Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 7, the last day

Tristan here, I suppose it is fitting that I write the last blog post. Ill go over the day and see if I can put into words my feelings about the trip, now that it is almost over.

Today was our last bit of volunteering for this trip. We woke up at 7, had breakfast, and headed to the city around 8am. It was just like the previous couple days, except a couple of changes. Today was a Saturday, so we were not going to do normal volunteering at the project. Today we worked with the Futbol club, one of many different Saturday clubs that Safe Passage offers for their students. So instead of taking the van into the city, we drove into the city on a chicken bus that Safe Passage had rented so that we could pick up the students who were part of the Futbol club. We got to the project and before the bus had even stopped kids were surrounding the bus waiting to get on. They could not wait to go to the park and start playing.

After we picked the kids up from the project we drove to a local city park, parque democracia. It was huge! The park had a small stadium, basketball courts, baseball fields, a track, and lots and lots of soccer fields. We parked the bus, got off, and walked to the far end of the park where we would be playing. The kids immediately were grabbing the frisbees we had brought and were throwing them around as we walked.

Circling up to teach some Ultimate

We got to the field we were playing at and circled up. The sports teachers introduced us and we reviewed the basic throwing and catching that we had been teaching all week. We had already taught a lot of the kids earlier in the week during sports classes so we just did a quick review. Some of the other kids were ones we had helped out in English class with, so it was great to get to connect with some of the same kids again! We had a blast, and now with more space, kids started throwing longer and running around more. After 2 days of learning to throw some of the kids were already throwing thirty yard flicks, it was amazing!

At this point some of the mothers of the children at the project showed up. A long term volunteer, Hannah, has started a running club with some of the mothers at Safe Passage and they came to play some frisbee after  their morning run! To read more about the running club check out the Safe Passage blog post . It was great to see some of the mothers laughing and throwing the frisbee!
The kids doing a little go to drill

Nate skying me... and some children

After the throwing we gathered the kids around and I started to explain how the sport of Ultimate Frisbee was played. I introduced the concept of spirit of the game, and tried to explain to the kids how they didn't need a referee to control the game. With this being the first time they had ever had the game explained to them I tried to keep it simple. We made a small field with cones and after a small demonstration from the gringos, us, we split the kids into teams and started to play. The boys played first and it was a bit chaotic. The boys did not understand the concept of cutting much and the game slowly turned into a big game of 500.  It was great to see the kids getting excited about the game and actually throwing and catching in real game situations. There were a couple points where they realized that short passes were easier to throw and catch and there was some pretty good disc movement which was fun to see. After the boys finished playing the girls got to play. There were fewer girls and they were a little older then the boys, this led to a much more structured game that was great to see! In both games it was awesome to see the kids running, jumping, and diving after the frisbees. It wasn't the prettiest Ultimate Frisbee, but it was fun Ultimate Frisbee, and that was all we could ask.

Las chicas jugando frisbee

A little before noon the sports club finished so we headed back to the bus. It was great hearing the kids talking about frisbee, and every kid that I asked said that they really enjoyed playing. The sports teachers also seemed to enjoy the sport, so hopefully frisbee becomes a mainstay in the Safe Passage sports classes!

With sports club over, we headed back to Antigua to spend our last afternoon in Guatemala. We got back to the hotel, quickly changed, and then headed out to lunch. I took the group to a small hole in the wall place called Rony´s Tacos that had been my favorite place to eat last time I was in Guatemala. It was still there and just as good as I remembered it. After lunch we headed to the market to buy our last souvenirs.

Walking back to the bus

As the trip wraps up I have mixed emotions. I am very happy that we had a fun, great, safe time at Safe Passage but I'm sad to be leaving. It was great to volunteer again with the kids, see familiar faces, and see kids get excited about Ultimate Frisbee. I hope that we have started something that will last more than just our week at the project, hopefully the sports classes at Safe Passage will now teach Ultimate Frisbee from time to time. We left a donation of frisbees for the project and it seemed like the sports teachers really enjoyed it so I am optimistic. I am also very happy that I was able to share the place that I am continually amazed by, Safe Passage, with my fellow UNC frisbee players. I hope that they go home a tell there friends and family about Safe Passage and the work they did here and find some way to continue supporting Safe Passage. Spreading the word about this incredible project helps!

