In a different world

Venturing out of the United States has for me become synonymous with feelings of guilt: that I live in such a splendidly convenient world with warm water and endless supplies of strawberries in winter and Starbucks on every corner.  I love to visit the wild places of Latin America, and speak a foreign language and become enveloped by another culture, but I get annoyed when my showers have to be cold, or when I can’t find apples at the market.  Then I inevitably and shamefully am glad that I will return home to these luxuries in only a few days time, when everyone else around me will go on living without.

I have several previous experiences in the “developing world.”  I studied for four months in Argentina in the northwestern city of San Miguel de Tucuman, traveled for two weeks in Peru for my honeymoon, trekking through the mountains and canyons of that gorgeous country, and spent one carefree spring break in Costa Rica.  I have gained a love for the varying cultures of these regions and I enjoy discovering their similarities as well as their poignant differences.  However, my experiences seem always to be tainted by a raw feeling of empathy mixed with guilt.

Guatemala has brought on similar feelings, especially because here I have seen some of the most extreme examples of poverty.  And yet, we are not here only for vacation or only to earn a few credits toward graduation.  We are actually donating our time and energy to build a school that will benefit the children of Comalapa.  Pride in our work and our goals helps cut through the other emotions.

Maybe it’s naive to think what I am feeling is just guilt.  Maybe a bit self indulgent.  Probably both that I think building a school in Guatemala can in any significant way make up for the luxuries we take for granted in the developed world.  I can only hope it will make a difference for the kids that grow up in Comalapa and attend Tecnico Maya.

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Showing Up Fashionably Late

I am sorry for not posting to this blog earlier. I was not as enthused as most people about the prospect of spending any time at all on my computer while we were in Guatemala. My goal was sort of the opposite and to spend as little time as possible on the computer which I viewed as a tool that would isolate me from the experience of being somewhere different. I wouldn’t consider myself a Neo-Luddite, I just like to get away from the computer once in a while.

I suppose that it is also worth mentioning that I am not much of a “blogger.” For that matter, I don’t spend a huge amount of time cruising the internet other than to check email, Facebook, and a few other sites. My computer-related interests were much more oriented toward construction details and also pursuing photography and documentation of what I saw during our visit which is why I waited to post until I returned.

A side project that I was working on while at the Tecnico Maya site was to create a time-lapse video of the construction. Technology doesn’t always play nice; especially when you are out of the country. The time-lapse footage is mostly intact, but I did encounter errors along the way with dust getting into the camera and interrupting various camera functions. After returning to the United States, I spent a copious amount of time finding, renaming, and reformatting about 4,700 photos that make up the sequence. Not to mention disassembling my camera lens and body to get the dust out.

Here is a link to the final video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-86iiNlZ0Ao

The sequence was created by setting up a remote timer that would snap a photo every 30 seconds. My hope is that this video will provide the viewer with a greater appreciation of the time and effort that goes into the construction process when working in developing countries.

Machines that we take for granted in the US, such as “bobcat” loaders or powered mixers come at a premium (if they even come at all) in Guatemala. The result of these sort of complications was that the team had to hand-dig the foundation, and hand-mixed most of the soil, concrete, and water recipe for the earth bag fill material.

My time was mostly spent working on the design and construction of the form work for the doorway, but when I did get a chance to step in for the harder manual labor, it was exhausting!

 

Revealing Beauty: Personal Reflections on My Time in Guatemala

I just returned from my travels with University of Colorado Denver’s Study Abroad Design Build course to Guatemala. It may be the land, or its people, or the particular work we carried out while we were there, or the position at which Guatemala stands right now in its history or even my own willingness to open up the possibilities of change. Either way, the country has swindled in and nestled down and found a place in my heart that in return had been crying out for just this country at just this very time.

Below are a few brief thoughts on what makes Guatemala so unique and how it found its way into my heart. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed reflecting on them and please leave comments or questions as I’d be happy to respond.

Healing from Loss

Going to Guatemala these past few weeks had a huge healing effect on me. Exactly one month before I arrived in Guatemala my 4 month old nephew passed away from a rare metabolic disorder. My whole family and I were devastated and spent a lot of time together in grief over the holidays. When I landed in Guatemala I knew that it had been the right choice for me to participate in the study abroad and that long days of manual labor would help clear my mind and bring me back to some sort of equilibrium.

