El Día Final

It's hard to believe this is our last night in Guatemala, and our last blog as well. Although we love it here in Guatemala, many of us are ready to see our families and friends back home.

The day started off with a lazy morning with breakfast at 7:30 and plenty of free time before lunch. After lunch we headed to the school for the celebration they planned for us. We had some time to chill with the students before they set up speakers around the basketball court and gathered for the celebration. First five of the boys played against four of the staff (and Miles) of the school in a basketball game. Luc led the team to a thrilling victory, assisted by some clutch plays from Atticus, Aidin, Will, Sam, and Nick. Luc and Aidin suffered massive blisters as the result of playing in flip flops, a poor decision indeed. Aidin currently can barely walk, and is really regretting not bringing his shoes.

Following the boy's victory, every TSC member was given an honorary diploma from the principal, congratulating our dedication to the project. The principal and Juan Carlos, the computer teacher, each gave a speech thanking us for coming and making their school's lab "the best in the city", which was a really proud moment for all of us.

The students then performed a series of dance performances, first the girls and then the boys. Some of us were surprised by their song selection, which included Gwen Stefani's "Rich Girl". After many pictures taken with each dance group, it was time for the girls to show off their basketball skills. Five girls that we usually play stepped up to the court, leaving us to choose 5 of our own. Kate, Loa, Katie, Jazzy, and Lucas decided to go against them. Lucas was our star player with some impressive shots, but still not enough to beat the students. That's not to say we didn't get feisty before they won. Luckily before punches were thrown the game ended and we all shook hands peacefully. This game concluded our time at the school and we said goodbye to everyone before heading out. Milli, a little girl who we befriended (especially Lucas), was sad to see us go, but her grandma was the one to tear up and hug us all. It was an emotional affair.

We got back to Antigua a bit later than expected and the boys stopped at the barber shop while most of the girls grabbed some pastries. Everyone met back up at Mari's house a good while before dinner. After eating yet another scrumptious meal, we relaxed and packed for tomorrow. Currently, everyone is in bed and it's only me and Aidin ready to sleep a little before our day of traveling.

And so ends our final blog of this trip. It's been a blast, and countless hours have been dedicated to all you readers' pleasure. Hope it was fun to read!

Adios, we'll see you all in 24 hours!

- katie and aidin

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ZipLining to a Certain Happiness

Sorry for the lack of post last night, the Wi-Fi went out at Mari's house :( Here is last night's blog post written by some guest bloggers, enjoy!

Thrust into the crucible of the beautiful but heavily dense vegetation of the rain forest, we awaited the clamp, accompanied by a click and then the ringing sound of the thick metal wire; culminating our eight different experiences of today's zip lining adventure.  Before I get into detail about our main adventure of the day, let’s start from the beginning. We woke up like any other day around 7:30 AM in our luxurious cabins, watched a bit of TV and then walked up the stoney steps to where the dining hall was located. Once breakfast was consumed we packed our bags and then hurried down the steps all the way to the water where we had been swimming the last two days, waiting to be picked up by our water taxi. After waiting for about twenty minutes we were finally picked up from the hotel's quaint little rocky landing for our departure to the largest town, Panajachel. After we arrived in Panajachel we all took a fleet of Tuk Tuks (three-wheeled taxis) to a small hotel boasting a large number of different activities and tourist attractions. Carrying our luggage from the two previous nights, we dragged ourselves up the steps to the reception counter where a stack of waiver forms waited to be signed. Still dreary from the early breakfast but somewhat energized by the Tuk Tuk ride that one of the drivers described as 'NASCAR', we proceeded to the waiting zone, where we realized sadly that a giant group of North Caroliners had arrived just ahead of us and was in the process of being rigged up to ZipLine. However, we soon realized that they had paid the extra $50 to do the 1/2 mile long zip line, and as we hadn't, we were able to get on the lines much sooner than anticipated. Thrown into the hills of Lago Atitlan, we waited for our guides to hook us onto the 150+ meter long wires that would send us from one hill to another with a beautiful view of the lake in between. Don't worry, our camera-man had his GoPro and filmed several of the rides for your future entertainment. After the thrilling ride, we Tuk Tuk'ed back to the town where we had a lunch of several different sandwiches and lemonade at a hotel. After the meal most people went to the town's market, but Nick, Luc and Atticus stayed at the hotel to make use of the Ping-Pong table. After several heated matches we met back up at the bus to begin a two and 1/2 hour ride back to Antigua. On our return to Mari's we had dinner then went out to have some ice cream. With an early breakfast tomorrow, people are now starting to retire to bed.

