Dream Jungle

By Lillis, Kylie, and Alexa

Lillis: Today we woke up, then we went to breakfast. Then, we got ready and went on a nature hike. We saw kingfishers and learned that the males carry fish to the females to impress them. We also learned about the leafcutter ants and that they could carry leaves that are really big and that they drop their leaves and run to the colony when it rains. After a few rests, we had lunch. For lunch we had amazing tacos. Then, we got ready, and we went to the school and played with the kids there. Then, we took a tour of the school and right after that, it started to rain, and we had to stay there and play games for about an hour. Today was an amazing day.


Kylie: We woke up to the sound of monkeys howling in the trees along with the waves crashing in the river. We had breakfast, which were these amazing fluffy pancakes. Then we gathered in the meeting area and split up into two groups, and then we went on the nature tour. We saw many amazing creatures and heard many. We saw poison dart and blue jean frogs, which were hidden on the side of the path. Many plants also live in the forest, and we saw some like apple trees with light red and yellow apples. Later we went to the school and played with the children and got to practice our Spanish. Many people had full conversations in Spanish, and we also got to learn what our project was. The day was amazing, and even though some of us are homesick, we are still having an amazing time and we can’t wait for more fun (and pineapple).


Alexa: We woke up having a delicious breakfast including pancakes and fresh fruit and many others too. After breakfast we went to a nature hike and learned about lots of different bugs, animals, and plants. We saw a dead ant about a little more than half the size of your thumb. The tour guide also told us to be careful touching stuff because you never know what may be on it, such as the big ant. After the tour we went outside and played a lot of different games to help us bond.  After that my favorite thing happened we went to the school to play with the kids and my friends helped me to speak Spanish and that was a lot of fun and so was the whole day.

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.

First Day in Costa Rica

Besides almost getting diverted, we had a smooth flight in. We passed many beautiful scenes on the flight including Cuba’s coast. 

We took a bus to lunch and Chilamate eco reserve. Lunch was amazing, tasty, and a great authentic Costa Rican resturaunt. We all drank and ate fresh strawberry juice, beans and rice, and chicken, fish, beef, or pork. 

My favorite part by far for the first day in Costa Rica was the bus ride. The 3 hour ride gave us scenic views of Costa Rica and a feel for each part of Costa Rica. We saw cities, waterfalls, canyons, and even a coffee farm for Starbucks. 

After our long journey to the eco reserve, we saw how beautiful the reserve is. We are in the middle of a stunning rainforest with sounds of animals coming from every direction. The family who owns the reserve has shown great hospitality towards us. We are so estatic for the days coming ahead of us. 

By Chas Arnold

Swiss Squad: Geneva and home to the ATL

Our last full day in Switzerland was the sweetest day possible. We started the day with a guided city tour, which took us to see some of the highlights of both the new and old parts of Geneva. We had some free time to walk around more and grab some lunch before we met with Rosalina, our new guide who led us on a chocolate tour of the city. From Romania, she spoke five languages fluently and knew more about chocolate than humanly possible (#lifegoals). For three hours we walked all over the city and sampled some of the best chocolate ever, while learning about its place in history, and how it evolved through the years. Hopefully some of that chocolate made it back to the states, so the awesome parents who sent their kiddos on this adventure could also sample the sweetness.

That evening we went to our final group dinner at an amazing Italian restaurant called Fabbrica Pasta. Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Tresize met the owner, Enzo, and he was gracious enough to open up his rearuarant only to us, on a day he normally doesn’t work.  Once the food started coming out, it never stopped! We were treated to everything from buratta and grilled octopus to homemade (literally right in front of us) fig and goat cheese ravioli  and a variety of other pasta with seasonal black truffles. The squad was adventurous and tried many new foods that night. To say the meal was delicious and bonding is the understatement of the century.

The next day, we were sad to say goodbye to Mrs. Tresize as she left by train to go back to Zurich. We all caught the next train to the airport in Geneva, flew to Paris, and after a quick hustle, made our flight to ATL.