Dia del Niño at the Mariposario

Last week, Guatemala celebrated a holiday we seem to miss out on in the U.S. – Día del Niño, or Children’s Day. This day is celebrated on various dates in countries around the world, but here in Guatemala, it is celebrated on October 1st. To commemorate the holiday the Puerta Abierta Learning Center took a special field trip with the students and their parents to the Mariposario (butterfly garden) at the nearby Reserva Natural Atitlan (Atitlan Nature Reserve).

The day started out with a boat ride across the lake, on a large two-level (and extremely slow!) barco that the kids really enjoyed. It was beautiful and sunny and from the top deck, we could look out across the beauty of Lago Atitlan. Then we disembarked at the Nature Reserve, where we were confronted with a series of long and crickety cable-rope bridges, which the kids also loved (although some of the parents were less than thrilled). We eventually made our way to a large clearing that had zip-line swings for the kids to enjoy for a bit before we did some exercises, sang some songs, and then hiked up into nature! We got to cross some more bridges and see some spider monkeys, then headed to the butterfly garden where we saw a wide variety of butterflies and learned about their transition from caterpillar to butterfly, even seeing one emerge from its chrysalis!

To finish the day, we had a picnic lunch in the clearing and the children did a “Secret Santa” type gift exchange. Then back onto the boat for the long journey back to Santiago with a group of extremely tired kids.

Throughout the day, I got to “partner with” a group of students from a local orphanage, whose parents weren’t able to come along. Fernando, Nicolasa, Rosa, and Diego were my kids for the day, and they were a blast! Although being a mom to four children under the age of 6 is no easy task! By the end of our adventures, we were all pretty exhausted.

 

 

 

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Chiapas!

This weekend was inolvidable (unforgettable)! Accompanied by my dear friend Bryce (from Chicago), I traveled to San Cristobal de las Casas in the state of Chiapas, Mexico – the city where I lived for a summer while completing my first-level internship for the Loyola MSW program. This was my first time back, and it was everything I remembered! The city is enchanting and resonates with such powerfully positive memories for me. The weekend away was quite a luxury. Not only did I get to spend day after day in great company, I got to renew my love affair with this beautiful place and its wonderful food, culture, sights, and sounds. We ate amazing chocolates, walked all around the colorful artisan markets, drank a lot of mezcal, and even got to see some fantastic live jazz. In addition to the vacation aspect of this trip, I spent a morning getting to know Natik’s programs in Chiapas. Currently, Natik has 2 Loyola MSW interns working with them for the summer. I had the opportunity to meet them and go with them to their work site one morning – the home of two sisters in the indigenous village of Zinacantan where they run a Saturday educational program for students. These little ones were so much fun, and really engaged in their own learning. The experience was a great example of how Natik operates collaboratively with community leaders.