Let Us Reflect: Now Blog It Out

 

 

A Final Guatemalan Reflection

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Whatcha know about Guatemala?

When Daniel and his parents arrived to pick me up (far beyond what I like to refer as, the bum-crack of dawn), I still couldn’t believe Guatemala was really happening. I was feeling practically every emotion ranging from fear to pure happiness. My dream of studying abroad was coming true.

To be completely honest, and I tried to hide it, but a huge part of me was completely scared to death. However, it was a little too late to turn back now. I believe, I believe I’m falling in loveee.

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It departed in Cincinnati, and it arrived in Guatemala City. As we flew over Guatemala other students and I immediately noticed the patterns of houses and streets. In the US they patterns are quilt like, exact measurements with a flowing rhythm that can be seen from the sky. Guatemalan streets had no organization and appeared to be in complete disarray, things were already seemingly different from what we were all accustomed to.

As soon as we entered the airport a sign caught my eye warning travelers about child sex tourism, which was part of the research I conducted before this class. My heart sinks to the bottom of my stomach at the thought of this tragedy, and it is a hopeful sign that they’re taking responsibility for the actions among tourist. However, through our time in Guatemala I did not see any of the claims made by the research that I found. I believe this is only true due to the reasons that we specifically stayed in really touristy areas where the crime rates were the lowest, meaning that the likelihood of the crimes against children and women being committed were also at the lowest.

Upon leaving the airport, we met our amazing driver, Timotee (this probably isn’t how his name is spelled, but it’s how its pronounced). Then, we were off to the quaint Donde Monica to see Antigua. While driving it became very apparent that road laws were also quite different in Guatemala. There would be families of four or more on mopeds, people riding in the back of pick-up trucks, people surfing on the tops of buses like in the movie Teen Wolf. I feel that it’s safe to say traveling via bus was the first true culture shock of Guatemala.

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Donde Monica – Antigua 

Excited and ready to roar, our first day in Antigua was spent roaming the streets in search of Vino, learning the art of haggling vendors, and taking touristy photos.

After a solid day of exploring, and a nice night of dinner and vino with good friends we were ready to march onward to Los Andes.

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Los Andes – The Farm

Oh, it was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Slaving away four solid days building outhouses with the carpenters was an immense amount of fun, and taught us a tremendous amount.

At this point in time we were really feeling like outsiders looking in, we finally knew what it was like to be the foreigners. However, everyone there was super welcoming. After being around the carpenters and other people in the community we just felt right at home with them.

Something that does stand out to be about the community, is how communistic it felt. Everyone appeared to be on the same level, making the same amount of money, wearing similar clothes and all living in similar houses. It really made the gears in my mind start turning with questions:

Who goes and stays? Who decides? Who owns this place? Who pays these people? Why are we staying in a nice house while they live in little shacks with no glass in their windows? Who picks which family does which job? Who is in charge here?

I wish the people of Los Andes nothing but the best, however this lifestyle just does not seem to be sustainable to me because they have no judicial system. Paradise cannot be perfect forever, and in my personal opinion it’s just a matter of time before something snaps to create some type of drama.

Most study abroad programs consist of traveling around, sight seeing the historical stuff, and then drinking their vacation away. In my opinion, service learning is so much better than that. We were able to help a community in a sustainable way. The out houses we assisted them in building will last them the next 25+ years, and in my opinion that is completely amazing.

From Los Andes, we were on to Lake Atitlan. 

Our bus rides are fun.

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In order to get across Lake Atitlan we took a boat, which was easily one of my favorite parts of the Guatemala trip. It was just completely beautiful being surrounded by the water and the volcano’s.

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Our first stop was the nature preserve, where Nancy was scared to death of falling through the unsafe looking bridge, but we were able to see REAL LIFE MONOS!

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Our evening here contained a solid night of laughter and salsa dancing, which made for unforgettable memories with unforgettable people.

Daniel and I took a Guatemalan taxi to dinner, where we then ordered sangria and mojitos to take a load off after all our hard work of outhouse building.

