Lago de Atitlan

Lago de Atitlan

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Panama | Day 3, Jan. 8

Today was our second day in Panama and like any typical morning some of us awoke to Panama’s national songbird, the rooster, as well as some curious lizards.

Not your typical morning? Yeah it was pretty new for us too, but it is also a great safety net to ensure we actually get up, since the rooster does not believe in snooze buttons. I like to think of it as nature's very own alarm clock.

After our morning wake up call, we stopped at a local restaurant and stuffed our bellies full with a traditional Panamanian breakfast. This consisted of foods such as: cow liver, corn tortillas, empanadas (dough filled with meat and sometimes fruit), chicken, and “Bollos” (Similar to tamales but without meat).   

With full stomachs, we gathered our gear and headed out towards the town of Tanara, where we would begin our first day of work. We first stopped at an elementary school where we met up with the Principal and a “maestra” (Female teacher).  I learned that the principal spent 20 years in school where he has obtained about 4 professional degrees. What surprised me was the fact that even though he has dedicated a large portion of his life to school, the degrees have no affect on his paycheck. Essentially, to be hired for jobs such as a Principal, you are expected to be very established, which makes obtaining multiple degrees necessary but does not ensure a higher paycheck. While I am sure the Principal would appreciate a higher salary, I could tell that this was more than a job for him; education is his passion. I have always been told that if you are truly passionate about doing something, you’ll do it for free, and that is the vibe I felt while speaking to him.

We also spent some time leaning about some of the economical problems the school and families faced in the area, for example, families here are typically larger with anywhere from 3-4 hijos (children). With low wages and many mouths to feed, it can be extremely difficult for mothers and fathers to provide food for their children. As the teacher explained, many children will come to school having not been fed beforehand and this then reflected in their ability to work and pay attention in class. Hearing this only increased our want and need to help the people in this community any way we could.

After leaning a little bit about Tanara, we began surveying the water filters in some of the homes and making sure they were up to code. While doing this, we were greeted by a passing car filled with 3 local Panamanians, one with a microphone shouting “Sandías!” (Watermelons), and other locally grown fruits. We noticed this and decided we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try some local fruits and bought a papaya. One of the men so kindly sliced it open and handed us all a slice. Of course being the Americans we are, we then immediately got into formation for a necessary selfie. Not too long after we were given koolaide and pineapple “Duros” which are similar to popsicles, delicioso!

After surveying, the Fire department of Chepo so graciously cooked us lunch, and like everything I have eaten so far here, it was nothing short of perfection. After lunch, we began assembling water filters to be transported later this week. It felt great to be able to do more hands on work.

For dinner, we stopped at a local restaurant where we were served what looked like fried chicken, only to find out it was most likely squirrel. Hey when in Panama, right?

Amber Craig

Breakfast was heavier than we were used to. Pictured is cow intestines, an empanada and delicious fried dough hojaldre.

Water filter checks.

Team assembling water filters to be delivered the next day.

Gathering and cleaning walkers and cruches to be delivered the next day.

Eating papaya from a street vendor

Panama | Day 1 & 2 : January 6 & 7th

Panama greeted us with warm smiles and breezes, while our jetlagged bodies make there way through customs and headed to our hotel. We sped down the streets of Panama going many Kilometers an hour - yes, Kilometers, we’re not in the USA anymore.  We make it, our hotel, we get our room keys and crawl our way into bed attempting to squeeze as much sleep into the next 5 hours as possible. Our alarm goes off much too soon and its time to go.

Still dragging from the previous day as we went to breakfast. For our first meal we enjoyed local cuisine, some of us being more adventurous than others. Almost an hour and a half went by as we ate, talked, and enjoyed our surroundings.

 With a new found pep we headed to Panama City. We visited the heart of the town. We roamed from chapels to churches and bustling stores to street vendors. Haggling for the first time, we stocked up on goodies, including free hater stones (amethyst).

Our final stop was El Dorado Rotary. As soon as we walked through the door we were welcomed like old friends. We met with community leaders and they told us all about their many current projects.

So far, Panama has overwhelmed me with beautiful architecture, people, and memories.

Be a Gift to the World,

Kelly King

Panama hotel is beautiful despite the unsettling scurryings heard while sleeping o.O

First meal of the trip and it was delicious!
Plantains and a "secret sauce". Yum-o!

Sun so bright we can't keep our eyes open! Team had a fun time exploring Panama City.

Selfie with San Felipo Cathedral

We were so honored to be guests of the El Dorado Rotary Club. They sure are movers and shakers!

Even though members of the team don't speak Spanish we felt right at home with the same traditions at the El Dorado Rotary Club.

Thank you again for your hospitality!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Panama Bound!

We are Panama bound! Bags are packed (full of donations!) and we are ready to face the day of heavy traveling.

Shout out to the Manhattan Rotary Club and the Konza Rotary club for your support! We also received many donations financially and gifts from friends and family and we are so thankful for your help.

It has been a busy season prepping for the trip and our group raised money by organizing a Pancake Feed through Applebees, working after K-State football games gathering recycling, we refurbished a grill and sold raffle tickets, worked at the K-State career fair, and gathered donations by reaching out to other Rotary clubs.

Thank you all for your support and we will continue to update on our trip as often as we can!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Check out the video we made!

To "see" more of our trip, check out this video Mollie made! Rachel and Mollie recorded tid bits throughout the travels, and are excited to share this video with you.

