Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Oh Guatemala- January 4,2014

A quick reflection from Nicole Johnson:
Today was our last day of the Guatemala trip. We left Antigua early this morning to depart from Guatemala City airport. We had several delays in Atlanta airport, but happy to be back in the USA! We finally arrived home in Syracuse around seven at night. I’m feeling bittersweet about our trip ending; it was such an amazing experience words truly can’t describe. I’m so happy to have had this opportunity and learning experience, I will take it with me forever.
Another trip reflection, from Diana Froats of Onondage Community College!

This trip has been emotional to say the least. I can’t imagine a person going to San Lucas with TJ and not  being moved to tears, laughter, and concern for the local people.  

We started our day with the wonderful food made by the best host and hostess one could want. Of all   the things I will miss in Guatemala Felipe and Marbila will top the list.   

Next it was off to the Village of Pampojila to teach about Malnutrition in the morning and Reproductive  Health in the afternoon. We were greeted at our host location by children eagerly awaiting someone to play with them. First with a hearty round of Soccer that I am not sure who won, since us American students get more easily excitable, and the ball ended up on a roof to be recovered a little later. Then with our own student Erica giving “Plane rides” to each child that wanted one. The simplest things make them smile so much. I am pretty sure with all the rides given that my legs would have been burning but she just lifted them over and over again to fly in the air. Then we found it was down to business and the women included us in the activity of shelling the soybeans. This is a long process when done by hand. We carefully skinned enough soybeans for the ladies to make soy milk and soy burgers as well to go with   the malnutrition teaching. (None for us since we have sensitive American bellies though.) Still it was really cool to participate in the activity. We gave out paper plates at the end of the teaching and had the moms and children draw the equivalent of a my-plate outline. How wonderful to see that in spite of our differences in language and culture we were effectively communicating.
Off to lunch up the hill; and once again our amazing host family brought the food to us. I have never felt   so grateful for a meal as then. They never complained about having to prepare the meal and transport   it to us wherever we may have been. Sometimes that meant up a steep hill but the food always arrived for lunch and also always arrived at the appropriate temperature. Fried chicken, potato salad and watermelon. It is like heaven on a plate. God Bless Marbila and Felipe. 

While my classmates taught the sensitive topic of reproductive health me and a couple of other students sat in the shade and visited with the local children. We made rubber-band bracelets for two little girls that stayed right close to us and paper airplanes for the little boys. To be in a culture were such simple things brings such great joy is incredible.   

We headed back to San Lucas and finished out our day with a teaching on how to make the tortillas that we have been blessed with at every meal. Little did I know how hard it is to make those tasty treats till I tried to make them myself. Luckily my mason’s wife Latisia is just as patient as her husband was in teaching. The first three I made each ended up getting dropped at some point. Finally the fourth tortilla came out perfectly and stayed on my hands until I cooked it on her stovetop much like the ones we had built earlier in the week. She explained the whole process of cooking the corn the night before to make tortillas the next day and then needing to take it elsewhere to have the Nixtamal or cooked corn refined in order to make the Masa or dough. It is a good thing I am not required to make tortillas in the states to eat at each meal or I fear my children would be very hungry. I guess some people are naturals at it  though.   

So I finish off my blog with many thanks to Felipe, Marbila, Gloria, Latisia and Santiago who have all   been the best examples of what mankind can be. They truly showed me peace in the mist of turmoil   patience with my slowness to learn and kindness with a smile or laughter or as others have said “Esta Bien”. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

My point of view !

One final reflection from our latest group of travelers from Onondaga Community College, this time from Fatima Osmanovic.

Jan 6 2014 
My point of view !
Today was a quite busy day. Hearty breakfast with multiple cups of coffee became quite the norm while at Guatemala. Today, we as a group went to San Jose , the community in which we built stoves few days back. We had a chance to give our masons small gifts and also receive gifts from women in the community. I always knew, just by their hospitality and beauty of their souls that they would give us a small gift as a sign of appreciation, and they did. Each and every one of us got a traditional bag with a head-wrap like cloth, besides Hans, he got a scarf :) ! We also went to the homes where we have built the stoves to see them. It was pure delight and joy at the same time, it was one of the most enjoyable activities that  I have done in Guatemala.