Dealing with my own loss in a country such as Guatemala helped me to open up to the loss and healing that is currently taking place within this country. Guatemala is just coming out of its own civil war, which lasted from 1960 to 1996. It has been estimated that during the civil war 40,000 to 50,000 persons disappeared and 200,000 were killed. The Human Rights Watch has reported that the events that took place during the war were “acts of genocide” and as recently as August 3, 2011 four former officers in the Guatemalan Special Forces were each sentenced to 6,060 years in prison (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guatemalan_Civil_War).

Upon immersing myself into a country that had gone through such loss I began to wonder how does one heal both individually and as a community. One of the most visible tools for healing in San Juan Comalapa where we stayed the majority of our time in Guatemala was the presence of a city mural along the cemetery wall reaching for at least 5 or more blocks when you first enter the town. The mural depicted scenes from the Mayan culture, the Spanish conquest of Guatemala, and the recent civil war. The mural itself is beautifully crafted and allows all who pass to take a moment and reflect on the history of the town and country. I believe that in remembering the hurt and loss that has taken place here the healing process can continue.

Beauty and Chaos.

These two words immediately come to mind when I reflect on my time in Guatemala. Although there are many different connotations for both words, http://www.thefreedictionary.com gives the following definitions for both:

Beauty: The quality that gives pleasure to the mind or senses and is associated with such properties as harmony of form or color, excellence of artistry, truthfulness, and originality.

Chaos: A condition or place of great disorder or confusion.

I chose these two words because of their pertinence to the feeling I hope to convey in my discussion below and for their ability to bring up contradictory associations and yet I use them to describe two sides of the same coin. When looking at and being a part of Guatemala it is easy to see the manifestations of beauty. The land is gorgeous with a full array of lush greenery, mountains, volcanoes, lakes, rivers and shores on the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Coast. Everywhere you look there is a myriad of vibrant colors, from the fruit stalls at the market to the traditional dress of the women to the paint choice on the exterior of the homes. One doesn’t have to look much further than the smiles on the children or the kindness in an elder’s eyes to see the beauty that lies within the persons that inhabit this Guatemalan land.

On the flip side though, amongst all the beauty of this land and its people is an overwhelming sense of chaos. I do not intend for the word “chaos” to denote any negative connotations, but rather hope that it can convey the sense of sensory confusion that one finds here if you’re used to straight paths, quiet nights and clean streets. The roads of Guatemala are winding, twisting, bumpy, and generally driven at an over fast speed around the people, bikes, chickens, cows, goats, and other vehicles on the road. The nights are filled with sounds of roosters, firecrackers, church bells, dogs and passing vehicles.

My first impression of Guatemala was quite divergent as I saw both the astounding beauty and overwhelming chaos as two different entities. As I spent more time living amongst both the beauty and the chaos, I saw that there is a symbiotic relationship amongst the two and the serenity of the beauty lives hand-in-hand with the vibrancy of the chaos.

Mindfulness through Trash

I consider myself a person who lives by fairly simple means, at least here in the U.S. I rarely drive my car around town, preferring to bike, walk or take the bus. I use a clothes line instead of the dryer, buy my clothes at second-hand stores, reduce, reuse and recycle everything and until a couple of months ago had a worm compost bin in my home for all my food scraps. All in all, I’d consider myself a fairly conscientious person when it comes to reducing my carbon footprint on this planet.

However all my good intentions are rarely measured on a day to day basis here in the States, while during my stay in Guatemala I was able to clearly analyze one specific aspect of my personal impact on the planet, namely through the counting of my trash. As you probably know from reading our daily log, many of the buildings on the Tecnico Maya School site are made of earth and recycled materials and a major component of the recycled materials is disposed waste. The process for disposing of waste such as snack bags, candy wrappers and other plastic matter is to bunch it up and stuff it into the small opening of a used water or soda bottle. Using a pencil, stick or piece of rebar you push as much trash into the bottle until it is a compact combination of red, green, blue and yellow layered trash. Then you cap the bottle and eventually it gets put into one of the building or retaining walls on campus.

On our last day in San Juan Comalapa, as we were packing our suitcases and saying our goodbyes, I found myself spending a good chunk of time stuffing my trash into a water bottle and wondering how my waste will impact the local community. Yes, the reuse of the trash is a brilliant idea. It’s resourceful and creative. My trash is not going into the city trash pit to be burned with the rest as is custom in the town. But the trash I left behind was couple of bottles more than the community really needed. And the simple act of stuffing my trash into the bottle bit by bit and piece by piece made me that much more conscious of my individual waste and that much more aware of my the effect my choices (such as that extra handful of potato chips after a long day of work) will have on the community in Comalapa as well as the planet for years to come.

