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Filling the Gaps Between Me and My Peers

To my many Yak followers,

Thus far, my experience in Guatemala has been one filled with amazing highlights featuring new friends, a loving host family, and dedicated instructors. On June 28, our group hit the ground running with a delicious dinner during which we familiarized ourselves with each other. I met a dozen fascinating group members, and I soon felt that I had at least a few companions with whom I could brave this foreign experience. My preliminary expectations proved quite true, and some. During our orientation at the beautiful IMAP site, I found myself learning about some topics I had never even heard of such as permaculture, which is self-sustainable agriculture, and the innate globalization of Mesoamerica, something which has slowly been controlled through more than two centuries of foreign influence. Better yet, these educational moments were intermittent with lots of time to relax and enjoy ourselves in the form of refacciones (snacks) and siestas (naps).

This experience was memorable indeed, but short lived. After just four days, our now tight-knit group said goodbye to the breeding grounds of our mutual respect and confidence. On the morning of Wednesday, July 3, our group boarded a boat, making our way across the grand Lake Atitlán to the welcoming and untrampled town of San Juan La Laguna. That afternoon, we students became acquainted with the lovely town by means of a friendly scavenger hunt. The same evening, I met my host mother for the week, María. She brought me to her beautiful house, which happened to also include a sauna and pool. Plus, it was situated right next to another student, Kiara’s, home. Unfortunately, a dog scratched me during the evening; however, I knew there was no need to panic. I simply contacted my instructors and everything was resolved in no time at all.

My stay with María and her seven-year-old son, Kevin, was my favorite part of the trip yet. Every day, she made three lovely traditional meals, such as pepian, fried plantains, or tamales. I gobbled up every last bite with gusto, then made myself useful by lending a hand with the dishes. Each meal was accompanied by delectable beverages, such as atol de ava (a local drink made from fava beans). Kevin and I spent lots of time playing together as well. On Sunday, they even brought me to experience a local soccer, or football, game. The energy from the crowd was enthralling. In San Juan, my eyes were opened to a myriad of new experiences, for which I will be forever grateful. Every morning, I was able to practice my Spanish with my ideal buddy, Mallory. Everything was so fun. Class would not have been the same without her. Then after a filling lunch, I would research for my independent study project regarding the effects of globalization on indigenous people. Everything I learned was so interesting. During my research, I received an opportunity to speak to many interesting local people, such as artist Manuel Chavuay and a Maya linguistic expert, too. I learned so much about how technology and foreign business has detracted and helped permeate indigenous cultures. These were honestly some of the most interesting conversations I have ever had. Last Saturday, we finally had the opportunity to test our physical fitness with a day hike. The view was spectacular. To celebrate our week in San Juan, everyone attended a fiesta with our host mother´s who prepared a delicious potluck. Students were dressed in traditional attire. I took a photo with María attached below. I love to eat, so I could not have been happier, but the ending was still bittersweet as I said goodbye to the family who had treated me with so much love.

Yesterday, we rode 6 hours in a van to Todo Santos, which has been nothing less than spectacular. Tomorrow, we will begin our three-day trek, something I have been excited for since I applied to Dragons. Afterwards, our group will participate in another brief homestay before X-phase. During X-phase, students will have the opportunity to design our own trip. I plan to see many more breathtaking views of rivers, waterfalls and mountains then.

I cannot imagine the wonders the rest of Guatemala will hold, but so far, I have not been disappointed! I´ll make sure to update my fans along this journey.

See you soon,

Will