After lunch we were headed to Antigua ! Oh what a beautiful place this was. It was very very touristy like, with plenty of things to see and also eat :) ! Antigua compared to Toliman was completely different, as we expected it to be. This place was full of attractions like the park, the coco museum, the chapels and the long walk to the arch & also very commercialized markets, for those that like to shop a bit.  Our tour guide Candace, provided us with very good map of Antigua, in order for us to get to where we would like to, and we did it ! Successfully ! After walking multiple blocks at Antigua and trying to see everything, it was time to go back to the hotel for our last dinner as a group while in Guatemala. We went to a very fine restaurant, we even had live music to enjoy with our diner! After dinner was done it was pretty much time to get all the packing together and be ready for Guatemala City in the morning for our flight.

I would like to point out a few things about my experience in Guatemala. I would definitely rate this experience as one of the most valuable experiences, as I got to see life through different set of eyes. I got a chance to see how little people of Guatemala have, yet they aren't as miserable as majority of our people back in the states. These people are very relaxed, easy going, there was barley if any tension present while interacting with them. I just got this feeling like I could actually belong to such culture. Guatemala changed my perspective on life pretty much in sense that I realized what I thought was a huge issue is really not. As my mason Arolodo would always say " esta-bien " no matter how much we messed something up while making our stove , he found a way to fix it.In general I feel like those who need to see life from different perspective or need to make some adjustments in their lives or are searching for a meaning to life, should most certainly participate in one of these mission trips to Guatemala. Guatemala is a developing country, that doesn't have these to die for attractive places and most amazing things one may do, but people are truly beautiful inside and out, and that's what matters at the end of the day. God bless them all ! After this trip I hope to go and visit Guatemala soon again because I feel obligate to do so.

OCC Nursing Student

Fatima Osmanovic 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Sunday, January 5th

Some reflections from another of our travelers, Leah Siciliano:

Today we visited a few villages to experience some Guatemalan bartering. I bought a beautiful blanket hand woven with numerous colors. The boat ride was a great addition to the festivities! (Don't sit in front if you don't want to ride the waves!) After our shopping extravaganza, we returned to the hotel. We had a special visit from the village midwife. She gave a comical demonstration of how a home birth was performed. Often, people with a specialty in Guatemala claim they received their calling through a dream. If they ignore their calling, they quickly become sick. The midwife told us she started practicing when she was fifteen years old. Afterwards, our hostess Marbila dressed up in traditional Guatemalan clothing and sang (cantar) a few songs to express her happiness and say farewell. I believe I speak for us all when I say we couldn't have asked for better hosts. Marbila and Felipe have been our second parents throughout this trip. Our developing nursing skills came in handy when we ice and wrapped Marbila's knee injury the other day. They seemed to understand our stresses of adapting to a new culture. For example, after we returned from a long day they always had fresh hot Guatemalan coffee available! After almost a week of waiting, I finally got a motorcycle ride from their eldest son, Mike. Talk about exciting!
I will be returning to the states with a heart full of gratitude, and peace of mind knowing that if I return, there are selfless people that would give me a second home.

January 2nd, 2014

From one of our current travelers, Hans Stumpf:

