18.02.2014 - 04.03.2014 35 °C
One of our main reasons for wanting to head back into Guatemala was for a chance to do some volunteer work. We'd found an organisation called Buenas Cosas which would take volunteers for short term stays and so decided to go there. Buenas Cosas is located in Barrios Los Horizontes which is on the outskirts of Santa Elena just over from Flores where we had studied Spanish near the start of our trip.
We stayed at the 'volunteer centre' which is also the home of the family which runs the organisation. Angelica runs the show with the help of her husband Memo and their kids Reina, Wilson, Perali and William. The house features organic gardens, a stream through the middle which uses plants to filter water from the barrio, a treehouse and a volunteer champa with tables and hammocks for relaxing in the shade.
For our volunteer work, we undertook a range of tasks involving the chickens and goats raised by BC. We fixed up a chicken coop, repaired a holey fence and mucked out the chickens using the contents of the coop to fertilise the garden.
But our main task was to build a milking table for the goats as two of them had just given birth. The contraption includes a table to raise the goat up for easier milking, a food trough to lure it in and a pair of planks to hold its head in place. The goats love their corn so much that once they recognise the table they just hop up onto it to get their food.
Now from these photos it might look like Jim did all the work while Iz spent her time cuddling newborn goats (cabritas in Spanish). Er, totally not true! They are pretty cute though, even with their weird goat eyes.
We were less keen on the older goats, who were impressively obstinate and often had to be rescued from their own stupidity - the mama goat kept sitting on her young, and every time we thought we had the fence fixed up just right for the billy goats they escaped, and made us chase them round town for a bit. We soon discovered that luring them back with a bit of that delicious crunchy corn was pretty effective.
Barrio Los Horizontes is a neighbourhood with a lot of poverty and malnutrition. The goats' milk is given out to the old people in the barrio and to sick children to improve their health and is sometimes also made into yoghurt and cheese which we were sadly unable to sample.
We were however able to try out the goat milking platform on our final day and have a taste of the fresh goat milk. Nice, once you've overcome the idea that its just come out of a goat instead of via the supermarket!
We also got a lot of language practice, especially with Angelica (who speaks only Spanish), partly in the form of formal language exchange sessions and partly just chatting over work and dinner. This made 5 weeks during our trip of language lessons or speaking mostly Spanish, and we're now reasonably fluent with basic conversation (which will make the trip to South America we're already dreaming of a lot easier!)
Because we'd stayed in nearby Flores early in our trip we already had some friends there, and it was great to catch up with them on a trip to a beach across the lake from Flores town.
For another daytrip with a fellow volunteer (the only one - Buenas Cosas isn't exactly a large organisation!) we headed to another lakeside spot with a WATERPARK! You're never too old for a waterpark.
After two weeks at Buenas Cosas we headed on to Belize for some river tubing, Mayan ruins and beers with a fascinating guy lucky enough to be named 'Jose Quetzal'.