Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Guatemala 2019: Wednesday

On Wednesday, our team had the opportunity to take a trip across the lake to experience some of the local culture and learn a little about how some of the families support themselves. In San Juan we were able to visit a coffee co-op (La Voz) and a weaving co-op (Casa del Tejido) as well as check out the shops run by local artisans.

At the coffee co-op we toured the grounds and saw coffee plants in various stages of life. We were able to pick a bean off the plant and tasted the nectar that surrounds the bean inside the shell. It was like honey suckle.

While on the tour, I asked Bruce if he had toured a coffee co-op before. And in typical Bruce style, he says, "oh yeah, I interned on one in Costa Rica on a summer break from teaching". Bruce is a quiet guy who goes about his business on the build site without bothering anyone. But when you spend a week with him in Guatemala, you learn that he has stories to share for days and might be one of the most interesting people you've ever met!

We toured the area where the beans are sorted, washed, shelled, dried, processed, and roasted. It was really interesting to see the whole process of how the bean from the plant made it to the drink in my morning mug.

The families that are in the co-op benefit by being able to sell their beans to someone else who can then process and sell the product. To do this on your own is very difficult.

All of us enjoyed a coffee drink at the end of the tour!

We then headed to the weaving co-op. This is the same co-op we have visited each year of the trip. Though I have seen the demonstration 3 times, it is fascinating each time. The skill and artistic talent that goes into the process of weaving and making the textile goods is outstanding.

One of the most fascinating things to me is the dye that changes color based on the moon phase and if it is dyed overnight. They use plants to make their colors and when dyed in a full moon indigo is darker than when it is processed in other moon phases. 

As usual I was the last in the shop trying not to break my bank account with the amount of items I wanted to purchase. I am a sucker for souvenirs and even more so for products that are fair trade and support women in cultures where it is hard to find work and support your family. (And on top of having beautiful products, they take credit cards!)

Once final purchases were made, we headed back toward our water taxi with a couple stops on the way in the shops.

That evening we were able to have a visit with Fredy and hear about what he is up to now. He is focusing most of his efforts on a nonprofit geared toward helping students complete high school. We were able to bring him some supplies for this (and his new baby due next week!) and he was so very grateful. The work and love he has for his community in San Juan is inspiring!

On our trips, I think the cultural days are just as important as our days on the build site. It is helpful to know more about the population we are partnering with and to support the local economy in sustainable ways.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Guatemala 2019: Monday and Tuesday

Apologies for the delay, the internet was not consistent enough to blog and the location was too beautiful to be bothered to stay in the room :)

On Monday and Tuesday I was on the team building stoves. We built 4 of the 6 stoves for the week in a community called Esperanza, which means hope.

Monday our stove teams were divided by a good walking distance and were only together for lunch and the beginning and end of the day. This meant that our translator had to go between sites leaving us to figure out our communication with pointing, gesturing, laughing, and "poquito espanol" for good chunks of the day.

Felipa and Luis
The family I worked with is a single mother, Felipa, with one son, Luis, who is in school. We worked alongside her and members of the community. She was even kind enough to sew up a bag of a team member while we worked.

The stoves this year were a little different than my first. The blocks were smaller (and lighter) but more difficult to cut with a machete. I was so bad at it that our very funny and smiley helper, Clemente, took away my machete and sent me inside to do the mortar. Another change to the stoves was an extension for wood storage right in front as well as a ramp that is built of cement that is right under the plancha/stovetop and allows for better usage of wood. These changes are a great help and cost savings to the families.

At the end of the day we gathered with our families and they cried tears of joy for the gift their family received that day. It may seem a small thing, but to them it is life changing! 

Felipa's home, a Habitat Guatemala home
That evening we soaked in the beauty of the lake when we returned to the hotel and ate dinner at Circus, a pizza place in town.

Tuesday we headed to another site to build stoves while the other half of the team continued work at the house site. This stove site was a shared lot. We built one stove for Florencia, Enma, and their son Gamamiel and another for their older son who would soon be married, Jose. This was a fun experience because both stove teams worked as one to complete the two stoves that were separated by a wall.