There is nothing quite like a smooth cup of Guatemalan coffee on a crisp
bright morning. The TJ crew traversed the steep mountain roads to find San
Juan El Mirador, a small community perched high on a cliff. We stood
breathlessly gazing across a lush green valley to the smoking volcano in
the distance. With our health organizer Vicente at the lead, we worked
along side the women of the community to make an economical shampoo of aloe
and escubillo (a local shrub). Branching off the topic of hygiene, the
students gave a presentation on lice eradication. After gifting shampoo,
nit combs, and the knowledge to use them, the nursing students walked the
brick road further up the mountain to the blossoming community of San
Gregorio. Round two of health teaching touched on pneumonia treatment and
prevention. While the mothers were enjoying the presentation, the children
were treated to an extravagant bead-jewelery workshop. To finish off the
production, the woman were taught how to make Vicks vapor rub using
vaseline, eucalyptus, pine, and pieces of ocotea(a local sappy tree). After
sharing our knowledge with others all day, it was finally our turn to learn
about a Guatemalan style of healing. Evangelina, a local curandera(medicine
woman) opened our minds to the possibilities of spiritual and natural
medicine. Before long we were mesmerized by her awe inspiring anecdotes. In
the end there were many goosebumps and just a few tears accompanying our
eternally grateful applause.

Friday, January 3, 2014

New Year's Day

A New Year's Day post from traveler Jamie Hamilton from Onondaga Community College:

Today is the first day of the New Years. We started off our day with breakfast from our host like usual. After that we headed to the work site to finish our stoves. The day consisted of mixing cement with hand tools and cementing bricks together. This is hard work. the sweat was dripping from my partner and mine face. Lifting and carrying all the blocks and cement all over the construction site is hard manual labor. Even the kids in the village wanted to pitch in and help build the stove by caring the buckets of cement. At 1pm we took a break for lunch. Our host were so nice by bringing the meal to us and this woman in the village allowed us to eat in the house on her floor. This was a very welcoming experience and it was nice to enjoy a meal with the stove builders who have been working so hard and helping us through the whole process of building the stove. Once lunch was over it was straight back to making the stove. Putting the finishing touch on stove is the hardest part. This smooth layer of cement had to be places on the outside of the stove. This work was primarily left to the stove makers because it was a very precise process that could not be messed up. I was unable to do this part without messing it up each time :). Finishing the stove was the best part. It was nice to see how happy the family was to have their new stove. After completing the stove we went back to the hotel to go view the New Year's Day celebrations. Once getting to central park it was to packed to see much so we headed back to the hotel shortly after. A little while after being at the hotel I unfortunately got a soar tummy and spent the rest of the night relaxing but one thing that did make me feel better was the frozen bananas covered in chocolate that we had served with dinner. This gave me a little piece of home when I wasn't feeling my best.


Thursday, January 2, 2014

More from our group from Onondaga Community College!

Another update from our group from Onondaga Community College--this time from traveler Erica Moeller: 

Now I understand Jack Johnson's song lyrics "banana pancakes" because that is what we ate for breakfast this morning. I can't get enough of the coffee down here; I just can't get enough. Don't worry I am buying plenty for home so don't be shy.

After another morning of stuffing our bellies with delicious food, we hopped in the back of the pick-up and headed up to Panimaquip on the side of a mountain to teach oral care to children. There were a lot of them. Seven presentations later, we had a community full of clean teeth and smiling faces. Yes it was a challenge to keep over 100 kids organized, but we are a determined group who works exceptionally well together, especially after living on top of each other for only 3 days.

Another meal; I love these meals. We are so lucky and thankful to have such exceptional hosts, especially when they make caldo de res (a slow cooked stew with beef and vegetables).

Off to San Jose for our first day of building stoves! Very exciting but confusing at the same time. How are we supposed to make intricate measurements and cuts with only a machete and hammer? Service is an amazing thing. Two communities working together under the conditions of a language barrier, you have to experience this to understand.

Finally some down time before dinner, which consisted of more coffee. After washing a hard days work away, we took the 5 minute walk down to the lake and mingled with other travelers over extraordinary salsa and some sort of black bean and cheese dip that nobody could get enough of. Tummies full once again, we gathered in Central Park, right outside our hotel, and watched a 180 degree view of fireworks from a rooftop; amazing. Before our host let us back into the hotel, she lit 5 feet of fire crackers and squealed in delight over our outrageous reaction.

Is the day over yet? Time to wrap this up and recharge for another action packed day in Guatemala maƱana.