Sunday, November 21, 2010

Last night :(

It has been a great week. I have learned a lot about El Remate and I feel we have taught them a lot about the blogosphere. One of the locals, Bruno, has made us feel completely welcomed here; he made a wooden plaque to show his appreciation for the SIFE team. This has been such a life changing experience not only to the team, but also to the community.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Day 5

Today and yesterday were major successes! Yesterday we had about 10 business owners come and learn all about what a blog is and how to create their own. Please look up their blogs! Today me and Joe continued to teach about blogging and we set up an additional 4 to the blogging world!

Still no computers

Well, it is Friday, and we still have no computers. Anne believes that tomorrow may be the day we receive them, so we still have our fingers crossed. It has definitely been a challenge living on Peten time!

We have helped a number of the villagers create google accounts, blogs for their businesses, and facebook profile pages for their businesses. They are very appreciative of the help, and are excited about the opportunity to help one another promote their businesses and the village as a whole.

We´ve made a great new friend, Gabrielle, and she has done an excellent job helping us with translation. She sells jewelry based upon the Mayan calendar, and has hooked us all up with pendants based upon our Mayan astronomical sign. That will be quite a nice keepsake for us.

The weather is not good, because there is a tropical depression brewing off the coast. Hopefully, it will get out of here before we leave on Monday! It may prevent us from taking the trip to Tikal on Sunday. It sure makes for some dreary days and early nights... but the sleep under the tin roof is fitful!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

We're learning about flexibility

After a poor turnout yesterday, we are completely re-vamping our teaching plans. An enthusiastic discussion over breakfastthis morning helped us develop the consensus to get "back to the basics." Anne has really worked hard to promote the seminars, but we have decided that we set the bar too high... it's hard to talk about promoting a web site when they don't have one, or hard to talk about utilizing facebook for businesses if they don't even have Internet access.

Today, Jeff will be teaching blogging. We're going to provide one on one assistance to any business that wants to utilize a blog as their web space. We'll help them set up e-mail accounts (if they don't have them.) Then, we will show them how to set up a blogger account, create a blog, upload pictures, etc. The plan is to help these businesses individually, but also to create an El Remate community blog. Any that want can be contributors to the blog to individually promote their business and collectively promote their community.

It would really help if we had Internet connectivity. The flexibility we're having to learn is because Project Ix-Canaan's router went down yesterday! Anne has ordered a replacement from Guatemala City, it costs $500 (US) and will hopefully be here in the morning... along with the computers that should have already been here.

Blessed are the flexible... for they shall not be bent out of shape!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Day 3

We are sitting here on the dock next to the beautiful moon lit lake looking up at the stars! What a wonderful way to end the day. Its only about 8:00 pm and we are already about to go to bed. The days start early around 6:00 AM and end early.

Today we did our first seminar. Scott did an overview of what they taught last year. It went well it seemed like 100 percent is going to show back up tomorrow. Unfortunately the internet was down today at ix-canaan so we were unable to personal help them online. However, we did volunteer to come to their business and help them set up their accounts with emails, blogs, twitter, etc. We are pretty sure the internet will work tomorow so it will be a better day to do one on one with our clients.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


Yes, we have arrived in El Remate, Guatemala! It was a very long trip, 16.5 hours coming thru Belize City. We had a bit a bad news when we got to Hotel Gringo Perdido. The computers we shipped are still in Guatemala City...and may not be here until Thursday. So today we went to Yaxha and to the canopy tour. It was fantastic. I can tell I have been out of the gym though...I was huffing and puffing!! We are now headed back i¡to the hotel for the sunset and a good meal. Oh yeah, I´ve only taken 1600 photo so far. :)

Day 2

Wow! it was an amazing day. We woke up with the sun and had an amazing breakfast. Then we drove to Yaxha which is where some mayan ruins are, I will post some pictures and videos hopefully tomorrow. We walked many miles around and up some pyramids. After wards we went to do the canopy tours which were 12 zip lines combined thur out the jungle. We made some great friends also. Unfortunately the computers are stuck at customs. We had shiped 13 computers to install here at project ix canaan hopefully we will get the paper work resolved and be able to get those by the end of the week. Tomorrow we will be working here at project ix canaan with the local business owners.

