By Hanna McKee
This week kicked off the official start of our three-month journey in Central America! After spending our first few nights in a beautiful hostel in Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala, getting to know each other and the itinerary, we loaded ourselves into a minibus, said goodbye to our brief home-away-from-home, and made the trek to our first destination. The car ride was filled with nervous hearts, a few queasy stomachs, and many an off-key note as we sang along to some of our favorite songs. Beyonce, it turns out, is pretty much universal.
We spent the first week of our trip at La Escuela de la Montaña, a small Spanish language school located in a rural mountain town, 15 minutes away from the nearest city. The most interesting and culturally challenging part of our week was our homestays, for sure. We each ate meals individually with a family living in the town, none of whom spoke any English. Many of our houses had dirt floors and no door, with only a small curtain separating the rooms and keeping the chickens out of the house. None of us quite knew what to expect from the experience, but I can say that it involved a lot of tortillas. Annie, being from New Mexico, was accustomed to a tortilla-heavy diet, but for the rest of us, it was a bit of an adjustment. We have a running tortilla count that I will include at the bottom of this blog post, but for now, all you readers at home can guess how many we ate in total this week. Hint: It’s more than you think.
One of the highlights of our week was playing a soccer game with a local team in Colomba. Talia and Angelo both killed it, one being a soccer star from home, and the other having absolutely zero soccer experience and instead using his gymnastics background to crush the competition with fancy footwork. With the help of Hannah and Julian, our Overseas Educators (OE’s for short), I´m happy to report that we won the game.
In an effort to escape the heat of the gym, Chloe, Kaitlin, Juliette, Maddie and I went out into the streets of Colomba to do some grocery shopping. Fun fact: When shopping for fruits in Guatemala, you should try to stick to fruits with a peel, such as avocados or oranges, as they are safer to consume. Another fun fact: If you buy a Pepsi in Colomba, it will most likely be poured into a plastic bag with a straw. Who knew?
Overall, our first week was a success. We met many amazing people within the community, and fully immersed ourselves in Spanish with four-hour, one-on-one classes each day. We learned a lot about each other and celebrated our first Carpe birthday (Talia!) with a piñata. We left La Escuela de la Montaña on Sunday morning, feeling bittersweet, yet ready for the next part of our adventure.
And don’t think I forgot about the tortilla count…
With a rough average of 12 tpd (tortillas per day) and 14 members of our group, our tortilla count so far comes to 1,176 tortillas! This is, of course, a rough estimate, but expect all of us to come back with a few more pounds than we left with.
Talia taking on the competition.
Group photo at the Mountain School.
Angelo and his fancy footwork.
Group dinner finishing up orientation!
Getting to know each other during orientation in Xela.
Getting ready to play!