All in all, this has been a great trip and it has been a pleasure to lead. I couldn't have asked for a better group, they were open to everything, flexible when things changed, and continually excited to work with the kids!

Adios y gracias,

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 6

Hey everyone!

Today was our free day, so we decided to journey to the beautiful Lake Atitlan. The bus picked us up bright and early at 6am and we slept most of the three hour ride there. Just before we got there, we stopped at an overlook to take pictures...

                                                              A view to our right

                                                              A view to our left

Its hard to show the size of the lake without a panoramic view, but its HUGE! And its completely surrounded by mountains and volcanoes - super pretty! After a few minutes at the overlook, we headed down the mountain to a cute little town, Panajachel (can be seen at the bottom of the "left" photo). Once we arrived, we toured a couple museums talking about the history of the lake and surrounding towns. They had some cool artifacts that were found at the bottom of the lake from a really old city (unfortunately we werent allowed to take pictures). Afterwards we headed back through town to the shore, where we took a boat across the entire lake (about a 30 minute boat ride!) to another town, San Pedro.

                                                            Me and Meg on the boat!

Once in San Pedro, we took a short walk through town to eat on some rocks at the edge of the water. We picked up some tasty sandwiches and banana bread yesterday from a couple bakeries in Antigua for our snacks and lunch today. Great decision on our part! It was delicious. After eating some of the others went for a swim in the lake, who were quickly joined by some locals. (Funny side note, Tristan and I hung back to watch our stuff and while the others were swimming and a few of the local kids came over after swimming themselves and one of them asked to use Nates towel. We assumed Nate would be okay with it and said yes. After drying off, the kid, Pedro, starts wrapping the towel around his waist as if he was about to leave with it. Instead, he takes off his swim trunks and starts wringing out the water. Tristan and I found it very funny, but Im not so sure Nate found is as funny when we told him later.)

Nate getting his food with the lake in the background
Amelia loves the water!
After drying off, we headed into town and ordered some drinks at a cafe and hung out there for a while. Virginia ordered a yogurt platter, and the fruit bowl that came with it was the size of her head. Om nom nom. From there, we got some kayaks and traversed the lake to a beach across from where we ate lunch (you can faintly see it in the background of the picture of Nate eating). It was a bunch of fun! On the paddle back, the waves were choppy from the approaching storm which added another level of fun!

The view of San Pedro from the lake
Meg kayaks!
Back in San Pedro, we just headed to the dock to catch the next boat back to Panajachel and then hopped on the bus back to Antigua! All in all, it was a great day!

Happy reading!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 5

Hey there folks! 

So today was our last day working with kids within the Safe Passage program... and it was a wild one. We started out the day at the "Esquelita" school again, but this time it wasnt to teach frisbee on the sports court (at least at first... we would later) but to assist and just be a presence for the youngest kids in the program. (These kids ranged from 1st graders to around 5th graders) It was our first time working with kids around this age and they had gratuitous amounts of energy. They were wild and excited by us big old gringos and we  played with them a TON while they did activities. (We helped them focus when their teachers were doing word games and english time but we spent most of the times doing activities and recess).  And when we went out with them for recess these kids were unstoppable. Schuyler and I (Nate by the way) were picking kids up and being horses and swinging them around and they were just having a ball. Im sure the rest of our team (we were all split up for the various classes) had a similar experience. Its just incredible to think how much happier this kids are and how much better off they are because of this program... I know Schuyler and I had a boy  in our class whose father died and only had a mother and sisters and he was confident and running around with us like a boss. Its just invigorating to see such life amongst the hell hole that is the dump they literally live in and around you know? Damn It feels good to be a part of it.  it really does.
I wish we had more and better photos because we certainly dont have enough to do justice but here are a few- 

 (Tristan and Claire with the youngens)

(Some youngens got hold of the camera apparently and this was the result...)

