Author Archive for Richelle Kasten

Day 6: Fresh Chicken and Market Madness

Today, we made a Guatemalan traditional dish from scratch with a local woman in one of the coffee co-ops: Pepian con Pollo.

To start the dish, you take a live chicken (yes, fully alive and moving!), put it head down into a metal cone over a empty sink (just enough so its head is peaking out at the end), and proceed to cut its throat to kill it. Although we had some eager travelers in our group that wanted to be the ones to kill the chicken, the woman did it herself, but in a way where anyone who wanted to watch could. Due to a weak stomach, blogger Richelle did not watch it, buy Austyn was up front witnessing it happen. After killing it, we had to wait for the blood to empty out.

Following this, we were told to place the chicken – feet first – into a boiling pot of water in order to loosen up its feathers in order to pick them off. Finally, we butchered the chicken and threw it in a pot to cook.

While waiting for the chicken to cook, we sliced and diced many fresh vegetables – carrots, red peppers, onions… you name it! All to be put into the dish. We de-seeded dried chili peppers and put that on a clay slab (which is only used when making this dish) with other fresh vegetables to roast – all of this would then be smashed and blended into the sauce.

After prepping all of these aspects of the dish, we were shown how to form corn tortilla shells! These were served with every meal we had, and they are made fresh for every meal, even if there are left over from the meal before – talk about delicious!

After about 2 to 3 hours of prepping for the dish, it finally all came together and we ate our wonderful work for lunch.

Following lunch, we drove to Antigua for some free time to shop and a market scavenger hunt for our dinner than night! We split up into teams to find certain items in the food market and were given 100Q (about $13 USD). We were all successful in our findings – most not using any more than about 50Q in order to get our supplies! It is amazing how far money can go here, and how well we all have gotten with bartering prices with sellers!

We went back to our house in San Miguel Escobar to prepare the food we had bought – dinner consisted of loaded nachos, papaya and mango smoothies, fresh guacamole, and fried plantains with chocolate for dessert. Overall, it was a wonderful day, and everyone was happy with their personal gift purchases.

Pictures will be uploaded sometime on Saturday when we are back in the States.

Best,

ASB Guatemala :)

Day 4 & 5: Dirt and Art

Sorry for the lack of a post yesterday – both of us bloggers were beat from a long day of construction working and it just happen to slip both of their tired minds.

On day four, we spent all of our day building a roasting patio and a fermentation tank for a family in the coffee co-op through De La Gente. Roasting patios are used to dry coffee beans from their “honey” coat once they are shelled from their fruit over-coat – the families literally lay out the beans in a single layer on a flat, concrete ground, and let it dry and roast in the hot Guatemalan sun (fun fact: which is typically at a UV index of 10/12). The fermentation tanks, which are still somewhat a mystery to our group, are used in the process of processing coffee beans – it makes the process easier and quicker.

As for construction, we did it all – sifted rock and sand, mixed concrete by hand (well, on the ground in a large pile and using shovels), dug trenches, laid cement and bricks, cut cement blocks in half with a machete… you name it, we most likely did it during one of the two days of construction working.

It is amazing to see the hard work and dedication that these coffee growers put into their lives – what tired us out in a matter of hours, are what these people do everyday… sometimes for more than 10 hours a day at a time. As a group, we reflected on how their lives and work ethics beat ours tenfold. We typically see “work” as simply being busy with many major or minor tasks, but here, their work is physically driven and demanding, and can often be seen as tedious by us (ie. sorting coffee beans for size and shape, mixing many loads of concrete, sifting through a wheel-barrel or two worth of rock/sand with hand sifters…).

Reflecting back on day four and the physical hard labor that it demanded, here are some words we used to describe our experience for far in Guatemala: Familia (family), opportunity, humble, exciting, grateful, commitment, eye-opening, smile, salsa (dancing), journey. These words continue to follow us throughout this trip, and we will continuously use these ideas to reflect upon coming back to the States.

On day five, we started the morning out finishing up the construction projects that we started the day before. Although tired and sore, we finished with flying colors, and the second day seemed all the easier (and quicker) because we now knew how to do things on our own.

We got to spend a lot of time (two days!) with this one family, and it was so great getting to know them, and so much more about the Guatemalan culture. Although broken translation at times, we have two individuals on our trip who are able to speak Spanish and help keep conversation. Also, in this family there are two sons that are learning English, so conversing with them was easier – these people in either group tended to be the ‘middle man’ for many questions and answers. We sang “Happy Birthday” to one of the sons, Julio, who turned 21 today (3/23/2016); he was so excited :)

After lunch, our group split up in two three groups to go work with local artisans around San Miguel. Half of the group went to work with artisans who did wood and metal work, and the other half worked with traditional textiles to make purses/bags. In a later post, we will further elaborate on these workshops – as of right now, not everyone in home, and both us bloggers went to the same artisan workshop.

Overall, the past two days have been physically intensive, interactive, culturally immersive, and exhausting. Everyone has burnt skin in one place or another, and we have found out that getting cement off of your skin is incredibly hard (and that it turns GREEN on your skin because it reacts with the chemicals in sun screen).

Stay tuned for our post about the artisan workshops and what they had to offer each group! The next post with be of photos from the last two days of construction work.

Best,

ASB Guatemala :)

Day 2: Star Wars and Sandwiches

We are alive and well, and FINALLY in Guatemala!