Florencia, Enma, and Gamamiel
Heather and I were able to trick Domingo, Habitat Guate staff, into telling us we were beautiful just in time for Valentine's day by teaching him English phrases and we had a great time speeding through the build with Gabriel, another Habitat Guate staff member.

For lunch that day we had pepian, a traditional Guatemalan food, and it was just as delicious as I remember!

Though we were distracted by the adorable puppy on this site, we finished our stoves in record time and had time to explore a little in Pana that afternoon. This meant paying an ice cream debt I had incurred months before at my favorite Guatemalan ice cream stop, Saritas. (If you are ever there I recommend the waffle galleta capuchino.)

That evening we had dinner at the hotel and prepared for our next day of learning about the culture of the lake region.

I love building the stoves, maybe more than the work we do on the houses. The stoves welcome us into the homes of hardworking families trying to make a better life. The joy on their faces and which they express makes a short day of work worth more than words can say. I am always amazed at how much can be done and communicated even with a communication barrier of language. Through smiles, laughter, broken English and Spanish, and a lot of pointing and gesturing we are able to accomplish life change. 

before and after

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Guatemala 2019: Saturday and Sunday

We made it to Guate! (a couple days ago...)

Early on Saturday morning most of the team arrived at GSP to make our first flight of the trip. We met up with the rest of the team at MIA and anxiously awaited our flight to GUA. As team leader, once everyone is on the plane headed to Guatemala a lot of the weight is lifted. We made it. It is no longer up to us if we get to our destination. The majority of the trip we rely on transportation provided and approved by Habitat Guatemala.

Once at the airport we exchange money and get our bags and head to ground transportation to be greeted by Habitat Guatemala staff. The bus is loaded and we are off to our destination for the night.

The first night of most Habitat Guatemala Global Village trips is spent in beautiful Antigua. It is a colorful city full of shops and good eating and high population of tourists and ex-pats.

After arriving at our hotel, most of the team went exploring before dinner. I, however, chose to take a nap. As team leader and someone who is mostly introvert, I have learned on the last two trips I need to manage my energy and time spent with the large group. I think being team leader must be something like being a parent.

We enjoyed our first team dinner at Fridas, a restaurant we have been to on both trips prior. This year the team enjoyed live music and their first tastes of Guatemala.

On Sunday morning we had breakfast at the hotel and packed up before making our way to Panajachel. As is often the case, we shared the hotel with a team departing from their Habitat trip. We got to share some stories well wishes for our travels before parting ways.

The bus ride took a few hours and we arrived safely at our hotel. No one is disappointed in the location of the hotel. It is right on the lake. We can watch sunset over the mountains and volcanoes. The main street in town is walking distance. And for our first night there was a wedding and an elaborate proposal on the dock.

On Sunday we also got to meet affiliate staff with the Solola Department Habitat affiliate and in Guatemalan style they greeted us with cake and cola. We learned a little more about our projects for the week and made our way back to the hotel to enjoy an evening relaxing before getting to work.

This week we will work on one home and build 6 smokeless stoves.

The team this year is a little larger, but all are having a great time and enjoying getting to know one another and the culture of Guatemala.

Until the internet allows again...

(the internet is not being agreeable for uploading photos to the blog...check instagram for visuals. usernames: hlwick and habitatgvl)

Friday, February 8, 2019

To Guatemala We Go (a third time)!

As it turns out, that snow day I wrote a blog was a fluke...but I still hope to get those other blogs written eventually!

January flew by this year and here I sit, my last day in the office before heading back to the beautiful country of Guatemala. This will be my third trip to Guatemala with Habitat Global Village. Our team this year is 15 people and a unique variety to say the least!

Coming in for landing

I am excited to be returning and getting to stay on the lake in Panajachel. We have visited Lake Atitlan on both our previous trips, but this year our hotel is right on the lake, with waterfront property! I can hardly wait to get there.

