Friday, June 10, 2016

Today was an appreciated non-demanding day. The groups went to the houses of different families and conversed with them. We obtained a great understanding of how they live as well as their senses of humor. We also visited the school that is used by children far and wide. The parents of the children were gathered at the school to retrieve their child's report card because the administration didn't trust the kids to give their report cards to their parents. We came back to El Faro for lunch and then promptly left in the back of a truck and spent the next hour or so exploring the Guatemalan countryside. When we drove the gates of El Faro we did not return to the office, but rather to the nearby ropes course. The majority of us got strapped into harnesses and proceeded to tempt fate as we maneuvered various obstacles situated uncomfortably high in the air. After that, a pick-up game of basketball was played for an hour while we awaited dinner. Dinner came and we all ate very quickly. To close the day, we watched a video in the chapel that showed pictures of our experiences throughout the week.
Friday in Guatemala-  Here are some pictures of our adventures

The last two (meaning Tuesday and Wednesday) days at camp have more or less been an American horror story of sorts. A storm wiped out all our power, thus forcing the crew to cope with Guatemala's unforgiving heat and humidity without fans or AC. That being said, we did not have a way to blog either. We ended up finishing the concrete floors for Antonio's family. The group actually decided to mix the concrete in the middle of the road the second day; a decision made without the consensus of my fellow workers and me, but it worked out alright. Mixing the concrete was rough but I think the task I least enjoyed was moving multiple barrels of about 160L of water from a freshwater spring at the bottom of a hill to the top. Initially, we carried the water up the hill separately, but we eventually spread a bunch of people along the trail so we could move more buckets in a more efficient manner. One of the group members names this formation the "bucket brigade", a name that sounds a little half-baked to me but that's okay. As one man worked with the trowel finishing laying down the new floor, I sat in the street with aforementioned Tito's older brother Josue. My broken, cringe-worthy ability to speak Spanish usually interfered with linguistic communication between me and him, but it worked out okay in the end; Josue would just pull me by the arm and point or give me an indicative look when I didn't understand something. I let him use my phone, which he seemed to really enjoy. He listened to some good tunes via Spotify including: "Stacy's Mom" by The Fountains of Wayne and "Never Going Back Again" by Fleetwood Mac. After the few people still working on the floor had finished, Tito ran into the wet concrete, but that was an easy fix. The mother of the family, Mayra, made us homemade ginger cookies and gave a brief yet vehement homily on how grateful she and her family was for the work we had done. I felt pretty sad leaving Tito and Josue behind but they have me a big hug and shook my hand. Quique, a Herculean black man who had worked with the crew, shook my hand and called me his brother, which was really moving. Nothing even similar has happened to me in the US. Seems to me that people here are much more genuine and congenial than at home. Yesterday (Thursday) was essentially a tourist day. Everyone from El Faro went up the Rio Dulce River, a boat ride that took about two hours, to a beautiful spring where near boiling temperature water, heated geothermically, met cool water from a creek. Josh and I jumped from the top of the steamy waterfall despite being told not to by Mr. and Mrs. Dean. There was a massive spider that was roughly four quarters in diameter, and for awhile people were flipped out about it. After the spring, we went to a restaurant called Rancho Mary. The restaurant's food was delicious; I ordered tilapia, which was very evidently fresh. After eating, Keith, the trip coordinator bought everyone ice cream and we headed back to the camp. -Noah Bennett

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Thursday June 9th in Guatemala

On Tuesday, the group woke up bright and early to a plate of egg and bean sandwiches with a side of fried plantains. We then proceeded to Livingston where we spent the day mixing cement and using it to construct a sturdy floor for a family in need. During the work day we were offered a variety of distractions brought about by a boy named Tito who thoroughly enjoyed his "camion" as well as a poorly organized but very fun game of soccer in a nearby field. Regardless of some minor distractions we were able to establish a floor in the living room of the family's house. We returned to El Faro and had a relaxing afternoon consisting of swimming and napping.
On Wednesday, we woke up bright and early once again to a great breakfast. We then stumbled into the El Faro boats and made way to Livingston where we returned to the same house. By the end of the day, we were able to finish flooring in a secondary room as well as make a ramp at the entrance of the house. We played with Tito and his brother Josue throughout the day and were also introduced to a group of boys who were very passionate about soccer as well as the rapper Drake. Before we left, the mother of the household thanked us with a batch of freshly baked gingerbread cookies. We left El Faro with the bittersweet feeling of accomplishing our objective but having to leave the family that we grew to enjoy.
On Thursday we woke up especially early and once again were treated to a fantastic breakfast. We all piled into the boats and traveled up an intriguing and dramatic ravine, past a historic Spanish fort, and into a natural hot spring. we swam for a couple of hours and took in our wild surroundings. We then left the springs and ate lunch at a wonderful restaurant where the majority of the group ate heaps of fresh and delicious fish. After lunch, and a touch of ice cream, we sailed back to El Faro and spent the afternoon playing volleyball, swimming, and relaxing. We then closed the day by watching an insightful and well-made documentary about the struggle, the need, and the spirit of the Guatemalan people.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Hola from Guatemala! Today was our first day of "actual work". The squad woke up at the crack of dawn and took a twenty-minute boat ride to the small town of Livingston shortly after eating breakfast. The town is beautiful and exotic in a very different way that we'd see in the US. Nearly all homes are run down to some extent, which is really eye opening considering we never see a house made of cinder blocks and dirt floors in the states. The project my group was assigned was to replace the dirt floors of one family's hut with concrete because the seventy-eight-year-old grandpa, Antonio, who walked with two canes, could no longer make his way around the house. The heat was pretty rough and I ended up drinking five water bottles full within two hours or so but I could tell the family really appreciated the work that was being done. Despite my painfully deplorable attempts to communicate in a language I hardly know, it's very obvious that smiles, handshakes, and hugs are universal. Antonio thanked me as I sat next to him to rest, and I know this sounds melodramatic, but I could see in his eyes how genuinely thankful he was. His youngest grandson Tito is also the cutest little guy I've ever seen. Josh and I played with him as some of the more experienced people made concrete, and he seems to be content with his life, despite living with very few material things. Something I've noticed about the people of Guatemala is that they're so happy just to be alive. I think that says a lot about Americans as we have the highest rates of depression yet are generally considered one of the greatest countries in the world.
-Noah Bennett

