Day 7

On the way to Volcano Pacaya I saw a rusty old pick up truck with a dozen piglets in the back clumsily slamming into each other. They were moving like sardines packed in the ocean, in confused circles. A kid younger than me was holding on to the truck with a grim expressionless face. A dirty T-shirt hung loosely on the his body, and his old shorts looked out of place. They were dirty, stained and scattered with holes. His eyes looked older, as if he had already seen more than me and suffered more in being half my age. It told me something, that a child, could have so much to them.
   When we got out of the bus we saw the volcano, standing tall in the distance. Little girls held big baskets over their heads selling cigarettes, gum, and candy. They held out packs of cigarette, pushing them at us like they were going to cry if we didn’t buy something. One of them looked particularly desperate. Tears lined her eyes, and through her orbs, I could tell that she looked like she had already seen the worst parts of life. It was like looking at a grandparent about to tell you a war story from their youth. I moved on, not particularly wanting to bear it all. Up ahead, there was another family, whose babies were cradled in the mother’s arms. The babies looked like they came straight out of a poster for world poverty. Their eyes looked like huge wells of sadness, despite their young age.
   Those thoughts pounded through my head for five hours, which was the whole hike up the volcano. By the time we were in the valley of the Pacaya, volcanic rock surrounded us for miles. Some of the rocks were so hot that we used the heat to roast marshmallows.

The looks of the villagers faces stayed on my mind even when a classmate was constantly trying to make me laugh, with no knowing consent of what was on my mind.

Day 6

I woke up with throbbing pain in my foot. The night before came rushing back to me. I had felt pressure in my toe and by trying to cut out what I thought was an ingrown nail, I tore the tissue connecting my nail to my skin on one side. Gross, I know. Last night was a blur. The medication I took made the pain go away for the night, but apparently it also made me loco. I kept everyone up until 10. Doctor Sophia had helped me by using every single wound healing toiletry my mom had insisted I bring. I remember feeling sick and getting dizzy the second it started to bleed. That’s when Sophia put Neosporin and a band-aid on it and sent me to bed. It wasn’t so much the pain that kept me up, the throbbing and the constant beating sent through my whole body, is what didn’t let me fall asleep. I managed my regular 4 hours of Spanish every morning none the less, but by lunch, I sat the rest of the day out. Just walking to a cafe, to spend the afternoon with Miss Caroline and an another classmate who decided to sit the day out too, made my whole foot throb. It was worth the conversations we had though. Later instead of going back to my host family, I went to the place Miss Caroline was staying and soaked my foot. (And took advantage of their hot water by taking the hottest shower I’ve taken this week). By the time I got back to the host family it was already dark. I climbed into bed and fell asleep.
-Paris

Guatemala Day 5

After lunch there was a whole mango, sitting next to our four plates; skin and all. The host family told us to peel it like you would peel an orange. I’ve never peeled a mango before, an adult did it for me. But I’ve watched my parents, and other people cut mangos many times. I pick it up, take me knife, and cut it at the top, just above the pit. I do the same to the bottom underneath the pit. The host family sitting across from me was looking at me like I had just broke the silence by saying “Luke, I am your father”. Continuing with my mango, I took each half (sort of half) and drew lines vertically and horizontally in until I could pop both sides up and eat the most delicious mango I’ve tasted, scored into perfect little diamonds of orange delight.

Smooth and sweet but still a little tart. The remaining three mango halves,  eaten and dripping everywhere where disposed by my fellow roommates.

We went to a chocolate factory in the afternoon. We went through the process of making chocolate. By the end it looked like there was dirt on my hands, but it was actually the cacao powder sticking. The chocolate was so dark, that when we got home, all of our stomach hurt from the 100% cacao samplings. We started with toasted cacao beans, peeling them hand by hand. And we ended with our very own, very chocolatey, patty.

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Guatemala Day 4

The falling apart tortilla was awkwardly slammed between my palms, over and over again. Laughing at me sloppiness, my classmate was on their sixth. In my frustration I slammed it harder till it fell on the floor, again. Not giving up, I took another one, and took a deep, muttering under my breath “why can’t I get this?!”.  Rubbing it into a ball, then flattening with my fingers. The flour stuck to me, wet soggy. Gross. Still not giving up, I looked up at one of the women in “the women’s cooperation” and watched them do it easily and flawlessly. Her colored dress looked like it had a blanket of smoke over her dress coming from the perfect tortillas cooking. Like the sun of Guatemala, bright colorful, but with of layer of pollution (to my disappointment after thinking it was fog). She slapped them palm to Palm, until it got to her fingers, done and even. Replicating her actions, I formed a relatively acceptable tortilla. I got the motivation especially after Sophia said she wouldn’t clean her side of the room if I gave up.

The women’s cooperation introduced us to their culture. They could balance 50 pounds on their head when back home I can barley balance my books in my hands going to class. From a welcoming smoky smell, we spent the afternoon learning about a traditional dance to tortilla making to an actual Guatemalan wedding.

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Day 3 in Guatemala

In the afternoon of our third day in Guatemala, we went on an outing, that I was the most taken back by this whole trip.

We pulled up in our luxury school bus in front of a public school, in a neighborhood a lot worse than the one we are staying in. One the dirt road we ambled single file. As our counselors explained what we had brought to share with the school with the money we had raised,  I was the first to notice kids lined up on the balcony above. My fellow classmates and I stuck out in this atmosphere like a sore thumb, and I can’t imagine how alien we looked in fancy Nikes, fully accessorized with hats, sunglasses, water bottles etc. to these kids. As they came down we where each assigned to a few children.   What took me the most by surprise is that when we where asked to escort the children to the school yard, people took their hands, or put an arm around them. Hand in hand with our assigned kids, my classmates have never surprised me more. For the rest of the afternoon we played games and ran around like we where born there and had lived there for our whole lives and never known anything else.

Only a few of the children had celebrated their birthdays, so with the money we raised we brought two piñatas, two cakes and drinks. In the end none of us wanted to say goodbye. We were late getting back to our host families.

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Day 3 my classmates in the streets

Day 3 afternoon shadows and another bodega
Day 3 dogs of the Guatemala