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Pana

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Hi friends & family!

Me AGAIN! Looks like I am making up for all of the muscle work I was unable to help with in the aldeas. Last you heard from us, we were wrapping up our time in Coban and saying goodbye to the monastery. We headed out just after breakfast yesterday (Sunday) morning and ran into our first road block (literally) when we could not exit the city. The Coban Marathon was taking place and, after multiple attempts, there was no way out of Coban until 2 hours later. While this could have made for bad attitudes and frustration, we made the most out of the situation. We left the bus and decided to become the most passionate cheerleaders Coban has EVER seen. Two hours and lots of dancing and cheering later, we were basically sponsored by two different booths and had made our potentially disastrous morning into one of the most fun two hours of our trip. After hopping back on the bus and saying goodbye to our lovely sponsors, we took on our road trip. Making great time, it seemed like nothing could possible go wrong. We made it through Guatemala City and were about thirty minutes out from our final destination when our bus got a flat tire in the middle of a few Guatemalan farms. This was another instance that could have killed our positivity but it honestly ended up being hilarious. While not ideal, we were helped by four gracious Guatemalan men who made the tire replacement possible. An hour later, we hopped back on our luxurious bus and made our way into Panajachel. By the time we made it into the city it was dark. We put our bags down and headed out for some dinner. Needless to say we were all considerably tired and hungry. This morning, we woke up bright and early to get after the day. The ladies grabbed coffee and RJ had “the best breakfast of his life” in the hostel’s restaurant, which he is still talking about twelve hours later. For the most part, we all did our own thing for a little while before meeting back up to hop on an adorable boat. Lake Atitlán is hugged by multiple towns around the lake that all have different reputations so Jaclyn and Jimmy had a few picked out for us to visit. After the first short leg of our boat ride, we arrived in the “hipster town.” We docked and set out to explore. There were countless adorable shops and flowers and greenery everywhere. We explored a little and some of us stopped into the cutest coffee shop to grab coffee and smoothies. Again, most of us split up and took the “choose your own adventure” route with small groups. The consistent sentiment, however, was that none of us could stop smiling. The sun was shining on the town and we were all feeling particularly grateful for our setting. It’s hard to do our first stop justice but I will summarize by saying that all of our hearts were VERY full. After hopping back on our lovely boat, we headed to the next town. Apparently dubbed the “party town” but we have concluded that it is likely named that way because of all of the backpackers we encountered there. Most of us sat down for some lunch overlooking the lake but Leah and Laura decided to take advantage of a nearby kayak rental and do some exploring at sea. So, if you see the top of their legs looking a little burnt upon their arrival home, you’ll know it was all in good spirits. After some light shopping near the dock. Our boat took us to our final destination, the “shopping town.” This name was particularly appropriate and we all set out to find some souvenirs. Mid-way through shopping, it began to pour. And I am not being melodramatic. However, our boat extraordinaire, Eddie, got us out of there without much issue other than some tension between Katherine and a saleswoman. Our ride home quickly provided some relief from the rain and by the time we made it back to Panajachel, the downpour had essentially commenced. We continued some light shopping, to RJ’s dismay, and eventually rendezvoused at our hostel. To summarize, we are feeling so so so happy to be in Panajachel. Our time in Coban was amazing but having this day to relax and take in Guatemala has been incredible. We are all, I can’t say this enough, so grateful for your continued support. Additionally, for the support of Jaclyn and Jimmy. Without them none of us would have experienced any of this. They have supported us throughout our trip with guidance, love, and relative ease. I think this is the final blog update seeing as this is our last full day in this beautiful country. We have loved every minute of it and hope to return to Guat soon. Thanks for keeping up with our adventures, we can’t wait to see you!

All the love,

Greta & all of the Guat crew!

 

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Abre Mis Ojos Señor.

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Hi friends & family!