Signing Out,

Luc and Nick :)

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Further Exploration of Lake Atitlan

Today started at 5:30 AM for some of us who watched the sunset and 7 AM for the rest of us. Apparently it was beautiful. We had a delightful breakfast before our guide met us for a short hike up to the top of La Nariz, not too far from where we're staying. The view at the top was incredible. The sparkling lake and volcanoes (one even let off some smoke!) were evident, as were little towns that dotted the horizon. After documenting evidence that we made it to the top via many pictures, we made our way back down. We were driven to a different town to explore and eat lunch called San Marcos, a quaint slightly hippy town. After filling up on way too much mushroom pizza, we managed to drag our heavy bodies to the dock for our boat ride to San Pedro, another town close to our cabins. When we got off, we perused the shops for a short bit before most of us took a Tuk tuk(taxi) back to the cabins. A select group of the female variety went back into town to purchase a few items before heading to the cabins.

It wasn't long before everyone got in the water. After some fun time splashing around, everyone got out to get ready for dinner. Dinner was lasagna and a medley of fruits of vegetables. The kids then piled up into the boys cabin for some movie time while the chaperones talked and played games long after dinner. We watched not only part of 1 movie, but 3 for the day. That's what I call an achievement when you're surrounded by outdoor beauty. Now most everyone has gone to sleep, and we're about to as well (as usual).

Buenas noches!

Katie and Fidalgo, the tan goddess

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Boundless Beauty

This morning started like the others, but with one big difference; we were heading to Lake Atitlan for the weekend. After breakfast, we loaded into the shuttle bus along with our tumbling pile of stuff for the weekend. Around 3 hours later, we arrived at the east end of the lake. To reach the city of San Juan where we're staying, we took a small boat and jetted across the dazzling blue water, Kate, Lucas, and Katie especially enjoying playing with the water. The views are incredible. Lush mountain/volcanoes surround the large lake while fluffy white clouds float in the brilliant blue sky. The boat too soon pulled up to San Juan, a short distance to our cabins. Weighed down by our packs, we walked through the cute, artsy town of San Juan quickly.

Fifteen minutes later we arrived at our home for the weekend and got shown to our separate rooms and cabins. The setting is absolutely gorgeous with breathtaking views of the lake, the mountains, and the small surrounding towns. After exploring the densely vegetated land around the structures, we decided to go back to town to shop. It wasn't long before everyone made their way back to the cabins to swim and get ready for dinner. The lake is perfect for swimming, as the water is surprisingly not that cold, and the waves from boats passing by make for an exciting time. After showering, we had an American dinner of barbequed chicken, mashed potatoes, and vegetables, rivaling Mari's delicious cooking. We also had a special surprise dessert of chocolate cookies. Afterwards, all the kids headed down to one of the boy's cabins. It wasn't long before a pillow fight started and chaos erupted. Daniella had a strong hit. Everyone began to get sleepy and headed off into their rooms to relax before rest.

Your bloggers need to do the same, so we end our post with well wishes and pleasant thoughts.

Buenas noches!

Katie the Little Lady and Aidin Who's Now Fadin <-Katie's idea. I take no credit for this. -Aidin

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Computers Complete!

Another day has been completed here in Antigua, and we actually found WiFi so we'll be able to blog tonight! Sorry again for the issues last night. Here comes our highlights of the day!

We woke up at the usual 7:30 and had breakfast before walking to the San Francisco church, thankfully without the sick Aidin. We visited the grounds behind the church, receiving a tour of the deteriorating, yet beautiful, architecture. At one point we were able to walk in a cave-like structure, which was a relief from the hot sun burning on our backs. After a few pictures, we headed out and broke up into small groups to do whatever pleased us. Katie and Jazzy got some screaming deals at the little market in the church. Atticus, Nick, and Will headed for the little outdoor market by the Central Park, ready to drop some bank. Miles and Mike went in search of fine gifts for their families before they, Sam, and Luc went back home. Jaida, Daniella, Loa, and Kate went home after running some errands. Sage went with Craig and Judy to get a gift (it's a secret) before she went home as well.