In other news. The showers are awesome! I froze my tail off taking one this morning. I took about a five second shower. I learned my lesson from now on I will only be showering in the lake. The lake by the way is beautiful!! You can see the bottom and all the fish around. The food is beyond fantastic, and the views are undescribable.

If anyone has any ideas of what we can do after the sun goes down me and Joe need to hear them. Theres not much entertainment after sunset. Hope this week goes slow because we are enjoying every moment of it!!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Leg One Complete

We have arrived in Orlando and have finally cleared security. It was a mess, so unlike any other airport I've ever flown through. Our flight to Miami leaves at 835 and I so need a nap. I will update this from Miami.
We just drove 3 hours to Orlando and am now getting ready to fly to Miami. Then to Belize then a four hour drive to El Remate Guatemala

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Malaria, Computers, Customs, Oh My

Hello all,
Today I started my anti-malaria drug regimen...and I feel a bit strange. This drug always makes me feel bad but I suppose it is better than malaria itself. I also found out today that the computers are still on the ground in Guatemala City, at the airport. There appears to have been a hold up at Customs. Ms. Anne, our contact in Guatemala, has been assured that the computers should clear Customs Monday and arrive at Ix-Canaan Tuesday morning. I had some trouble with our Customs Service shipping the computers out so I guess it only fair that we should some at the other end. Thank you for all your well wishes as we prepare to leave. I'm sure we'll have updates for you.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The List

I knew from last year that my list got longer the nearer our departure date so I started preparing earlier...but it hasn't helped! My list of things to finish before we leave is now longer than it was last week. I have several projects going on that are nearing the completion stage and I want to make sure they stay on track during my absence.
We also have to think of things we may want to pull off the Web before we go because our internet access will probably be limited. We have a full schedule for this trip and we hope to impact many people and their businesses.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Count Down

The count down to departure day has begun. Once again we will head to El Remate, Guatemala to work with the good people there. This year we have a few new tasks one of which I am excited about: We are going to put in a computer lab in Ix-Canaan. After many weeks of work, updating, packing, then finding a way to ship, we have, as of today, 13 computers on the ground in Guatemala City. I want to thank Michael Oppel for the work he did on updating and adding software to the computers. I believe he spent almost 2 full weeks getting them into shape and without his commitment we probably wouldn't have made the deadline.The guys at the VSU Warehouse were also very helpful in getting the shipment off to Guatemala. They helped us pack and wrap so we would have the smallest and least costly configuration for shipping.

They did a great job!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Planning and Planning

VSU SIFE's second trip to the village of El Remate, Guatemala has been scheduled for the week before the Thanksgiving break week. (from November 15th to 22nd.)

The project, this year, is led by Scott Manley, Assistant Director of the VSU SBDC and SIFE Business Advisory Board Member, along with Jeff Shipley, SIFE Faculty Advisor. Students participating include Cameron Hoopes, director of International Programs, Joe Ervin III, current VSU SIFE president, Leslie Frye, alumni relations coordinator, and Yunjin Jang, director of public relations.

Today, the team VSU SIFE Goes Global had a meeting for the second time. Well, Corey Ca$hion backed out.. so it actually was the first one for the actual fixed team. (haha.) The meeting was held for like an hour. At this meeting, the team mostly talked about how to and what to do with the project and came up with many amazing ideas! spent the hour planning and planning, and planning! o and figured there were a few things to be done before headed down such as getting SHOTs...

At the moment, all six members are so excited about this whole thing already, and yet a bit nervous.. at least Joe and Yunjin are..

However, with your support, the team will do great!
so please show your support and love! Go VSU SIFE!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Going global again!

Hey folks,
Don't look now, but we're headed back to Guatemala. We'll be in El Remate from November 15th until the 22nd. Look for our team members to be along shortly to introduce themselves!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Found Luggage!

