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!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Guatemala: Tuesday and Wednesday Recap

It is Wednesday afternoon and we are resting at the hotel after 2 days of work on the job site and a day spent exploring a few sites near Xela.

I left off with dinner Monday, so that is where I will catch up from!

Monday evening we went for dinner at a tapas Mediterranean restaurant that was very tasty. Then an early bedtime for me, I think others played cards for a bit too.

Tuesday was back to the build site! We had breakfast at the hotel, loaded up the van, and drove about 30 minutes through town. The day started with more rebar tying, bending, and cutting. Not too long into the day we moved to mixing, moving, and pouring concrete. With our team of twelve, 3 masons, Fredy, and two habi-friends from the Habitat Guatemala national office, many hands made heavy work a little lighter.

Before lunch we had half the concrete for the foundation walls poured. We enjoyed another lunch prepared by our fantistic lunch caterers and shortly headed back to work. The afternoon was more bucket brigade on the concrete and the addition of block brigade to get the masons ready to go for laying block on Wednesday.

Our friends from the national office joined us for the full day. It's always great for me to get to share Habitat stories and comeraderie with like minded and kindred Habitat types.

After the work day we had a little free time and checked out another local spot for cake and coffee before dinner. (I just went with the coffee as we are far from being under fed on this trip!) For dinner we went to a place called Tacorazon which was delicious. It was started by a guy from Boston and is clearly where the expats hang out. I'm sure for the food, but also for the English speaking employees I would guess : )

After dinner there were card games to be had. And miracle upon miracles, 4 of us on the team know how to play euchre! We played a game or two and I couldn't tell you the last time I played, but it was great to play again!

Today was a built in cultural day to allow us a recovery day from the heavy lifting and to stay out of the way for the next step on the house which is a little more meticulous. We had breakfast at the hotel and loaded up to start our exploring.

We first ventured to Cerro El Baul, a suggestion of my local habi-friend. It is a bumpy but enjoyable ride up to an overlook of the city. None of us realized how large the city was until looking down on it from above. It was definitely an appreicated suggestion and must do quick stop when visiting Xela!

Next up was to head to the hot springs, Fuentes Georginas. The drive alone was worth the time. The countryside here is beautiful! There were loads of farms and various crops to see making the landscape look like a beautiful patchwork quilt. We stopped for a good photo op and headed on up the twisting, narrow road.

The hot springs were a hit! After a few days on the build site the hot water felt wonderful to our aching muscles. I have never been to a hot spring, but will certainly make it a travel must do if ever I am close to one again. We had lunch there as well and shotly following lunch started the 45 minute drive back to Xela.

Our last stop before heading back to the hotel was a recycled glass shop. They take glass turned into to be recycled and make it into usable glassware. Having my own home now I find it hard to pass up purchasing the beautiful artisan goods you see all over here! So of course I bought a few items : )

After that stop, we headed back to the hotel. Though the hot springs were relaxing, it seemed that everyone could use the afternoon to rest a little more.

This evening we are going to the home of a Habitat family to make dinner with them and have a lesson on making corn tortillas!

Hard to belive the trip is already half over. Tomorrow is another day on the build site and an evening of pizza and bonfire with our local habi-friends! All team members are having a great trip and learning a lot.

Many thanks for following along, hopefully I will get at least one more blog out before returning home!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Guatemala: Sunday and Monday Recap

It is almost dinner time Monday and I find myself with a little free time and decent internet to write a quick update. (sorry, no photos, check instagram for those. Usernames: hlwick, habitatgvl, habitatgvlrestore)

Sunday was a great day. We started the day with a delicious breakfast and some of that fantastic Guate coffee. We then loaded up and hit the road to head to Lake Atitlan.

