Sunday, May 31, 2015

By Bus, Boat and Bed of Truck!

We started our journey bright and early at 6am this morning! We traveled the 85 kilometers to Lake Atitlan. This took about 3 hours by bus due to the mountainous terrain. Eighty-five kilometers is equivalent to roughly 50 miles; this distance is approximately the same distance between downtown Cincinnati and downtown Dayton, Ohio. Along the way, we also stopped at a breakfast buffet, where many of the students had the opportunity to make their own corn tortillas.

Once we arrived at the lake, we took a boat ride across the lake to the city of Santiago Atitlan. We learned that the exact depth of Lake Atitlan is unknown, but it is assumed to be at least 3,000 feet deep. It is also surrounded by 3 volcanoes. The views were incredible and pictures do not do it justice!!

We spent the majority of the day exploring the city via pick up trucks. We piled into beds of trucks where we then stood while our drivers zoomed through the very narrow streets of the city! We experienced more Guatemalan markets, saw the inside of a cathedral, and rode to a lookout that was approximately at 6,000ft elevation. As we were driving, the temperature dropped and it became foggy. We then realized we were driving through the clouds. Once we reached the lookout, we ate lunch in the clouds!

On the way back down to the lake, we stopped at the "Peace Park" which is a memorial for a massacre that occurred during the Guatemalan Civil War.

One final note... on the bus ride back to Antigua we raised $140 to donate to our bus driver who works with 38 different orphanages across the country. The money we raised will go towards purchasing milk for the children.

After a long day of exploring and learning, we are excited to rest up and head out to our service sites in the morning!
Darcie Haskins (student), Steffany Morse(student), and Emily Christman (practitioner)

Saturday, May 30, 2015

"Yes sir, this is my wheelchair...walker...stroller...."

All 29 students, practitioners, and faculty members have arrived safe and sound in Antigua, Guatemala!
This includes:
- 12 wheelchairs/strollers
- 11 walkers
- 37 checked bags= 1,850 lbs of donations!!!

Despite multiple questions and strange looks throughout our travel day, we took it in stride and enjoyed the special accommodations. We even had a VIP shuttle ride across the airport and some of us got to be the first passengers on the plane. This experience taught us all a lesson on the complexities associated with traveling with physical challenges. It was interesting to hear and see the discrimination towards individuals using adaptive equipment without seeing a physical disability.

Upon arrival to Guatemala City, we traveled an hour to Antigua and had a tour of the town. We had our first exposure to Guatemalan culture as we explored the market and saw Central Park. The market showed us that the occupation of shopping for Guatemalans is much more than just purchasing goods. Instead, time in the market is a community event and a time to be together. We returned to our hotel, Santa Anna, and enjoyed our first dinner together.

We are exhausted but we are looking forward to our first excursion day exploring Lake Atitlan!
Stay tuned for more exciting updates from XUOT Guatemala Team 2015! We will be sure to add pictures throughout our stay!

Sarah Dean (Student)and Katie Claar (Practitioner)