Author Archive for Nikki Raccio

We’ll Met Again Someday, Guatemala

The morning of March 29th we all woke up packed and ready to go. We ate our last Amalia made breakfast of pineapple pancakes. Our favorite. And we did so with bittersweet feelings in our hearts. All loving the culture and wanting to stay in it while also looking forward to being home again. The best we can do from here is keep what we’ve learned and experienced close to us. We said our farewell to Jane, our fabulous and wonderful hostess! Then off to the airport.

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Thanks for reading and keeping along with us. Also thank you for putting up with all my iPod spelling errors. Mostly, thank you all for your support. This trip was incredible and wouldn’t have been possible without all the love, care and support we had behind us. We are really taking so much away from this trip. We’re all changed because of it whether it’s learning to appreciate the little things in our lives, simplifying what we make complicated, supporting others, or never being afraid to give or receive help of any kind. I hope by following along, we’ve been able to pass some of these things along to you.

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Thank you, thank you, thank you!
Nikki

PS: Check back for pictures!

Guatemala: Day 7 – The Free Day!

Day 7:
The free day! We were given a selection of places to go and things to do for our free day and we chose to go to “The Lake”.  It was this huge, stunningly gorgeous lake 2 and a half hours away from San Miguel Escobar. It was surrounded by volcanos and mountains. The water was so clear! The lake was surrounded with wonderful foliage of all shapes, sizes and colors. The roads and sidewalks were again cobblestone. It was so beautiful I’d say it was paradise.  Ahhhh…

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We had a few different options of what we could do. The popular choice was to go zip-lining in the nature reserve on the edge of town. It was quite the nature reserve located within the mountains. So stunning. A foot long lizard even ran past my foot like it was nothing. While some of the group went zip-lining, Cassy, Sophie, Nikki and myself went kayaking in the lake. Jane joined us as well! It only cost us about $3.28/person/hour! It was picture-esk. Just paddling out to the middle of the bay of this massive lake we were in and just looking at everything. There were no words to be said or even to describe how beautiful, peaceful and serene this was. But! There was more to see!

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Back on land, the 5 of us went to this fantastic little outdoor cafe for lunch. It was beautiful AND delicious. Who could ask for more?

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About half way through, a van pulled up to the area and there was the zip-line crew! Well hey there guys, how was zip lining? They said it was fun. They did 8 different courses that went through the mountains and even past a waterfall. Their longest one lasted about 45 seconds. That’s a pretty long time to fly through trees! They said at the end they got to see some monkeys chow down on bananas! Whoa! The rest of our day at the lake was spent walking up and down their main road. It was filled with little shops and restaurants. Lots to see and take it. Such a pleasant day it was!

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Now, I personally get car sick real easy and the winding roads through the mountains, oof, not for me. So I stopped at a pharmacy before heading back to buy some benedryl to knock me out! When I asked for some, they sold it to me by the pill. I thought that was cool because then I didn’t have to buy a whole pack. I talked to Jane about it and she said that’s convenient however, that’s how all the medication is done there, even anti-biotics. So people don’t always get their proper dosage and prices can get weird as well. Another interesting thing I learned about their culture and another thing I find myself reflecting about my own culture. Thought I’d tell you all about that tidbit.

Needless to say I got in the van and the next thing I knew I woke up at a restaurant for dinner! Rad! We ate our final dinner in Guatemala at this really awesome crepe restaurant in Antigua. Crepes? In Guatemala? Yeah! And they were crazy good! Fresh made in a matter of minutes with both savory and sweet kinds. Mmm! And it was a pretty cool restaurant where you even had the option to eat on beanbag chairs out on a patio. Legit. After dinner we bid a fond farewell to Paula (an AGAIG gal who helped us translate at times) and Andy.

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Back at the house we had our final reflection in Guatemala. We reflected on how now that we’ve had this experience, what can we take from it? What can we start doing? What can we stop doing? What can we continue to do? Most of us said a lot of the same things. We’d like to start shopping locally more often, care about where our stuff comes from, use more sustainable resources in our lives and simplify. Wed like to stop complaining so much, taking things for granted and stressing out especially the little things because in the end it’s not that big of a deal and were all gonna be okay. We all seem to have taken a lot from this trip that maybe we didn’t think we would. I, for example, didn’t think I’d now start to put so much focus on where I buy things but now I totally am! Main St, USA here I come! Overall, we all got a great experience here in Guatemala.