The Cultures of Central Guatemala, Comalapa and Coatepeque

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Zeta Gaaaaaaaas!

Comalapa!
Today we’ve finished our work at the Long Way Home School Project.  Our internet is sketchy at best so our posts are slow in coming.  Today we leave the high mountains of the High Lands and the 5, count them 5 active volcanos for the western coast.  We move on to the CU Center for Global Health’s medical center project in Coatepeque. Our travels to the west coast will take us right past the most beautiful lake in the world, Lake Atilan and the surrounding Maya ruins.  Everyone has worked very hard for over a week here in Comalapa, accomplishing great things with the school’s building as well as within the community.   We all have many new friends here in Guatemala and wish them all the best in the future!  Here is a short slide show!  On to Coatepeque!

The Guatemalan People and their Culture

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Maya Techno School Director and Maya Leader

The Maya culture permeates all aspects of life in the Highlands and Lowlands of Guatemala.  A presentation our last night in Comalapa on the reverence the Maya people place on their ancestral heritage and the allegorical place of corn in their culture set the stage for our visits to other locals in and through the countryside.  Our first stop at the ruins at Iximche, the very last of the Maya cities, imprinted a dramatically deeper appreciation for that rich heritage.  Iximche, built in the latest of all Maya periods the mid 15th Century, remained the last bastion of Maya civilization, finally being conquered and subjugated by the Spaniards in the first quarter of the 16th century.  That heritage as an allegory, forms the foundations of the Guatemalan people’s social fabric.

Iximche Maya Ruins

Experiencing subjugation, war, oppression, conflict, depravation has become the staple of the people throughout the Guatemalan countryside.  The shining light of the culture remains those same people.  An individual spirit exudes throughout the population, one of resilience, determination, skill, craft, pride, resourcefulness.  From the Spanish  Conquests, to the devastating political upheavals of the late 20th Century ending with the most horrible of civil wars within a young teenager’s lifetime, the people remain stalwart, faithful, hopeful, proud.

Street Life of Highland Village

The things we’ve seen, the feelings we’ve experienced, I’m sure none of us expected and will not leave us soon.  From the bus trips to the Maya ruins, to the shores of Lake Atitlan and the cacophonous village of Soala above it’s shores, to the ubiquitous belching buses and cars in the seething and packed neighborhoods of Guatemala City, to the active volcanoes billowing plumes of smoke and rugged topography of the Colorado like mountains, to the Hawaiian flora of the Lowlands full of banana and palm plantations, to the jumping festivals and tuk tuks of the mountain villages, to the village sing-song adopted by our group of “Zeta Gaaaaaaas”,  to the shocking conditions of the locals we interviewed in and around the proposed Agro America/UCD Medical Center in Chiquirines…the place affected me and I’m sure others at a profound level.  Dubbing this “a life changing experience” only scratches the surface…just a little.

Rachael and Kids

Our group will I’m sure continue on with this profound experience …each in their own way.  To each their own, with both large and small gestures, everyone.  For Phil and my parts, we’ve both committed to exploring the challenges of the environs of Coatepeque, specifically Chiquirines.  We will explore the opportunities to improve the local’s lives through the Advanced Studio at UCD, looking to improve community development, infrastructure, housing, medicine, education and indeed, improving the lot of these resilient, intelligent and resourceful people.  Stay tuned for our progress throughout the term.  I can assure you, our efforts will fundamentally impact the lives of those people in the Lowlands in many, many ways.

Posted by Fred Andreas, AIA

Daily reflections in Comalapa and Coatepeque

Friday, December 30th:
I´ve been surprised by how slowly construction in general moves.  So many steps rely on the previous steps, so it takes a long time to even start on something.  Not to mention the length of time the actual labor takes.  This gives me more of an appreciation for everything that is surrounding us.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

People love their fireworks here.  Tonight I stood on the roof of our hotel and watched fireworks go off for about 30 minutes all around me at midnight.  It was so beautiful to see so much excitement for the new year.  Even though people don´t have much money to spend on luxury items, they still buy their fireworks.