Lunch was delicious fried chicken with baked potatoes on the side. Yummmmmm. We soon headed out for the final day of working on the computers, minus the sick Daniella, Aidin, and Sam. The sound of music from the student's fiesta preceded our arrival. The tempting festivities almost lured us away from the work, but we managed to complete the lab within a couple of hours. Good news! GuateSquad completed all 28 computers in our school's lab, making the lab's total computer count 50. This is the biggest lab TSC has ever worked on, and we're proud to have a part in it. After the crimping and wire maneuvering, the girls, and then eventually the guys, went out to dance with all the students. Will gets the special award for the most enthusiastic dancer. Kate also had an inspiring line dance that she popped out a few times during the extravaganza. After about an hour of dancing, we said goodbye to the kids until Monday and left for home.

We ate ice cream before dinner (don't worry, we still ate afterwards). We were all happy to have pasta for dinner, but us teenagers with our boundless appetites still headed out for McDonald's awhile after. We are now relaxing back at home and packing for our trip to Lago Atitlan tomorrow morning. Bets will be taken about who will not have enough time to shower in the morning. It's time to pack up and sleep for our excursion, buenas noches!

Katizzle + Aidinator off the track

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It's All Good

Sorry everyone for no blog going up yesterday, WiFi issues prevented our usual daily summary from going up. So here comes a late edition of yesterday's blog.

We took a break from our normal daily routine for a special day trip, as we went to Guatemala City for the day. We were met early in the morning by our tour guide Matt, who was from the Safe Passage organization. Safe Passage operates out of Guatemala City, and their mission is to improve the lives of the families living in the garbage dump there. The dump in Guatemala City is one of the largest in the world, and thousands of people work and live within it, most earning less than $4 a day.

Safe Passage was established to give the children there a place to go to school, and has grown into a preschool, primary/secondary school, health clinic, and mothers program where single mothers who live in the dump can make and sell homemade merchandise. We got to tour all of this, and spent all morning taking it in. From the cemetery around the dump where there are giant tombs mixed in with the simple wooden crosses, to the dump itself, to the school, it was a really enriching experience for everyone. Nick interviewed a lot of people about it, so you'll probably see some good video footage when we get back of the whole day (He's also fine, sorry Nick's mom for the scare). We had lunch at the Safe Passage school with the kids, and then headed back on the winding roads to Antigua. (More information on Safe Passage can be found at: http://www.safepassage.org/)

When we got back to the house, we took quick naps and then got ice cream and roamed the markets, before heading back to Mari's for an early dinner. Immediately following dinner, one of Mike's friends who lives close by named Patricia stopped by to tell us about what she does here in Antigua. She works as an advocate for disabled people in Guatemala, as they have very few laws here that help disabled people at all. In addition to a lack of laws, the culture here sees disabled people as either a curse, or punishment, so disabled children are looked down upon and left on there own. Patricia operates a house where three disabled men, each with incredibly sad stories, live with the assistance of volunteers. She is planning to expand to a larger house soon where she can take in more people, and continue to improve their lives. Patricia also teaches at a school for the learning disabled and physically disabled in a small village near Antigua, where she built the school specifically to give disabled children the chance to get an education. It was a really interesting talk that made us all realize how different things are here from the US.

The GuateSquad then went out to a local cafe to see one of Mike's friends perform some guitar songs while having some pretty awesome pizza. We racked up quite the bill, much to Mike's chagrin, but it was all okay in the end as we had a great time. There was a big bonfire and we all relaxed under the stars for a while before heading back to the house to get to sleep.

Now we're off on today's activities, we'll let you know what happens tonight!

Hasta luego,

A/K

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School after School

Day 8 started bright and early (as usual) as we woke up early for a morning excursion. We walked to the other side of Antigua, leaving Miles home as he was feeling sick with the Stomach Scourge. The GuateSquad then got to tour a really cool school that was founded by an American guy named Patrick Atkinson, who came to Guatemala and set up a house for orphans. He continued to help by building this school/clinic/homeless shelter to help the unfortunate people in Guatemala. The place is super beautiful, with amazing architecture and landscaping. Everyone was friendly, and we got to see a ton of happy children, funny babies, and proud parents. It was an unique experience, and definitely one of the highlights of the trip. Here's more information if you want it! http://dev.godschild.org/countries/guatemala/

We then returned home to find Miles feeling better, and Nick's condition deteriorating. We had a scrumptious potatoes and chicken lunch, and then left to the school to attempt to finish the final stages of installation. After organizing the remaining wires, we crimped our way through the final 10 cords. Unfortunately, we didn't bring enough wiring to finish the lab, so we'll have to finish on Thursday.  The rest of the school hours were spent playing with the kids, getting caught in another monster rainstorm (Seattle rain is nothing compared to this), and getting on our most crowded bus ride yet. People were literally hanging on to the back of the bus.

