Don´t know where to start, it has been about three days since when we departed from Ak´Tenamit to our midcourse and now we are at Qachuu Aloom at the department of Bajo Verapaz. I´ll do my best to explain my time in
In our short time in Ak´Tenamit of five nights and four days (of which is technically less as we spent a day nearby in Livingston), I will say that it has been the place I was most inspired by due to the connections I was able to make with the people and this land. I´ll start talking about my time with a teacher of Ak´Tenamit.
Her name is Yokasta Soberania. She, with all the students and adults of Ak´Tenamit, is there because she has dreams and aspirations to accomplish. She is a lady that put it upon herself to learn about agriculture so she can elevate herself and help others in their community; and of course, her story with all the other students that I talked to is more than just hard work in the face of suffering, but also about resistance, not waiting for someone to come into your life to save you but rather take it upon yourself to educate yourself and your community. Ak’tenamit is a school located in the very humid tropical forest in Rio Dulce national park that attracts students from all over Guatemala, mainly of which are of Mayan indigonous groups, to learn and get certified in either sustainable agriculture or sustainable tourism. With this, Yokasta is a teacher in sustainable agriculture and we did what she normally does in her classes, theoretical agriculture (explanation of key concepts such as hydroponics,aquaponics, gallinisa, compost, and much more) and then we put it into practice.
We started our day after our theory class with introducing ourselves to our partners who were all curious Quechi native speakers. With me and my partner named Alejandro, we went to clean cocheras (pig homes). I really enjoyed this experience because while we were all doing new things with new people, we were all willing to enjoy this moment and have fun doing things together. The native students were all of similar age to us, being in between fiftteen and eighteen years old, which probably helped us talk to each other. For me, I would ask questions about his life and language and Alejandro will do the same to me while all of us were cleaning, washing, and feeding the pigs and that, I feel, is because both sides were so willing to open up and share their own unique story which I’m grateful for. There was even a moment after class that the students all huddled up near me to teach me how to say and to write some Quechi words like how to say Gracias, Que es tu nombre, and all the numbers until twenty.
This story of sharing Ak’tenamit goes on with how we watched movies with the students here too. For some time, our little group have been wanting to take a break of Guatemalan documentaries and watch a movie and we thought of asking the Ak’tenamit students if they want to join in. Immediately, all of them said yes which we were all so happy about. Turns out that these students don’t have the time or resources to watch movies much (part of the reason being that there are usually in school, learning, studying, or helping one way or another) which is why that same night we watched Kung Fu Panda 3 and another night we watched Coco with a huge crowd with the use of a projector in a restaurant that is in the middle of the humid forest.
And I can’t forget about our cooks in the restaurant which was where we usually ate at. The name of the head of the restaurant is Miriam and she would be the one taking care of us by being patient when me and the other person in charge of ordering food were ordering food in spanish. While I am fluent in spanish, it is great to see the peers of mine taking the initiative to talk in spanish without the care of being ridicule because this is suppose to be a spanish intensive program. I feel she and Yokasta are such female inspiration working so hard while having their own personal life and family to take care of. While helping us around, she was also taking care of nine other students who were with her to learn sustainable tourism. Names like Rafael, Rosa, and Antony, these people have normal names but were exceptional people with goals. While being the chefs, they would take care of us by making sure we had everything we needed ( neither were we ever trying to exploit their hospitality)but we also would hang out together near our cabins, in hammocks, and in the kitchen area. For me, I would do my best to learn their names, talk to them in some broken Quechi, and have some fun by cooking some pancakes before dinner with them which they would do the same by learning my name and talking to me in english.
These gestures I had in this time at Ak’tenamit are meaningful for me because they are proof of two worlds trying to acknowledge and understand each other. In my dragons program, we talk heavily about the difference of travelers and tourist and while I’m still struggling to understand what we actually are, I do feel that it is morally and ethically right to at least try to learn the native people’s name, to have moments of laughter disregarding any language barrier there is and to understand the land not from an outsider perspective but by hearing personal testimonials, being taught how to cook typical dishes (like ceviche or the typical guatemalan breakfast), which I feel we were able to accomplish there.
I am missing so much from my time in Ak’tenamit such as our time learning about Mangrove ecosystems , birdwatching, learning how to kayak and then kayaking to hot springs, caves, and to a huge canyon, trying to learn how to tread in water, my time talking to a native artisan that makes art out of hard seeds named Corozo, seeing huge spiders, seeing a manatee, learning about native trees and medicinal herbs, and so so much more, but I’ll stop now.
I want to end this by leaving the thought that Guatemala is more than a country of oppression and poverty, it is a country of resistance and richness in culture. From everything we did there, we all took something out if it, dragons student and the people of Ak’tenamit. From cleaning pig stalls together, their is a form of embrace and joy we all felt which I’m grateful for.
Thank you, for everyone out there who helped us get to where we were and where we are going.
We are now at Rabinal so stay tuned to learn about our time here.