Monday, August 31, 2009

Thoughts from Day 9 by "Scraper Sensei"

Holas Amigos!

Already day 9 of our 2 week journey with DWC has arrived! Although it´s only been a mere week, I feel I have a true understanding of the Guatemalan culture thanks to the locals who have welcomed us with open arms. The people and children we´ve met are absolutely incredible, and despite the language barriers, they are always here to help. I´ve never met such a warm and accepting culture.

We began this Monday with an early breakfast at Fernando´s (the local cafe just around the corner). We ate the cafe´s delicious selections such as the Americano with eggs, or the Panqueques, and even Nutella crepes. Our bus arrived at 8:30am, driven by Fracisco, unbeknowst to him, the next 20 minutes would be spent listening to the group's (may I add at times off key) singing!

We arrived at the Open Windows Foundation Centre bright and early. Just like any other morning, we were greeted by Herman (the local cobbler who lives adjacent to the centre) and his adorable 3 year-old son Hosuay. Despite my poor Spanish, Herman speaks to me in Spanish which at times can be challenging, but definitely a learning curve! He´s so patient with me, words cannot describe my gratitude!

The ladies headed straight to work by 9:45am. We continued painting the main entrance of the centre, a beautiful lemon marang yellow. The boys, prior to continuing their work at the local school, had the opportunity to roll large barrels down the streets of Saint Miguel Duenas which did attract some local stares (according to Sean) however it did not stop the boys from having a wicked time.

During lunch we were met with a delicious chick pea soup and a portion of home made bread. Then, by 2:00pm, most of the local children arrived. As everyday passes, the number of children seems to exponentially grow. I believe we had just about 100 kids visit the centre. Once again, we were assigned to our activity groups consisting of singing, reading, knitting, games and sports.

For dinner, we dined at the local restaurant 'Frida´s'. The restaurant was a true dediction to the renowned Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. Not only were the decorations authentic and flawless, but also the food was excellent. The group especially enjoyed the restaurant´s music; many of the songs that were played we recognized, and therefore, sang along to!

For the later portion of the night, a definite highlight for the group was hearing that Ryan (this is for you Barata) would be joining us during our last week of traveling in Guatemala. He brings such laughter and excitement to the group that his company would have been extremely missed. After some trials and tribulations, I´m ecstatic to officially announce that Ryan will be joining us in Coban, Semuc Champey, Lake Lanquin, Florice, Tikal, Rio Dulce and Livingston. (Ryan verbally listed the cities for me himself)

Thanks to my marvelous group, team leaders, and the beautiful people of Guatemala! I will sincerely miss you all! This experience has been nothing but positive, I´ve learnt more about myself and the kind of life I want to lead, one that will live up to these past 2 weeks.

Ashley (aka the SCRAPER SENSEI)
Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant

August 26: Our last days in San Miguel Duenas

As we reach our last few days in San Miguel Duenas, there is both a sense of progress and sadness. On one hand, the work at the local school is reaching its conclusion with all but two of the six classrooms painted, and almost all of Open Windows completely painted. On the other hand, we are nearly reaching the point where we will have to say goodbye to this place we have called home and the people we now call family.

Some of us will spend a week touring around Guatemala taking in the sights (Mr and Mrs Dharamsi, your daughters are still safe). Others, will be leaving for home upon completion of our work in San Miguel Duenas (including our group leaders Tony and Anita). We will all have to come to terms with saying goodbye to our friend from Alabama, Andrew (who has become an adopted Canadian over the last two weeks). There will be the farewells to the other people who have made this place so special for us, such as Open Windows operator Teresa. Most heart breaking, will be seeing the children of San Miguel Duenas for the final time. It is the children, where our sadness turns to progress. Yes, we may never see them again, but we can be sure that our presence here has made a lasting impression on both them and us.

This trip may have started out with the goal of servicing others in the global community, but I can firmly say that this trip has provided unexpected self realization. Upon returning home, we will not walk through those airport gates the same people that boarded two weeks ago. Instead, we will return with a new found appreciation for what we have, and the opportunities we have been granted merely by living in Canada. Opportunities that many in Guatemala can only dream of. More importantly, the memories of this place will forever be apart of us. Memories that we can use to shape our daily lives back home as we move forward and grow as individuals.

Ryan Barata

Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant

Post from the Team Leader

I believe I should tell you something about our group.

We range in age from 18 to 29 with the addition of a couple who are eligible to receive CPP cheques.

We have two sets of sisters, 'Master Painter' Ashley and her 'Hey let me do that' sister Nicole, Alia our group organizer and her card sharp sister Salina, then a very determined Shannon and Anita who has taken on a kind of 'Den Mother' role. On the boys side Riley (who doubles as our soccer coach) and Jimmy are our two camera buffs closely followed by Ryan and Terry. Shawn mans our 'Farmacia' and is the trickster. Chris is the quietest (if that is possible) yet still holds his own with the rest.