We hit up a group salsa lesson on our way back, and got to learn the basics from the mime from a previous blog (find the one with Luc's involvement in a mime routine). Naturally, most of us are pretty bad, except Will who considered himself a pro. Lucas and Jazzy both picked it up really fast, and became skilled quickly. It was a whole lot of fun though, and everybody had a blast.

We came home, had dinner, and proceeded to relax for the rest of the night. We even started this blog early, but to no avail as we are still up and almost everybody is asleep. Oh well.

We'll be visiting the school within the Guatemala City dump tomorrow, which will definitely make for an interesting blog (hopefully more interesting than this one). Thanks for reading this, we appreciate the fame and publicity.

Adios

AKIADTIINE (figure it out)

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A Day in the Life of...

Hello there earthlings, welcome to your humble blog yet again.

We first take you throught the morning with Loa. Chipper as always, she awoke and showered with her usual good attitude. Later she woke her roommates, whom per usual slept in. Breakfast was Loa's favorite, pancakes and fruit. Yummmmmm. Aidin consumed pancakes at an alarming rate, according to our research. Aidin, as well as the rest of the crew, got dressed and ready for a morning spent shopping at the markets. Lucas waited as we took a lengthy amount of time to gather for heading out to call her loved ones. She then walked into the blinding Antigua sunshine. As the group made their calls, Lucas was second to last for amount of call time, only behind Katie. Katie spent probably too long talking to her boyfriend on the phone, racking up quite a bill. Eventually feeling bad for making her friends wait, she headed over to Pap's, the new ice cream place that Miles discovered. Miles was far away from the group of ladies at Pap's at this time, as he was checking out knives at one of the many Antiguan markets. He, and the rest of his mini squad, bought more knives and presents for family members, making sure he kept the mood bright in the small group. Kate checked out tank tops and got a screaming deal, spending only 10 quetzals (about $1.33). She then proceeded to buy her secret sister gift with Loa. Mike was counting money at Café Barista before making his way towards the market, where, for the first time, he noticed all the knives and machetes that were being sold. On his way there, he saw the group of girls en route towards shopping deals.

Craig checked out the San Francisco Church, admiring its beauty(4.5 stars on google reviews). Afterwards he, as well  as the other chaperones, headed back for lunch at Mari's. He enjoyed a chicken and rice lunch as he mentally prepared for the upcoming events. On the walk towards the school, Daniella once again agreed to do Katie's hair on the chicken bus. A bumpy ride and short jaunt to the school later, Daniella and the crew once again passed through the large doors of the school. Will went straight towards the computer lab, ready to crimp away the stressors in his life. He was met by a plethora of wires which he aptly took ahold of, soon off to play basketball with the boys. Sage diligently worked in the computer lab, showing off her organization skills. It should be mentioned that her new hair wrap was striking, and most likely inspired other group members. Meanwhile, Luc dominated the basketball court, at least in his mind. It wasn't too long before he came in to help with the plethora (last Tuesday's word of the day!) of wires in the lab. Philippa cheered on the group as the final testing crimped wires was successfully completed. She overlooked and helped the group as they completed segment one out of two of the computer lab. At 5 o'clock Sam and friends left the school, making sure to say goodbye to his newfound friends. Back on the bus he piled, feeling at home in the crowded chicken bus.

Jaida noticed the pleasant aroma immediately after entering Mari's house. Dinner consisted of taquitos, cabbage, and bread, which Jaida loaded up on in preparation for the girls dance session in the room later on. She especially enjoyed the cabbage, even grabbing some from Atticus. Atticus was unaware of the events regarding his unusually large amount of cabbage, but still was down for some crepes. Judy followed everyone out the door towards the enticing creperie. Her and the chaperones indulge themselves on an apple, cinnamon, and vanilla ice cream crepe. Yummmmmmm round 2. Nick was plain and simple with his cinnamon and butter crepe. He also sadly happens to be the latest victim of the sick stomach scourge :( . When Jazzy got home, she started the girls party with her newly bought speakers. It wasn't long before the girls were teaching each other to dance, with Jazzy's cheer skills coming in handy.

It is now 11;40 here and many are still awake, but the allure of sleep beckons.

Adios from your favorite bloggers

Kit-Kat and First Aid

Daily knife/machete totals= 23!

