Chocolate, Jade, and Volcanoes


After a full week in Panajachel, our group reunited with our host families. It was really nice to be back and settle into a routine again. For some of us coming back to San Juan del Obispo felt sort of like coming home. It was great to continue studying and learning Spanish after not having used it for a week. We were impressed and surprised by how much we had retained and remembered from a week earlier. In addition to a familiar four days of learning, PMGs, small groups, Tuesday service projects and worship, we had the fun opportunities to participate in a chocolate tour, a jade tour, and to hike a volcano.


14.5On Thursday and Saturday we were able to see and try the process of chocolate-making the way it’s done here in Guatemala. Daniel, the owner of the local chocolate factory led us through the main steps of roasting cacao beans, taking the shells off and crushing the beans before adding sugar to the mixture and shaping the patties to be left to chill for six hours. A common use for this chocolate in Guatemala is to make it into hot chocolate, but it is also delicious to eat.

This week we had the option to go on a jade tour and those of us who went found it an interesting and valuable activity. We met Don Francisco, a master of jade who was very knowledgeable and experienced with working with jade. For years Don Francisco would venture into the hills of Guatemala with a coworker and their donkeys, searching for stones that contained jade. He taught us about jade, the history and production of the stone and how he works with it. He showed us some of his pieces, as well as his machines and we were able to try working with some jade. It was very cool and lots of us hope to go back to make a piece of our own.


Hiking Volcan de Pacaya on Friday was a beautiful experience for all of us. Some students rode horses, while the majority of us walked, but when we got to the top we were all in awe of the gorgeous view. We roasted marshmallows near the summit, using the natural heat vents in the volcanic rock and looked out at the volcanoes Fuego, Acatenango, and Agua in the distance, surrounded by clouds and the beautiful colours of the sunset. As we watched the sun go down we reflected on thankfulness and stood in amazement at God’s creation.


In addition to all of this, during this week the majority of us students and the leaders were able to meet with J or Andrea Janzen to discuss and debrief various topics including faith, growth on Outtatown, the future, and more. We first met J and Andrea on our church plunge in Vancouver and they travel here to Guatemala every year as a spiritual resource and mentor for us students and for the site leaders. We found the time with them very valuable and refreshing. We appreciated the time to talk to someone outside of our community who has so much wisdom about faith and other aspects of life.

All in all it was a great week and, as we head into our fourth week of homestays and Spanish classes, we are excited to continue to grow in our Spanish and in community. We hope for continued growth in our lives, anticipating more challenges and more fun experiences!

¡Asta pronto!

Erika y Annika

What has OT Guatemala been up to?

Hola amigos!

Two weekends ago we kicked off our time away from our host families by making a 3-hour journey to Panajachel where we took a boat across Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan) to a hostel to spend the weekend. It was a peaceful weekend with lots of free time to enjoy the beautiful scenery, go swimming, adventure in the town up the hill, or go scuba diving! After an awesome weekend with only a few people getting sunburned (luckily enough, not myself), we made our way back across the lake to Porche de Salomon where we spent the week working in the mountains to assist in the construction of a casa (house) for a local family.

Porche de Salomón is an organization that assists in development and humanitarian aid for people in and around Panajachel. It was a long four days of helping them with the beginning stage of the construction of this house. Through hard labour, lugging cement blocks up a steep hill and digging a foundation for the house, we were able to help make the workers’ jobs easier in the following weeks. Although we tired ourselves out with our work, we still managed to have some fun with each other, the family that we were working alongside, and the other workers involved!

Below are a few photos to give you an idea of what our week looked like 🙂

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Our group with the family and our last day of work!

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Carrying sand and bricks up the hill

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Laying out the sand


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Learning how to cut and bend wire

This past week has been eventful due to the majority of our group getting sick because of something we consumed along our adventure away from San Juan. After a few trips to the hospital with various students, we’re all on the road to recovery. The doctors were great and with some antibiotics we should all be back to normal in no time.

Although illness crept its way into our group, our time in Panajachel is one that won’t be forgotten. One additional aspect was that the view of the lake surrounded by volcanoes along with the colourful town was breathtaking! Another was that there was so much to learn from the people around us, either the volunteers of Porche de Salomon or people we met in the mercado (market) or from each other. I think there was a lot of growth in the appreciation of hard physical work and learning how to accomplish the tasks set out for us as a team.

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Enjoying zip-lining and high ropes as a group on the weekend

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Breathtaking sunset we got to enjoy 🙂

Currently we are back in San Juan del Obispo with our host families for two more weeks of Spanish classes. And this afternoon (Friday, Feb. 7) we will be hiking Volcán de Pacaya, where we will roast marshmallows on volcanic heat vents at the top! Stay tuned to read about our adventures on the volcano.

That’s all for today,

Hasta luego!


Segunda Semana de Español


Our second week of homestays brought us into a sense of routine. Each morning we ate at our homes with our host families, and from Monday to Thursday we attended Spanish school. We returned home for lunch with our families, then headed off to various activities. The evenings were free, and were usually spent with friends, working on homework, spending time with host families, or catching up on sleep.

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Monday afternoon we had PMG’s (peer mentoring groups). This is a group that we were assigned to at the start of first semester. It is a group consisting of three students with no leaders, and we are able to make it what we want. It is a great opportunity for fun, deep conversations, and supporting each other.



Tuesday afternoon was our first day of service placements. Students had the opportunity to choose from 5 different service options that we will work with each Tuesday during the remaining 4 weeks of Spanish and homestays. The options are: helping at a hospital for kids with cerebral palsy, teaching kids English at a Spanish school, offering our time at an old folk’s home, helping at an addictions counselling center, and helping construct a trades school with a long-time partner, Hilmar. It is a great opportunity to give back to the people of this country.

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Tuesday service

Wednesday afternoon we had small groups; it was the first time that small groups were led by students. Small groups is a set group of 7 students and one leader, and we do many different things. We will be leading small group throughout the semester, giving us the opportunity to use our creative abilities to lead a small group meeting for our fellow students. This is one of the many ways that we are able to develop independence, leadership, and to expand our comfort zones.

Thursday afternoon we had an opportunity to give back to the community of San Juan del Obispo that is so graciously hosting us. We split into groups and cleaned up the streets of the town. In the evening our group reconvened at the school for our weekly worship. Students on worship committee plan all the worship events and bring their various talents into their leading styles.

Finishing up the first two weeks of Spanish school with a test on Thursday, we hit the road to the beautiful lakeside city of Panajachel, then took a boat for a relaxing weekend at the town of Santa Cruz on Lake Atitlan.


Hasta la proxima vez,

William y Rachel