On the team again this year, are Steve and Heather. This will be the third trip for the three of us, and I don't think I would enjoy the trip nearly as much without them. They are always giggling and having a great time and I love getting to spend this week with them each year. (we are considering trying out somewhere new on an open team together next year) This will be Steve's 7th Global Village trip! He has the goal of a trip on all continents where Habitat works and the last he has left now is Australia. I can only hope to be as well traveled and active as he is when I reach my 70th year.

I'm sure they will be glad I added this photo

Others on the team are Karen and Stephanie. This will be the second trip for both of them. We have all worked together at Habitat Greenville for a little over 4 years now and all completed our AmeriCorps terms within a year or two of each other back around 2008. Getting to spend time outside of the office with coworkers always makes our working relationships better and of course, they are just fun gals to have around!

We also have a Habitat Greenville AmeriCorps Alum, Chris, joining us all the way from Texas!

A few of our task leaders are joining us (AnnLee, John P, Bruce, Karen G, and Ted) and I love getting this time with our volunteers and building even better relationships with them!

We have two more parent/child sets. One staff member and his mom (Alex and Laura) and a board member and her daughter (Glenda and Meagan). For Alex's mom, Laura, it is a life goal to go on a mission trip abroad and I am so excited they get this opportunity together! And for Glenda and Meagan, Glenda has told us how Meagan pushes and challenges her to do things she wouldn't do on her own and I can't wait to see the fun they bring to the team.

Our week will be spent working on a home and some healthy home projects (stoves and latrines). We will also enjoy cultural activities like touring a coffee farm and weaving cooperative. Some of us even plan to hike a volcano! (Hopefully it won't be cloudy this time.)

I will do my best to post updates here and photos to Instagram (username: hlwick) pending the quality of our wifi connections.

Now off to pack and finish preparations for the trip...

Hasta luego!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

December? Already?

It's been a while.
Almost a year to be more accurate.

This year has been...


it's been a year.

But more about that later...

I plan to try and catch the blog up before heading back to Guatemala in February. I have the privilege of leading the trip again and look forward to visiting a place I have come to love.

(If you want to support the trip, you can do so until tomorrow 12/10 here.)

However, just in case I don't actually blog after today, here is a list of the things I would like to blog about if the muse arrives:
  • A year in review
  • Books I have been reading
  • Home-ownership so far
  • Dog-ownership so far (but maybe the dog really owns me)
  • Roommates: how to find and keep them 
  • Traveling and the goal to better utilize my time off this year
  • Trip West (NV, AZ, UT)
  • Frontier Airlines now available: GSP to DEN
  • Hawaii!!!
  • California Cousins and Yosemite
  • 50 by 40 - only 11 to go!
  • Whole 30 (and how I have basically forgotten all about it during Christmas season)
  • FiA and C25k (or an attempt to get back into the shape I was once in or at least be able to run a mile again)
  • Death of a grandparent and how cousins are the best thing
  • Mental health 
  • Church, faith, and finding something that was always there but may look different
  • Dating apps (probably won't actually write this one...but I tried them and it was basically terrible. So if you know any reasonable single men between the ages of 30 and 42 I'd take a blind date setup by a trusted friend over a pool of strangers on the internet every time)
  • Work, work, work, work, work (New job title, I love my job, coworkers as friends, and goodness we worked a lot this year)
In case I don't blog again before Guatemala, that's a basic run down about what I have been up to this year. I hope the words start to flow because I like when writing is an outlet for me and I know there are at least 4 people who like to read this blog (mom, aunt Kris, Alex, and Spesh this is mostly for you 😊)

But for today, it is one of our rare snow days in Greenville and a good time to make use of time at home that would have been spent doing other things. Until the muse hits...

From travels this year.

Cousins and being an aunt.

The many faces of Max Patch.

We shall see what travels next year brings!

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Guatemala: Saturday and Sunday Recap

There is still a little dirt under my finger nails and the slight hint of Guatemala wofting around my house and some of my clothes. But we have been home since Sunday evening. This year our return travel was much smoother and easier to recover from.

I left off with Saturday's return to Antigua. Most of us enjoyed the afternoon walking and shopping around Antigua. It really is a beautiful city! We were also able to go to the overlook near the city to see it from above and get one last great view of the countryside we had become accustomed to over the week. That afternoon I was able to catch up with a friend of a friend who lives in Guatemala and hear a little about what she does to serve a community there. What a neat girl she is!

