Klong Jinda

We headed about an hour outside of Thailand into our first homestay. We were immediately welcomed into our new home and quickly assimilated into a completely different lifestyle then we were used too. We had 2 host sisters (21 and 23) and a host mother and father. We shared a drive way with Matty and Seb so we ended up spending a lot of free time with them. Our nights would be filled with delicious meals that were eaten on the floor, kareoke, and walks to the beautiful temple across the street. During the day the 6 members of TBB living in our community worked at an English camp. We spend 4 hours teaching 7th and 8th grade students different phrases and vocabulary in English. We were given complete freedom to plan the lessons which proved to be a challenge. After work site we would head to the seminar space where we began our education unit. It was interesting to be learning about education while volunteering at a local school.

We spent Thanksgiving at a local mall and had dinner as a group where we exchanged what we were grateful for. Overall I really enjoyed my time in Klong Jinda and it was a really hard good bye. It made me realize how much I enjoy learning about completely novel cultures.

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Bangkok

Traveling from Guatemala to Thailand was not easy… we took 4 flights in a row, the longest being 14 hours from LAX to Manila. It was an exhausting few days and I definitely lost all sense of time. Starting Monday morning, we took 2 flights during the day and began our 14 hour flight that night. I think we skipped all of Tuesday because of time change and ended up getting to Bangkok some time on Wednesday morning. All the details of traveling ran pretty smoothly except me and Caroline decided to use our global entry to skip the customs lines but then got separated from the group for a solid 45 min. We wondered the airport for a while until we were finally reunited with everyone. After getting to Bangkok I was exhausted but forced my self to stay up to avoid jet lag. We stayed in a hotel for 4 nights where we had orientation to Thailand. We took Thai lessons and learned about the culture. I learned that Thai is an extremely difficult language to learn. The culture is very different from what I have ever experienced and I find myself comparing it to Guatemala more then the United States. In between orientation we were able to explore Bangkok. My favorite part was all of the stationary and pen stores. We were also able to go to some really good restaurants. (I am a big fan of Thai food!!!) We also took a boxing class which was a lot of fun. Our last day in Bangkok we spent going to temples which were so beautiful and colorful. It was very very hot and crowded but worth it. We also saw the famous reclining Buddha which was my favorite part of the day. After we took a boat across the river to an out door market. We had the afternoon off and we decided to go the famous backpackers street called Khao San road. I don’t think I have ever seen so many tourists in my life but it was fun to look around at all the stands. For our last dinner in Bangkok we went back to that same street and by accident made a reservation for our entire group at a club…. the music was blasting the entire time. I don’t think I have ever eaten Pad Thai in club before but I guess  there is a first for everything. Overall I am loving Thailand. Having never traveled to Asia before everything is very new and exciting!!!

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End of Tecpan/ Enrichment Week

It was sad to leave Guatemala but at the same time I was ready for a change in pace. We had  a going away ceremony with all of our host families where we were able to share our media projects. My group’s project was on waste management in Guatemala. We created a slide show of pictures we had taken in Tecpan along with a voice over in the background of our information. Our family was crying the morning we left and it was sweet to see how much they were going to miss us. After leaving Tecpan we headed out on enrichment week which is basically a week-long vacation before heading to our next core country. We spent most of the week driving to different places as we stayed in 3 different areas of Guatemala through out the week. Our first destination was Coban and from there we were able to take a day trip to Semuc Champey. It was gorgeous and we hiked to the top of a lookout spot where we were able to see the blue waterfalls. After we could swim in the water and slide down the natural water slides. After leaving Coban we went to Flores. (about a 6 hour drive) We spent our time in Flores visiting different Mayan ruins. We went to smaller ruins the first day and we were able to hike to the top of a temple to watch the sun set over the water. The next morning we woke up at 2:35 am to drive to Tikal. We walked through the dark with howler monkeys around us to watch the sunrise over the jungle. It was probably one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. We were able to watch the jungle “wake up” as the sun started coming up over the trees. Our third and final destination of enrichment week was Rio Dulce. We only stayed for 2 nights but it was really cool to see. Our hotel was right on the river and we took a boat to Livingston which is in the Carribean. It felt kinda weird to be in that part of Guatemala, we were able to see Belize from where we were eating lunch. We took a boat back to our hotel with beautiful views the entire time. The next day we drove to Guatemala City where we spent the night in a hotel before flying to Thailand. We spent our last night in Guatemala City eating at El Pinche. (Our favorite Guatemalan chain) It was a good farewell dinner but also a sad good bye.

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Acatenango Volcano Overnight hike

