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Erica's Travel Adventures

Antigua Week 3

GUATEMALA | Wednesday, 30 January 2013 | Views [295]

Iximche, Chocolate Museum, Lake Atitlan, and, of course, Casa Aleluya


Interesting things from this week at the orphanage:


I found out a really awful story about one of the young girls, Fernanda, from the orphanage.  Her sponsor (an adorable old woman who recently moved to Guatemala and sponsors 3 kids at the orphanage, one of whom is Fernanda. Everyone at the orphanage loves the woman and calls her Abuela, which means grandma.  She seems to have really done a lot for the orphanage community).  Anyways, Fernanda must be about 2 ½ or 3 years old and cant speak work walk.  She doesn’t crawl but scoots around on her butt.  Abuela told me she sponsored Fernanda and that she had come along way so I asked her what her disabilities were.  She told me that Fernanda was born very premature and was found on the sidewalk still inside of the placenta.  It’s a miracle in and of itself that Fernanda is even alive.  Abuela has bought a lot of things for Fernanda like good shoes and works with her as often as she can to be able to walk.


On a lighter note, I was sitting with a few girls the other day and asked them what my name was, and they all replied with “Gringa.”  I told them that isn’t my actual name and they looked fascinated.  I think they forgot that not every white girl is named gringa, and that is just what they call us…


I am getting to know the staff decently well, which is nice.  All of the women that work there are about my age (except for the woman in charge) and are all very sweet.  One of them is studying to be a nurse and works on top of that as the cook for the younger kids at Casa Aleluya.  She works really hard.  Every day before lunch I go into the kitchen to help set the tables and cover the plates with napkins so no bugs get into the kids’s food.  I love going in to talk to Karla (the cook) and practice my Spanish with her.  There is another young woman who also helps in the kitchen who has a 1-year-old son.  She and her husband both grew up at the orphanage and now he teaches English so their son actually speaks more English than Spanish.  It’s nice to see a success story when there are so many sad ones as well.


We finished painting the girls’ room, and the see saws this week and have started to draw on the walls in the boys’ room (by we I mean the artistically gifted, so I will just paint inside of the lines eventually).


The kids are getting to know me and the other volunteers a lot better and are starting to trust us and listen to us.  Before when we asked them to share they ignored us.  Now they only ignore us half of the time (progress!).  They get so excited when we get there to play with them.  I love it.




Iximxhe are Mayan Ruins that are only about an hour and a half away from Antigua so I just went for a quick afternoon trip with a few other girls.  On the way to the ruins we passed through some pretty awful looking towns.  The houses were old and beat up and don’t look sturdy at all.  There were so many stray dogs wandering around.  It was really awful to see.  The ruins aren’t completely excavated because there isn’t a lot of funding for it, but what’s there is very cool.  We started in a museum full of artifacts.  It had a mini replica of what the ruins looked like with lots of plazas and temples and housing areas.  There were also various objects like a grinding stone and some vase like ceramics. 


When we left the museum we walked right out into the ruins.  We saw the field where they used to play a game with rings and a ball and the losing team would be sacrificed.  We also saw huge stone platforms where sacrifices used to take place.  There were a ton of temples and areas where houses used to stand.  The Spanish burned down the town in the 1500’s, and you can still see the burn marks on the stone of what is still standing.  There seemed to be a lot of communal areas and very small housing units.  We walked through the ruins to a ceremonial area that is still used by the indigenous people today.  There were some candles that were lit and flower petals and fruit left as sacrifices.  Our guide told us that they often do these things when someone is trying to get pregnant, going to be married, is sick, etc.  It was surreal to see a little piece of where the Mayan people used to live.  I love that the sites are still used by people and still kept sacred so many years later and after so much persecution. 


Chocolate Museum 


The chocolate museum was so much fun!  I went with a few other volunteers and there were a couple of other people in our tour as well.  Everyone wore an apron and a chef’s hat.  We started off learning about the history of chocolate.  We went through the process, how it is made and how it went from a drink to food.  We got to do the entire process (more or less) ourselves, starting with roasting the beans and peeling the shell off.  We grinded up the beans into a paste with the same sort of stone and bowl the Mayans would have used.  We made two different chocolate drinks (both delicious but a little bitter).  Then we got to create our own chocolate concoctions and add fruit or nuts etc. into molds to take home with us. Not gonna lie, I did a phenomenal job (at least I think so).    I made a bunch of little chocolates with orange in some and almonds in the other, and then I made a chocolate bar with cinnamon, macadamia nuts, and orange pieces.  I also added milk and sugar to all of it to make milk chocolate.  I was highly impressed with my skills.  It was probably the most delicious experience I have yet to have in this country.

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