The five chickens and millions of potatoes the generous Long Way Home staff smoked/BBQed for us on New Year’s Eve.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

It is pretty incredible to see such different worlds so close to one another.  Today we went to Antigua and saw a very wealthy, touristy town, when we’re used to Comalapa, where about 30% of people live on less than $1 per day.  The weirdest part of it is how easy it is to go back and forth between the two different worlds.  Even though the things we’re seeing and experiencing in Comalapa are so strong, it is still easy to want the conveniences of today, like lattes and flushing toilets.

Streets of Comalapa

Streets of Antigua

Monday, January 2, 2012

It is hard to keep on working when I’m discouraged about the work I’m doing.  I don’t know how to build a door, and it is discouraging to learn as we’re doing it and make it look as nice as the building surrounding it.

Our door coming along, slowly.

Friday, January 6, 2012

What I’ve learned about working in groups:  Sometimes (or more often than not) it is best to not argue about the details in the design process.  If one group member feels strongly about something, it is best to just let them do what they want instead of making a big deal out of it and causing conflict.  I’ve found that most parts of the process are not worth fighting over.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Today was the most touching day of the trip so far.  In Comalapa, we saw a lot of poverty but it didn’t seem quite as extreme as it is out here in Coatepeque.  These families really have nothing but still keep their homes and surroundings neat and tidy.  They have little access to clean water and healthy foods.  The members of one family we interviewed were pretty overweight, probably because they didn’t have access to healthy foods, just a lot of corn.  In spite of having very little, the family we talked to have us a big bag of mangos as a gift when we left.  A little later, I was playing with a group of four little girls during an important meeting.  One went to get a bag of agua pura for them and brought one back for me.  She didn’t even think twice about it, but brought it because she must have considered me a friend.  I’ve never experienced such warm kindness and generosity as I did with the people living here.

Volcanoes & Trash-Bottles

Volcanoes and trash-bottles each represent a mental shift that occurred while traveling and working in a truly foreign place. So foreign to my life in Denver, they served as constant reminders to how different a place I was in. While in Comalapa, seismic activity from one of the many active volcanoes in the area was a daily occurrence. What sounded like thunder rumbling in the distance was in fact a small eruption, which could be confirmed by observing the dark plumes above the cone-shaped peaks. Maybe it was the awareness of the Maya 2012 predictions while in the land of the Maya, but at times it was downright eerie. Trash bottles are a simple solution to cheap building materials and to the abundant plastic trash everywhere. I was skeptical when reading about them, but once in Comalapa, it quickly became the way we disposed of plastic trash.  Maybe it was because there were no trash cans in sight, but stuffing soda bottles with wrappers, or saving wrappers when no bottles were around, became normal. And when seeing a wall constructed from these stuffed bottles, it made even more sense.

These differences aside, much of the work we set out to do is the same no matter what part of the world we are in.  In this blog I will attempt to write down my thoughts on culture, design-build, the architect-engineer-contractor relationship, and sustainability as it relates specifically to our experience here in Guatemala.

Culture

December 23, 2011

In preparation for our upcoming departure to Guatemala, and as a way to quickly gain some insight into a country I knew very little about, I watched the documentary When the Mountains Tremble which was recommended by fellow classmate and traveler Kimberlee.  It depicts the brutal Guatemalan civil war as told by Nobel Peace Prize winner Rigoberta Menchu.

I found it to be very helpful in preparing my mindset to transition into another country.  The majority of the filming takes place in the Highlands of Guatemala, which is where we will be living and working for the first week and a half of our trip – helpful to see the people and the setting we will be traveling to.  It is also interesting to note the role of American aid during the civil war (the Reagan administration was essentially supporting the Guatemalan military) to see if there is any anti-American sentiment lingering, or to at least be aware of what our role was.

update NPR link: http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2012/01/14/145210344/guatemalas-legacy-of-violence-follows-new-leader-to-power

December 27, 2011

There is nothing quite like the initial ride from the airport to get all of your senses acclimated to a new place, especially in a developing country like Guatemala.  One can’t help but feel overstimulated by the surreal changes that each one of your individual senses experiences. The smell of smoke and burning seems to be everywhere.

January 02, 2012

It is really something to see how far a simple greeting goes here in Guatemala.  Buenos dias, Buenos tardes, Buenos noches…Good day, good afternoon, good night. Locals in Comalapa and Antigua go about their day, seemingly business like, and with little interest in a wandering gringo. Yet eye contact and a simple greeting ignite big smiles and a return greeting, without fail, young or old.