It’s me again! I’m sure you all are very concerned about our delayed Guat update but, to be frank, we have been pretty distraught about leaving Coban and our new best friends at the monastery. To begin our last day in Coban, a few members of our group started out the day with morning prayer with the monks and then we all joined up for breakfast. For breakfast we ate some delicious eggs courtesy of the grateful aldea that we delivered water filters to! After breakfast, we all got into the clothes that we had to accept would get ruined and sang a few songs to get into the right mindset. Setting out, we were all feeling a mixture of exhaustion and sadness to be heading to our final aldea. I think God had heard our melodramatic complaints about the beating sun and humid conditions the last time we “moved earth” and decided to cut us a break with some clouds and occasional light rain. This time we had bags instead of buckets! It is up for debate which one is better. You will have to ask your child when they arrive home! Now, to be fair, we had already been warned that we would be moving earth again today. However, we did not anticipate that we would eventually be banished to the soccer fields by the strong men of the aldea after it became clear that their process would probably be expedited with our absence. No hard feelings though, they were nice about it and they were definitelyright. After a few rounds of MUDDY soccer, a couple defective bottles of bubbles, and several sticks of chalk later, Padre Antonio was ready to begin mass. The front of the church was adorned with altar pieces and strikingly colorful floral bouquets which had only grew in number since our arrival. These beautiful flowers were almost embarrassingly opposite to the condition that our outfits were in at this point. Still, Padre gave a wonderful mass, most of which we admittedly enjoyed from the outside to escape some of the STRONG fumes from the incense. At the end of mass, he invited us up to sing for the community. We have probably sung “Marvelous Light” and “Open the Eyes of my Heart Lord” a few too many times by now. There is also a strong likelihood that a grainy video of our performance will find its way to YouTube at some point thanks to all of the videoing done by the aldea community. So watch out for that! After saying a hard goodbye to our last round of gifted fruit and tostadas and another incredible aldea of loving people, we made our way to the glamorous aldea bathroom and then back on the bus! I am not being dramatic when I say that we genuinely booked it to the showers. After some scrubbing most of the dirt came off of all of us and some of us took a celebratory trip to a burrito shop down the street. My order, a chicken quesadilla, is 15Q or roughly 2 US dollars. I add on pico, verde sauce, and TONS of pineapple. Quite the steal if you ask me. We made it back from our burrito adventure in time for our second mass of the day. This one was lead by Padre Carlos, another lovely monk that we have grown very fond of during our time at the monastery. He looks deceivingly serious but he has a big heart and cares deeply about carrying out God’s will in Coban. Mass was wonderful and made even better by the fact that we had our last dinner with the monks immediately following. We ate tons of food and even got to show off our incredible voices again. We performed “Open the Eyes of my Heart Lord” en Español, Touch the Sky, as well as Hallelujah. The latter was highly improvised thanks to a tip from Edgar, another monk, that Hallelujah is a personal favorite of Padre Carlos. I can safely say that, while we all might have been apprehensive about our small group, it has proved to be an amazing way to experience Guat. We have built incredible friendships with the people of the aldeas as well as even deeper mutual appreciation and respect with the monks than we could have imagined. Sorry for this novel but it is hard to put such a transformative day into a single update. I hope this can give you a taste of our last day in Coban. We can’t wait to make it to Panajachel but we do so with heavy hearts.

Lots of love,

Greta

Filtering Out Expectations

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Hola hola coca cola!

We woke up this morning to the sound of rain pelting down on the metal roof over our bunkhouse. We then rolled out of bed for another silent breakfast. Once that was done, we loaded up the bus and headed off to the aldea. After a few short naps, some sing alongs, and a beautiful rendition of the Moana soundtrack by yours truly, the bus came to a stop at the bottom of a dirt road. There was a pickup truck waiting for us there, and we soon learned that the water filters had priority over us humans. While the truck drove to the aldea to drop off the filters, we waited at the bottom with Stacy for about an hour for it to come back and get us. A few games of Egyptian Rat Slap later, we piled into the truck and experienced what we can only describe as the Guatemalan version of Valley Fair. Once we made it to the aldea, we got to work assembling the filters. Apparently this was quite a spectacle, as the whole community looked upon us eagerly. Finally, it was time for the big ceremony. We formed a line and handed the filters to joy filled community members as their names were called. This was an emotional experience for many. These people had never had filtered water before, so many tears were shed and hugs were given. Once everyone had their filter, we were sat down at a table in the back of the church where we were fed fresh fruit with honey and tostadas with beans and queso fresca. With full bellies and full hearts, we hit la cancha (the soccer field) for a quick game before we had to head back. While some were tearing it up on the field, others were painting nails and applying temporary tattoos. Father Antonio is now sporting a pretty sick cat tat on his wrist. Soon enough, it was time to get back on our rollercoaster like pickup truck and begin the journey home. Through these bus rides, we all have come to realize how fun it can be to try and settle silly debates without turning to google right away. This whole trip has made us realize how much we take for granted, like just spending quality time together or having clean water. Seeing the emotions on all of these peoples’ faces was a big eye opener for us, and shared a message that we can hopefully take home and continue to remember throughout the course of our crazy lives in the States. Coming into a trip like this for the second time, it is very hard not to have expectations. One of our main goals has been to leave these expectations behind and focus on what is truly in front of us. As we have been here with a smaller group, doing different things in different aldeas, we have learned that each experience we’ve been lucky enough to be a part of the past two years has had something unique to offer. Leaving these expectations behind has allowed us to be open to all the lessons this trip has taught us. Tomorrow is our last day in the aldeas. We are excited to experience a new part of Guatemala in Panajachel but sad our time here in Coban is almost over. As always, we love the comments so keep em coming (:

Paz y amor,

Molly & Sarah

We. (Not Us and Them.)