Hello all,
As you know from the last post, my luggage did not arrive in Atlanta from Cancun and there was sadness all around. I should have updated our blog with the news but getting reacquainted with American food has been a challenge. ( that a sign?). I have good news: when we arrived in Valdosta from Atlanta on the 24th, my bag appeared on the carousel! The team was very happy as was I. Thanks to all that expressed their concern.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From "The Lost Foreigner" to "Lost luggage"

Poor Jeff... Delta has lost his luggage. When we got to ATL this afternoon, got processed in and went to retrieve our luggage to clear customs, it was not there! Unfortunately, they haven't found it before now (we're about to board), but we are hoping and praying that it will be there when we get to Valdosta. All his souvenirs and clothes are there... he bought some really beautiful pieces of wood carvings in El Remate yesterday afternoon, and I'm just sick that he won't have it when he gets home.

We've had a bit of a tough time trying to get through all the security checkpoints and clearing customs twice each way. They are really interested in the amount of equipment we are carrying, and Jeff actually had to pay a computer tax in Cancun, because he was carrying two laptops. My portable printer has been another source of interest as well.

Right now, we are sitting in ATL waiting on the last leg of our flight to VLD. Cameron got home (he left us earlier in ATL, since he lives here and will be home for Thanksgiving.) It's been a long day... a long week... but very rewarding, to say the least.

Peten was absolutely incredible yesterday. It truly was a chance of a lifetime to tour some of the world's most intriguing ruins at Tikal Park. Here's a photo, just to give you a taste of what it was like:

We'll be continuing our work, for sure. There's lots to be done, reports to be written, and things to be shared with all. This is a great week, and we all are excited to see our family and friends. More later, I am sure.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Summing up?

As everyone has already said, this trip has been incredible. With beautiful views of the mountains surrounding Lago Peten Itza and the Hotel Gringo Perdido, we have all been blessed to take part in this wonderful excursion. We all tremendously enjoyed the zip line tour yesterday afternoon, and cannot wait to see Tikal tomorrow. While we have not accomplished everything that we had hoped due to some technology issues, we still have hopefully set the stage for VSU SIFE and the the Valdosta State University SBDC to have a sustainable international project with very tangible and meaningful results. The work of Anne and Enrique at Project Ix-Canaan is nothing short of remarkable... they are incredible people with wonderful stories and a heart for service to the people of northern Guatemala.

There remains much to be accomplished as we wind down this trip, but we will always remember the great people we have met and the camaraderie we have enjoyed. Each and every team member has discovered (and shared) hidden talents during this time.

This will be all for now, as our attendees for this afternoon's training sessions are beginning to arrive.

Winding Down to the End...

Hey everyone! Today will be our last day of work...This afternoon we will be teaching two seminars to the local people. I will teach them about how to build a website for FREE and Scott will be teaching them about social media! I think that both of these topics will be very valuable to the growth of El Remate and all of the businesses within this small, but beautiful place. As we went door to door yesterday to invite everyone, the individuals seemed very interested and excited to have some outside help from VSU SIFE and SBDC. We hope to have a great turn out today!

Tomorrow is MONDAY, FUN DAY!! Yay!! We will wake very early and load the bus at 5:15AM to head to Tikal. Hotel Gringo Perdido will pack us a lunch to take and we will enjoy exploring Tikal National park until around 2PM. After that we plan to take one last stroll through the village to do some shopping and have one last experience with these great people! After that we will have our normal night routine...sunset, dinner, star gazing and BED! Tuesday morning we fly out of Flores at 8:30 and return back to Valdosta at 9:43!!

We have all been very blessed to have been given this great opportunity! I know that we will all be leaving here with many great stories and aspirations of ways to continue helping the great people of El Remate. This will be our last blog until we reach the Atlanta airport Tuesday afternoon. Thank you to everyone for all of their support, we look forward to more amazing updates for you once we arrive in the states!

My Final Guatemalan Post

After a hard mornings work on the website and on Nikki and Scott’s presentations, Anne and Enrique invited us over for lunch. Lunch was amazing. We had a rice dish with chicken and chilies amongst other things. I am going to have to get the recipe. For dessert, Anne served us the “Ultimate Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich.” The outside tasted like a warm peanut butter cookie with big peanut chunks and inside there were two different kinds of jellies: watermelon and strawberry jelly. They were fantastic. After lunch, it was time to have some fun. Anne took us to a canopy tour about twenty minutes away and the ride was not easy because the road to the tour had thousands of potholes, so we had to swerve left and right to avoid them.

