Hola familias y amigos!

WOW what a week it’s been! We arrived safely in Guatemala City on Tuesday and were greeted at the airport by our two new hosts, Alfredo and Ricard, who picked us up in their incredible yellow VW van. They took us to a three-story building in the heart of the city, the home of their organization G-22. The first floor was the hostel area, where we would stay. The second floor had a common space where we gathered for presentations and other activities. The top floor was Alfredo’s apartment, which we got a tour of on Wednesday night. When creating G-22, Alfredo wanted to focus on sustainability and conservation in the community, but started with his own home. All of his furniture and décor is made of local products or by local people. Each appliance is energy-efficient: he uses a French press instead of a coffee maker and hangs a light on the wall which can be unplugged and moved from room to room, only illuminating the areas he needs. He saves all access rainwater and dishwater for flushing the toilet or watering plants. A solar panel on the roof warms the water in the shower. A jug of water is used to wash his hands so he can clearly see how much water is being used. He also uses cross-ventilation to cool down his apartment during the day. Through G-22, he is working to incorporate these money-saving and energy-saving ideas into homes around the country. Alfredo and Ricard also created an organization called Biciudad that has worked with Guatemala City in creating bike lanes throughout the city. Their most recent project is creating a brick made of <10% cement and >90% natural materials, which can cut down the cost of building a house by 50%. To learn more about G-22 and all of the incredible things they’re doing, visit their website, www.g-22.org.

Okay, back to all of the awesome things we did this week. On Wednesday morning, we were given a tour of the city on the way to the market, where groups of two were given 20 quetzales ($3) each to buy new and mysterious fruits for lunch. Then we walked to a park that has a life-size 3-D map of Guatemala and had a picnic. Many of us couldn’t resist buying giant avocadoes and pineapples, but we also got some delicious new fruits, like zapote, chicozapote, anoa, bananos chiquitos, and guayaba. Many of us indulged in tons of fresh tortillas topped with avocado, zapote and salt – our new favorite meal. On Friday, we took an hour to journal and reflect at the botanical gardens, a nearby sanctuary in the middle of the city, full of exotic trees and plants. Our favorite was a large tree that looked perfectly normal at the bottom, but halfway up, the branches turned into cacti. We each spent this hour alone, which Alfredo pointed out was one hour alone out of the nearly 2,000 hours we’ll spend together on this trip. After, we had a workshop on organic paints and displayed our artistic talents with pictures painted with different coffees, beets, and other plants. On our last day, we utilized the beautiful bike lanes across the city and rode to a shopping center with an incredible bookstore so we could all stock up for the last half of the trip. After, we went to a Mayan museum located between two universities. It was absolutely incredible to see all of the intact relics from so long ago, found on the land we’ll be staying on for the next month.

I have not talked enough about how incredible and thoughtful our hosts were. They were constantly providing us with snacks (which is huge, because our group loves to eat). When we ran out of laundry detergent, Alfredo left immediately and bought more. Any issues or problems we had were resolved instantly. They went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable. They cooked insanely delicious food every night – especially Alfredo’s perfected salad that we couldn’t get enough of. To top of their week of generosity, they pulled out pumpkin and apple pies for dessert on Halloween. We were so incredibly thankful, and showed it by inhaling both pies. To continue the celebration, we all participated in a 15-minutes or less costume competition. After, we had Movie Night #4 (Night 1: Aladdin; Night 2: Conservation Documentary; Night 3: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and watched Inception while eating way too many Hershey bars, Snickers, and Reese’s (thanks for the candy Kevin!). It was the perfect end to our short week in the city. We all learned so much and had such a wonderful time with our amazing hosts! Now we’re headed off to La Escuela de las Montanas, in a small town on a former coffee plantation, to continue with some Spanish classes.

Hasta pronto!

Bilbo (aka Jenna)

P.S. S/O to Roty.

And the pics she wanted are attached.

Thanks so much!

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