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Guatemala 2018

Tamales Thursday!

We started our morning finishing up our service project with Gregorio by making thinner concrete to pour over what was accomplished yesterday to give it a smoother finish. Lunch was at another farmer’s house whom we haven’t yet met and were able to learn about his family.

After lunch, we met Maria who taught us how to make tamales and tortillas! We started with the tamales which were made using banana leaves to contain the ingredients- which are 2-3 times bigger than using corn husks. The tamales contained a tomato paste, masa, and chunks of chicken. They take around 3 hours to make over the stove so in the meantime we learned how to make tortillas (which was pretty difficult, but the 6 year old made it look so easy).

While the tamales and tortillas were cooking we played a few games in a circle. It was cool to see how we could connect so well to those around us despite the language barriers. We played games, had conversations, and laughed so much this afternoon with Maria and her family. After dinner we walked home in a beautiful sunset to reflect and a few of us went to find a tienda to get snacks and ice cream and found fresh churros on the way!


Tomorrow is our last full day which is sad, but will be spent at the lake, so keep an eye out for our post tomorrow night! Thanks for being on this journey with us.

Service Project

Today was a full day of our service project! From 9am-4pm we helped out local farmer, Gregorio. We split into groups and mixed piles of soil from Agua, cement, and water to create a patio for coffee beans to dry on. We made mini “volcanoes” of the mixture to hand-stir the cement before laying it down. Farmers can apply for projects to get assistance with in order to help with their coffee farming. It was very tiring, but very rewarding. Besides the work, our favorite part was his dogs and horse which is there to help haul materials to and from his land.

Tonight we had our first non-authentic dish for dinner, pizza!! Tomorrow is another day of finishing the patio and continuing our service project experience.




Caoba Farms!

Hello blog readers!

Today after breakfast, we headed to Caoba farms, which is a new portion of the trip that has been added. Caoba Farms is a sustainable organic farm that grows food and several plants. Along with having many animals on site. We were split up into 3 separate groups along with different tasks to do. The first group helped fill 30 bags of compost for fertilizer, and the other two groups were assigned different farms to help dig the weeds out. We had a fabulous lunch there before walking to Antigua.

After volunteering in Caoba farms we headed to Antigua where we had an hour of free time shopping in the markets of Guatemala. There we bought hand made blankets, bracelets and other awesome souvenirs. Next, we all did the scavenger hunt in the food markets. The task was that each group was provided with a list of items to receive and other small tasks to accomplish. The point of this exercise was to have us communicate, and navigate the market by ourselves. With the food we got, we made dinner ourselves at the house which was nachos, guacamole, corn, and various unknown fruits which many were willing to try!

We’re settling in for the night getting to know each other more, reflecting on our experiences here so far, and stretching before our big, long service project day tomorrow. It still doesn’t seem like we’ve only been here 4 days. The people we’ve met and the moments we’ve had here seem like its been so much longer.

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Monday’s Coffee Adventure

This morning was filled with pineapple pancakes to prepare us for our coffee tour! We met up with Virgilia, one of the only 3 women in the co-op and first to join, to head to Agua. Families have plots of land on Agua and some have to hike up to 3 hours to get to their coffee trees. The plot we were at was thankfully only a 30 minute hike. Once we arrived, we learned how they originally plant the coffee trees, how to maintain them, and where the coffee bean actually comes from. Each tree has many branches which produce clusters of cherries which hold 2 coffee beans each. It is important to make sure the cherries are a dark red cranberry-like color before harvest. If they are picked too soon, 1 unripened cherry/coffee bean cancels out 56 ripe ones which can interfere with the taste of coffee. As we picked them, we learned there are many, many steps from planting the first seed to brewing the coffee at home.

