Kiva Service-Learning in Guatemala: Day 3

by Brian Suarez ’16 On the third day of our Guatemalan microfinance research trip we began the trek from Antigua to Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The day started off like any other day, Ms. Basch and I woke up early and went to the gym to workout. There we met our friend Nero the gym dog who walked around while we exercised. We then went back to our hotel and got ready for breakfast. Our breakfast was at our regular joint so I decided to try something new again and got the huevos rancheros. It was delicious. After breakfast we finally hit the road to Panajachel but instead of wasting a day just getting there, we decided to visit two spots on the way: the Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm and the Mayan Ruins of Iximche. As the name implies, the Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm was founded in 1976 and is dedicated to growing and cultivating macadamia nuts in order to create products such as white chocolate macadamia nuts, macadamia nuts with salt and various beauty products. When we arrived, we were greeted by a multitude of dogs running all over the place. We were then ushered around by a great employee who showed us the ropes of harvesting the nuts. I learned that it takes 6 months to harvest macadamia nuts! 6 months! It’s a very expensive process and product. The techniques used included recycling old materials, like tires, in order to strip the husk off of the nut and natural resources, like the sun’s rays, to dry for up to two months. They were then sorted according to size by an ingenious yet simple technique of rolling them on a grate that widens the farther it travels in order to weed out the different sizes. After our introductory tour of the farm and techniques, we were brought to the main store to try the products.DSCN3326 Their products were outstanding. We were then treated to an appearance by Emilia, one of the owners, and later her husband, who answered all of our questions. We then discovered that about 10 years ago they started selling trees for a minimal price to tge indigenous community at about 10 trees per family. The reason they attached a small fee to the trees was the fact that if you buy something then you’re more invested in that particular thing and want to see it grow and thrive. These trees then serve a variety of uses when they are fully matured: economic, environmental and health. Economically, families who own the trees can sell the nuts by the pound back to Valhalla; environmentally the trees are better than the conventional forest restoration pine trees; health wise the macadamia nuts provide protein needed to children in order for their brains to develop and mature. Families can feed their children and make money with the fruits of these trees. This visit was very meaningful to me because I’ve always grown up eating macadamia nuts but I never knew about them. Here I learned the process of harvesting and the profound effect it has on the community around the farm. Also, this was the type of work my grandparents did when they first immigrated from the Philippines so I’ve always connected with farming and how to make things more efficient. The ingenuity of the machines really stuck out to me. I like how they used common items to get their work done. That’s the area I’d possibly want to focus on for my career, how to crate a machine that’s effective for the people while also reusing old items. After we said our goodbyes we continued our trek to Panajachel. My group lucked out and we got the party van. We had Diego’s alternative playlist blasting as we rolled through Guatemala. On the road to Panajachel and throughout the trip we noticed many political campaign posters. Diego explained to us that the promises on the posters were unattainable, such as claims that Guatemala’s team would make it into the next World Cup. The promises sounded good to the common uneducated people but it was just a ploy in order to get the less educated people to vote for their cause. He also explained that because the country is leaning to more of a conservative role, the major parties are leaning more favorably to conservatism. Our discussion and the long trek was then stopped in order to visit the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Iximche. On arrival at the ancient Mayan city of Iximche we were greeted by a tour guide. Right off the bat, we analyzed a stone with different writings and symbols on it. We learned that the Mayans read up and down, After our analysis of the stone we then moved on to the history of Mayan civilizations. DSCN3369We learned that many city states would be at war with each other so each city was strategically located in order to repel enemy invaders. This city, Iximche, was built with ravines on 3 sides essentially making it a peninsula with a choke point at the front. These ravines were not impenetrable so the inhabitants placed 13 watchtowers around the city in order to warn the city of any enemy movement around the ravines. To top it all off, there was a stone wall running along the open side of the city with a drawbridge that could be lowered when needed. A moat was also implemented with spear like rods implanted into the bottom of the moat in order to impale invaders. This was all before we even got into the city itself. We then started walking into the city and discovered that there were 5 different plazas. The first two were for the first family and then every family after that had their own. Each one was made identical with the other. On the eastern side they had a temple to praise the sun and on the western side they had a temple to praise the moon. They also believed that they should never show their face or back directly to the sun so they walked up stairs at a diagonal. Another area was dedicated to a sport that they’d play that was an ancestor of basketball and soccer. During this game, they’d only be allowed to use their hips and knees to hit a ball into a basket.DSCN3375 The thing that stood out the most to me was the military and strategic fortifications at Iximche. I had just come back from the United States Military Academy at Westpoint the week before and was still in that mindset. When he mentioned how they were constantly at war with each other I began to think of ways to break the defenses of Iximche. I have always found the military aspect of things interesting, and that’s probably the field of study I see myself most likely to be in. Reflecting on this trip, and especially this day, there are many ideas that can be implemented in next years Kiva Carnival. For example, this past year we had many games that were set up so that the profits were given to Kiva. We could have people playing Mayan soccer but instead of the loser dying we could have them donate money. We could also have people on the side betting with the proceeds going to Kiva. Another idea is for a group of students to contact Valhalla in order to sell macadamia nut products. The proceeds could then be given back to Valhalla.

Located in the

Heart of the city