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Hi Family, Friends, Dogs, Cats, Cockroaches, Stacy, Etc…..

 

Following up from where we left off in the last blog, we arrived to the monastery and were treated with a delicious dinner that consisted of homemade pizza and the delicious banana bread again. Word in the monastery is they might give us the recipe before we head home. We then gathered for large group where had to sing the songs at a couple of levels higher due to the enormous downfall of rain on our metal roof. After large group, we went to bed where we luckily encountered no cockroaches. The next morning, we woke up and the monks insisted that we have a “rest day.” We happily accepted their suggestion, and made our focus today on the monks and the people of Guatemala. The goal being that we turn the idea of “us and them” to “we.” Some of the group prayed with the monks in the morning. Then we all headed over to enjoy silent breakfast with them. After breakfast we were given the option to hang out on the balcony and play card games/sing church songs or to sleep for a little longer. Luckily given the rest day, we were able to enjoy morning large group on the balcony with a view of the surrounding mountains. Next we went to the neighboring town of Carcha. There we visited the highest church in the city where we took many pictures, according to Jimmy it was around 800. After our photo shoot we headed to the town square and indulged in some sugar bread, ice cream, and other treats. Quickly, we returned to the monastery to eat lunch with the monks. Axel (a monk in training and a “guat crush” for many of us on the trip) lead us in prayer which we weren’t sure what he was saying but anything coming out of his mouth sounds good. Anyways, we then adventured off to the river to swim by multiple mini waterfalls. There were some locals who were eager to show off their diving, flipping, and other interesting jumps. RJ decided to join the boys (he’s had a lot of girl time) and participated in some of the flips and dives. ** no one was harmed during this time ** Following that refreshing swim we headed to the mall in Cóban where we indulged in taco bell, Chinese, McDonalds, candy, and other various foods. With full and happy bellies, we returned to the monastery, put on official Guat clothing and joined the monks for afternoon prayer. Once again although we weren’t exactly sure what they saying/praying we were very grateful that we were able to spend more time with them and experience their traditions. Father Antonio had marimba players come into the monastery to play for us. The musicians consisted of lots of very cute young boys ranging from the ages of 9 to 12 wearing tuxedos and gelled hair. They were also a big hit for us ladies. Greta was courted into dancing with Father Antonio which she gave it her best effort, but ended the dance by saying “lo siento Padre.” To say the least Greta needs some dance lessons. During dinner (which obviously included the banana bread since we have commented so many times to the monks about how much we love it) the musicians continued to play. Even after all of our thank yous, Father Antonio insisted that the musicians continued to play for us after dinner. Although we never got the chance to dance with the rest of the monks it was an amazing experience we are thankful for everything they do for us. Tomorrow we are off to deliver water filters. We are so excited for what is to come in the next couple of days continuing to build relationships with the people of Guatemala! Again, we are very thankful for the love and support from back home.

 

PS – Happy Birthday Molly DeVoe we’re sorry Quinn forgot :/ but we didn’t and if you were here we would’ve celebrated with you.

 

Much love,

Ellie M and Leah

 

Hola amigos y familias!

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After our long day yesterday, we all decided to jump in the freezing showers and hit the town. The Ellies and Ally tried using their Spanish to buy some Emergen-C but it really did not work out so hot, no Emergen-C for us L. Thank God for our only male peer, RJ, for his gift in directions to guide us safely back for a nice dinner. This dinner was what everyone needed. Some fresh guacamole, and for dessert, the yummiest banana bread on the planet. After some food coma, we all came together to sing some songs, and reminisce on our past year in college; discussing the highs and lows. Heading off to bed, all of us thought we would be safe from the insects of the world, however we thought too fast. Little did we know two HUGE cockroaches were about to pounce. Once Jaclyn hit the lights, they were waiting on Katherine and Leah’s bed for them. This then lead to the demise of the cockroaches, thanks to our strong, courageous, beautiful leader, Jaclyn. Waking up this morning was brutal for all of us, those stronger than others woke up early for a nice prayer with the monks. We all then quickly shoved some food down and went on our way. This ride was a nice extra snooze for the most of us, gearing up for our long, hot day ahead. In order to make our way to this aldea, we had to book our bus up the steepest and windiest hills. Props to our main man Jugo for being a beast behind the wheel. Once we arrived, we all were astonished by the view on top of the mountain, but we quickly put to work. Our mission of the day: paint the whole inside and outside of the church. This was a challenge, especially for the painters inside due to the white paint not showing up so great. We were greeted by a few Stacys, but they were more timid today. All of the people in the aldea were very kind and welcoming to us. We were treated to some sa-sa (delicious in K’iche’) fruit, tostadas, and a beautiful tarantula that is no longer with us today. There was an abundant amount of children in the aldea that were willing to play along with us in a fun game of soccer. They were always eager to play chase while we were working. After the church was done being painted, we were able to experience mass with all of the people. We witnessed a baptism, marimba playing, and all of them giving gifts to the church. They were all so gracious, still giving despite the small amount that they actually have. We also got to show off our voices and sang two songs at the end of the service. Our ride home was a little more of a squeeze because of some extra passengers and all the gifts we had to bring back. All we can say right now is that we are very excited for our dinner tonight and eager for our future endeavors this trip!