Guatemala: Day 6 – A Day of Adventures

Day 6:
Today was our day of activities we chose to do through AGAIG. We decided on attending an artisans workshop where we learned some common artisan works such as iron sculpting, wood carving and jade jewelry making. Our other activity was a “Market Scavenger Hunt” where we split into two teams and ran through the giant market in Antigua to shop for food we’d later make into our dinner. Both activities were really fun and helped us identify and learn more about the culture.

So first was our Artisan’s workshop. I personally participated in the Jade jewelry making along with Kari, Nikki and Amber. Jane our tour hostess joined us as well!  We met our Artisan. His name was Francisco, a friendly elderly man who’s been working with jade for 44 years. Jade is a precious stone used by the Mayans of the Guatemalan area for all different things whether I was art or dental work. The kind of jade found in this area is called jadeite. It’s rare and found in very few places around the world. The other kind of jade you see in Asian cultures is called nephrite. We learned all this and so much more from Francisco though Jane translated most of it for us. We then all got to pick out our own little piece of jadeite to carve and polish into jewelry we wanted! It was so fun and so fascinating to see all the steps it takes to make such a beautiful and rare piece of jewelry.

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I don’t know nearly as much about the other workshops but I got a few descriptions. In the iron working, Taylor, Cassy and Mike carved gorgeous animal shaped garden decorations out of giant pieces of sheet metal. It involved a lot of muscle work, patience and rust colored hands but each piece turned out really fabulous.

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In the wood working workshop, they made serving trays. Sophie, Daniel and Carter carved the frames of their trays and then sanded them down. They then were able to pick a piece of traditional indigenous clothing to cut up and form as the center of their trays to then cover with glass. They looked really cool and perfect for serving coffee to future guests at their homes!

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Once that was all through, we at lunch at Roberto’s house. He was the wood working artisan. We had Pepian, the national dish of Guatemala! It was delicious. Fresh chicken in a slightly spicey and flavorful sauce with potatoes and rice. And of course tortillas. There are tortillas at just about every meal. All handmade from scratch. They’re incredible! But yes, Pepian. Mmm.

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It was then off to the market for our scavenger hunt! Now, I don’t know how to really explain this market to you. It’s kind of one of those you gotta see into believe it kinda things. It’s this large complex, indoors and outdoors, with insanely narrow hallways. Each person with a stand inside of this market had it jam packed with whatever they were selling. Each stand was rather small and dimly lit. Each vender was fighting for your attention to show you what they had or how much cheaper theirs was. It was intense and energetic! So exciting! Once you found what you needed you could barter the price down. Everything was just kind of our in the open whether it was clothes, fruit or even meat. The meat hung from hooks at the front of meat stands. You could go to one stand selling dried fish and the one next to it could be selling shoes. It was pure chaos and so much fun!

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Once we had all of our ingredients, we then spent an hour in the artisans market where it was again a lot of booths and stands of venders and artisans tying to sell you things but this was a little more relaxed, spaced out and mostly outdoors. This is where we bought some of our more touristy things for ourselves. We also could buy things from our artisans we worked with or those that work locally with  AGAIG. There was a little mini store set up at the AGAIG offices for us to look at things in. For example, I bought a bag made by Timoteo’s daughter! It was neat to be able to buy things like that that the people we worked with made or their family made.

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Once back at the house, some people showered, others went to check out Timoteo’s bio-digester. It’s a whole sustainable system he’s setting up where he has a tank for methane gas where he will collect manure from pigs he will raise on this piece of land. He then will put the manure in the tank and from there has the methane gas that he can take home for his stove. Once the manure is old, he will take it and make it a compost to use as fertilizer for his banana trees or other crops. He’s got a set up made of brick where he will have his own fish pond filled with tilapia. The tilapia will only cost him Q5 each (something like 70 cents) and once he grows the fish, he can turn around and sell them for Q15 each (about 2 dollars). The pig waste will also create algae in this pond which is what tilapia feed from. So for practically nothing, he can sell fish and make some nice profit all while utilizing other affordable and sustainable ways to live as well as maintain his crops. I’m sure it’s a bit of work putting all of it together and maintaining it, but it’s something simple that is so effective. That’s definitely something we can all take away from this trip: how simplicity can be so effective.