This past weekend we were given 4 days to plan our own trip for our Independent Student Travel. The planning process was a little stressful as we had no idea what we were doing but it all ended up working out!! There were 3 groups in total, the other 2 groups went to beaches and we thought it would be a good idea to summitt the third tallest volcano in central america. It was definitley worth it but also physically exhausting. We started our trip in Antigua which is about 1.5 hr bus ride from Tecpan. We spent one night in a really nice hostil and then got up the next morning and took a bus to the base. We quickly entered a sharp decline and I think we were all a little out of breath within the first 30 seconds. Luckly we had an amazing guide who was motivating us all the way up. He mentioned that he has hiked the Volcano over 50 times!!! The first stage of the hike was through corn fields and then there was a quick transition to the forest. There were beautiful views from the start! It was great to meet people along the trail from all around the world. After the forest we started making our way into the clouds and everything became more barren and open around us. The temperature quickly dropped and we experienced a little rain. We finally go to our camp site after 7 hours of trekking and all we could see were clouds and the erupting volcano in front of us called Fuego. We sat by the fire all night and watched the Lava run down the side of the Volcano. It was probably one of the craziest things I have ever seen! After a while the clouds began to clear and were able to get good views of the cities surrounding the base. After a few hours of sleep we got up at 4am to reach the summit. It took us about 2 more hours to get to the top in the pitch black, it was extremely steep and there was a large drop off on one side. The sand was also extremely loose which made every step that much harder. Finally when we got to the top we were able to watch the sunrise which was incredible. We walked around the entire crater and had amazing views of all of the neighboring cities and the lake that we stayed at during orientaion. As we finished up at the top we witnessed the majority of the people procedding to RUN down the volcano. We decided to give it a try and only had a few face plants along the way. We ended up running down a good portion of the Volcano which made the time pass by very quickly, it tooks us lest then 3 hours to get down.

The rest of our time was spent in Antigua relaxing at the hostil and exploring new restaurants and cafes. Although planning proved to be challenging I think it was great learning experience and everything couldn’t have gone smoother in the end!

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Tecpán!!

We have been staying in a smaller, more rural community for the past few weeks called Tecpán. I am living with a host family and Yasmin. (another student on the porgram) Our host family is incredibly sweet, it has been so much fun learning from them and how their lives differ from our own. The food has been really good- we eats lots of beans and eggs and of course tortillas! Lunch is usually the main meal and dinner is pretty light. In the mornings we have been working on a local farm. We generally weed plants, hoe, or use machetes to cut down more weeds! In the afternoons we have had seminars where we have dicussed sustainability and agriculuture in Guatemala. We are also given time to work on our media projects. My group is  focusing on waste management in Guatemala, we have been gathering information through interviews and research and working on formulating our final project.

Our weekends are generally free- last weekend we visited the organization where our host mom works called Somos Juntos, the organization focuses its efforts on under served families in Guatemala. On the property all of the houses were created from Ecobricks which compose of plastic bottles and trash. I had never seen anything like this before and it was really cool to see waste being used in such a creative way.

We have about one more week with our host families until we head off for our enrichment week in Tikal and Semuc Champey.

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Guatemala City

After a few days in Antigua we all headed to Guatemala City. We stayed in a hostel for 2 weeks with our group of 18 along with 6 other students doing a different gap year program. Our group was planning on starting our home stays in Guatemala City however there were not enough families willing to take us in. As this was an unusual situation for TBB it posed a few challenges. Living quarters were tight and it was often difficult to get “alone-time”. Our living situation received the nick name of the compound as there was a lock to get in and out.  Although living in close quarters proved to be a challenge it forced us to become even closer.

Transitioning to Guatemala City was difficult at first, I think it finally started to hit me that I was leaving my comftorable bubble of orientation. For our work site we worked with a sustainability company where we cleaned trails and finished our two weeks by visiting an elementary school where we taught kids about the environment. Outside of work site we did a driving tour of the city which was really interesting. Guatemala is separated into around 20 zones where each zone is complelety different from the next. We also went to a women’s house and learned how to make chocolate from cacoa beans. Between afternoon seminars and working in the morning we were given a large amount of free time. A majority of that time was spent walking to near by bakeries and exploring the city.

 

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Orientation/ Antigua…

We just finished our 10-day orientation a few days ago on lake Atilán. It was overall really great! It has been so much fun getting to to know everyone and it already feels like we have all known each other forever- crazy that it has only been 2 weeks. Our eco lodge was pretty isolated- we flew into Guatemala City and then took about a 4 hours bus ride to Tecpán. ( a small village near lake Atilán) The next morning we drove down to the lake and then took a 45 min boat ride to the lodge! It was insanely gorgeous surrounded my huge green mountains.

Through out orientation we had multiple seminars focusing on safety within each country as well as communication within different cultures. One of my favorite activities we have done in orientation was sharing our “rivers of life”. Every night 2-3 people would share a 15-min version of their life story. It was super awesome to learn so much about everyone in the group. Outside of scheduled seminars and activities we were given a lot of free time to explore different parts of the lake and the nearby town called San Juan. One of the highlights was  going to the Independence parade in San Juan that was full of kids and college students from nearby towns. We also did an amazing hike where we walked to the “top of the nose”. Probably one of the harder hikes I have done but definitely worth the amazing view of the lake. Some of my favorite things were to explore different stores within the town- we went to one store and learned how to make yarn from cotton. At the end of orientation we took a boat ride back to main land which was a really hard good bye. Before heading to Guatemala city we spent 2 nights in Antigua which is one of the most touristy parts of Guatemala. It was super nice and cute with lots of stores and food places. One of the days we hiked to a volcano which was really amazing. At the bottom we were flooded by people asking us if we wanted to take a “taxi”  by riding a horse up to the top. Once we got to the top we were one of the only groups there and it was gorgeous- we were even able to roast marshmallows in a volcanic crater.

Now we are in Guatemala City for 2 weeks staying at a home base with a few other students who are doing different gap year programs.  We will be getting into  a new routine pretty soon where we will be taking Spanish classes and starting to go to our work sites.

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