Once we got there, it was time to strap up. Because of my size, it took awhile to get me ready, and they needed about four extra carabineers to make sure everything was secure on me. Once everyone was strapped up, we walked up the swinging bridge and it was time for our adventure. Elmer and Earl were our guides and were definitely pros at the zip-line. This was definitely one of the highlight moments of the trip. Everyone had a great time and no one was afraid of heights. There were about 12 to 15 different zip-lines that were part of the course, and the majority was around 50 ft. high, but some were 75 ft, and a couple was a 100 ft. high in the canopy. Some of the lines our guides told us not use the break and not hold on. They called it “monkeying.” That was a lot of fun except for I hit some leaves and branches, and I almost hit my head on a tree and other things because of my size and length. Sometimes we would not make it all the way to the end of the zip-line so we would have to pull ourselves to the end. It was quite the workout, plus being at the top of the canopy was very smoldering and we were all sweating profusely. Nevertheless, we had a great time and I can’t wait to go zip-lining again soon. Our next escapade was to Ix – Lu. It is an old Mayan site that Anne showed us around, and we climbed to the top of an old pyramid that the Earth has reclaimed and now just looks like a big hill. Ms. Anne also found us some ancient pieces of Mayan clay pottery.

After looking at the Mayan ruins, we raced back to Gringo Perdido to catch a glimpse of the superb sunset. To get a better view I put my camera in a zip-lock bag and swam out to the floating pontoon boat right off the shoreline of Lake Petén. By the time I reached the boat I was out of breath because I could only swim with one hand to keep my camera dry and above water. Just in the nick of time, we were able to capture some perfect pictures of the sunset as it slowly sank into the horizon. Following our swim was dinner. It was delicious as usual. We started with a chicken broth and potato soup and a cabbage, carrot, and raisin coleslaw. The main course was two burritos with vegetables inside. I have grown very fond of the habenero hot sauce. I have been using it more liberally each meal we have. I guess it is somewhat of an acquired taste. For dessert, we had a bowl of succulent rice milk custard that tasted like Coldstone Sweet Cream Ice Cream.

The only thing left to do was some stargazing and talk with each other, and then it was lights out to get ready for Sunday.

Sunday started early with a 7:30 AM breakfast. We had hot bananas, granola cereal with milk, and a pair of eggs over easy with salsa and potatoes. The only thing necessary to add was some spicy habenero sauce. To work off our breakfast we decided to tour the Biotopo Cerro Cahui. It was kind of expensive at 40 Quetzals, but we went anyway. It was a very tough 2.5 miles hike with lots of hills. We were hot, sweaty, and tired, but all of us needed the exercise. After the hike, we took a dip in the pool, and then it was time to get ready for the presentations this afternoon. We are hoping to have a good turnout, and we believe it will be very beneficial to the locals.

As we were setting up the room for the presentation we forgot to bring the projector, so Anne and I had to run back by Gringo Perdido to pick it up. It was not a big deal because we came up to Project Ix-Canaan early enough in case something like that did happen.

Today will be our last day to use computers for e-mail and to work on the website. Tomorrow will be a fun day. We are going to see the world-famous Mayan Ruins of Tikal. It will be an early morning but the excitement should empower us to get out of the bed and on the road. That will be a day trip and we will be exhausted when we get back. Tuesday, we will have to say our goodbyes to this Guatemalan Paradise. We catch and early flight… knock on wood… we hope everything goes the way it is supposed to, and we will be able to see our loved ones Tuesday night.

Thanks to all who kept up with our blog and posted comments. We are in a pickle because we would love to stay longer to enjoy and explore all that Central America has to offer, but then also we all miss our families and can’t wait to spend Thanksgiving with them. This truly was a life changing experience, and all four of us will take so much away from we have learned and the new memories we have with each other in Guatemala. We were given the opportunity to work with the locals from Guatemala, and share our expertise on business and marketing. The ability to share our knowledge and expertise is why have all worked so hard to achieve a higher education. There is no greater gift we can give the locals here then to share with them our knowledge, and hopefully they can use and apply what we have taught them to change not only their lives but also the surrounding communities of Lake Petén for the better.