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On the way out from Lake Atitlan, we couldn’t resist stopping to take photos of the amazing scenery Guatemala has to offer.

Pure bliss.

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It was back to Antigua we went.

Antigua, round two:

Upon our return to Antigua, we grabbed a small bite to eat and went straight back to exploring. We had scheduled a city tour, which I’m not going to lie, I was dreading because we were nearing the end of the trip and I was completely bogged down and dead tired. However, it ended up being pretty amazing. Through this tour we learned a great deal about the history between the native Guatemalans and the Spanish. Such as, when the Spanish came to Guatemala they tried to push their catholic religion onto them, and in protest the native people decapitated the heads of all the statues on their churches which stand today as ruins.

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This brings us to our last day.

BEACH DAY

Our final day of the Guatemalan trip was spent in the black sand, fighting the huge waves, laughing, talking, and saying good-bye.  Words can no better describe my feelings than the facebook post I made the day we left, which reads:

As much as I’m going to miss: tortillas with every meal, ab throbbing laughter, banana grams, constant Spanish, lap dances, deep talks, three wheeled taxis, salsa dancing, haggling vendors, naps in hammocks, vino on vino, Guatemalan sweethearts, 50 million bug bites, new adventures with mojitos, and most importantly the amazing people that shared this amazing experience with! I am ready to come home. Adios, Guatemala. As I have taken a little part of you with me, I hope I have left a little part of me with you. 

If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go further go together. 

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Miss Tina-Margarita!

“If being a girl scout makes me a feminist … GUILTY!”

On February 1st, 2014 our class was lucky enough to have a visit from the lovely Margret Swallow. A.K.A. Tina-Margarita. From the very moment she said the above statement, I knew immediately I was going to like her.

She told us her inspiring story about going from corporate life to doing non-profit work. Through her non-profit organization she became involved with the coffee trade.

She explained to us that although charity is great, it only goes so far. The business leaders of the world hold the power in their hands to raise awareness of issues that need attention as well as lead in the development of solutions. Though charity is helpful, it’s not sustainable. Real change will go much deeper than that.

When we discussed women’s roles in the world, I was appalled.

Women do 66% of the world’s work.

Women produce 50% of the world’s food.

Women earn 10% of the world’s income.

Lastly, women only own 1% of the world’s land.

The older I become, the more I realize how truly lucky I am to be an American. We live in a beautiful country where women do not have to be ashamed of who we are, we may vote, earn incomes, and own land just as any man can.

In my personal opinion in America our population is being viewed more as people and less as men and women. Not to say we don’t have a ways to go, because we definitely still do, but we’re headed further in the right direction than a lot of other countries. Though I’m happy to be an American, the mistreatment of women around the world truly breaks my heart. This passion has inspired me to find a way to get involved with this push for women’s rights all around!

Margret went on to inform us of women’s roles within the coffee industry. Though it has not been constantly measured, women are heavily involved in: the actual farming, trading, roasting and brewing of the coffee.

Due to the of lack of knowledge surrounding fair and direct trade, a lot of women are taken advantage of when selling coffee. This results in women not always getting the most out of their products worth.

To educate women around the world, we all need to come together.

Thus: The International Women’s Coffee Alliance (also known as the IWCA). This alliance is to empower women in the international coffee trade and community. This alliance pushes to help women achieve sustainable lives and encourages as well as recognizes participation of all women in every aspect of the coffee business by tackling the patriarchal societies across the globe.

The IWCA fights for women’s rights in the coffee trade. They are faced with challenges of traditional culture such as: the need to preserve family structure, preserve male ego, and establish men and women as partners.

In my opinion the men in these countries that still practice traditional family structures need to get off their high horses. Not only is this unfair to women, it’s hindering the betterment of the entire world.

In the presentation Margret gave, this slide was included:

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She also shared with us this video that touched my heart:

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Miss Tina-Margarita is a very inspiring woman. I truly would like to find a way to become more involved with women’s rights in the world, not only within the coffee trade but in every profession. We are all humans regardless of our gender and we all deserve the same fair treatment. None of us deserve to feel less than.

