Guatemala Day 7

Today was our last day at the school. It was sad, but it was a very special day. It´s amazing how many relationships were formed in just 4 days. Our students have really connected with their Guatemalan friends.

We visited each room and handed out some of the donations we brought. The children were very excited to receive their toys, bracelets, and school supplies! We were just as excited to give them out.

During the chidren´s lunch break, we met with all of the school´s teachers. We expressed how much of an honor it was for us to be able to help in their school. We also brought gifts for all of the teachers. We gave purses to the women and ties to the men. They were so thankful for all of the work we had done this week. They presented a bag (that is exclusively made in Joyabaj) to each of us as a token of their appreciation.

After we met with all of the teachers, one of the older classes prepared lunch for us. This was an extremely special gesture because they paid for all of the ingredients themselves. It was very good!

We said our goodbyes to all of the Guatemalan students when their school day was over. It was sad saying goodbye, but it was great to see all of the relationships that were made between our students and the school´s students.

Once everyone had left, we painted our last mural in the last elementary classroom. We worked really hard, and the room looked great! We only wished we could see the children´s reactions.

Once we cleaned up, we left the school went to our hotel to pack. We then went to Deisy´s for our last meal. We really focused on expressing our sincere appreciation to Deisy and all the hard work she put in for us the entire week. We have been proud of our students for all of the respect and gratitude they showed Deisy this week. They have been great!

Our last day in Joyabaj was a day I´m sure we´ll all remember for years to come. Our students worked hard this week, and they positively influenced that school in a huge way! We´re so proud of them. They completely deserve the two fun days that lie ahead!

Guatemala Day 6

We just love the school in Joyabaj! Today was similar to yesterday. We spent the majority of our day helping in the classroom. It seemed as though the Guatemalan students have completely come out of their shells. They were giving us all hugs, and we each received a bunch of drawings from the younger elementary classes.

Today our students both participated in and helped teach classes. They were having a blast! We helped teach an older class to prepare them when they are in job interview situation. We also taught them proper table etiquette (we all learned something there). Then we helped them with their English again!

After the school went quiet and everyone had left, we started painting another elementary classroom. We couln´t wait to see the children´s faces the next day when they saw the new look of their room! It is so rewarding to see the excitement on those little faces. Our students are truly making an impact on that school!

When we finished painting, we went back to the hotel to relax and to clean-up for dinner. One of the teachers from the school, who we had been working with, came to our hotel to visit with us. She used to dance ballet, so she performed a dance for us! She even taught the team some of her moves. She was very talented.  

We ate at Deisy´s again tonight. She had prepared a very special, very tasty, soup for us. Deisy has worked hard all week preparing our meals. She is truly an amazing person, and she cooks some delicious food!

Tomorrow is going to be a sad day. It will be our last day at the school where we´ve been working. We´ve been so proud of our students this entire trip! They have been growing and growing as young adults each day.

Guatemala Day 5

Just when our time at the school was good, our time at the school got better! Today we spent a lot of time in the classroom.

It was really great to see our students interact with the Guatemalan students. They really dove right in and opened themselves up to those in the school. A lot of Spanish was spoken, and a lot of English was spoken!

The school really wanted us to help sharpen up their students’ English. We were thrilled to help! We spent the majority of our time today teaching a 10th grade class. We helped them with their hearing, writing, and speaking of English. Beyond that, our students performed some songs and conducted some educational games. Not only were the Guatemalan students learning a lot, but they were having fun too!

We were so pleased to see our students teach in the humble manner in which they did. They taught as if they were friends who were helping friends. At the end of the day, that’s exactly what they did. They helped their friends.

Beyond teaching and participating in the regular scheduled classes, our students worked hard once again when the school day was over. We painted two more rooms and another mural was painted in another elementary classroom. It was a lot of hard work that was well worth it!

After we finished at the school, we went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and went to William Vasey’s for dinner. Mr. Vasey has been our main host this entire trip. He has orchestrated our whole itinerary. The hotel where we’ve been staying was named after him. He helped build the school where we’ve been working, and he is one of the most respected men in all of Joyabaj. He has been a fantastic host, and we have all learned a thing or two about the value of the human life by just spending time with him. We really enjoyed going to his house too!

Upon entering Mr. Vasey’s house, we were all greeted by two friendly German Shepherds and a room full of great people. Mr. Vasey was teaching some locals how to speak English, and he thought it would be a great idea to have our students help them learn! Our students were asking the locals questions in English, and they were helping them with their pronunciation and vocabulary. Once the lesson was finished, we all enjoyed a great Guatemalan meal. It was very good!

We’ve reached the halfway point of our trip and our students have had nothing but great experiences thus far. Some of them don’t even want to leave (they’ll all be getting on the plane…don’t worry). There are still many great things for us to do and see!

Guatemala Day 4

Today was a special day! Today we went to the school where we would be spending the most of our time in Joyabaj. After today, we’re all glad we’re going to be spending a lot of time in that school!