Saturday's activities

Yesterday our hostess, Ms Anne, treated us to lunch in her home, or rather out on her beautiful patio across from Project Ix Canaan. Ix Canaan is where we have Internet access. After our work was finished we were taken to a canopy tour location. The owner is a friend of our hostess and wanted to meet us. We were thrilled to learn when we got there that we were taking the tour.

It was an awesome experience as you can see by the photos

The group is suited up and ready to go!!
Nikki swinging on the zipline!

Cameron does the "monkey", as our guides, Earl and Elmer, called it.

It was very exhilarating and we all had a great time.

After the canopy tour, we went to a Mayan site called Ixlu. After that it was back to Hotel Gringo Perdido and a swim in Lago Peten Itza with the sunset. Then dinner, stars and bed.

Tomorrow we go to Tikal National Park. The bus leaves at 5:15 am so it will be early to bed for us tonight. This is our last opportunity to post until we reach the US. We hope all of you are enjoying our posts.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Another Day

Another day has passed and we have accomplished much. Nikki and Cameron contacted the majority of the hotels and restaurants in and around El Remate to pass out flyers about the seminars that Nikkin and Scott are giving on Sunday afternoon. At first we thought Sunday would be the incorrect day but culturally it seems it is the best day for sessions such as these.

Scott rebuilt Hotel Gringo Perdido's website, at least the skeleton, yesterday. That was a major accomplishment that we were looking forward to beginning. Today, Cameron and I will try to flesh out the rest of it as time permits.

We had a great lunch in the village of El Remate with an excellent view of the "cocrodillo". This land formation is where Hotel Gringo Perdido is located.

After lunch we walked through part of the village to deliver more seminar flyers. El Remate is very interesting. The people are very friendly and the children are so cute. They love to have their picture taken as you can see.

Our day ended with us traveling back to Hotel Gringo Perdido around 5 p.m. The sun starts setting about 5:30 and it is definitely dark by 6:30. Along the way we stopped to watch some children playing soccer and having fun as the day ended.

The sunset is truly magnificent and will take your breath away. These two visitors to Hotel Gringo Perdido are sharing the moment.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Day 2

What's up everybody,

Our first day began with a tour of the Ix-Canaan village. Anne showed us all around. She showed us where people of the area work and live. It is a very sad sight to see... the families are so poor they can barely afford to feed their pet dogs, which you can tell are severely malnourished and need medicine. Anne lives in the heart of the village with her friend Enrique. It is a wonderful property with a three story open-air home and gardens and plants all around. Across the street is the Ix-Canaan library where I am writing this blog and where we will be working on the website, teaching classes, etc...

We had lunch at a local restaurant and funny enough their specialty was pizza. After lunch, we walked back to the hotel which takes about 35 - 40 minutes. Our next step was to begin the strategic planning session led by Scott. We were able to get a lot of things accomplished and make some headway.

Dinner was nothing short of spectacular. We began with a delicious homemade tomato soup and salad, followed by a local pasta dish, and for desert we had lemon pie. I was worried about the food before coming here, but it is actually really tasty and a good selling point for the hotel. After a long day everyone was pretty tired and went to bed pretty early.

The next morning breakfast was similar but also very good. Nikki and I passed out flyers to the local hotels and restaurants inviting them to the classes that our group will be teaching on building a website and promoting a business on Sunday. That was very tough. There is nothing quite like door-to-door marketing... Most of the hotels are off the lake and a straight up hike. We are exhausted right now.... the inclines are terribly steep and take forever to get to the top. By the time we reached the top where the hotel is, Anne was even huffing and puffing. I will be looking forward to relaxing and getting some rest tonight. While we were passing out the flyers Jeff and Scott have made some headway with renewing Hotel Gringo Perdido's website. We took a short break for lunch at local hotel and then back to Ix-Canaan to start working some more. For the rest of today we will be working on the website and wrapping up the strategic planning information. Bedtime will come early for all of us again after another tough day of work.

