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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Goodbye to Pachaj!


The one thing I learned for sure was that to expand your comfort zone and build lifetime memories. In the morning we ate breakfast early and decided to go for a run. We ran through the forest. Just me and the other boys, Josh and Terrence. It was a beautiful moment, in a different country, with friends and just enjoying the time there. As I said you don’t step out of your comfort zone you only expand it. I would never have been comfortable or built only memories there if I didn’t step out and experience later that day the boys and I with Sarah and Safa travelled with our kids who stayed with us at our homestay travelled to the very top of the Kiak mountain. This site was beautiful. Just to take in the moment and see the land below with my friends of Canada and Guatemala. Going up there in the first place built memories that I will not forget. The trip has been full of different experiences of moments that were amazing and that created amazing memories that I won’t forget. Like playing soccer with the locals, to eating supper with Donia Salvadora and all her grandsons and daughters around having a good time. Stepping out of my comfort zone creates many amazing moments and it’s the cause of the good times people have. When you step out of your comfort zone you don’t only build memories but you expand your comfort zone and become a more knowledgeable person culturally, and book wise. Its all like a chain effect. If I didn’t step out and agree to go to the top of the mountain memories wouldn’t have been made. I live by a quote in a T.V. show ‘take pictures of memories not sights because you want to remember those exact memories.’ Those memories can only be created by stepping into new things outside of that zone you’re used to.


What is culture? Culture to me is a defining component of every group of people and/or country. A culture signifies the traditions, clothing, cuisine, and much more. As time and technology advances, cultures; as well as, religions tend to change. Today we attended a religious and traditional Mayan ceremony in the forest. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip thus far. The ceremony displayed almost everything that the ancient Mayans believed in. To me, it showed that the Mayans worked very hard to fight for their culture and religion to stay alive. The Shaman performed the ceremony in a Mayan language called “Quiche.” This also portrays how the Mayans still have their language as well. Out of the entire population of Guatemala, 70% of the population is indigenous people. When I learnt this, I was shocked to hear such a high number because in Canada, he indigenous people are oppressed and live on reserves. Whereas, in Guatemala, anyone can go and perform any type of ceremony that they want. The indigenous in Guatemala used to be oppressed and still would be classified as “lower” class, similar to Canada. In my opinion, the indigenous of any country should be respected and their culture, religion, and language should be kept alive. Since cultures are constantly being modified, it is vital to completely comprehend the original culture of the ancestors. I believe that the Mayans are doing the right thing when it comes to preserving their culture, language, and religion. I learnt a lot from attending and listening to the ancient Mayan ceremony. In addition to this, it made me realize how important it is to educate future generations about the past cultures and to never let a culture, religion, or language die.


This afternoon our group witnessed and participated in a traditional Mayan ritual to thank Mother Earth, the Chico Mendez Project, and each other for our time spent in Guatemala. I was culturally immersed, spiritually connected, and deeply moved by the service completed by a Shaman named Manuel. It was a religious experience that I had never seen before. We held it in the forest where Chico Mendez plants, harvests, and has eco-cabins. As the Shaman completed the service in Quiche, the indigenous language of the area, I only understood three or four words he said over the hour long ceremony. This didn’t matter as I was able to connect myself by observing the creation of the symbolic fire, which included lighting candles that represented many important values and gifts Mother Earth gives us. My most important part was when each member was asked to put two more candles into the fire which represented our talents, skills, and values. I felt like this was the part of my time spent with our group where I felt the most welcomed and valued by our group, and likewise I felt a connection with each one of my peers. The Shaman highlighted each one of our connections in Guatemala and repeated each call of thanks 20 times to represent the 20 Nawals in the Mayan belief. Nawals are energies that Mayans, now known as Spiritualists, believe in and pray towards. As today was the Nawal of paying in gratitude, it made me think of everything I am grateful for, most especially things that have been given to me. I came to the conclusion that I am most grateful for my education and all the learning opportunities I have been able to take part in. Guatemala has been an unforgettable 2 weeks that has changed me deeply. For the better. I hope to continue to learn as I have learned on this trip.