6. April 2015
Coming back from free travel was both exciting and an adjustment for our group. After spending one week in small groups away from each other, it was a bit of a transition to come together as one big group again, however, we were all very happy to see each other. We all shared our adventures and experiences we had on our trips, and afterwards we prepared to go on retreat.
We left CASAS to travel to a retreat center in Chimaltenango called La Finca La Loma. It was a gorgeous venue that had everything we could want: places to be alone, a playground to have fun, restaurants to eat at, luxurious beds to sleep in, a field to play Frisbee and soccer, a paintball course, a zip line that really wasn’t a zip line, and two weddings! We were excited to theoretically crash the weddings, even though no one really did. The purpose of this retreat was just to relax after our week of traveling, and to further reflect on our overall experience while we also tried out a new method of communication…silence.
Our silent time began at 4 p.m. on Saturday, and during this time we were not allowed to communicate through words; it was up to imagination to figure out how we would speak to one another. For most of the group this was an eye-opening and enjoyable experience. Some people described it as fun and refreshing. For others it was a little frustrating not being able to communicate what they wanted to say, and not having that specific type of social interaction. All in all it gave people time to recharge and catch up on reading, journaling, and writing our affirmations to each other.
After our very relaxing break at La Finca, we made our way to the very lively, colorful, and musical city of Antigua. The city was bustling with tourists, students, and Guatemalan citizens to celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week). Every day there was always excitement and wonder that filled the streets. Throughout the city, people made alfombras, which are carpets made with colorful sawdust, fruit, vegetables, and any other thing you can think of. Every design was unique and special; everyone made an alfombra that held a significance, whether it was to portray their love for Jesus, or to simply create a beautiful display in the street. Throughout each day processions went by that would walk over these alfombras, which would destroy them but that was the point. The processions had floats of Jesus carrying the cross, the Virgin Mary, and they also had a band playing music following these floats. Everyone would gather on the edge of the streets just to witness these glorious processions the entire day.
There was more in Antigua, though, that was just as fun, such as the markets. The markets stretched from the Central Park to different areas of the city. You could find almost any souvenir that you could want. The only challenge was bargaining, since this was Antigua, where tourists come all the time, and it was Semana Santa. Many vendors stuck to their prices and would not bargain down, however some could be persuaded. The markets were a daily visit for most people in our group, and we all were very happy to look at the gifts some people got to bring back home.
This past week was overall a wonderful and rejuvenating experience. The lack of a strict schedule made it all the more enjoyable because we were able to explore and experience all that La Finca and Antigua had to offer. It is safe to say that this has been one of the highlights of the trip, and we are anxiously excited to see what Cuba has in store for our last stretch of the trip.
– Allie Litwiller, Meggan Garcia Sheridan, and Gabby Spencer