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The Real Story - Totally

First off, we'd like to say many thanks to our previous guest blog poster. He filled in some gaps that us innocent bloggers unfortunately bypassed.

This morning started early, especially with Katie running to the bathroom every hour from 4 AM. Yes, I was sick. But not to worry, your persevering blogger made it through the day--barely. The group received a breakfast of eggs, fruit, and yogurt and granola. We then piled on to a shuttle van to bring us to our new adventure location, Pacaya Volcano. After a 2 hour steep ride to the winding base of the hike, we stepped out of the van to be swarmed by a plethora of children selling us sticks. Not just any random stick, but superb walking sticks. Aidin is an eternal fan of the sticks. We met our guides Sylvia and Paco, who were informative and comedic respectively. A grueling but rewarding jaunt up the volcano led us to some of the most amazing views and spectacular pictures. Our guides discussed how far up they'd let us travel the active volcano. Not to worry, no eruptions today. Fun fact; the second to last eruption of Pacaya was Katie's birthday, May 27th, in 2010. Save the date! We ventured through the forest as the mist started slowly making it's way towards us.

Lunch was at a scenic bottom of the peak of Pacaya. Many of the boys used their sticks to golf horse poop off of the ridge. Few were successful. The girls started off the lunching, sitting on the opposite side of the ridge, trying to pretend they didn't know the boys and their odd fascination with horse manure. The peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that Mari made us reminded us of home, where PB + J are plentiful. After lunch, we entered the crater. Billions of volcanic rocks marked the basin of the glob of rock(thesaurus.com actually uses this as a synonym for volcano). Everyone had fun sliding from rock to ashy rock. Unfortunately Daniella scraped up her knee and Sage hurt her hand. Luckily everyone was OK to hike back down thanks to our superior med staff. Paco led us in our expedition to the other side of the concavity, where we gamboled over to a hut known as the Lava Store. After a informative small speech by the two workers, a few of us purchased the hand crafted jewelry made from volcanic rock and coconut shells, where proceeds helped the local community. Our guides then allowed us to roast marshmallows over steam vents, an unforgettable experience. The GuateSquad then made its way down the mountain, some (Loa) got accused of trying to beat horses and was almost bitten by them, and everybody was glad to make it down the rock-face before the rain came.

Everybody was pretty worn out by the hike. We all took a nap on the way back home. We got a scrumptious Italian pasta dinner and went to a new ice cream place called Paps, that was super good. Mike wore Lucas's hair (yup). We returned home to relax, play cards, and fall asleep early. Except for your noble bloggers, who continue to impress (we hope).

Alright, its late here and we're ready to hit the sack. Thanks to everyone who reads the blog, we hope you like it!

Buenas noches!

Atie and Kaidin

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THE TRUE STORY - SORT OF

Part one of today's blog will be written by guest blogger and chaperone extraordinaire Mike Collins.

Time for a giant shout out to Bob and Maggie.  Especially Bob.  Bob came a week before the first group arrived in Guatemala and worked non stop to make sure that everything was set up for the kids at all the schools we have visited.  He was with the first group every day and was with group two for the first week, buying missing pieces and helping out! Maggie helped group two when we were quetzal-less by running to the bank and changing our money. She also had the kids laundry done after they were soaked when coming down from Cerro de la Cruz.  Thank you Bob and Maggie!

Now for  a few corrections to past blogs. Little corrections but we all want the TSC history to be perfectly accurate at all times.  TSC did not lose a bag, American Airlines left the bag in Miami. (American Airlines also told us two of the kids names were different on their tickets and passports and they were not sure they would be able to enter Guatemala. Of course nobody else noticed that at any part of our journey). Unfortunately when the bag arrived in Guate it was grabbed by customs because it had 2000 feet of cable in it.  I guess that is a little unusual. We needed that cable and they would only release the cable to the "owner" which, according to their records was Sage. So Sage and Phillipa had to cab to the airport at night (after being soaked on the cerro trip) so that Sage could sign a bunch of papers and explain why she was bringing cable into the county. Fortunately Mari was also there and they talked their way out of paying any duties. Small but important correction: Mike had never set an alarm for 6 in the morning; it was a funny trick played by Angelica of group one.

