Traveling with Students in Guatemala

The other day I was digging through some old writing goals–circa 2005.  One of the questions that I attempted to answer was, “What is the greatest good my writing can accomplish?

My answer went something like this:

“To introduce readers to people they wouldn’t normally meet, places they wouldn’t normally go, and issues they wouldn’t normally think about.” 

I’m so honored to get to do this from the page and stage.  Now, thanks to a partnership with The Village Experience, I’m on a trip in Guatemala with students from Winthrop University who read WHERE AM I WEARING? as their freshmen common reader experience.  Over the course of the next week we’ll meet garment workers, coffee farmers, and visit fair trade cooperatives.

For many of the students this is the first time they’ve been out of the country. I get to see the wonder in their eyes, the light bulbs going off above their heads, and be a witness to their world expanding. 

In case you were wondering what we’ll be doing, here’s our itinerary…
Day 1 – Arrive in Guatemala City. Transfer to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Antigua to check into hotel. Welcome dinner in the evening.

Day 2 – Walking tour of Antigua in the morning. This ancient city will immediately capture your heart as you stroll along the cobblestone streets and visit historical cathedrals, convents, and ruins. Stop for lunch. In the afternoon, local pueblos to learn about culture, coffee, and weaving. Return to hotel in the evening for dinner and overnight.

Day 3 – Spend the morning in Guatemala City. Enjoy a city tour including stops at places such as Mercado Central, Casa MIMA, Parque Central, and Catedral Metropolitana. Enjoy lunch in town. Return to Antigua for a meeting with the owner of Los Gigantes Fair Trade Company, Siggy Bataille. Learn about the multiple artisan groups she works with around Guatemala, visit her retail store, and shop away!

Day 4 – Spend today in the rural villages with local community development group, Vamos Adelante. Vamos Adelante provides education, health, and nutrition services to poverty-stricken individuals in over 24 villages in the region of Esquintla. Learn about their new micro-enterprise program and help with food distribution to the elderly. This will be a day you never forget as you connect with local Guatemalans and learn about the obstacles to overcoming poverty. Enjoy lunch in the village. Return to hotel in the evening for dinner and overnight.

Day 5 – Depart in the morning for gorgeous Lake Atitlan…surrounded by 3 mystic volcanoes. On the way, stop in Chichicastenango for a visit with fair trade group, Market 127. Learn about textiles, weaving, and the importance of preserving local culture and traditions in artisan work. Check into hotel in Panajachel. Free evening for dinner and exploration.
Day 6 – Spend a leisurely day on a boat ride on Lake Atitlan. Stop at fishing villages dotting the lake to meet locals and see traditional Mayan cultures. Visit San Juan La Laguna to meet with several women’s cooperatives involved in painting, weaving, dying, and soap making. Proceed to Santiago Atitlan to learn about the mysterious Mayan character, Maximon. Enjoy time in San Pedro to see the interesting church on the top of a mountain. Lunch will be in one of the villages. Return to hotel in the afternoon. Free evening for dinner and exploration.

Day 7 – Visit Reserva Natural de Atitlan in the morning for a zip- lining adventure. Enjoy eight zip-lines ranging from 295 feet to1050 feet along waterfalls, canyons, the valley, and the coffee grove forest. The Nature Reserve is committed to the sustainability of Lake Atitlan and its biodiversity. This privately funded project is an economically viable alternative to the traditional uses of land and natural resources in the area. Over 200,000 trees have been planted in the valley and the efficient wood burning stoves have been installed in neighboring
communities, along with recycling initiatives and the use of solar energy and biodigestors. In the afternoon, depart for Antigua and check into hotel. Farewell dinner in the evening.

Day 8 – Depart in the morning for airport in Guatemala City to catch international flight back to the United States.

This trip is going to be awesome. Maybe I’ll have some of the students to some guest blog posts.


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