Lake Atitlan was glorious just as I remembered it. We did most of the same thing we did last year, which was just what we wanted. We took a boat across, went to the weaving cooperative, and had lunch at the same place. This time though we did things with a little haste to make sure we got to Xela in time. We even got to meet Fredy's sweet wife, Chica, and his son, little Fredy. Fredy spends weeks at a time away from his family to serve Habitat and we are glad to fit in a stop where he can get a quick visit too. The weaving coop was a favorite as usual, and I was even out-shopped a little by others on the team this year! I could spend a whole lot of money there. The items are just so beautiful.

After touring around a little we loaded the boat, crossed the lake, headed back to the minibus and hit the road for Xela.

After about 2 hours of another beautiful stretch of scenery, we arrived. Our hotel is super nice! We have hot water and everything : )

We settled in a little and then headed out to dinner for some delicious Indian food!

After dinner we all hit the hay as we were a little road weary and wanted to be ready for our first day on the build site.

Morning came quickly, but with better sleep than the night before without the noise of our previous hotel's guests.

Breakfast was again great, accompanied by coffee and fresh juice of course.

Then we were off to the build site. It was about a half hour away.

We started the day meeting the local affiliate staff and the Garcia family who will be the owners of the home.

The day was spend cutting and bending rebar and cutting and bending more rebar. Some others shoveled dirt and laid some block. Lunch was chicken and vegetables and delicious pineapple juice made by a local family.

In the afternoon we had cloud cover that was much appreciated! It also came with some very breezy moments that created a few dust devils or as Fredy called them, remolino.

We finished up what we could of the rebar for the day and headed back to the hotel.

Showers were had with much dirt to wash off.

After showers and clean up, some went for ice cream, some went to explore, and soon we will all head to dinner. Tomorrow should look a lot the same with a little more concrete mixing and pouring, but I am sure it will have plenty of excitements of its own.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Guatemala: Saturday Recap and Sunday Plan

We made it!

And with little to no hiccups along the way.

Half of Saturday was spent in airports, planes, and a minibus. Our flights were without difficulties and customs was smooth sailing through. As we descended for landing and I could see the mountains and volcanos and buildings upon buildings, I was finally feeling the excitement that I had been holding off. Being team leader, making sure everything was done and everyone was on the plane made for a little more detail thinking than wishful thinking this time.

After passing through customs and out of the airport, we were reunited with our wonderful guide Fredy. We loaded up the bus and headed to our home for the night in Antigua!

Fredy showed us around a little and set us free until dinner.

Dinner was delicious. I would vote it was the best guacamole I have ever had and enjoyed every bite of it.

It was a little chillier than I remember in Antigua, but not quite like the weather expected at home this week.

After dinner was sleep...well as much as we could, our other hotel friends didn't seem to know that it was 3am and others might be sleeping...

But now it is morning. Soon time for breakfast and heading to our next stop on the adventure.

Today we will go to Lake Atitlan to explore a little and then on to Xela where we will work (and play) for the week.

We are all very excited to be here and looking forward with anticipation to what we get to see and do this week.

Until next post (which will depend on fun having and internet connection)!

Friday, January 12, 2018

To Guatemala We Go (Again)!

It's that time again!

We are packing up and getting ready to travel to Guatemala tomorrow to experience the colorful culture and work alongside the local Habitat affiliate in Xela.

This year our team has 3 returners. Myself, Steve, and his daughter, Heather. The rest of the team has never been to Guatemala, one has never been out of the country. Our team is 6 Habitat Greenville staff, 1 AmeriCorps member, 2 Habitat Greenville volunteers, and 3 family members. Most of the team is coming from SC, but we also have members from CO, NY, and NC!

the team!

The trip feels different to me this time. Last year it was new and unknown and dreamed about for a decade. This year it is familiar, but slightly different. Still dreamed about, but a lot less unknown. I have the privilege of being the team leader this time. Last time I was assistant to the team leader.

One of our team members actually speaks Spanish this year!

Upon arriving we will be reunited with our fantastic Field Coordinator, Fredy. We are very excited we were able to be matched with him again!