For dinner we repeated what we had last year and afterward said our goodbyes to Fredy. Some team members thought it would be fun to get confetti eggs to smash and Fredy thought this was fun too. He told a great story of how they used them in school and then showed us the proper way to smash them on each others head, littering the street with confetti.

After dinner we got a few last shopping minutes in and headed back to pack up our belongings.

Sunday morning we were able to have a later departure from Antigua as our flight was not until 2:00. Most of us spent the morning walking around the city a little more and enjoying our last cups of Guate coffee before we headed out.

With only a small hiccup in return travel this year and we made it to the airport with plenty of time and no crazy flight stories to report this year.

Everyone made it back in a timely manner to their destinations and I'm sure slept pretty well for the night after a week well spent and a 12 hour travel day.

I don't think I really knew how exhausted I was until Monday when my rhythm was do a chore, take a nap, do another chore, take a nap then watch a show and fall asleep until Tuesday morning. But I would do it all again and be just as exhausted, if not more.

We are all so grateful for the opportunity to spend the week serving side by side and seeing another small piece of this big big world. Until next time!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Guatemala: Wednesday Evening to Saturday Morning Recap

Currently we are on the bus on the way back to Antigua for our last day/evening in Guatemala. Tomorrow we load up and head to the airport for our return home. As I have said before, hopefully tomorrow goes much smoother than last year.

But I think we left of with Wednesday evening and heading to the home of a Habitat family for dinner. So that is where we will pick up!

Our evening cooking dinner with the family was a highlight of the trip for sure (maybe I have said everything was a highlight so far...which means it has been a pretty great trip!). We arrived to some of the most enthusiastic hosts I have ever visited. Their smiles were beaming with pride to show us their almost completed Habitat home and to welcome us to the home of their mother in law.

The evening was spent cooking pepien and learning to make corn tortillas. Dinner was delicious, but the company was even better! Following dinner we had some of the best hot chocolate any of us had ever had. I'm not sure if the food we eat while traveling is really the best or if it is just the expereience adding to it. Either way, it has all been great!

On Thursday we were back to the build site for more rebar bending, tying, and twisting; chipping, cutting, and moving block; and all the  things in between. In the evening we were invited to a habi-friend's home for pizza and s'mores. The evening was enjoyed around the fire relaxing before our last day on the build site. 

Friday we had breakfast and headed out for our last day on the build site. Moving block and pouring concrete were the main tasks for the day. Work was a little slower as the masons were getting to more detailed items and less hands were needed. The future homeowner for the house made us a morning treat and our caterers provided us with another delicious lunch!

Friday afternoon we had a celebration of the week and the work completed on the house with the family, masons, and local affiliate staff. This is always a highlight of the week as well! They had cake and gifts for us before we said our goodbyes.

One thing we were all amazed at was the way they were digging the hole for the septic. They had to dig 65 feet down and they used a very simple pulley and lever system with some wood, rope, and a bucket. And of course some manpower of a guy to haul the bucket up and a guy in the hole digging. The ground here is different than the ridiculously hard to dig in ground we have in SC because it is a volcanic area. By the time we left Friday, they had dug down about 20 feet and pulled up nothing but soft soil.

After the build day Friday we had time to start packing up and deciding what we would leave behind and what we would take with us. Most of the things we bring for our team, we leave with our coordinator to use for future trips.

Friday dinner was a steakhouse with family stlye options and more great food!

I think everyone has had a great week and enjoyed the work, food, and friendship we have  shared all week.

In Antigua today we will have some free time for the afternoon to explore and shop before our last dinner as a team.

Tomorrow we have a later morning and then head off to the airport.

Thanks for tagging along via the blog this week! Hopefully I will get one or two more posts written about the trip when we return. But if not, again I want to thank those who supported the trip financially and encouraged each of us to go. It has been a truly wonderful experience and I am so grateful to be a small part of the great work that Habitat does around the world!