So after we finished with the youngest and the kids we went back to the main facility with the older kids, ate lunch, and napped... hard. Real hard. Those kids were a handful. A fun awesome exhuasting handful. I have a ton of napping photos but heres one of Virginia. (I think... her and Meg really do look similar...)


But after some mad napping we got back to it. In the afternoon we had a few english classes and then a frisbee class back at the Esquelita. For english we were working with Elena (Elana? Eleyna? Alena?) who is pretty much the bomb. She has amazing energy and engages the kids in the best of ways. Its awesome. She led the first english class in a little english song concert for our volunteer team with songs about the weather and morning routines and emotions and all kinds of little things. It was real cute. Amelia has a video of it somewhere... And we all got to jump in for the hokey pokey so that was pretty great. So that was silly.

(This was during the little concert and theres Elena over to the left. Shes pretty. not gonna lie. Haha did you guys hear about when I made her blush the first day? No? Well it was classic. Definetly hoping she comes out for drinks with us Saturday.)

After the concert we read with the kids from the class that sang to us and that was fun. (Weve done that on earlier days so I wont go into details). And then we moved with Elena to another english class where we helped the kids make Lion masks and sentences to go with them using adjectives and verbs. I showed one guy in the class how to make fangs for his lion mask (they were folded paper with symmetrical cuts) which quickly gained me a number of interested students. It was doubly nice because today the kids were really engaged with us (its been hit and miss throughout the time weve spent here... and obsession with Schuylers name. Which they are OBSESSED. In case you havent heard. They also think he is beatuiful. HA!)
A really strong finish to our time helping out in the English classes I would say. for sure. Not to mention what the ladies found in one of the books we were reading... silly pleiades... although it was a pretty magical coincidence...

(And also a little photo bomb haha)

Finally we returned to Esquelita for our last official frisbee class (so sad... but now a ton of kids have it down!!) and it went swimmingly as usual. Weve been over the details of how we run the class in earlier posts so I wont go into it but the kids impressed as usual. So awesome to spread our sport. So awesome. Sadly for me personally (I hadnt gotten hit once during our frisbee classes but...) today I got nailed in the head... twice... yo tengo dolor de mi cabeza... for real. But it was fun all the same. We finished off with a little futbol with the youngens as we have with all our classes (ya boy nate dogg has been holding it down between the goal posts) and that is always fun. Cheers to really hoping we can get some ultimate going down here!

(Heres a futbol photo since we have so much frisbee already haha)

Its sad to think that we were already done working with the kids after just days being here. But I suppose thats just how it goes. (At least there will certainly be chances for some of us to come back...but its sad you know? I love kids gosh dangit!).
However, all in all... considering our time here... I definitely think we had an impact on these kids. I wont ever know just how much but damn does it feel great. I personally (and Im sure the rest of the team feels the same) feel accomplished for what we did and that we definetly did make a difference down here. We did. And I would encourage any of you readers to find a way to get involved. This place makes a difference. Believe me. Ive been down here. Sponser a kid, make a donation, volunteer. Safe Passage deserves every bit of support it gets. Let these kids dreams come true.

Tonight we toast to Safe Passage! And much love to all you readers!

-Nate Dogg

PS - Now we have a few days to relax... and the nights have continued to be wild and fun... so we will keep ya posted on the awesomeness we have down here! (but only the blog appropriate parts...)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day 4

Hi again!

Our fourth day was just as wonderful as the previous. We go to meet more awesome kids and teach some  frisbee. We had another great breakfast at the hotel before heading out on the ride to Guatemala City. We arrived at Safe Passage and helped in English classes with middle and high school kids again. The classes were conversation style this time and we got to talk to the kids all about their hobbies, families and favorite things. Many of the kids were shy and others were very interested in our lives. All of us found a few themes among the answers to our questions including black and sky blue as favorite colors, a liking of math and a love of soccer.

