful and we can’t wait to see what happens next!

— Lauren and Dylan

(pictures to be added by our photographers: Dylan and Caroline)

Mayan woman at Iximche


Tree Power Pose at Iximche


The Guat Squad at Iximche


Power bracelets from Josué


Chocolate making (boys’ group)


First you roast the beans…


Grant and Raúl bond over roasting


For hot chocolate fit for a Mayan King, you need blood.


George practicing his cacau bartending skills


Sam putting some muscle into the grinder


Kargil using traditional Mayan mixer

Day 2: Stove Building

Our day began bright and early at 6:15 in the morning. We all groggily headed to a delicious breakfast of pancakes and various fruits. We were all revived by this and the tone setters led us in some power poses. Then we all grabbed our water bottles because hydration is key and went out to the bus to be driven to the department (like a state) Chimaltenango. There we entered a village with heavy AIRES influences because they had been participating in the Aires program for a year so they finally got their much improved stove. This village of about four families even included the Pace Academy tree nursery. We split into groups and began work on our stoves. The cinder bock base was already built so we had to start on the top layers where the metal burners would lay.

The work started out slow due to language barriers and a little bit of awkwardness, but as the day went on we became more accustomed to each others’ rough Spanish and hand gestures. Dylan and I spread mortar and prepared the bricks for our leader, Josué, to lay them. We even had help from one of the kids of the family, Kendrick. Dylan and I became fast friends with our crew.We named our team “Briquipo” which was a play on words with “brick” and “equipo”, Spanish for team.



This is one of the dangerous, inefficient stoves that we are replacing today. Imagine cooking all of your meals on this!



Later on, we joined Giana to play with all the kids running around. We played Duck Duck Goose and their version of the game with a wolf instead of the duck and the wolf chased us. The kids were so adorable and they were all so happy to see us and despite the difference in language, we all had so much fun with each other. When we had to leave to eat lunch, they all hugged us good bye and looked sad to see us fun-loving foreigners leave.




Now it was time for lunch which was inexplicably delicious. Everything was homemade by one of the mothers and it tasted so fresh and refreshing after our hard days work.  We ate chicken and rice and picante sauce. We were all so impressed by just how tasty the food was. Then we once again got on the bus and drove to the same school as the day before to continue our iconic saga of awkward friendships with kids we don’t speak the same language as. Yet despite all that, we managed to maintain some quality conversations with these cool kids. They performed traditional boy- girl dances on their stage in the gym. We all enjoyed these immensely because the dances gave even more insight into the culture. Many girls wanted to talk to us and were especially amazed by Dylan’s hair. One girl asked me to braid her hair like Dylan’s. It was very cute. Finally we had to say goodbye to our friends unfortunately. We then ate a yummy dinner and walked home. And now I’m here writing this.

-Sara Elizabeth Haydon the First

(pictures to be added later by our photographers of the day Dylan and Caroline)


One of our 6 finished stoves. These efficient stoves use less firewood, are safer, and will emit much less unhealthy smoke.


(note from Madame Hermosillo, Señor Moreno, and Dr. Boehner – the students were amazing today. We put in long hours today working in an unfamiliar place with a large language gap for many of us. Everyone was upbeat and fully engaged. We have been astounded by their maturity, sense of adventure, and kindness to each other and to everyone we encounter. The Guat Squad Rocks!!!)

Our first full day in Antigua

The ICGL trip to Guatemala arrived in Antigua yesterday shortly after a colossal volcanic eruption. The ash from the volcano covers the city. Antigua was beautifully constructed in a square network similar to Savannah. Our first taste of Guatemalan cuisine was when Señor Moreno bought some traditional pastries from a local panadería or bakery. The group enjoyed a heavy sleep.

The next day, we had a fairly early start straight onto the bus to the PACE tree nursery. At the nursery, the diverse group collected 200 trees to plant at a local area nearby. The trees were useful for agroforestry and mudslide prevention. The Guatemala group was divided into different subgroups including the diggers, planters, and measurers. From there, trip participants took the liberty to form their own corporation known GLS.

After a great service opportunity, the group made its way over to a local school. Before interacting with their peers, the kids ate a delicious lunch known as Pepían (a chicken dish smothered in sauce with rice and tamales.) Then, the group took on the local Guatemalan school kids in an intense game of futbol and participated in a mural creating competition – showcasing aspects of the environment such as trees. Meanwhile, the students interacted in Spanish with their Guatemalan peers.

So far, the trip has been spectacular. Not only has the trip itself been great, but also the group has bonded well. Overall, Guatemala is a life changing country.

–Samuel & Kargil

(pictures by Gianna and Marielle):

picking up the baby trees at the Pace nursery

Cheering on the fútbol game

Practicing our Spanish

Dinner our first night

Planting Macademia Nut Trees

GLS(K) construction

At the Pace tree nursery in Cienaga Grande et Santa Isabelle