Everybody has done a fabulous job at work and play.  Like many schools in Guate four different schools with four different directors share the facility.  The afternoon computer teacher, Juan Carlos (who studied in Edmonds Community College), has been working with the kids to add our computers to their computers. They have 21 working computers and we are adding enough sot that they can have a full class of 50 in the room at one time. (Yes, 50, no small class initiatives here).  The kids are also networking the computers.  Wires have been run all over the place.  Jazzy has become a specialist at something but I honestly have no idea what she is doing. Jaida had been punching down wires into some little thingie. Whatever that means. (Bob and Jaida know).  Luc, Loa and Kate have been running around measuring wires, handing out jobs (and time to play with kids).  Will, Daniella, Katie, Lucas and Sage (and everybody else) have been crimping wires. There is a lot of crimping to be done.   Sam, Will, and Atticus have been working inside and out of the lab measuring wire and connecting wire.   Miles and Nick have been taking photos and video and documenting the trip for TSC posterity.

Besides the work and play everybody is making every effort to support the Guate economy.  Shopping expeditions have been organized to all the markets.  The chaperones feel very safe as the group (so far) has accumulated 11 knives and 4 machetes.  Fortunately they are not very sharp but they sure look good.  Sage and Jazzie shop with Katie Mc. Jazzie scouts out the articles, Sage negotiates and Katie comes in to seal the deal.  Katie has also spent most of her money because she just cant pass up the bargains. In addition to weaponry many bracelets, blankets and other goodies have been purchased.  Loa is especially proud of her beautiful earrings and the fabulous deal she got.  The boys have accumulated most of the weapons but they also invested in an electric fly swatter and have been hunting down flies on a regular basis. I am sure Mari is very happy about this.  Mari has been her usual effervescent self.  The food has been great and Mari regularly checks in with the kids by saying "happy, happy?" which are the only two English words she knows but they are more than enough.  Everybody has pitched in at night to do the dishes.

Bottom line is that it has been a great trip so far. The kids are great with each other and with the Guate kids. They have taught us some fun stuff- like how to use the words "dope," "fly," "fire," and other words appropriately. Lucas has taught us that you can look like you have a lot of hair and really just have some very fly hair weaves.

I will leave the description of our trip to Volcan Pacayo to our dedicated bloggers. I do however want to say that this was my sixth trip up Pacayo. I should become a guide.  Kudos to our group - everybody trooped up and down and nobody needed a horse to move them along the trail.

Mike Collin

PS: Don't play bannanagrams with Phillipa. She has her own rules and she uses words like "quire."  Dont play cards with Katie Mc; she carries around a pack at all times and is a card shark.

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the Fable Continues

We're back writing this blog since nobody volunteered to write it tonight, probably since everybody was intimidated by Luc's great post last night. No worries though, since Katie and I are always extremely overexcited to write this blog. Seriously, we are. So here comes the exciting highlights of the day.

We received the glorious pleasure of sleeping in a little bit and ate a quick cereal breakfast. Up to the top of Cerro de la Cruz we ventured, appreciating the pleasantly clear weather and superb views. A number of photos were taken, some good and some taken by Miles. After the cliché photo ops, we headed back down the sloped landscape. Soon enough we stood at the front of the impressive 5 star Santa Domingo hotel. Majestic architecture and décor awaited us inside the not humble abode. Needless to say, we were awestruck as the beauty struck our souls (please take note of the splendid vocabulary we have concocted in our blogging minds, this may end up in our college apps). The most delectable part of this adventure was the chocolate we got to sample and then consume at shockingly high rates, according to our research. Art galleries, a wedding venue, crypt, parrots, and even a birthday party were discovered inside the ancient, decaying walls. It was not long before the fable continued(?) and GuateSquad climbed a small mountain on a shuttle bus to reach the hotel's sister location.

Once we ascended to the top of the mini-mountain, the GuateSquad found themselves surrounded by a serene yet breathtaking sculpture garden and views. Like young children at a playground, we frolicked through the grounds and took in the thought-provoking displays of artisan skill. Katie found a statue of a man she wished to be her grandfather, and Aidin ate a leaf. He was hungry. After a nondescript amount of time, we all piled back in the shuttles to descend to the main city level. Another long jaunt back to the house was followed by the smell of yet another fantastic meal by the MariSquad.

The afternoon consisted of everyone devouring ice cream and watching Luc take part in a street mime's performance (it should be noted that Luc hugged the mime but refused to kiss or tip him). Then groups split off into the markets to buy cool stuff and haggle with vendors, all for your enjoyment. We met back up at the house for tamales (tastes like lasagna) and Coke. We planned to go to the carnival that Atticus, Sam, Miles, and Nick visited during the afternoon, but it was vetoed on the grounds of needing sleep for the big hike tomorrow. So we all played our various card games, and are currently in the midst of relaxing.