Virginia lists some of her interest for the kids
Next we had went to "Escuelita"  to teach another frisbee class to high school age kids. This group was very enthusiastic and did well at learning the throws and catches. We started again with the tortilla, bear, crab and chicken catch from the day before as well as the the backhand and then the flick throws. We played a throwing game that started with two partners very close and then with a completed catch each person took a step back. If a pass was incomplete then the pair returned to the closest distance. The girl I was throwing with was not discouraged even when she dropped it or the wind caused our throws to soar over our heads, which happened frequently. Instead she laughed and ran back to the center to try again. It was encouraging to see their enjoyment of the game. 
Partners at different distances during our throwing game
Our group arrived back to the CRE early from frisbee so we helped out in the kitchen again. The kitchen staff was a lively group who teased and joked in rapid Spanish while they worked. We listened to pop tunes and danced as we served food and washed dishes. Meg, Virginia and I marveled at the incredibly large cooking pots and vats of stew and rice. One of the best things about serving today was that we could recognize and greet some of the students from English and frisbee classes. The meal was delicious and as every other day was accompanied by tortillas. 
Meg, Virginia and I serving lunch
Tristan got to talk to the student that his family sponsors and the two had a brotherly farewell after lunch. This student was one of the kids Tristan worked with both times in the past he has worked with Safe Passage.
Tristan and Francisco 

After lunch we helped out with English classes again. we got to work with the same kids from the afternoon before. This time we read a book with them and talked about the meaning of the pictures. Then we got to participate in a scavenger hunt to find books that were hidden within the garden. We each partnered with a kid and ran frantically to find the most. The volunteers shared in both the excitement of discovery and the disappointment when they were all found. When we had to leave the class and stop reading many were sad.
Nate and his partner wanted to keep reading
 We taught one last class of frisbee in the afternoon. This one had more of an air of chaos than the others but the kids were still enjoying frisbee and getting exercise. The age group was a greater range from 8 years old to 13 years old. Throwing with partners lasted most of the class but by the end the kids were tired and happy. A few of the older kids had even begun to defend each others catches and throw around defenders.
A younger participant tosses his backhand
 We ended another wonderful day and climbed back into the van for our drive home. Tomorrow we are going to La "Escuelita" to work with the children around the age of 5 and 6. I know we are all very excited to get to experience this different age group. Keep checking our blog to hear the end of our adventures!

All the best!


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 3

Hello everybody, welcome back!

Today started off the same way as yesterday so I'll just skip ahead a bit to the good stuff. We started the day helping out with English classes for kids middle to high school aged kids. We started off standing in a circle and playing the "I like_____" game. One person would stand in the center and, in English, say something that they liked. The thing could be food, an animal, a musician, or pretty much anything else s long as the person said it in English. When other people also like what was said they would have to try to find a new space in the circle. This gave the person standing in the center an opportunity to get out. The kids loved it when Nate said that he liked the English teacher we were helping. After this, we participated in another activity before we were separated into groups to get interviewed by the kids and interview them in turn. This was when the we really got a sense of how good their English skills are. Personally, I was very impressed. The kids I was talking to were far better at English than I am at Spanish.

After the English classes we drove over to the "Escuelita" to start teaching some Frisbee. When we got there, we were greeted by a group of 30 or so eight-year-olds and all of our plans for organized teaching evaporated. It was beautiful, beautiful chaos. Some kids grabbed disks and started chucking them all over the place. Other kids thought that the most fun objects to play with were us. I ran up and down the sport court with one eight year old after another on my back telling me to "corre, rĂ¡pido!" (run, fast!)
This kid didn't want to give the disk back
As it turned out, the eight-year-olds were not the kids we were supposed to be teaching. 10 minutes later another group of middle to high school aged kids shows up and we begin to show them the basics, starting with how to catch. We showed them four ways to catch: like a tortilla, a bear, a crab, and a chicken.
One kid took the tortilla catch a little too seriously.
After catching, we taught them how to throw both backhand and flick. We played some games with them and eventually played a game of keep away. After that it was back to the main building for lunch followed by frozen fruit covered in chocolate. 
Simple and delicious
When Lunch ended we went back to to English class, this time helping a class of 10- to 12-year-olds. The goal for this class was to get the kids to start stringing words together into phrases. To do this we played "Go Fish" with them and everything had to be in English. It was a little overwhelming at first but after some time things got under control. 
Tristan settling a dispute