Love,

The Ellies & Katherine

 

Day 1 – Meet Stacy

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Hi family & friends!

 

As some of you may already know, if you are lucky enough to have kids that will respond to your texts, we arrived in the beautiful Guatemala midday yesterday. After a long afternoon of driving, ice cream stops, and lots of napping, we made it to the city of Coban and were warmly welcomed by our incredible accommodating friends at the monastery. We had a quick dinner, regrouped with a few songs, and talked about our expectations and hopes for this trip. Some of us were looking to take time away from the hyperconnected environment in the states, others hoping to unwind after a long semester at school, and most of us were in agreement that we really want to focus on being intentional and “in the moment.” We all essentially crashed last night and indulged in a much needed full night of sleep before our first day of service in Guat. After a quick breakfast we headed out for the aldea. The drive was hilly and lush with coffee fields and greenery. In addition to being greeted by some of the gracious members of the aldea’s community, we were also greeted with copious amounts of a mysterious moth-like insect that we lovingly dubbed “Stacy.” Now I can’t speak for everyone but the overall sentiment was that once Stacy left we were able to direct our focus MUCH better on what the aldea needed help with. “Moving earth” was the mission for the day and we definitely felt it. Most of us tried our hands at a few different jobs; between using the pickaxe to turn a hill into moveable dirt, shoveling the dirt into buckets, carrying the aforementioned buckets up the hill and into the church, and eventually dumping them out. Some of us better than others, “others” is mostly reflective of myself as my job pertained to catching the empty buckets coming back from the church if that tells you anything. While sometimes this kind of work can be particularly challenging since you don’t get to see the final result, the community was so kind and kept us going with fruit and homemade tostadas. Between their hospitality and our unparalleled muscles, I can confidently say that we moved some earth today. We are unbelievably excited to see what else Guat has in store for our group. However, more than anything all of us can’t express enough how grateful we are for our incredible support systems back home for making it possible for all of us to come. We could also not even begin to express our gratitude for St. Pats for providing us with the opportunity to learn from such warm and accommodating communities of people. Also, don’t worry, all of your kids are taking their vitamins, applying ample sunscreen, drinking water, and taking note of all of your precautionary instructions. We actually listen sometimes! We are sending all of our love from Coban. Please keep us in your prayers as we continue to embark on this journey (particularly Jaclyn and Jimmy since they are kindly showing us the ropes and doing it with ease and grace!)

 

All the love,

 

Greta

(love you, mom & dad!)

Doubting Thomas

Delivery Day 1 – Check.

Fr. Antonio traveled with us out to the aldeas to help facilitate our filter delivery. Fr. Antonio has filter requests from communities that date back years. The five communities we delivered to yesterday had been waiting for five years – waiting five years for clean water.

We begun our time in our first aldea with mass. The marimba filled the church. The woman were dressed in colorful and intricate handwoven blouses. The children ran up and down the aisles, and the smell of incense wafted throughout. The mass began in Q’eqchi, and I was reminded of one of the many reasons I love our Church. Although far different from the sights, sounds, and smells of St. Pat’s, it was familiar. And just like that, we were connected to a people we had never met before, we were connected through Christ.

On Sunday we heard the story of Doubting Thomas. It’s a story I think many of us can relate to. We’ve had times in our lives that there have been doubts, our faith has been tested, and we struggle to believe. However when I’m here in Guatemala, in the aldeas of Guatemala, the story doesn’t seem so relatable.

I don’t have any doubts.

I can hear Christ in the monks’ morning prayers, the marimba, and the many birds in the morning. I can see Christ in the smiles of the children, the mountains that never cease to take my breath away, and the flowers the communities place at their altars. I can feel Christ in the hands that reach out to share a sign of peace, the hugs from the families that receive a filter, and the soft breeze that wanders throughout the monastery.

We say again and again throughout the Easter season “Cristo ha rescuitado” – “Christ has risen” and He has. Christ has risen, and he’s living in the aldeas of Coban.

A very sincere “thank you” to those who have donated and supported this Coban Water Project, and gave clean water, health, and hope to over 300 families yesterday.

We’re off to do the same for 200 more.

La paz sea con ustedes – Peace be with you

Jaclyn.

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