I did not go to the bio-digester because Nikki and I stayed at the house to make the evenings dinner! We made some killer nachos. They were a big hit and mighty delicious. All made with food we got at the market! We had a dessert of fried plantains which we were supposed to make with a side of hot chocolate but we ended up just melting the chocolate and covering the plantains in them. Mmm! Andy from AGAIG even came and joined us for our homemade meal!

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Words from the Guatemala Crew!

Words from the Guatemala Crew

Hello there! For this post, I’ve asked the team to say a little something for you all about their experience so far. Here goes!

Carter: I’m really enjoying all the 80s music they play here. 

Nikki K.: I like how everyone says hi or waves. Everyone is so welcoming and friendly. 

Cassy: I can’t decide what my favorite thing is because everything has been so wonderful. I’m not coming home. Sorry parents. 

Sophie: I like all the nice puppies, the nice people, good food, good times. Right on, right on, right on. *mumbles boo boo boo*

Mike: I’ve enjoyed watching everyone experience Giatemala for the first time and I love the sun. 

Daniel: I like speaking Spanish. And I like all of the sounds. I like the sounds. And the fireworks. And the dogs. And the chickens. And being called a Gringo everywhere. 

Amber: I enjoyed hanging out with Timoteo a lot. We hung out with him for like 3 days straight. I like that his face is on my coffee. It just makes my life. 

Taylor: Me gusta galletes. “He went to Francisco’s”. 

Kari: I like how nice everybody has been. I had a tiny conversation with Francisco today and told him his house was very beautiful and he said it’s your house too. It was cool because I didn’t need help saying it in Spanish! 

Nikki R.: It’s been great! I’ve loved experiencing it all and being here. 

Thanks for reading. Check back for more updates! Keep commenting, we love hearing from you! 
Nikki

Guatemala: The Construction Days (4 & 5)

Day 4:
Today was our first (of two) construction days. Our construction master, if you will, was the coffee farmer from yesterday, Timoteo! Whoa that guy does it all. Today we assisted in building a wall that will in-case a land  that will hold all of the coffee farming machinery and dry processing secure. So construction while still making it all about that coffee. Neat!

When we arrived at the work-site, Carter, Daniel, Amber and Mike built a wooden chamber for a depulping machine. This will be a quick way for that process and the wall built is to in-case the noise so not everyone in the neighborhood has to be like “must be coffee depulping time.”

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Meanwhile, Sophie, Taylor, Kari, Cassy and myself built wooden casings to fill the metal rebars with cement. Pretty legit. We then all worked together to pack cement into rebars. Our other Nikki was sick last night so she didn’t join us for the morning but she came back refreshed and ready for action by lunch! Lunch was delivered to us at the work site, homemade, from Timoteo’s family. Noice.

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Once lunch was consumed it was back to work! We spent the rest of the day packing cement, laying brick & mortar and building metal rebars. It was a lot of work but quite the accomplishment!

We arrived back at the house just exhausted. Some of the group went out to find fireworks while the rest showered/relaxed. We then went to Miguel’s for dinner (father of the Armando, the farmer we ate with the second night). Fun fact, families (extended) live together all on the same lot. Commonly when we have dinner at farmers’ houses the farmer will join us for dinner. Well we had the women of the kitchen join us for this dinner! It was super rad to have them join us. Plus one of them had a baby that would not stop staring at Mike durin the dinner so Mike and Kari got to hold the baby. It was adorable.

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After dinner we came back to our house to have a reflection that was based on how were feeling here halfway through our trip. A general agreement of the group was that we were thankful for what we have and interested and excited about all that we’ve learned and have yet to learn.  The day was a long one so Mike surprised us at the end of the reflection with notes from people back home! Oh my gosh, they were a wonderful surprise for us all! We loved them. We all particularly loved Amber’s grandmas list of random facts. Hilarious. Thank you all for your letters!

 

Day 5:
Another day of construction. We were all a bit hesitant to do another hard day out in the sun. We were all still exhausted and lobster red from yesterday’s burns. But we kept the motivation going and the day actually went super fast! Once at the work site, we knew what to expect and what to do so we got right to work. It was a lot quicker than the previous day so that was nice.

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(Cement everywhere!)

As a surprise, Jane hooked us up with pizza and movies for dinner! Woohoo! A night in to eat and bond. Simply delightful.

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Right now, were pullin out some fireworks to light off in the streets! “When in Guatemala!”
Check back later for some words/stories from the crew.
Nikki

August 2014
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