Flying in.

We travel to Antigua for our first night and to Lake Atitlan for our second day. We will arrive to Xela Sunday evening and meet our family Monday morning. Monday-Friday we will work on one house together as a team with some cultural experiences sprinkled in. Saturday we will head back to Antigua for an afternoon of R&R before we fly out Sunday to return to our respective homes.

I will certainly miss some of the friends we made last year who we will not see, but I look forward to seeing a few familiar faces and the new relationships that will form over the course of this week.

A favorite place to be in life for me is traveling, getting my hands dirty in service to others, and learning what life looks like to someone else. I am so very delighted to be a part of this trip again! Many thanks to all supporters who made this trip a possibility for myself and the rest of the team. Without the generous support of others none of us would be able to do what we do.

The streets of Antigua.

Hopefully I will have internet connection to post a few times throughout the week, but if not, I will certainly follow up when we return!

Adios, mis amigos, nos vemos pronto!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2017: A Year in Review


An interesting year. 

To say the least. 

I started the year focused on a trip to Guatemala with Habitat and finished the year planning and gathering a team for another trip to Guatemala which is just a week away! The things in between were a lot of usual life sprinkled with a handful of unexpected.

January’s trip to Guatemala was a highlight of the year and the focus of the month. 

February contained visits with old friends, a Bon Jovi concert for $10, hiking and biking, and the start of new builds at work. 

March was birthday month with treats in the mail, snow days from work, a trip to OH, an offer on a house, an art class with London, and a work conference in Atlanta to name a few things. 

April, we worked deals on a house and inspected and waited and wondered if this is a good idea at all. There was also a Harlem Globe Trotters event, a super strict eating plan to exercise discipline in life, welcoming spring with its loveliest of greens, and the last week of the month closing on my very own first home!

May was spent packing and moving, meeting a Netflix celebrity, traveling to Haiti, more packing and moving, welcoming summer in the annual fashion of Dolly's and Mexican, a visit to OH to warm my home in SC, and officially living in my very own home. 

June came with settling in, a chipped front tooth, welcoming friends home, going to Ikea, more warming of my home by dear friends, finding the best running shoes (but still not running much), another work trip to ATL, and some art to gift to a friend.

July had visitors for weekends and visiting on weekends (cousins and dear friends both), another state crossed off the visited states list, a mom's 60th birthday, an alumni build in Raleigh, more hiking and biking, learning sleeping in my contacts was killing my eyes and finally making a better choice to take them out each night, a peace center show by myself (Finding Neverland), and still settling into owning a home. 

August found my living room officially nested and just how I like it, a wedding of a friend, more art being made, honey crisp season, buying a mattress for the first time ever, the building of furniture, making homemade moon pies and watching an eclipse to remember, welcoming new AmeriCorps members, and a trip to OH including a Reds game and Avett Brothers concert (my niece’s first).

September brought some calm and settling back into work and out of summer, lots of volleyball, hiking friends, and a weekend spent in the woods. 

October was another strict eating plan (that made me feel great), new experiences, music, fields of sunflowers, a photo shoot for head shots, Pretty Place sunrise annual adventure, work special events, a visit with mom and Tim, Avett Brothers again, more hiking and less biking, my first ever sprained ankle (no more running) and recovery from that. 

November had another trip to OH and cousins reunion, new builds and cooler temps, adjusting to being without a roommate, pumpkin pies, rolls, and friends at Thanksgiving.

December was adjusting and redirecting, all the Christmas activities and things, a snowy adventure over the mountain for the newest tiny mug, a week home for Christmas, and welcoming the end of another year. 


2017 contained lots of activity and new friends and many things not listed. 

2018 looks to offer fun trips, changes at work, and hope of new things. 

I wish I had specifically blogged about more of these things this year, but perhaps the time and words will strike me to recap some of them soon. Until then, here’s to another year completed and new year and new roles and new hope found on the horizon.