My favorite bit of advice given by Margret was in the story she told about going to her boss with a problem and he said:

“Anyone can bring me a problem, people that get promoted bring me the solution.”

I am extremely happy that I took this course, and especially that I was able to be in the audience for this presentation. I consider myself to be privileged as an American. This presentation really opened my eyes that prior to February 1st, I was completely oblivious to the way women are still taken advantage of in the world.

Knowing that we will be able to experience and learn about these patriarchal systems in the real world. I am even more excited about our trip now than ever before, and I cannot wait to see Olga’s farm and experience how it’s run!

Leadership Latte: Coffee Emporium

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Coffee Emporium!

It is probably safe to say we, as students especially, weren’t sure what to expect from our first Leadership Latte session. However, I was greatly surprised at how much labor, middle men, and brewing actually has to happen before coffee ends up in our mugs.

Tony Tausch was a wonderfully informative tour guide. One thing that stood out to me about the Coffee Emporium is how beneficial it is, not only for our community but internationally.

Tony informed us that with local businesses 60% of the money brought in will stay within the community. This sets their coffee business apart from big corporations such as Starbucks. Instead of money being spread around only God knows where, 60% stays within Cincinnati.

Coffee is the second most imported good in the entire world right behind oil.  Tony informed us about Fair Trade, which in all reality doesn’t seem very fair at all. Many farmers do not have the knowledge to get the most bang for their buck when it comes to growing coffee. To ensure the fairest price for the farmers, Tony and his wife purchase coffee internationally using Direct Trade from countries such as: Guatemala, El Salvador, India, Ethiopia, Kenya and other countries. Due to Direct Trade Tony and his wife sometimes pay higher than the Fair trade price for their coffee. This affects the global market because it enables employers to give as much compensation to their employees as possible.

Here is a video of Tony discussing The American Dream:

Tony also walked us through the entire process of how coffee becomes, well coffee.

It has been rumored that coffee first came from a goat farmer in Ethiopia. The legend goes as: The farmer noticed his goats eating coffee cherries then becoming extremely hyper active, which we now know is from the caffeine. The farmer decided to try it, and thus the whole world has coffee.

First, coffee actually comes  fruit known as a coffee cherry and not a bean. The entire process from seed to harvest takes about two years. Coffee plants flower within three days, but within 6 months the cherries bloom. After the cherries are ripe, it’s harvest season. (We’re talking Guatemala and Central America seasons here.) Harvest season usually runs from October to March. Only the reddest and ripest coffee cherries are picked. They are ready to be plucked approximately five times within every three months.

After harvest, the cherries are sent to have the outer skin and fruit removed so they’re just left with the coffee bean. The beans are then left to dry on a cement pad for approximately four days. Once dry, farmers come back to get their beans and they’re ready to sell.

Upon being purchased and shipped to their destinations, they are roasted. The beans that stay in the roaster the longest amount of time have the least amount of caffeine. The colors of the beans while roasting goes from: green, to golden, to black. After roasting  is completed, the beans are grinned down, and a delicious up of coffee can be made.

I was greatly surprised at all I did not know about the coffee business. Although I feel so informed now, I’m sure there is still much more to learn. This course has already given me a vast knowledge of coffee and I cannot wait to find out more.

When Tony shared stories from his trips to Guatemala  I became very excited and at ease about our very own trip. (However I’m still slightly nervous about the guards walking around with large guns he warned us about.)

I now love the Coffee Emporium and am more excited than ever for our trip!

Hi-Ho Hi-Ho It’s Off to Guatemala We Go!

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We will begin this journey in the currently ever-so-chilly Cincinnati, Ohio and we will end it in the ever-so-lovely Guatemala.

As this is my first blog, I will start with useful information/how I am preparing for this study abroad. This is my first, and will be my only study abroad experience. As one could guess, I AM REALLY REALLY EXCITED Y’ALL! I have complete faith in our fearless leader Dr. Rogers that this will be a great trip, and most importantly a wonderful experience we will all remember for the rest of our lives!

