I still remember arriving on a very bumpy dirt road in, what seemed to me, like the middle of the tropical forest. I had no idea what to expect for the upcoming five weeks. Since returning home last month, I can safely say, my wonderful experience in Comunidad Nueva Alianza, Guatemala, was way beyond any expectations I had. Here are 10 reasons why:
1. The Community
During the last two decades, the community has been through a lot. During the 1990’s the plantation (coffee/macadamia) was privately owned, but due to the crash of the price of coffee and terrible management, the community was left with no revenue for nearly two years. A long process followed in order for the community to get back their land, but the path was far from easy. Finally, in 2004 they bought back the land and, since then, the plantation is privately owned and operated by 40 families, all from the community.
Kevin was a community member; we called him the animal, the beast and he knew how to do everything around the community. He stuck with us for the whole of our stay and we became great friends! He never complained nor laughed at our lack of competence during different types of work.
3. The Hotel
The hotel used to be the land owner’s house, but after the incident in the 1990’s, the community transformed it into a cozy hotel for travelers. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous. It was exactly what I would call “home away from home”. Decorated and painted with Mayan symbols and super cool paintings. I totally recommend everybody to check it out!
4. The Rooftop and the Volcano
After a hard day of work, what better than to enjoy the sunset on the roof of the hotel? From one side, the sunset or sunrise, and on the other a spectacular view of volcanoes Santa Maria and Santiaguito, which erupts on average every hour. Almost every night, we lit a fire on the roof, listen to some music and look at the stars. Got to love those quiet Guatemalan nights…unless the dogs barked all night.
5. Miss Flori
We had cooks who prepared all our meals, and each day was always more and more delicious. I can not say I had a lack of food in Guatemala, and believe it or not, I still eat rice and beans daily. Not only was Flori our cook, she was our Guatemalan mom; a gorgeous women with the most beautiful laugh that I had never heard.
6. Manual Labour
For the first weeks, we worked a lot with machetes. Being a group of three girls, I felt like each time we came out of the woods all dirty with a machete in our hands, we made a statement. We proved how hard 3 Canadian girls could work! I had never done a lot of physical work in my life, but now, I can proudly say that I can chop down a bamboo tree is less than 2 minutes!
7. Hide and Seek
The kids in the community were so lovable. We would usually meet up in front of the hotel, than play a bunch of different games until it got dark. The game that I will never forget was “escondite” (hide and seek). In this community, the kids will hide 5 kilometres away, so bring good running shoes and be prepared to hide for a long time!
We were very fortunate, the Carnival took place while we were in the community. Carnival is a special day where the kids dress up to go to school (a little like Halloween), have a costume and craft competition, throw flour and sparkles at each other and have a good time. During the costume competition, we were the judges and we participated in all the activities!
9. Soccer Sunday
Each Sunday, all the closest communities gather up at different soccer fields and play against each other. The event lasts the whole day, people dress up in their nicest clothes, and all kinds of food and beverages are being sold all around the field. They were waiting anxiously for this event every week. Little traditions like this one made the community so special.
Always a surprise! Whether is was the back of an old truck, a bus or chicken bus, it was a guaranteed good time. Overloaded with people, loud music playing and crazy heat, the rides were filled with interesting adventures.
From the second we got in Nueva Alianza, we felt right at home. They wanted us to be part of every activity happening in the community (school, church, holidays…). Everyone welcomed us with smiles and were very grateful of our work. I had never seen such hardworking people; whether it was the men out in the fields, or the women washing the clothes and cooking, they always took great pleasure accomplishing their daily chores. It was beautiful to see how proud the members of the community are of what they accomplished during the last decade, you really notice it the second you come in Nueva Alianza.
– Renee Claude Poirier, Youth Ambassador, Guatemala 2012
YCI is currently recruiting a team of 6 volunteers for our July Guatemala projects. Click HERE for complete project details.