Nate, the crowd favorite
English eventually ended and it was right back on the bus for us as we were headed back to the escuelita to teach more Frisbee. We had a new group of kids this time, this time from 10 to 12 years old and also very excited. We went through the same routine as before. First explanations of catching methods, with very enthusiastic demonstrations...
"Catch like a bear!!!"
Then we taught them how to throw.
USA Ultimate outreach

A lot of the kids picked it up very quickly.
Practicing the flick
The day ended with "Gringos vs. kids" soccer games, I won´t say who won though.

All in all it was a great day. We finally got to start showing kids how to play Frisbee and just interact with the kids in general. I know I´m excited for tomorrow and all of you should stay tuned for more of our adventures!


Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 2

Hello friends and fans!

To start this off (mostly since this will be my only blog post for the week), I would like to take a few sentences to explain how awesome our hotel is.  Although there is an awning-type roof covering the doors and walkways, the majority of the space is open to the sky and completely filled with fountains and plants. Last night we ended up sitting out in one of the many outdoor sitting areas, surrounded by flowers, tea and the sound of fountain and played cards until we all were passing out from exhaustion. This of course, was around 10PM Guatemalan time.  Around then, we all got to go to our respective rooms (boys and girls are seperated, don´t worry parents ;)) where we all even have our own beds! And as most of you know, this is an extreme rarity in the frisbee world.  In general, I am in love with this hotel, but it doesn´t even compare to how much I´ve enjoyed the rest of Guatemala so far.

So many plants!
To start today off, we all woke up around 7 to eat the breakfast provided by the hotel. We enjoyed a wonderful buffet full of eggs, refried beans, plantains, and fresh fruit.  Needless to say, that is another reason why I love this hotel.  Afterwards, we were all issued matching Safe Passage shirts and began a day very appropriately referred to as ´sponge day.´  We basically were given as much information about the Guatemala City garbage dump and the work Safe Passage has been doing as they could fit into a single days itinerary.  

All decked out in Safe Passage gear!
To start off our tour, we were brought to the main Guatemala City cemetery, which overlooks the city dump.    Entering the cemetery gave us all a very good sense of the disparity in wealth between the rich and the poor in Guatemala.  While there were large, decorative tombs dedicated to specific families, there are also large walls crammed with as many coffins as possible for the less fortunate.  Not only are these grave sites a little crowded, the are also only for rent!  That basically means that families will only rent a space for a year or so until they can no longer afford it.  These are the types of families that end up working in the dump and that Safe Passage is trying to help.

One of the walls of graves
Right after navigating through the cemetary, we ended up at this ledge that overlooked the dump.  From there we could see several dump trucks, hundreds of people and tons of trash.  Everyone working in the dump spends hours sifting through the trash to find recyclable or valuable items, such as metals or plastics.  These workers then recieve their income by selling these materials to interested buyers.  Of course, digging through trash is no where near ideal working conditions.  The dump is surrounded by vultures, bugs and foul smells and there are many health risks such as respiratory diseases.  

The dump from afar

After leaving the dump, we were brought to several of the Safe Passage facilities.  We toured their preschool  as well as CRE, which is the center for the children in public schools.  Families must apply to get involved with these programs, and are selected based on need. Therefore, the kids involved in all aspects of Safe Passage are being given several tools (such as food and tutoring) to help improve the way of life for families in these communities.  
There are even several art initiative such as the graffiti club.

Although the majority of the day was learning about the program, we were actually able to start our first bit of volunteering by helping prepare and serve lunch at the cafeteria!  

One of our token vegetarians touching lots of meat. She even ate some of it!
We ended our tour at CRE by finding out about several of the initiatives that have been started by various volunteers at the hotel.  Safe Passage provides several opportunites for the parents as well by holding literacy classes and providing the students of those classes with work opportunities such as jewelry making (I´m sure there will be pictures of the jewelry soon). In general, the work that this organization does is truely amazing, and this blog post doesn´t do it justice and everyone should come down here to experience their own sponge day!