The group has taken on any and many varied tasks and in addition have shown an tremendous talent for being able to connect with the children at Open Windows so readily. Riley, in his first attempt, did admit to being out 'knitted' by one little girl he called the 'Alpha' knitter of the school.

As raucous as they may be (Anita and I sneak off for 'quiet time' every now and then) these young people have done all that has been asked of them including providing a daily blog.

If young people are to be the future, and I truly believe they are, then I have no doubt that this group of volunteers will feature very prominately. It has been a priviledge to have had the opportunity of being associated with them.

Tony Dufficy
DWC Team Leader

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

August 24: What to say that has not been said before.

Day 10 from Fuatemala and what to say that has not been said before. From salsa lessons to over 100 kids in one short afternoon or more, enough empty yellow paint cans to build a large wall. The long walks to find where to eat, as tourist guys ensured its Guatemala we see and not miss a block. Soon this will be over and only memories will remain, but friends we have made and will not be forgotten soon. With pictures to remind us of things we have done and seen, what a great experience this has been.

Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

As I sit here alone in Fernando´s Cafe, soaking in the sunrise as it breaks through the garden plants, my coffee arrives in front of me. The waitress delicately sets it on the table with a sense of local pride; after all, this particular restaurant claims to trump all other brews in Antigua. I relay a graçious in return, and commence to slowly enjoy a small piece of Guatemala; waking up with the city in unison.

That simple moment at breakfast sums up my experience in Guatemala so far; a partnership with, and participation in, a culture that does not require manipulation by Western hands. We are here to serve the needs of those who live in San Miguel Dueñas - through their guidance and direction.

The days have assumed a balanced blend of routine and adventure; each day is shaped in similar fashion, with unique content filling them to capacity. It is difficult to localize the most significant experience I have encountered so far, however the summation of six days definitely has brought a unifying feeling to the trip. We have completed a lot of construction and renovation work for a local school. Another group of us is near completion of painting of the library, our home base, and the progress is definitely visible. The commonality between this work, is that they are loose end jobs that we are tying over for the community. We have a group of motivated volunteers that are oriented to complete these kind of tasks, with little other responsibilities. We do not have to feed a family, attend school, or go to work, so we are here to serve in ways that the locals do not have resources or time for.

Overall, it has been an excellent week of orientation, renovation, and exploration, and all of us from Guatemala are looking forward to the new experiences to come. Adios.

Riley Golby
Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant

"Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood."

Monday, August 24, 2009

August 23rd: Atitlan Lake!

Hola from Mono Loco Internet Cafe in Antigua!

After a tiring day climbing Pacaya Volcano, we started our day by waking up at 6am to get to breakfast at 6:30. Then, after a 1 hour bus ride, we arrived at a market near Lake Atitlan where street vendors line the streets to promote their goods. Many of them would come up to you and prompt you to buy their items, which would most likely be met with a ¨non gracias (no thanks in spanish)¨ by our crew. Bartering is the name of the game and after much practice, I have to say I am a bit more familiar with that form of art. Almost no one from our Canadian crew left the market empty handed. A good hour and a half was spent in the market and a two hours bus ride to the infamous Lake Atitlan ensued.

Lake Atitlan was marvelous; a lake of crisp blue water enclosed by towering volcanoes. The scene was surely one to note and remember.We had lunch while enjoying a full view of the lake but let´s just say that time stood still in the restaurant which made it extra long.
After, we walked on the beach for a bit while taking group pics everywhere we go.

After a long stay of outdoor adventures, to pass the three hours ride back to Antigua, the van lit up with team bonding activities, and fun was definitely had by all.

Dinner was great and we all look forward to get back to work and be with the kids once again tomorrow!

Adios from Guatemala!

Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant

August 22: Our trip to Pacaya Volanco

This is Shannon, I am going to tell you about our trip to Pacaya Volanco.

After a long Van ride to this volcano we had a really long walk UP that was 2,255 meters. Two of us took the horses for an extremely enjoyable ride up (it was scary in parts for these two.) We won't tell you who they were. The walk UP was like hiking up Grouse Mountain X2 except with sharp lava rocks and on lava sand. Watching out for horse poo and trying not to get cuts all over ourselves (which didn't work so well because we got some anyways. Also it was really HOT at the top. After our long walk UP this volcano, we worked up a big appetite. We enjoyed our meal at a Thai Resturant called Cafe Flor with a live pianoist and singing in the background. It was amazing!

I hope you enjoy reading this.
Shannon Barker

Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant

August 21/22: The much anticipated soccer game.


Yet another beautiful day in sunny Antigua, Guatemala for the DWC contingent. The day started out as usual, at a fabulous little café named Fernando´s just a few steps from our accommodations. The coffee in Guatemala is absolutely amazing, I´m sure that there will be many pounds brought home.

The boys made a lot of headway at the school today, wrapping up the majority of the window installations, and the electrical work. The girls have nearly completed their painting of the new building at open windows, things are really coming along nicely.

