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Guatemala, Day 1: Getting our plan together - JonM

Nov. 30th, 2008

09:42 pm - Guatemala, Day 1: Getting our plan together

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My room at the Hotel Uxlahal was apparently right next door to the kitchen, and I was awoken fairly early by the sounds of pots banging on the other side of the wall. I tried to sleep a little longer, but sleep was only fitful until the alarm went off. After a quick, cold, shower, I headed out into the courtyard to see who was around.

Lara was talking with Jim, one of the San Francisco folks, and Jenn, from Seattle. I grabbed some breakfast, fresh papaya and pineapple, huevos, black beans and taquitos, and sat down with them. Everyone else filtered in as I was eating, with Kerri and Noel coming back from their morning jog, and Dan recovering from a night of indigestion.

Eventually Lisa, our handler from Camino Seguro, arrived, and we set down to get logistics sorted, talking about the class composition, appropriate activities and whatnot. Lisa also talked about the organization and their work, and the kind of environment the kids are coming from. The conditions the kids are living in sound deplorable, and apparently we'll be seeing some of it first-hand tomorrow. Apparently the kids have been getting pretty amped up about our arrival, so we may have a tough time keeping them controlled in the coming week.

We packed our bags onto the truck of Mark's friends, who had helped him build an aerial rig for us over the week, and moved over to the Posado Lazos Fuertes, our home for the next week. Owned by Camino Seguro, it's primarily used for groups visiting the kids, and is a nice safe hotel.

After unloading the truck, we sat down and hashed out a class plan. We would have four groups of kids, with only one hour per group each of the three days we'd be teaching. This isn't much time to do any kind of actual training, so we pared back our plans to what would be easy, time efficient, and still rewarding.

With the lesson plan sorted, we went off in search of supplies. One group went off in search of over three hundred juggling balls, while the other group, including myself, went off in search of supplies for Mark's shadow puppet crafting. We wandered down one of the main streets, dropping in and out of buildings, stopping to get cell phones sorted and withdraw cash from ATMs.

Eventually, we found ourselves in a decent sized market talking to two women, one older and one younger. We worked through the language barrier, turning down some thin craft paper in favor of a pile of used cardboard boxes, figuring out how to ask for bamboo skewers, and getting several pair of scissors. We left the store with our bounty, only needing brass brads and a sheet to finish things off.

After dropping the supplies back at the hotel, we were a little hungry, so we went out to a nearby restaurant to get a snack before our dinner, dragging the just arrived Matt and Sari along with us. I got a really good chile relleno, some of the other guys got a good looking soup.

Post snack we kind of parted ways; Noel and Kerri wanted to go back to the hotel to stretch some, Matt and Sari went off to wander around, and I split off in a different direction, wanting to take some pictures.

I headed in the general direction of the hotel, which was only a few blocks away. Lured in by a man in a Hershey's bar suit, I wandered into a market which meandered along the length of the block. At the far side of the market was a libero, where I managed to find some brads after drawing a picture of what I wanted. I took my prize and made my way back, stopping to take some pictures of a ruined building on the way.

Arriving at the hotel, I found Kerri, Lara and Noel on the grass in the back, stretching and doing forearm stands. I set my gear down and joined them, and we were soon joined by the rest of the crew, where we initiated Noel and Mark on some basic acrobalance moves, and goofed around with some fun acro transfers.

Dinner time arrived, so we headed off to the restaurant. The food was pretty good, I got a groper fillet served with a whole pile of potatoes and veggies, topped with some nicely spiced macadamia nuts. We all had a couple of drinks, stayed to hear a Peruvian band play a couple songs, and then filed out of the restaurant.

Matt and Sari needed bottles for their music project, so we stopped back at the supermarket for some beer, and then headed back to the hotel to learn the song that we would be teaching the kids at the start of the lessons. With only a little practice, we had a good jam going, with several different instruments going.

After the music wound down, we stayed up a little longer, and talked with some of the high school kids who had just finished up their week with Camino Seguro, and got some of the inside scoop on what to expect. They were all pretty enthusiastic about their experiences and the kids, so it's pretty heartening.

Tomorrow we'll go back to Guatemala City, setup the aerial equipment, and tour the project.