As for now, we are about to go get dinner and watch game 7 of Heat/Pacers series.  Seems we aren´t too far from U.S culture...

Stay tuned for tales of our first ultimate class tomorrow!

(all pictures thanks to Amelia, our group-appointed photographer)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 1

What an incredible first day! We flew into Guatemala City, a sprawling urban area of about 2.5 million people. After a 45 minute vanride, we arrived in Antigua- a beautiful small town at the foot of a volcano.

After going over some ground rules at our hotel, we set out to find some grub. Tristan led us through the town to a small bakery where we bought a loaf of banana bread to share while sitting in the town square. The bread was amazing, but we were still starving so we followed Tristan (aka ¨Guatemama¨) like a gaggle of baby geese, in search of a restaurant. All of his favorite local establishments were closed today, so we ended up in the KFC of Central America, Pollo Campero.

Clearly, we had a great time.

Ulimate was pretty much the only item on our itinerary today.  So we made our way over to the fields after lunch.

We played with some really awesome people today. There were players from all over the world. Some players were Safe Passage volunteers while others were locals or travelers. We befriended a pair of siblings who are riding their motorcycles and playing ultimate from the artic circle, down to the tip of South America. We had a blast playing with all of these new friends, even though it was pouring by the end. 

That there´s a volcano.
We ended the day with some delicious dinner at Sky Cafe in Antigua. The rainy season just started here, so it´s very wet, but Antigua still looks wonderful.

An Antiguan road at night.
We´re all excited to go to Safe Passage tomorrow!

Meg Duffy

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Safe Passage Film Screening

Hey everyone!

This is Nathan “Nate Dogg” Warden and I’m one of the Darkside volunteers for our upcoming service trip to Guatemala. All of us (particularly Tristan) are pretty busy working to fundraise and garner support for the trip so I thought I’d write for the blog this time. Hopefully I won’t botch it!

Recently a number of us volunteers worked and attended the film screening and Q&A explaining what Safe Passage is and it was very enlightening for all of us to say the least. I for one signed up for this trip because I’m committed to ultimate and a service trip to Guatemala sounds like an incredible experience, but I really had no idea what cause we were really working for. But I can tell you (now that I know more) that Safe Passage is a damn good cause that I’m very happy to be a part of. These kids are (quite literally) growing up in a dump and the Safe Passage School is their way up and out of it. It is giving these kids education, role models, and moral support that they just cannot get in the piles of scrap they call home. As someone looking to be a dad someday, I know I’ll do whatever it takes to give my kids the opportunity to be whatever they want and this school is that way for these kids. So for this summer, these kids are going to be my kids. Let’s get to work baby!


Find out more at: or come to our film screening this week at the Campus Y at 6pm!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Were Back... and there is more fundraising to come

Hi everyone, after a break over winter break we are back and organizing more fundraising for our trip. We have some great events that I hope people can come out to! Here is what we have so far:

Tuesday February 12th Sweet Frog Benefit
Sweet Frog Frozen Yogurt ( has generously offered to donate a % of every receipt when people mention our trip. So go and buy some delicious frozen yogurt on Franklin Street and don't forget to mention UNC's Guatemala Ultimate Frisbee Service Trip!

Thursday February 21st and 28th
From 6pm-8pm
Safe Passage Film Screening and Q&A at the UNC Campus Y
We will be hosting two film screenings of documentaries about Safe Passage and then holding a Q&A session afterwards about Safe Passage and our Ultimate Frisbee Service Trip. On February 28th Arnie Katz, Safe Passage Board Member will also be participating in the Q&A. There will possibly also be baked goods for sale at the film screenings, so bring some spare change to purchase some delicious goodies.

We are in the process of organizing a local Ultimate Frisbee hat tournament as well as a Youth Clinic so check back here for details about that. This weekend we will be raffling off some VC Ultimate Frisbee gear at Queen City Tune Up tournament in Charlotte. We have some more events in the works so check back here to stay updated!

Thank you for everyone's continued support!

Tristan Green
Ultimate Service Trip '13