After meeting our host families and sharing our first meals together, our pre-homestay nerves dissipated quickly and on our first evening in San Juan, we were invited to a traditional Maya welcome ceremony.
Most of the ceremony was in the local language, Tz’utujil, which Erick translated for us. We were each given a necklace with our ‘Nahual’ which is based on the year and date of our birth in the Mayan calendar and is very important in the the local culture.
Mine is 3 Tijax!
On Tuesday, we started our daily routine for our stay in San Juan. After breakfast, we have Spanish classes from 8 to 12 and then we return home for lunch. From 2 to 4, we work on our Independent Study Projects (ISPs) which include: weaving, natural medicine, marimba (a large wooden xylophone), tz’utujil, Mayan Cosmovision, painting and coffee production.
At 4:30, we check in with our instructors at the programme house and each day involves a different activity.
On Tuesday, Erick presented to us, our Focus of Inquiry (FOI). It is titled “They tried to bury us. They did not know we were seeds” and this set the course for our experience here in Guatemala.
He used the life cycle of a corn plant as a metaphor with its roots based in the soil which represents community. Compost and soil help the seeds to grow and produce strong roots so that the plant can survive in what can be a harsh environment.
This reflects the struggle of the Mayan populations as they have fought for their lives and to preserve their culture and dignity against centuries of oppression, including a brutal civil war from 1960 to 1996 which is estimated to have claimed around 200,000 lives.
Resilience is vital for plants and communities as they have kept their traditions and so proudly share them with us, who like seeds, spread the information that we have learned from our experience here back in to our own communities.
On Wednesday, Lauren taught us how to create our very own ‘life maps’. We are all still in awe of her fascinating life.
Thursday was film night but definitely not Hollywood. We viewed two Guatemalan short films depicting local village life and documentaries relating to our FOI.
On Friday afternoon, we began our first X-phase. X is for expedition and it’s about the students taking responsibility for organising events which we will engage in on Monday, our last full day here in this charming village on the shores of what really is one of the most beautiful lakes in the world.
On Saturday evening, we played football (soccer) with our teachers from Eco Spanish School whom we’ve gotten to know so well over the last week. It was such a great way to say goodbye.
Today is a day with our families and to fully appreciate life here in a small mountain village.
More updates and photos to come.