12/5: Out with a BANG!

Sunrise over Volcan Fuego

It has been another action packed week full of learning, widening our perspectives, and pushing our comfort zones.

For many of us, the most tangibly beautiful and challenging experience of the week was hiking up Volcan Acatenango. Acatenango is one of the handful of volcanos that towers above Antigua, so we’ve spent the past month at least a few times a day looking up at it- and wondering.

Acatenango is a dormant volcano – green and lush with terraced corn fields and coffee farms, jungle-like rainforest and pine forest that opens at the top to a moonlike crater. What makes the hike truly incredible aside from the diverse landscapes through which you ascend on the way to the top is the view you’ve earned once you get there.

From our campsite we had a direct line of sight to the peak of the most active volcano in the area- Volcan Fuego. During our climb we could hear Fuego in the distance with a roar like thunder that rumbled through the trees. We were familiar with the sound of Fuego – we’d heard these same rumbles down in Antigua. The eruption sounds got closer as we ascended but we hiked through thick clouds and fog, unable to see the mammoth volcano that neighbors Acatenango.

After settling into our campsite and preparing for dinner we were met with an awe-inspiring spectacle. We began to shout, point, and exclaim – the fog was clearing and Volcan Fuego was now in full view for sunset. We spent the next few hours with our eyes glued to the active volcano in front of us as a warm and colorful sunset turned into a moonlit starry night. Lava shot from the crater with explosions like fireworks as we watched.

Our experience hiking the volcano was the ideal way to cap off our semester of adventure. We had put another physical and psychological feat behind us while  pushing and supporting one another as a group. We were even able to practice some of the skills we learned at Outward Bound and had a final campfire together that enabled us to contemplate our place among the stars, far from home but closer than ever together.

Outside of the De La Gente offices with our guides Emmy and Joe!

Site visits this week included:

More volunteer work with the Garden of Hope where we helped prepare the garden for dormancy over the next few weeks and even played some kickball!

A visit to the Martyrs Museum housed temporarily in the Forensic Anthropology Foundation’s headquarters. The administrators of the Martyrs Museum talked about the museum’s mission to celebrate the lives of Guatemalans who paid the ultimate price while standing up for what they believed in during the war. The museum is currently at risk of closing entirely due to a lack of funding and the link above provides more information on the museum and how you can help.

At the Forensic Anthropology Foundation we received a tour of an operational CSI-style lab that is working to identify the bodies of those murdered by the military during the war and buried in mass graves. The foundation collects DNA from living families who lost a member during the war and compares it to a database of victims that they have exhumed and analyzed. This foundation is working to slowly bring peace to the thousands of Mayans who lost family members during the genocide of their people.

The Human Rights Defenders Project is an organization that provides accompaniment to the many people defending the environmental and social justice rights of marginalized Guatemalans. One of the project’s directors, Rob Mercatante, delivered a passion-filled talk on the work he has done for the past 30 years working with Guatemalans who are facing the most severe injustices. Most were so devastating that they were painful to hear being retold but Rob’s unwavering commitment to justice gave us hope for the future and purpose in our individual pursuits.

Coffee cupping and sensory experience with De La Gente where we learned the intricacies of flavor profiles and brewing methods of the professionals and what makes DLG’s coffee a “specialty”.

Learning from Rob at the Human Rights Defenders Project

As you may know, we’re now back in De Pere and spending our last week on campus reflecting together, preparing for next semester, and working on our final assignments!

Photos from week 4:

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