TONIGHT (Thursday, April 24th) is the public presentation about the trip. It begins at 7:00 in Derby room 134! ¡Nos vemos!

Here is the video.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday, March 20th

Lake Atitlán
Mayan Ruins

Learning about Mayan Civilization with Professor Jeff Smith

Making furry friends!

Visiting the city center in Guatemala City

The group in front of the governmental palace

Names of those killed during the 36-year civil war

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Rachel & Sam enjoying the wonderful fruit

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wednesday, Day 3

The group in front of the hotel Kakchiquel
 Hola! Mollie here. This statement may be repetitive but what a day!

Day 3 of our trip started out with breakfast at 7am once again. We've all been working very hard and sleeping like a rock- although some of us are plagued with a rooster within earshot that likes to start its day at 2am.

Today we took a 30 minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan to San Pedro, setting up shop in a local school. We brought lab equipment to test 10 children's feces for parasites, only 5 of which were able to provide their poo, and all tested negative. Those not helping in the lab were able to play with some kids during recess while waiting for our second project of the day.
10 families were scheduled to bring in their filter systems to upgrade the filter. The World Health Organization recommends 3 liters a day per person and the ceramic filters were not quite up to par, filtering around 19 liters every 12 hours. The families all brought in their 2 bucket systems and we replaced their top bucket with the new filter which supplies 15 liters every 45 minutes- an amazing improvement that goes beyond the WHO recommendation!

We only had a half-day of volunteer work scheduled and so after we completed these two projects our team split up for the afternoon. Professor Jeff Smith mentioned a religious ceremony taking place in Santiago and 6 of us decided to go see it, the other 7 returning to Panajachel to continue exploring the markets or take a quick nap.

I went with the group to Santiago and it was a truly an incredible experience. To be brief (and maybe we can elaborate on it later, it's nearing 11:30pm and we have another early morning tomorrow), we visited the shrine to Maximon (also called San Simon)- considered the patron saint of sinners. He is a mixture of a traditional Mayan god, a Spanish conquistador, apostles Peter and Simon, archangel San Miguel, and Judas Iscariot. Maximon has become Guatemala's most popular saint, often petitioned for assistance in curing diseases, blessing crops, removing curses, winning lawsuits, and divining for the future. Today we witnessed a blessing for protection for two women who were actually Americans but spoke fluent Spanish and Mayan so we are assuming they have lived here for some time. The shrine travels to different homes every month and during the last 3 days of the holy week Maximon is paraded in the Catholic church's square. On Good Friday the festivities start at 3pm and last until 9am the next day with lots of rum drinking.

After our mini tour of Santiago we casually made our way back to the boat while shopping for souvenirs and taking in sights of a new city. The team rejoined at the hotel for dinner and shared our afternoon events and then spent our last evening in Panajachel with more exploring and a few drinks.
Life is good and we are excited for tomorrow! Eye exams and Mayan ruins await us tomorrow and we are eager to make the most of our last day in Guatemala. 
Hasta mañana!

The crew heading to San Pedro

Fecal Smears in the San Pedro elementary school

Assembling water filters

Playing with the children

MIchael and his friends

A local woman and her new,  efficient filters

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Working on the filters

A small group in Santiago de Atitlán

Sam Simón

Our tour guide in Santiago de Atitlán

Watching a beautiful weaver

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


As the morning of our second full day in Guatemala dawned on us, we knew it was going to be a long but very rewarding day.  After a nutritious and equally delicious breakfast, we loaded into our van and once again let our trusty compadre Lico guide us to the Patanatic Clinic.  With such a beautiful day in the Guatemalan highlands, we were ready to get our hands a little dirty and do our best to change the world with a series of love-filled acts.  We were split into two groups, Christy, Rachel and I working in a lab (I’ll tell you a little more about this later) and everyone else upstairs working on constructing 10 beds for the residents of Patanatic.  These beds will make a world of difference for children and adults at risk of acquiring parasites and other diseases from sleeping on the ground.   With a little creativity and a lot of ingenuity the team was able to convert left over construction materials into 10 beds the community so desperately needed.

Meanwhile the lab crew was busy preparing to run fecal smear tests on samples collected from children at the local school.  We were in search of the parasite Giardia lamblia.  This parasite has been known to cause life-threatening diarrhea in members of the local communities, with children being more at risk than adults.  With a couple hours of research preparation and years of microbiology and laboratory experience behind us, we awaited our samples.  Rachel, meanwhile was at the local school with one of the clinic’s nurses being stormed by over a hundred eager children.  With several samples complete, we broke for lunch.

We were served an authentic homemade lunch by a local a woman from the village.  The chicken, vegetables and tortillas were all fantastic, but the guacamole quite literally changed my life.  After lunch the lab crew cleaned up and the bed crew began their final preparations.  By midafternoon, all the beds kits were complete and local residents began to line up to lead us to their homes to finish assembling them.  After the last bed was assembled, we rendezvoused to talk about what we would be doing tomorrow.   We then boarded our bus and drove down the mountain back to our hotel in Panajachel.  

After a delicious stew for dinner, the group dispersed to shop the local shops for trinkets and souvenirs to take back to our loved ones.   After fine-tuning our haggling skills, I think everyone left happy with their purchases.  This was another exciting and life changing day in Guatemala and I can’t wait to see what the coming days will bring.  Buenas Noches.

Tuesday-day 2