Design-Build

December 26, 2011

I am looking forward to gaining exposure on an international design-build project in the role of an architect.  To date, my experience with design-build projects has been through the lens of a general contractor on large engineer-designed projects. I suspect that while the scale of this project may be different, the general challenges will be very similar. I have learned that not everyone, (owners, designers, and contractors included) is necessarily best suited for Design-Build. When done correctly, the up-front collaboration of the design-build method can save tremendous amounts of time and money for all parties. Without it however, and without the proper management in place, the advantages quickly fade and frustration can spread in its place. A successful design-build team is just that; a team in every sense that shares responsibilities and communicates effectively through every stage of a project.

December 29, 2011

One key design-build lesson experienced by our team in the past two days is: ADAPTABILITY

Upon arriving to the Technico Maya construction site on day one, it was clear that the construction progress had not followed the anticipated schedule. While we had spent our time in Denver preparing design options for window and door formwork for 20’ diameter earth-bag classrooms, the ground had not even been cleared for said classrooms. Not a problem; our new focus was to start construction of a smaller prototype classroom, as well as other miscellaneous tasks. Some groups may fret over not being able to do what expectations were, but our group was up for the task for contributing to the project however we could.

As in any construction project, some subcontractors are not reliable. We waited almost a full day for a back-hoe to mobilize to the site and excavate ground for the foundation of the structure we were to start building. With limited time, lots of manpower and lots of shovels, it was decided that we could wait no longer and would excavate our own foundation by hand.  Again, adapting to the conditions proved to be a strong point of our group.

January 3, 2012

Field layout is a crucial job on any construction project, and in my opinion, under appreciated. For design-build projects it is especially critical due to design changes that occur during construction. Maintaining updated and accurate records among all parties involved can be a daunting task. Even on a small project such as our prototype earth-bag dome, many decisions were made on the fly, and recording these changes proved invaluable for future day’s work.  Long Way Home construction supervisors have the unenviable task of coordinating with an ever changing workforce of volunteers. They not only have to train and educate each new set of volunteers, but must also keep track of the on-the-fly design changes as they go.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Community Development

December 27, 2011

Before getting involved in any project directly affecting the daily lives of others, especially in developing countries, I think it is important to ask the tough questions in order to fully understand our (American students/professionals) role and place. What business to we have doing here in the first place? Who are we to decide what is best for anyone else in any other culture? Maybe things look bad to outsiders, but these people look perfectly happy and smiling. It was during my first international development project with Engineers Without Borders (EWB) in Togo, Africa (www.ewbdenver.org) that helped me to answer these questions for myself. I think that every human deserves access to the most basic survival needs, including safe drinking water and basic sanitation practices. When a community collectively recognizes a need in one of these areas, then I believe we are well within our right to educate and help a community achieve their goals.  Borrowing from a successful “Empowering the Community” model (Ned Breslin, Water for People), it is important to understand that the community stakeholders have much more to gain or lose from any project than anyone else. Our role as outsiders needs to be much like a consultant’s role to any client.  We need to ask the right questions to find out what the needs are, then educate and provide options for the community so they are involved at every stage of a project. Ultimately the community needs to have ownership of the project for it to be successful.

Not having a lot of background information on the relationship between Long Way Home and the Technico Maya School, I had more questions than answers regarding the level of community involvement on this particular project. It was reassuring to hear first-hand from Liz, the Assistant Construction Manager of the Technico Maya project, background on how the community approached Long Way Home to start such a project. After successfully completing their first project, El Parque, the community voiced their desire for another project specifically addressing their need for a better space for a school, and also voiced concerns over the trash problem in the area, and their desire to address sustainability issues.  It makes perfect sense now – the Earthship (www.earthship.com) design and construction methods address the trash and sustainability concerns while also keeping costs low.

January 09, 2012 – Coatepeque / Chiquirines

The scale of this project is quite different from that of the Long Way Home project.  Agro-America and the CU Medical School are teaming up on a $4M project which includes a new medical research facility and other buildings. My experience with projects of this size has been traditional projects with a contract between the owner and design-builder. Given the scale of this project, and the potential impact on the surrounding community, it seems like it would be a good project to utilize the community based participatory research model, where the community is involved at all stages of research and design of the project. With our limited involvement in the project to date, it is hard to have a full understanding of the relationship of all stakeholders, and the scope of work each entity is responsible for. Moving forward, I think it is crucial for the CU Denver architecture group to have access to,

and be included in any existing contract documents, MOU’s, etc. That said, it was beneficial to get a glimpse into the lives of those who stand to benefit the most from this project. It is a very exciting project with many opportunities for collaboration, and I look forward to the future work.