The process includes: picking the cherries, de-pulping (getting the coffee beans out of the cherries), fermenting (roughly 24 hours), washing (done 3 times), and the longest part of the process is drying the beans out. Drying the coffee beans takes 8-12 days. After drying, an important part is taking off the outer parchment and sorting by size then going through defects such as unripe or overripe beans. Once the best beans are chosen, they are roasted in a big clay plate over a heated stove. To keep track of roasting time, you keep track of the different aromas, color, and the extra layer of parchment coming off of the beans. They are then moved into a pan and stirred to cool off the beans faster before grinding on a stone grinder by hand. Once they were ground down enough (which Virgilia did much better than we did), we poured the grounds into a large boiling pot of water and let it sit until ready. We sat around the table drinking our freshly roasted and brewed coffee while learning about her experiences as a female farmer, within the co-op, and about her family and children. We had lunch with her and were on our way back to our residence before learning more about De La Gente and participating in our own cupping (coffee tasting) and brewing methods.

It was a long day of learning about the hard work that these coffee farmers go through every day during each season from start to finish. We’ve had a lot of delicious coffee, but the most important aspects of the day were learning more about their every day lives, the work they do, and the importance of appreciating what you have and the people around you.

Tomorrow is a full day of touring Antigua and checking out the markets, so we will say buenos noches!

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Day 1: Antigua

Hey its Aubrey and Brooke again!

We had a full day starting with a fantastic, authentic breakfast made by women of the co-op, Amalia and her daughter. We had fresh guacamole, coffee, black beans, and we all tried the bananas (which are far better than the ones in the U.S.).

After breakfast we headed to Antigua by chicken bus (the public transportation which are old school buses from the states) and each one is named after women. Antigua was packed because of Sunday Lent so everyone and their family were in the plaza and following the procession. We converted our money to quetzalas which are named after the god, Quetzalcóatl and also the national bird of Guatemala. Once we got out of the busy area we took the trek over to Hill of the Cross. We hiked up the hill in the heat and sun and were presented with a glorious view of the city and volcanoes.

We had a lunch at local restaurant and had some down time at the house before doing some activities on how coffee farmers are impacted by the economy and capitalism. We over estimated how much farmers actually receive for their work while retailers make almost half of the cost of a pound of coffee. The sessions was surprising and eye-opening for many of us, as we take coffee and consumerism for granted in the U.S. We’re excited to work with them directly tomorrow as we hike up Agua to pick coffee beans and see what the process is really like.

Our amazing guide, Allie, through De La Gente helped translate for us at many locations, including dinner with Mercedes, one of the De La Gente farmers. We had dinner at his residence and learned about his experiences and life in farming. He started working at 10 with his father and has continued for the past 50 years with his own family. Dinner consisted of stuffed chicken and chile with rice and tomato sauce, which was delicious and flavorful. We had wonderful conversations about what life is like in Guatemala, his perceptions of tourists, and how welcoming and relationship-oriented the families are here.

We’re heading off to play some group games before going to bed as we have a long day of work tomorrow. Buenas noches!


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We made it!!

After 12 long hours of traveling we finally made it!!! We are exhausted from our journey. Keep an eye out for tomorrow’s post buenas noches!

T-3 Days!!

We leave in 3 days so we thought it would be a great time to introduce ourselves and what we are doing for spring break 2018! Our names are Aubrey and Brooke, the bloggers for the Guatemala 2018 group.


Hi Family and friends, my name is Aubrey Quarford! I am a senior here at UW Oshkosh Majoring in Human Servies with a minor in Social Justice. Im excited to have this opportunity to go to Guatemala, and can’t wait to share our experiences with you!


My name is Brooke Berrens. I am currently finishing my Master’s in Educational Leadership and Policy with a goal of working on a college campus advising students. This is my 3rd alternative break trip through UWO, but my first one abroad so I am very excited to expand on my adventures.



de la gente

When we get to Guatemala we will be staying at and working with the local organization De La Gente. De La Gente is a nonprofit that offers community tourism as a way to create a real cultural experience by encouraging interaction between visitors and local Guatemalans, as well as to supplement income for the farmers and artisans. We will climb a dormant volcano to pick coffee beans and then farmers will guide us through the rest of the coffee process. Another part of our service will be working on construction projects as well as varying educational activities. Our group is excited to be a part of this amazing opportunity to learn more about the world and what Guatemala has to offer!

We will keep you all posted after each day’s activities so you can see what we’ve been learning and doing while we’re away.

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May 2024