The first thing we did, when we arrived at the school, was give all of the donations we had collected to the school’s principal and staff. They were all so thankful to receive the school supplies, the clothes, the bags, and the laptops we had brought. Thank you so much to all of you who had donated!

After we unloaded all that we brought, a very special ceremony took place to welcome us to the school. One of our students had the honor of marching the American flag into a courtyard where the whole student body had assembled. When both the Guatemalan and American flags were presented, a traditional Guatemalan dance was performed for us by some of the school’s students. Not only did they dance for us, but we were all given some traditional Guatemalan food!

After we saw their tremendous presentation, our students were able to return the favor by performing an authentic American dance in front of the school’s entire student body. The “Cotton eye Joe” was performed! Luckily, we all had practiced in our hotel hallway (the cleaning ladies joined us) the day day before. The Guatemalan students loved the dance! They even joined in and tried to learn. I’m sure our students will never forget that experience.

When the ceremony had ended, we all interacted with the children until their school day was over. After everyone had left, and we ate some lunch, we went straight to work!

The school was in desperate need of some paint. Our students worked hard today as the entrance to the school was repainted and as murals were painted in one of the elementary classrooms. Words cannot begin to capture the selfless hard work our students put forth today!

After we finished working at the school for the day, we all went to Deisy’s to eat an amazing dinner. What an amazing dinner it was!

It was a great day, and our students had really worked hard to help children they didn’t even know.

Guatemala Day 3

These students may be professional world travelers. After we woke-up and ate an amazing breakfast, we all went to the market!

The market had, what seemed to be, thousands of vendors and millions of people. It was very fast-paced, and it was extremely crowded. The students had a blast, and everyone left with something!

After our market experience, we all went to a local’s house to eat lunch. Deisy would be our cook for our time in Joyabaj. She was a fantastic cook who prepared some authentic Guatemalan food for us. We were very proud of the students as they expressed great gratitude towards our host, and they really stepped out of their comfort zones to try some unfamiliar foods.

Once we finished our amazing lunch, the students were given the choice to either attend a religious ceremony in Joyabaj or take an afternoon siesta! Those who chose the siesta enjoyed a nice afternoon swim and nap while the others witnessed first-hand how religion plays a prominent role in Guatemalan culture.

After the siesta and the ceremony ended, we all sat around and chatted for a while until it was time to eat dinner! Once it was time for dinner, we went back to Deisy’s and ate until we could eat no more. We all loved going to Deisy’s.

The students are really enjoying Guatemalan culture. A bunch of the students have said that they love talking to the locals (they only speak Spanish)! Everyone is so kind, and it seems that each student is learning more and more each day!

Guatemala Day 2

This was our first full day in Guatemala. It truly was a great day! Each student got a taste of Guatemalan culture, both past and present.

After we ate some breakfast at a local restaurant, we set-off for stop one of our journey. We were headed to see some ancient Mayan ruins!

The ride to the ruins was a cultural experience in itself. The van was completely silent as each student looked out their window. They witnessed the hustle and bustle of Guatemala’s crowded streets. They saw Guatemalan women walking on the sides of the roads balancing baskets on their heads. They saw poverty embodied in roadside shanties (a sight that prompted a conversation about how grateful we all are for what we have). They saw Guatemala’s breathtaking landscape tucked between the winding roads and mountains we were traveling. Then, they saw the ancient Mayan ruins!

The ruins were amazing! Each student had their picture taken (in a victory stance) in a Mayan ruin where intense competition used to take place. Not only did we learn a lot about some of Guatemala’s first residents and their rituals, but we also got a hike out of the experience!

After we saw the ancient ruins and learned about the ancient Mayan culture, we set-off for Joyabaj. Joyabaj would be the town where we would stay for the majority of our trip!

When we arrived in Joyabaj and were settled in our rooms, we had the rare opportunity to attend a Guatemalan girl’s 15th birthday celebration. It was an honor for us to be invited to the event. The 15th birthday is a huge event in Guatemala. There was live music, and a whole ceremony took place. A couple of our students presented a gift to the birthday girl on behalf of the entire team and Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School. That was a truly unique experience, and we were all happy to have been a part of it!

 

 

Guatemala Day 1

Day one was travel day! As excitement pulsed in everyone, it was an especially thrilling day for two of our students who had never been on an airplane before. It seemed that the word “Leadership,” in Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School, had been demonstrated already in Day 1 of our travels. The two students who had been on an airplane before were comforting their fellow team members as they embarked on their new air-travel experience. These things tend to go unnoticed, but the team leaders were proud to see both leadership and bravery coexist right in Day 1 of our trip!

We were very tired when we arrived in Guatemala City. We went through customs and retrieved all of our bags with ease. “Bedtime” was written on every student’s face. A van was waiting for us the second we walked out of the airport. We strapped our bags to the roof and went straight to our hotel.

Even though everyone was tired, excitement bustled in each one of us. We had finally made it…we were in Guatemala!