Photos from Thursday and Friday

Nikki leads an early morning (5:15 AM) strategy session on the docks of Gringo Perdido. Note to Penny: She's doing great!

First light from the docks of El Gringo Perdido

Cameron & Nikki head out from Gringo Perdido to begin a long day

Some of the beautiful children that are being taught at Ix-Canaan

The task is at hand..

Yesterday was a wonderful day of orientation and learning. Anne Lossing is doing so many wonderful things through the Project Ix-Canaan (Mayan for "Guardians of the Rain Forest.) There is a medical clinic, a library & computer center, a womens center, and plans for much more to come. This is an excellent opportunity for SIFE to make a HUGE difference to complement all the wonderful work done in Valdosta. V-State SIFE goes beyond expectations... goes beyond borders, and goes beyond belief!

Last evening, I was privileged to host a strategic planning session for Hotel Gringo Perdido. Anne Lossing and Alphonse, the property manager, participated, and we brainstormed many ideas to improve the marketing efforts of the hotel. She gave us "carte-blanche" to make changes to the web site, so we are starting with a clean slate. It turns out that Cameron is proving to be an excellent copy-writer, so I'm excited to see how this unfolds for us. I'm also pleased by Jeff's photographic vision, and know that he has many images of the beautiful flora and fauna that surrounds us. Nikki is also visionary, in that she is constantly seeing many potential opportunities to make a difference in the future.

We've identified many potential tasks that need to be performed. While our primary goal is to work hard, learn, and help, we also want to have fun while we're at it! Anne is wonderfully entertaining us, with plans to do a canopy (zipline) tour, observe a Mayan fire ceremony, and tour Tikal National Park. Just remember that our primary goal is to work hard!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guatemala, Day 1

Hey Everyone,

We have made it here to Guatemala safely. Yesterday it was very tough
traveling... we had to take three airplanes just to get down here and
it took around thirteen hours. I had to get up about 4:00 AM and did
not get much sleep after that. Unfortunately, we had to go through
customs twice.... Once in Cancun.... and again when we arrived at

Once in Flores we were picked up by Humberto and driven to Hotel Gringo
Perdido. The ride took about 40 minutes, but it was really cool seeing
everything between the airport and hotel. The hotel is beautiful and
set in such a peaceful setting. It is located off the beaten path and
you have to travel on a bumpy road to get there but it is definitely
worth it. It is tucked away in such a pristine and well preserved area.
I would definitely recommend anyone to come here. The room is very
interesting. It has three walls and a door with an open wall looking
out to Lake Peten. In my room I have a huge king-sized bed and a little
twin. It kind of looks like a princesses room because of the way the
mosquito nets draped over the bed. It slept really well and I have a
fan so I was not too hot.

After settling in we met with Anne, the hotel manager that we will be
working with. We came out of our room just in time to see a beautiful
sunset. It was truly amazing and the thing is that everyday here at the
hotel you can see a beautiful sunset and sunrise. She gave us a tour of
the grounds and we were very impressed. Also, she showed us around the
new luxurious hotel that they are building next door. It is really
going to be something spectacular.

After our tour, we sat down for our delicious four-course meal. We
started with broccoli soup, followed by a cucumber dish. Our main
course was amazing with chicken, potatoes, carrots, etc... We finished
the night off with a delicious banana bread which might rival my
Nana's. The bananas were picked from around the hotel and were
delicious. To drink we had a delicious, sweet rice drink, which to me,
tasted like a Wendy's vanilla frosty for perspective.

Dinner was spectacular, but afterwards we went down to the dock to go
stargazing. Words cannot express the beauty of the sky. I have never
seen so many stars and with such great clarity. This area is so pure
and clean we must have been able to see a million stars.

This morning breakfast was as tasty as dinner. We started off with
watermelon and bananas... followed by eggs, potatoes, black beans, and
tomatoes. To drink we had a freshly squeezed pineapple juice.

Now we are caught up... Anne took us to Project Ix-Canaan where she
works with local villagers from everything from education to medicine.
I am looking forward to working here with the locals. This is truly
going to be an amazing trip. Until next time...