However, lets get down to the educational stuff.

First order of business, lets talk about Guatemalan History. Today’s wonderful people in the beautiful country of Guatemala derived from the Ancient Mayan Civilization. Today, the Guatemalans have a democratic republic although it was not an easy road to freedom.

Mayans were conquered in 1524 by a Spanish conquistador known as Mr. Pedro de Alvarado. The country became a republic which lasted from 1898-1920. Upon the fall of the republic, dictators (Manuel Estrada Cabrera and Gen. Jorge Ubico Castaneda) ruled until 1944 when the people of Guatemala came together for a revolution.

Government disputes led to a civil war between right winged vigilant military grounds and leftist rebels. This became a war that lasted a very, very long 36 years. By the end of the war approximate 200,000 Guatemalan citizens were dead.

Finally in 1996, a peace agreement was signed by President Alvaro Arzu Irgoyen. The mass number of deaths led to a government trial in recent news. However, due to corruption within the government the conviction was thrown out.

Now that we know that Guatemala is a democracy and we’ve brushed up on our history, lets come to present day. We leave in about two months and my mind is swarming with questions about this Central American Country!

A big concern of all travelers is definitely safety.

According to GOV.UK Guatemala has one of the highest crime rates in Latin America. This includes Guatemala City where we will be landing. (Makes you feel warm and cozy, right?) However, most of this crime is gang-related and doesn’t often happen in tourist areas. This doesn’t mean that it CAN’T happen, it just means it’s unusual. We should try our best to be aware that most of these violent crimes happen in the Historical Centre which is referred to at Zone One (within Zone One a lot of cheap hotels and lower end areas are around).

How we can be the most safe!

1) Stay together!
2) Don’t draw any large sums of money from the ATM at once, and try to avoid drawing money at all at night time.
3) Don’t be flashy (including jewelry or showing laptops)
4) Beware of false police officers and scam artist!
5) Good news is there is a low threat of terrorism!

I need money, honey.

One big question I have is about currency. How much bang can we get for our US buck?

Guatemalan currency is the Quetzal, and it is abbreviated at just Q.  According to XE currency converter about $200 US dollars will convert to approximately $1,547.10 Q.

Weather

According to The Lonely Planet, there is no bad time to visit Guatemala! The heightened tourist season is from Christmas-Easter. (Which makes sense because most of the population is Catholic so they probably want to celebrate these weeks together!)

Their rainy season begins in mid-May and lasts until November, we will be visiting during their hottest and driest month of the year, looking at a high around 80ish and a low around 60ish!

Onto other important subjects. What kind of chow will we be munching on?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, we should avoid eating things: at room temperature, fruit/veggies we haven’t washed ourselves, undercooked eggs, and “bushmeat.” (AKA: monkey’s and other wild game, dairy products that aren’t pasteurized, and water that isn’t bottled).

Now that we’ve found out it’s unsafe for us to eat monkey brains with a side of raw eggs and a tall glass of well water, lets find out about common foods in Guatemala!

The food in Guatemala has been deeply influenced by  the Mayan heritage and Spanish culture.

A common breakfast may consist of some of the countries tropical fruits (I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS! PASS THE MANGO’S AMIGOS!), as well as eggs, tortillas, beans, and of course COFFEE!

Random thought: Do they have Spelenda? It’s okay, I’ll  bring stuff about 100 packets in my backpack just incase.

Most other meals consist of corn, beans, rice, tortillas and cheese.

Beef stews and soups are also very popular dishes. Also, apparently if we order roasted chicken we might get lucky and the feet will still be attached!

Here are some photos of common Guatemalan Dishes:

Chiles Rellenos

Chicken Pepian

Kak’ik

I’m a little nervous about this one kids. But hey, I’ll try anything twice.

This will complete my current blog post. We will see you next time to discuss our class tour of Cincinnati’s Coffee Emporium!

Peace and Blessings!