We leave you with well wishes. We'll see you guys in 10 days!

Happy birthday Aidin's dad!

Tall A and Special K

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White Men Can't Jump, But Guatemalan Girls Can Shoot

Its day four in Guatemala and we are more than enjoying ourselves. This morning we all woke up a little later than usual, given our changed schedule for working at the school in the late afternoon. We started this morning by traveling to the local church La Mercee. On the way to the church we were stopped by a ruckus and an explosion of color, that ended up being a parade down one of the main streets of Antigua. I was told that it was "Antigua Month" so each of the local schools will periodically have parades throughout the month. After we finished taking pictures of the beautiful dresses and lively kids in the parade, we proceeded to the towering yellow and white church that could be seen throughout the city. With a small fee paid for each of us, we were granted entrance to the stairs that lead above the hundreds of street vendors and bustling markets, into a euphoric view of not only the entire city of Antigua, but the surrounding hill tops, some of which were home to active volcanoes. After our scenic view, we headed back to the house to have lunch and then immediately after we all walked to the transit center were we caught one of the decorated chicken buses that took us close to the school we have been working at for the last two days. Until today, we have always worked in the morning where the majority of the students at the school were extremely young, but on this  partly rainy day we were lucky to be accompanied by high school students that were much closer to all of our ages. This similar age group gave us the ability to play some basketball (in the rain) with some of the students on the court that I had been eyeing for the previous two days we had been there. Luckily, my thirst for playing basketball had been quenched when myself and four boys from the school played Aidin, Miles and a gang of girls from the school. While I was dunking on Aidin and Miles throughout the game, it shocked me to see that collectively the girls from the school were far better in every aspect of the game of basketball than the boys were. I couldn't help but admire the small  little Guatemalan girl that consistently made the outside jumper in many of the  boy's faces (my teammates).

After we finished up all we could do that day at the lab, we packed up and headed for the bus. When we got on the bus, many of us were tired, drenched, and ready to take a shower. As we drove our usual route back into the more central area of town I got this really indescribable feeling that I remember having on the previous TSC trip I had went on to Vietnam. Like I said, the feeling was indescribable, but if I had to take a crack at it, it would be a mixture of pride, happiness, friendship, competitive spirit and the realization of an experience in a foreign country that I would never forget. I'm getting the sense that our group is just starting to feel like a family. A family that has tons of fun but also prioritizes service to others. Day 4 in Guatemala was a game changer, and I love it. Hope all is well back at home!

Signing out,

L .C

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All Wired Up

It is now day 3 in Antigua and we're quite enjoying ourselves. We need sleep so this will be a short, sweet note to y'all. For breakfast we had something that made me think of my grandma's house, aka oatmeal. We then had an un-noteworthy bus ride and worked on wiring the computers all morning. During everyone working hard, me and Aidin played with the kids, That's right, we let go of our responsibilities so we could receive the attention. Not to worry, the full GuateSquad made an appearance quickly and the kids joined in our fun with gusto. A massive soccer game began, with the white shirted Team Aidin against the blue shirts Team Nick. The game essentially ended with an absolutely amazing goal by Aidin, that would have no doubt made the Sports Center Top 10 if anybody had been videotaping it. Unfortunately, his goal will only be an urban legend for centuries to come. Everybody had fun signing autographs, using our limited Spanish to talk to the kids, and just having a lot of fun with them. We all were called back in to finish wiring the computer lab, and put us in a good position to finish the lab by tomorrow (hopefully). We then had yet another bus ride at high speeds where SURPRISE we ended up at the wrong stop. We then had a small lunch at home and went to the market where we bought you guys lots of stuff, and attempted to barter with the shop owners with various levels of success. We came home to a quick crimping practice session to prepare for tomorrow. Although a crimping party may sound like some odd new urban dance, it turns out that it really just makes people (cough Aidin) want to flip tables. Thankfully Mari presented us with a welcome fiesta featuring a lot of REALLLLLLLLY good food with a heartwarming speech, transated by yours truly. The rest of the night was spent hanging out with another and playing games, where Atticus pulled off the huge upset beating Nick (previously unbeaten) in Egyptian Ratscrew, easily the highlight of the day. Miles also posted pictures of the last two days, and he'll post some more of today and tomorrow in the next week/year. That's all for now folks, your humble late-night bloggers need their beauty sleep in order to provide you with yet another awe-inspiring story. Wish you could hear the peaceful, drowsy rain as well!

