More Reflections and Interviews with Gen and Manuel

Erica with Armenia, the head of Tecnico Maya

From the Journal of: Erica


Yesterday, we visited to Tecnico Maya which is a primary school that was created by an amazing radical indigenous couple.  They teach environmental sustainability, math, Spanish, and Mayan culture.  We are building a new school for the students that currently attend Tecnico Maya.  The school was surrounded by tall metal gates.  As soon as we stepped in front, little 1st and 2nd graders pulled the gate open, screamed “Hola!” and started hugging us incessantly.  They were so beautiful, so innocent, so pure in their love for us.  It brought me to tears to see how excited they were to see us.  After chopping it up with the kids and playing games about colors and numbers, I spent most of the morning talking with the founder and head maestra at the school, Armenia.  She taught me how to count in Kaqchikel, the indigenous language spoken here.  She also taught me Mayan math.  I struggled to understand her, but I think I got it!  My Spanish has improved at a ridiculous rate.  It really makes me see that if I immerse myself in a culture, I can learn the language.  We talked about defende tu cultura! (defending your culture) and how she sees the school as a way to preserve the Mayan culture, despite all the efforts of the government to destroy it.  She is such a powerful force.  She was so grateful for our visit because she said it’s important for the children to be exposed to people of different races.  I told her that I am a maestra in the US and her eyes lit up.  We connected like no other.  I also got to spend time speaking to the young students.  I told them that we were working very hard to build a school for each of them, and that they should study hard so that they can have a good life.  I also told them to always behave well and be nice to their companeros.  They are trying to teach the children about voting, so they had an election for Queen of the School.  Each candidate made a speech, complete with promises of what they would do if they won.  The candidates promised movies, games and music, snacks, and smiles.  After the speeches, the children voted for Queen of the School by circling a picture that represented each candidate.  That is also how adults vote in Comalapa.  After the vote, they announced the 2nd and 1st place winners.  After each announcement, one of the the teachers set off extremely loud fireworks about 5 feet from us, right in the school yard.  The kids screamed and covered their ears, but loved it!!  Then we continued to hang for a while and the Get Fresh Crew played ball with the kids.  I continued my deep conversations with the head maestra.  when it was time to leave, it was very difficult.  Marcus and one little boy, carlos, really bonded and hugged about 70 times before we left.  The Get Fresh Crew was glowing and wanted to go back.  They realized how much their work means and they realized exactly who they were working, sweating, and bleeding for.  They are forever changed.

After the school, we went to the worksite, ate lunch, and got busy.  There was amazing energy in the air.  People got to it!  The last hour of work stretched into a full 90 minutes.  Angel, Yvesha and I bonded while putting nails into a tire wall in preparation for putting cob on it tomorrow.  I wish I could fully explain all the work that got done in the last hour.  It was inhuman and beautiful.  Some Get Fresh Crew members were knocking down a cob wall.  Dirt was flying into the mouths, noses, ears, hair, and eyes, but they did not stop.  My favorite moment of this entire trip was after Yvesha got covered in dirt while knocking down the cob wall.  She was exasperated, but picked up her hammer and said “This is for Manuel.” and swung that hammer like Paul frickin Bunyan.  I was so proud.

I have had so many wonderful conversations with the people here.  so many genuine voices to be heard.  Last night, I spoke with Feliciano, the owner of the hotel.  He told us how important our work is and how our presence exposes Comalapa to other viewpoints and ways  of life.  I am so grateful for all the conversations I’ve engaged in while in Comalapa.  We are so lucky.  I am so so so so very grateful for this life I live. 

Dinner awaits, but I am full from a day of pure unadulterated love.

Gen with Santiago at Tecnico Maya.

From the Journal of: Yvesh’a


Picamas ❤

We woke up this morning at 6:00AM!!  Oh my gosh.  However, despite the rocky morning the breakfast was good and was a typical Guatemalan breakfast.  It consisted of refried beans, scrambled eggs, and the infamous tortillas.