Friday, March 28, 2014

Last Day in Paradise

Our last day in Guatemala started out the same as the rest of them: breakfast (pancakes and fruit with hibiscus juice) at 7 AM before loading onto our chosen transportation for the day. Today's mode was one of the El Faro trucks that was loaded with a huge stove. The stove was going to a school in a village that was a 45 minute to an hour drive away from El Faro so the children could have healthy meals without inhaling a ton of smoke. The ride was filled with bumps unlike any we had come across before, so we had to stop due to Dana getting a little motion sick. She was fine, though, and we continued on.

When we got to the school, there were no kids there despite it being a school day and time for school to be in session. It turns out that there was a football tournament in Puerto Barrios, so school in a village more than an hour away was off! The Guatemalan school system is weird. There were some young kids down the road who came to see what the silly Americans were doing at the school when there was no class. Thanks to Tony, we had some helicopter-type toys to give them, and the kids had so much fun. Two young girls took Lauren's phone and Bethany's camera and took at least a hundred photos on each device, including multiple selfies. While we were playing with the kids, Mr. Dean, Keith, and Luis installed the stove in the school's kitchen and soon we were on our merry way again, riding in the back of the truck again for an hour through bumpy roads.

After getting back to the camp, we had twenty minutes to regroup before meeting in the guys' room to sort through all the extra stuff we were leaving here at camp. Megan, the daughter of the camp's owner, helped us out along with her otter Lola. We got done pretty quickly, which left us with an hour before lunch to go swim and have fun. Lunch was beef, coleslaw, potatoes, and some homemade flatbread - really yummy. After lunch, we had even more free time; about three hours to have fun and enjoy our last day here.

Our final activity with El Faro was a boat ride on some waves to the public beach for another Kids Club. We brought a parachute and a beach ball in order to play with the kids, and helped them dance, complete puzzles, and make some crafts. We got back to El Faro around 5:30 after another "fun" boat ride, complete with me almost falling into the ocean as I tried to get out of the boat.

Dinner was at 7 tonight instead of 6:30 and was a cheeseburger and fries, the perfect food to get us back into the mood for the United States. After we all paid off our tabs at the store, we met at the conference room in the main office for our last team meeting. There was some El Faro merchandise available for us to purchase; I'm pretty sure we all bought an El Faro water bottle. Keith handed back our passports in order for us to fill out our forms for the border crossing before collecting them all again, and we were able to ask the adults anything we wanted. Our final meeting ended with some information about the flights and times we needed to make before we all said goodnight and went back to our rooms to pack. The mess that exploded into the girls room has finally been contained and shoved back into our suitcases. Our carry ons are ready, and the air conditioner is dripping water into two garbage cans as a soundtrack to our packing. We're all going to sleep well tonight, as well as on the bus ride to Honduras, the plane ride to Houston, the plane ride to Chicago, the bus ride back to Chesterton...

If you want to know about our flights tomorrow and/or keep track of any changes to them, click here for the flight to Houston and click here for the flight to Chicago. See you in less than 24 hours!

- Sereen

Thursday, March 27, 2014


Today was a "fun" day for our team. Every day so far has started with breakfast at 7am at then out at 8 to a different place to serve. Our trip coordinator set aside today as a "touristy" day. We still started at 7am but we left at 8 and took a 1 1/2 hour boat ride up a river to a natural hot springs in the jungle. We had a great time swimming below a waterfall and feeling the hot water wash over us. Some of us climbed up to the top of the waterfall to the source of the hot springs and had fun putting mud on our faces. The more adventurous folks (Cough cough Bethany, Lauren, and Keith) enjoyed falling into a hole hidden in a crevice under the waterfall. The entire area was absolutely stunning, and after our swim we got back on the boat to go to a restaurant for lunch. Most of the kids got cheeseburgers, but Lauren got a shrimp dish and Bethany got the topada, a whole crab and whole fish served in a coconut cream soup. She really enjoyed tearing apart the crab and playing with its pincers. (guess who's writing this post in third person). After lunch we got ice cream, then got back on the boat to head back to camp. The boat rides are always loads of fun, because the waves are so big that we just bounce across the top of them and go airborne sometimes. For the child like Bethany who has never been to an amusement park (not even Disney World!!), the boat rides definitely make up for the adrenaline rushes that are abound in amusement parks. When we got back to camp, we all just chillaxed until dinner. Tony and Lauren went swimming again. They are always in the water. I think they're slowly morphing into fish. I could've sworn I saw gills on Lauren the other day. It's crazy stuff man. Anywho, for dinner, we had a muy delicioso taco soup thing. Bethany of course was hungry again, (but no one else was) so she enjoyed cleaning the plates of the other team members. Who needs a dog when you have a Bethany? After dinner we had a little team rendezvous, where we heard the stories of two of the missionaries here, then played a round of hot seat. Now the hour is growing late, and the young'uns are crawling to bed. Bethany is slathered in aloe, Lauren is snoring, Sam is eating again, Dana is sharing a bed with a box of Cheezits, Sereen is relaxing in her fab 1D shirt, and Emily is showering. Merry Thursday to all, and to all a good night!