Buenas noches!

A&K

P.S. BANANA BREAD

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Bubble Wrap and Mini Monsoon

First, we would like to express our frustration in having to retype our entire blog post because we accidentally closed the page without saving. On that happy note, we shall continue to describe this fabulous day.

The day started off with Mike's alarm going off in the boys room at 6AM. Thanks, Mike. The mood was instantly brightened by Mari's scrumptious pancakes, and Aidin's day was made when she gave him four extras. The GuateSquad then began walking to the chicken bus stop, then rode the large school bus at breakneck speeds. Upon arrival, the crew instantly got to work replacing the outdated computers with the old. As the school children gathered to watch the mysterious pale and tall strangers at work, we finished setting up the computers. Miles then thought it would be a good idea to start handing out bubble wrap to the plethora (yesterday's word of the day) of kids, which led to instant chaos. Thousands of bubbles lost their lives to the throngs of kids, and we all handed out sheets to the kids.Once we finally convinced the kids to leave us and our bubble wrap alone, we finished installing the various accounts onto the computers and got to hang out with the kids more. Miles, Aidin, Atticus, and Sam met a bunch of cool kids and got to know them better, and promptly were destroyed in a quick game of soccer with 5 year olds. We then packed into the extremely tight bus back to central Antigua.

We arrived to Mari's house for a quick rest and lunch, which was awesome thanks to the amazing cooking of Mari. Awesome fried chicken and salads awaited us, and we devoured it quickly before heading on a hike. Kate promised us all that it wouldn't rain, despite the ominous clouds. We hiked up the mountain to an amazing view of the city from above, and got in a few great pictures before the weather decided to change things up.

The monsoon rain went from minimal to full out flood conditions in seconds, and we started scrambling to get back to the house. By the time we reached the bottom of the mountain, our clothes were soaked through completely. The streets were flooded with ankle high water, and we got quite a few laughs from passersby on our hungry/tired/wet appearance. We finally made it back to Mari's house, and a few showers later were all back to normal body temperatures as well.

For the rest of the night, we just camped out at Mari's and played various games, including Bananagrams, Spoons, Egyptian Ratscrew, and others. It was super relaxing with the rain pouring down on the roof outside and the cozy atmosphere within. We had another fantastic dinner, featuring beans, tortillas, and a vegetable medley that was amazing as usual. We're all a fan of Mari's cooking here.

Everyone went to bed about an hour ago, leaving us here to slave away on this blog (thanks again for the website troubles). Hopefully we'll be able to post some pictures tomorrow, and we'll have some other people write this so you can get some different point of views.

Buenas noches!

K&A

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Guatemala Bound and Found (minus 1 suitcase)

Subject: Day One

Status: In country, surviving on a thread

Objective: Sleep ASAP

Description: The GuateSquad landed in Guatemala City at approximately 1100 hours 14 July 2015. There was confusion at the airport due to one child (cough Nick) discovering a devastating loss of luggage. Tears were spilled, but due to the GuateSquad's tough and resounding spirit, they were able to make it through those tough times. The GuateSquad then piled their luggage into a cheddar cheese tinted bus, commonly known to bring children to and from school. One hour, 18 cookies, other snacks, traffic, and beautiful scenery later, the GuateSquad pulled into one of the work-sites, where they will be installing computer labs in the upcoming weeks. They were met by a plethora (word of the day!) of school children mystified by the alarming numbers of baggage and the baggage bearers themselves. Finally, the GuateSquad traveled to headquarters, stationed in the charmingly rustic city of Antigua. They were met with open arms and food by the house-owner Mari and her followers, including her parrot Paco and her three identical dogs. Following a quick and refueling meal, the GuateSquad headed out on a mission of sightseeing and ice cream. After racking up a bill upwards of 200 quetzales at the ice cream store, and witnessing a failed bargaining session by Will, they explored the local market. No items were bought since the ATM lines were too long, but plans were made to return in the future. The GuateSquad returned to headquarters where a delightful dinner was devoured. Everyone (except for your noble bloggers here) went to bed early as the GuateSquad prepares to save the world/ install a computer lab early tomorrow morning. Excitement levels are off the charts according to our research as they get ready to meet the students. We shall now follow their lead. Pictures will be posted tomorrow since Miles went to bed, showing his priorities are clearly thought through.

Signing off,

Agents Aidin and Katie

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