The day day started out early catching a 7:10am shuttle back to the airport for a 10:30am direct flight. The plane ride was a little bumpy… literally because of turbulance… but all was well because we got to watch the new Star Wars movie during the flight. And we get sandwiches! Overall, pretty sweet ride.

We arrived in Guatemala City, Guatemala, around 12:30pm their time, and that’s only where the fun had just begun.

First, we took an insane bus ride to Antiqua up a winding, busy, narrow mountain side – motion sickness was definitely present for most of us.

Next, we ate a fresh lunch at a place called “Café Sky”. The food was BEYOND amazing, to say the least! All of it was freah from local farmers, and prepared in a safe way for our adapting American stomachs. Austyn, as well as a handful of the others, had quesadillas… “it was so incredibly fresh! I can’t ever go back to Taco Bell!” Nicole and Molly shared the most decked out nacho’s we have ever seen. And the salads were so fresh it’s almost as if the ingredients were picked right then – acovados have never tasted this good.

After that we tried to exchange our money at the banks in Antiqua… but because it’s Holy Week, and more importantly Psalms Sunday, nothing was open past 3:00pm, so we could not exchange our money. However, we did get time to scavenge the market! While in Antiqua, we were able to witness the traditional “carpet making” (photo attached below) and a ceremonial parade prosessional – the parade floats, for lack of a better term, are carried on the shoulders of men. This tradition is passed down through family generations, and is incredibly sacred. Followed by a full band, it was wonderful to get a snapshot at the culture as we did today.

Finally, our night ended with dinner with a local co-op farmers and his family. Timoteo, the father of the farmer family, is a coffee farmer who has been working with coffee growing for 26 years. He has been a part of the co-op here for 11 years. However, Timoteo has been working on a farm with his family all of his life – after he finished fourth grade, his family could no longer afford to send him to school, so he helped on the farm. Timoteo has lived his whole life working so that we could afford for his children (5) to go to school. One daugther is a school teacher, another daughter is an accountant, his only son is a carpenter and coffee grower, and he did not talk about his other children. The way a family functions here is completely different than how it is back home… culture sure has shocked us.

Tomorrow, we will spend all day hiking, picking, and processing coffee with another local co-op farmer (who just happens to be Timoteo’s brother!).

Thanks for checking in with us!

ASB Guatemala :)

 

*sorry, could not upload all of the photos for tonight for some reason – we will try again tomorrow for this post.

Day 1: Travel… and then some.

Today was the day we set off from campus to begin our wonderful adventure! Or at least that is what we hoped… our first flight out of Chicago was delayed for 3.5 hours, then our flight out of Atlanta, GA, left the terminal without our group before we landed in Atlanta.

The realization of not being able to arrive in Guatemala when expected shocked, startled, and annoyed many… which can be expected… but we all supported each other and talked out/vented our frustrations

However, here are some great things about today:

1) There was a group of about 30 Navy men, fresh from basic, that flew with us out of Chicago… that was the safest-feeling flight for all of us, to say the least.

2) We played spoons in the airport and learned how to play a new card game from Danielle (called “European War”) while waiting for what would happen next when missing the flight.

3) Awesome hotel rooms, (almost) EACH of us with our own bed :). And we ordered some really good pizza. AANNDDD there is a (“questionable”) whirlpool at the hotel that we may of may not go in.

At this exact moment, we are at a hotel provided for us by the airline and will FINALLY be leaving in a directly flight to Guatemala at about 10:30am. Wish us better luck in our travels tomorrow!

Best,

ASB Guatemala :)

Photo attached: playing spoons at the airport while we waited for further instructions.

20160319_195839

Meet the ASB Guatemala 2016 group!

Hello friends and family!

Yo yooo, my name is Richelle and I’m one of the bloggers for this AMAZING trip our group will be going on! Throughout the week that we are in the mysterious and beautiful Guatemala, Austyn and myself will be making periodic blog posts regarding the trip – what we did, what we say, who we met… and all of that jazz! Also, each day we will try to feature one of the members on the trip about their experience and thoughts that day, so keep an eye out for that!

We would like to introduce the fun group with you! Below you can find the first group photo we took at one of our group meetings leading up to this exciting trip. Back row: Heather, Austyn, Richelle, Hailey, Molly, Nicole (UWO advisor) / Front row: Shelby, Eric, Crystal / Not pictured: Danielle

12002596_10101144051174783_8266645446602070274_oHere’s a little about the trip: During our time in Guatemala, we will be working with the organization De La Gente, which is a nonprofit that offers community tourism in order to give visitors the “real cultural experience by encouraging interaction,” as well as allowing us to support the local artisans and farmers. While there, we will be focusing on concepts of sustainability, and we will be working hands-on with the local communities through activities such as an artisan workshop, eating dinner with farmers from the co-op in their homes, and browsing around the market(s) to become more immersed with the culture.  We will also be learning about  and working with the coffee growing process and the importance of coffee in the community of San Miguel Escobar.  The hope is for our group to become fully immersed with this different culture.

Wish us safe travels, as we leave for the Chicago airport at 7:30am tomorrow from campus! Hopefully, we will be arriving to our final destination in Guatemala around 10:00pm (central time). Thank you so much for your wonderful support for everyone, and we hope to keep you as updated as possible through this blog!

Best,

ASB Guatemala :)

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