On our second day at Buenas Cosas, Angelica took us to visit a school in the next Barrio, and introduced herself and the organisation to the principal. He agreed that he would be happy for us to come and help out teaching English and building a vege/fruit garden.

Back at the casa (house) Angelica said we could use the internet to plan our classes – um what? We thought we were just helping their teachers out, but we WERE the English teachers! Oh, Crap! Eek those poor kids, neither of us have ever taught English before and our Spanish still isn’t that good either!

Our commitment to volunteering was 4-5 hours per day and we were to teach 3 different classes; the big kids twice a week with half an hour each in the garden and on English; the middle kids twice a week for an hour solely on English; and the young ones for half an hour of English once a week. Outside of our classroom hours we would spend  the rest of the time building the garden.

Another volunteer, Carly, joined us the next morning and the first day at the school was fantastic! The kids are all really neat and we were the first Gringos who had volunteered there so I think we were a bit of a novelty! Our first English lesson went better than we thought it would, and the kids were pretty excited to learn where NZ was, and to check out the flag we took along with us. Guatemalans don’t tend to have a big grasp on the concept of the other side of the world as life is very much focussed around family and community, so the kids were pretty shocked by the fact that it was the other side of the world. Es muy leho! Yes, it’s very far away!
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Before we broke the ground with the big kids
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Tangible progress
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The kids building a path
After English we took the big kids outside and they helped to choose an area for the garden and then, after a group photo, we broke the ground. Well, tried to. The soil was rock hard! This is not going to be quite as easy as we thought it would be!

While the kids were back in class we began to define the area with rocks and create a wall using branches. Billy, one of the big kids, decided to help us out and ran around chopping branches down for us with his ridiculous machete skills. In NZ, we keep dangerous tools under lock and key from kids but in Guatemala they are all machete experts by the time they are 6 years old it seems. What was taking us Gringos 15 whacks would be chopped down in 3 by the kids! Talk about putting us to shame!

The notion of ‘class’ seemed to be a bit of a fluid concept, with kids walking in and out when they feel like it, so we had more help during our garden time than we expected. The kids were so excited about having a garden though that it was really sweet. Even the kids in their early teens, who in NZ would have been way too cool to help out, were getting their hands dirty carrying rocks. 
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Carly and one of the girls
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Teaching the little kids their ABC's
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Helping us get the soil
A couple of hours in and we were feeling pretty proud of ourselves. We had some tangible evidence that a garden was being formed. But then we tried to digging. Oh my gosh the ground was so hard! To make life a bit more difficult we only had one machete, one shovel and a pick axe between us. As we found out later apparently its almost impossible to buy a garden fork in Guatemala, which was what we really needed. It hadn’t rained in almost 2 weeks and with the regular 40 degree heat the ground was completely dry and rock solid. Looking a bit dejectedly at the huge garden we had laid out with the kids and thinking what a mammoth task it was going to be Ty had some great inspiration and we decided to break the garden up into quadrants, giving paths between the garden plots and at the same time reducing the surface area that would need turning! Good thinking babe!

We had been joined by another volunteer called Liz and it didn’t take us long to get into the routine of school, gardening and then a stop at Roberto’s dairy on the way home for an ice cold apple juice, and Christy’s house for a frozen choconanna. Seriously, when I have kids one day they are going to be in the freezer! So delicious and way more refreshing than ice cream! Not to mention it’s technically a fruit portion haha. 
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Principal Edy showing us his machete skills
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Soil!
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Rest time in the shade
By Friday afternoon we all had callouses from using the pick axe to try and break the ground and were not looking forward to what we knew needed to be done next week but fortunately that night we had one of the biggest thunderstorms I’ve ever seen, which gave the ground a thorough soaking. Yay! Monday morning and the ground was ready for turning. Because the ground was incredibly uneven we needed to bring soil to fill the depressions before we started to make raised beds. Never until that moment have I appreciated the ability that we have in NZ to buy soil! Despite the rain on the weekend, it was still reasonably tough going and we needed to scout around the land by the school for the soil we would use.

There were plenty of little surprises for us while we were digging, such as the fire ants which make your skin feel like they are burning and the scorpion we unearthed. And while I’m not a big fan of spiders, I do feel bad that my girly scream was responsible for the death of at least 1 tarantula. I came to learn to kick rocks before picking them up!

We were all pretty proud when we managed to plant our first mango tree in the middle of the garden and the following day Angelica gave us some tomatoe plants, and sweet pepper and radish seeds which the kids planted to complete our first raised cuadrant. Such a good feeling to have accomplished even that! We were a bit concerned about whether the garden would last post our departure, but the kids proved that they were invested in it by showing up on the last day with horse manure, banana plants, mango plants and seeds for various other fruit trees. We made sure that each child got to plant their tree or seed and then claim it by placing a stake in the ground with their name on it. We also tried our hardest to make sure that they all knew that the plants needed watering every morning when they arrived at school. 
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Not looking too bad even if we do say so ourselves!
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Ty and the kids planting radishes
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Billy and one of the tarantulas
Despite the hard work our time at the school was incredibly rewarding, and we were sad to say goodbye to the kids, and the principle Eddy Josue. Our final day at the school and we had the BEST English classes of the 2 weeks. After the first couple of days I think our novelty had worn off a little but it was like when the kids realised we were going they wanted to soak up as much English as possible. Finishing class and Eddy called us into his room with the big kids. They had all written letters and drawn pictures for us, and Eddy gave a really lovely speech thanking us for our hard work. It was so sweet and nearly brought a tear to our eyes, making it that much harder to really leave!

 





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