A satisfying and fulfilling day in this trip for all of us would be a day full of hard work, knowledge, and interaction- and that was exactly it today. Starting the day with yesterday’s activities (filing bags with compact soil), the group got the opportunity to collaborate with 30 local student volunteers. Sometimes, communication is considered a great barrier between people; other times, communication is the key to success. Today we all figured that by communicating and talking with these volunteers we worked better and in harmony, rather than treat each other as strangers and act really awkward. This activity definitely helped to build comradery and unity, factors we hoped to obtain throughout this trip. In the afternoon, Armando gave us yet another of his educational lessons. This time, he explained to us why we were shoveling dirt and breaking down horse manure- something we were totally curious about. There are 3 elements that are used in the Chico Mendez Reforestation project to help cultivate chemical-free, healthy growing plants. They are horse manure, fine soil/dirt, and finely crumpled dry leaves. He explained how Bayer, one of the world’s most popular aspirin companies, is also a company that uses an incredible amount of chemicals in their products. This brought up the Chico Mendez tagline again, which is ‘no to war, no to violence, no to weapons, but yes to intelligence.’ We also learned how the Laurel trees’ leaves (also known as Bay leaf), is used in a lot of spices and cooking. As a team, we all got to work, some sifting dirt, some shoveling dirt, and some breaking down horse manure. Though tired, there was a cheerful warmth in the group. It is so inspiring how one can create such a huge, positive impact to the environment. After today’s ‘lesson’ it got everyone thinking we know just so much, after the trip, we may even be little impactors to the world, putting our education and knowledge to rebuild a better Mother Earth.
The Power of Faith in Community
One aspect that has made Guatemala such a warm and welcoming country for us has been is uniquely profound sense of community. I’ve noticed a population inclusive of age in Pachaj and an energetic vibe from a concert in San Lucas. In Pachaj, we’ve observed a lot of volunteering from locals as well. Even though there are several aspects that makes such a great community, as someone who grew up in a Christian family, I know that faith has a big impact. At this point in our trip, some parentheses including myself parentheses have had the opportunity to attend a church service. Last night my homestay mom Dona Salvador are invited Terrence, Aybek, and I to go to a Protestant Christian church close by and we were blown away by the energy in the service. We noticed a drum kit, and electric guitar, a bass, piano, a violin, and massive speakers as we walked in. However, we were unaware of the energetic and passionate service we were about to sit stand and clap to. After the first preachers spoke, he picked up the bass and amazing music blasted through the speakers as the other instruments joined in along with the dancers. This encourage worshipers of all ages to pray, dance, and sing. From my experience, faith seems to have had a strong impact on the phenomenal community of Guatemala. This is not to say that it is the only impact because the positivity is also spread through other aspects like laughter between peers, the generous volunteer work from locals, and even the smile you get from the woman at the convenience store. Through our many experiences in Guatemala we have been able to enjoy a fantastic community as well as view Canada’s culture as more introverted. Exposure to different practices of faith in community has made room for growth and in adaptation into a once unfamiliar culture.