Written by Scott Rank

Experience Guatemala

December 29th, 2011

The alarm rang at 2:30 a.m. My flight was at 6:00 a.m. Despite some turbulence, the flight was a smooth one. We arrived in Guatemala at 2:28 p.m. but the journey did not cease there. A man named Feliziano and his son Manuel greeted us with a sign that read Long Way Home. Two more hours by car before we reached the rural town of San Juan Comalapa where we would be staying until January 7th. The ride felt quick. Our host family gave us a window tour of his beloved country, told us all about their family, his wife and two daughter, and asked us question about the states. We got the chance to practice my Spanish and they practiced their English; it was truly and enjoyable ride. After being welcomed with a warm dinner we went straight to be bed to rest for a hard day of work the next day.

December 30th, 2011

And morning came quick. The day began with a hardy breakfast and then a ten minute hike to the site through town. The anticipation was exciting. Our project was a guard house was in the beginning stages. Unfortunately, a bobcat scheduled to come did not arrive so naturally we went back to the traditional method…shoveling. We spent the day excavating a 176”circumfrance whole on a site with a dramatic grade change. It felt like we needed to dig “just 1 more foot” for about 3 three hours. This made me appreciate the technology we have today. Nevertheless, our progress was incredible. I have never loved a big hole in the ground more than the one we made today. When the work day can to an end we placed all the tools back in there place and took a trip to the center of town. The market in San Juan Comalapa is held on Tuesday, Friday, and Saturday. Lots of vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, clothes, and more lined the streets. When we got home our host family had showed us framed paintings of places situated throughout Guatemala. His talent was vast and in talking to him and, by seeing his paintings, it was apparent his sincere love for his country.

December 31st, 2011

Woke up incredible soar, but I knew it was for a great cause. We are working a half day today, but first my trip buddy Kim and I had to cook breakfast for the entire group. We continued to dig and constantly measured to make sure the radius of the circle succeeded 88.” Tires were added to the floors outer rim. A channel surrounds the circle circumference displaying a level change of 2”. The drainage system is enhanced by the gravel being placed between the edge of the circle and boarding the tires. This allows for the water to slope towards the lowest part of the site. In the future a box and ditch will be constructed to transport the water away from the building.

Today a door was brought off schematic design and into real life. The guard house needs a door for entry and the template for the door framework was laid out on plywood.  We searched the site and found old form work that we could de-construct and reuse for our doors. I look forward to going back to site on Monday and furthering our progress! Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2012

The day started with a bang! At 12:00 a.m. we heard lots of noise and rushed to the roof of our host’s home. The site was one I had never seen before. As we stood there fireworks flared in the sky 360 degrees around us. Morning came quickly and at 7:00 a.m. we were on the bus for a one hour trip to Antigua. Antigua used to be the capital of Guatemala, but after a devastating earthquake in 1773 the capital was reestablished in Guatemala City where it remains today. We arrived in Parque Central (Central Park). Waiting on the local stores to open we entered a highly recommended coffee shop called Café Condesa. Guatemala produces sought after coffee beans that are exported all over the world today. We walked around the local markets and saw traditional clothing being sold. The typical native traditional dress in Guatemala women is called a traje. The fabrics are woven by hand with patterns that distinctly represent villages. After strolling through the town, we returned to the Parque Central. The park defines an outdoor room in the middle of town where the locals create a dynamic atmosphere as they rest on historic benches, people watch, listen to live music, and eat delicious street fruits and food. Traveling today allowed us to experience the culture of Guatemala and I look forward to more days in the future!

January 2, 2012

Back to work. Monday started with a group meeting. The schedule was laid out and tasks were distributed among us. We got to the site and went straight to work. The project owners are having doors fabricated off site. So Bill and I continued to work on the door framework. I deconstructed the old arch frameworks that we are sizing and recycling for our door arch while Bill worked on assembling.  The second part of the day we spent on the guard house site. The tires boarding the circle were filled with gravel. We used sledge hammers to stuff the tires full of gravel. Because this is the foundation it is critical that the foundation is level and filling the tires became a delicacy. All in all we completed the circle and tomorrow we will be ready for the next step. Bags.