We spent the early part of the afternoon playing games, singing songs, and doing crafts with the children at Open Windows; it sure is nice to give the kids a bit of structure, but still be able to make it fun for them. The Canada vs. Guatemala soccer game dominated the later afternoon´s activity, pitting the DWC volunteers against the finest young up and coming soccer players San Miguel Dueñas had to offer. Team Guatemala got an early 2 goal lead on team DWC; we kind of started out a bit slowly, but started to find our legs in the second half. Some late game heroics by "Coach" Golby and "Homer" Barata saw team DWC pull to within a goal of team Guatemala, but a botched penalty by "Clutch" Dufficy enabled the home team to come away with the victory. Fun was had by all involved, and a rematch is slated for next week!

Our evening was spent dining at a quaint little Italian restaurant near the main square, accompanied by our friend Andrew from Alabama. Andrew is here on a volunteer mission with the Open Windows Foundation, and will be celebrating his one month anniversary in a few days. Congratulations Andrew, good luck with the remaining 4 months of your stay!

Terry Chiasson

Developing World Connections Volunteer Participant

Thursday, August 20, 2009

August 19/20: Add some Spanish to your life!

Hola from San Miguel Dueñas!

It´s a beautiful día here, and much like yesterday alot is happening here in Guatemala.
The boys have been working really hard at one of the local public schools here in Dueñas. There´s already a recongnizable improvement of la escuela`s condition with much love and effort invested into a variety of labor intensive projects like cementing, electrical work, and the replacing of los ventanas. Windows that aren´t broken are in the process of being cleaned with windex and newspaper.

Here at Ventanj
as Abiertas las chicas have been continuing to paint the exterior of the foundation amarillo y blanco. We´ve been enoying singing songs from home (mostly Disney) while we paint both the walls and eachother. We´re also in the process of planning a group mural that we hope will bring furthur happiness into the lives of the amazing los niños we´ve met here.

In the tarde, we started our first session of structured activities. Us Canadians split into cuatro groups: singing, reading, physical education and soccer. Shawn, Shan, and I led the singing activities and taught the kids "head & shoulders, knees & toes" and el alphabeto song. They in turn taught us both these songs in Spanish.

Hope este blog gives you a glimpse into our lives here. It´s not alot like Canada, but sure has much to offer. Life here is simple and beautiful.

Mucho gracias to Jimmy for the picture, more may be posted in the blogs to come.

With a Guatemalan abrazo,

Salina Dharamsi
Developing World Connetions
Volunteer Participant

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

August 18/19:Repairing, Reading and Readying ourselves for the soccer game

Hey everyone,
Jimmy here and I'd like to fire a few updates along your way.
Today was the first day that everyone started to get down to business in terms of our own work projects. What this consisted of included groups working on electrical repairs and replacements, a team working on fixing and replacing windows, and painting up the education centre. These projects kept us all quite occupied during the beginning of the day, while the afternoon consisted of reading, playing, and learning arts and crafts with the children. Salina and Alia also revealed our team's donations to the Open Windows Foundation today, and they were very delighted with all the items that were there. We also had some time to hone our soccer skills as a group, as the big soccer game is only two days away. We've been hyped up (mostly due to Tony's tall tales), but I'm confident that we're going to be representing Canada pretty well, especially with Coach Riley Golby on our squad.

Today our group spent our time exploring the local market places and seeing what local treasures we could acquire. There was such a wide variety of colourful vendor stalls, each full of coloured beads, textiles, clothing, and other baubles. For those people in the audience who love a good negotiation, you should definitely give the markets here a go.
Speaking about going, I think it's about time for me to head on out. We just had some dinner at this delightful Caribbean restaurant called Los Palmos, a definite recommendation for that place is the tropical chicken skewers. Well that's it for me, take care everyone!

Jimmy Yan

Developing World Connections Participant

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Aug 16/17: We arrive!

Aug 16/17: We, the midnight flyers, have finally arrived in Antigua. Our "hotel" is small but beautiful. The view from the roof looks out over the rest of the city which is built in typical colonial style Spanish architecture. From the streets, the neighborhood looks poor due the cement walls which close in on the narrow cobble stone paths. On the inside however, there are beautiful courtyards that overflow with vegetation.

We visited the Open Windows Foundation and have prepared a work plan for the next few days. Meeting the kids was fun. Some of the 12-16 year olds wanted to challenge us to soccer. Our Team Leader, Tony Dufficy, in joking around told them that we are Canadian champs and now they are intimidated to play us. The younger ones really enjoy watching us play guitar and reading with us.

After the all night flying yesterday, we are all still very tired, the bed will feel amazing tonight...

Developing World Connections
Volunteer Participant
Shawn Crockett

AUGUST 2009: Mixed Group of Students travel for 2 weeks to San Miguel Duenas

The group left on Saturday, August 15 with promises to blog while they are working on a project with Host Partner - Open Windows Foundation.

Keep visiting to follow their time and work on the project.