Beach Blog…Almost

¡Vamos a la playa, vive a mi le me encanta! … Oh wait, plans got changed. When we first chose which weeks we would write blogs for it was a soon-to-be sunny day, so I didn’t hesitate when I got ready for the beach (sunglasses, bathing suit, flip flops, and sunscreen: the shirt was optional). Then when I heard this blog would reflect our adventurous time at the beach, and the sun came shinning onto my golden lush bed-head hair and Mennonite neard (neck beard) . . . nobody would take this prime opportunity away from me . . . Well, so I thought. . . .

Since Cobon, a place of hard work and socialising with children of the Q’eq’chi’ people, interacting with language barriers, nosotros hemos regresando a nuestras casas en San Juan del Obispo (we returned to our homes in San Juan del Obispo). Guess who lives on the brightest part of this town (South side). That’s right! this guy, who had to go to the hospital out of fear of a parasite; sadly it was all a ruse.IMG_3919 Aparentemente viviendo cerca de un cinco de mayo de mil novecientos ochenta y seis cruz es mal porque lo me mintió mucho de su seguridad. (There is a cross from May 5, 1986 near to my house. If crosses are meant to protect us from evil, or sickness, this one let me down)

We’ve more or less settled into our new Spanish classes (surprise!), eager to explore more of Guatemala’s rich culture: Welcome to the world of bartering — or, better yet, regateando (sparring and bartering), where knowing Spanish helps get you better prices in the market … well, that and experience with bartering as a whole [pun intended].

“What’s the most fun thing you can do in the market?” you might ask. Simple: dressing up like a gringo tourist who’ll be around for some two weeks and overhearing them trying to talk about you in Spanish. For example, a family leaving here in their car drove by, talking about Brian and I in Spanish; when they overheard Brain saying he could speak and comprehend Spanish, they called him over to their family to say “Tú y él [me] son muy grupo” — más o menos otras palabras también (“You and him [me] are a team/band” — and some other words along those lines). They looked more Italian than Guatemalan, which goes to show that there is no defined Guatemala “look” or “ethnicity.”

And so the adventure continues in Guatemala. Even a simple task like walking to the bus can lead to a wholly unexpected adventure when you’re living in a culture so different from your own. And thankfully I’ve only put away from beach attire for a few more weeks; our last few days in Guatemala will be spent at the beach, swimming and surfing.

— Spanglish neard dog out.

Somewhere Over the Rainbow

IMG_4899-57Mis amigos and I are just getting back into the swing of things in our pueblo of San Juan del Obispo after an awesome, physically-challenging and mentally -stretching week in Coban. With our packed lunches in hand from our fabulous host familias, we piled into our infamous yellow school bus for a four hour drive the Friday before last. I was reminded of last semester, cramped together for long distances, but the instance I looked outside I realized what a diverse and amazing adventure we are having; from the beautiful mountains of Canada to the cloudforest of Guatemala.

We unloaded into rustic little cabanas at a hotel just outside of Coban where we started our week off with a little retreat. We soon discovered that the leaders were not lying to us when they told us to buy rain boots in the mercado back in Antigua. We spent the weekend IMG_4585-3with Rob, our facilitator and friend for the week, as he spoke to us about some issues in Guatemala, personal experiences, and what our week would look like. He challenged us to think about life in different ways, about how our desire to belong is biological and about better ways to approach development. He passionately spoke about our Saviour, tying things back to the Bible, and left many of us feeling encouraged and energized for what was to come.

On Sunday morning we visited a Mayan cave, attended Rob’s church and headed out to a 400 acre finca, where we would spend majority of our week at the Agricology Centre. Some children from a local Q’eqchi’ village joined us, where they were given the opportunity to learn about birds and the environment and have fun with us gringos. We also had the chance to connect with some teachers who have been through the program Rob’s family runs. Young women from nearby Q’eqchi’ villages are invited to the centre, to receive some education and be empowered with some opportunities they would not otherwise have access to.

During the days, we worked very hard under the warm sun that we were blessed with. We carried logs, gardened, worked with the ninos, helped with construction, floated logs down the river, and learned to take our anger out in healthy ways with machetes in the forest. You could see the exhaustion across everyone’s faces as we sat down to dinner, counting down the minutes until we could snuggle into our bunks. But we didn’t just work! The first day, the children taught us how to gather and carryIMG_4651-21 firewood the proper Guatemalan way and we spent another part of an afternoon playing sports and juegos with the kids. We buddied up with the ninos and, hand-in-hand, hiked through the cloud rainforest to a large cave. Along the way, we explored with our little amigos and they taught us the Q’eqchi’ words for the things we saw around us. We had a blast swimming in the river’s current, ate our first mangos and I don’t think I can count how many tickle wars there were.

When it was time for the ninos to head home, they did not go alone. We were split into pairs of two and entered into their village of Sebob to spend the day and night with the children and their familias. We were stripped of most of our familiar comforts and were challenged to not “turtle” in our rooms. It was a very rewarding and eye-opening experience.


Overall, this was probably my favourite week of Outtatown so far.


-Jen Ma, aka stronghorse