Instead of going straight to the land like everyone else, I volunteered to go with Gen to the market.  Gen is the Director of Operations at Long Way Home.  We’ve spent a lot of time with her and she cooks our meals almost every morning and night.  Even though the market was frantic and crowded, we still found time to have an engaging conversation.  I found out that she was very athletic during her high school years.  She played track, cross country, and something else (lol).  She stays sane in Guatemala because of Matt and because she is consistently reminded of the great task at hand of building a school.  I learned that she is very familiar with the vendors because she is constantly at the market every day to have enough supplies to cook meals.  Another thing that I learned in observing the market is that vendors are extremely trustworthy and don’t try to rip you off.  I say this because they trusted Gen enough to have her come back to them so she could get change.  All in all I learned that Gen is a really cool chick; she’s easy to talk to, easy-going, and very similar to some of my friends at school.

To sum it up, after we finished the market we went back to the land and helped some of the others in our crew with the work.  To me, the work day was great because we got A LOT accomplished and Matt even congratulated us on a day of work.  He stated that he was thankful to have us here and without us he wouldn’t have gotten everything he wanted accomplished.  Lastly, I was Manuel to come to Boston.  I love that kid so mucho and I want him to have that experience.  That is my mission.  And it will be accomplished.

Oh yeah, we also went to town and went to the bakery.


The Get Fresh Crew with Manuel.

From the Journal of: Faetitia


Interview with Manuel

Manuel is a 13-year-old Comapalan.  Manuel’s parents’ own the hotel we are staying in, so he has been living with us for the duration of our trip.  We have spent a lot of time getting to know Manuel and his family.  He is our amigo for life.

Fun facts:

Favorite Soccer Player: Lionel Messi

Favorite Basketball Team: Boston Celtics

Favorite Futbol (Soccer) Team: Barcelona

Q & A

Q: What do you think about the school project with Long Way Home?

A:  I think it’s very good because you guys are helping the environment and too much trash is not good in the environment.  And Long Way Home helps many causes.

Q: Why do you want to go to the Estados Unidos so bad?

A: I want to know the culture and study English there and I like to learn about other countries.

Q: What do like most about Guatemala?

A: I like the food, our nationality, and the culture.  I also like Lake Atitlan because it’s very clean and can be seen from 7 places in the world.

Q: What do you think about the Upward Bound program?

A: I think Upward Bound is very good for helping Long Way Home with the school and I’m happy you guys came all the way here to help.

Q: What do you want to do in the future?  Why?

A: First I want to be a teacher that teaches architecture at a university because they make good money and I would be able to take care of my family.

August 10, 2011

Today I had to say I was overwhelmed by the scenery.  We walked through the Guatemalan woods and hills, slipping and falling through the dirty wet mud that smelled like cow manure and other animal droppings.  That still didn’t overcome the beautiful cornfields and flowers, trails, and scenery that I saw today.  We went to see the little children at Tecnico Maya.  They are who we are building the school for.  They were SOOO CUTE, I MEAN ADORABLE!  I will never forget them.  I just finished interviewing Manuel, the son of the hotel owner and I had to say it went pretty well.  I understood everything he said.  As usual, I’m tired due to a long day so till next time blog readers. =)

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3 Responses to More Reflections and Interviews with Gen and Manuel

  1. Y’all are amazing!! I’m so proud of you guys!! And its fun to read about it all from here on my couch in Boston 🙂 Keep it real, give love, and don’t hold back!! Travel safe everyone and I can’t wait for the slideshow and stories in Bean-town!
    With love,

  2. Julia Golomb says:

    Erica! Get Fresh Crew! IT’S HAPPENING! I am so excited to hear your tales of adventure and exploration and community-building through school-building! I can’t wait to hear more in person.

  3. Simona says:

    I have finally caught up on all of the posts (sorry!) and I just have to say that I am honored to read all of your insights and follow your incredible journey/ies. It makes me very hopeful knowing that there are more young people pursuing these opportunities for cultural exchange, social change, community development, and environmental sustainability…. I applaud you all for putting your passion to work (and work you have!)

    Keep your minds, hearts, and eyes open. I love seeing everything that y’all accomplish now and in your bright futures. Sending you strength y un abrazo bien fuerte.
    Con mucho cariño,

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