November 24th 2013. Another day of showing up at the Quetzaltrekker office, rummaging around in the kitchen, cooking everyone breakfast, pouring all some hot drinks, signing the early bird clients up for treks, and finally, sitting down: pen and to-do-list in hand. Eighteen years of morning coffee, pens, and to-do-lists is keeping this organization going. Wow. At two months into my period as a trekking volunteer here, I’m basically a seasoned pro (or at least I should be), and yet I am still captivated with wonder at what Quetzaltrekkers does. Look at it like this: you take a group of ambitious, fun, and hopefully-diligent wanna-be world-saving volunteers, teach them to be trekking guides, sell treks, take people out trekking, climb volcanoes, make a lot of money and then… hand that money over to EDELAC and Hogar Abierto where it will fill the brains, stomachs, and hearts of the most wonderful children you’ve ever met. Sounds a little bit like a magic formula to me.
If you hadn’t already figured it out by my gushy writing, I’m in love. At two months in to my three month minimum commitment at Quetzaltrekkers, I’ve come back from my honeymoon phase, learned the ropes (or at least now I can act like I have), and settled in to that sweet spot in my volunteer time frame between only knowing how to do the dishes… and completely burning out. Thus, this morning as we sat down at breakfast to write our to-do-list, I decided to leave the dishes to the new folk and take on the task of the Quetzaltrekkers blog.
Like many of things at Quetzaltrekkers, there is no set formula for how you are supposed to do a blog post, or what it should be about, or why we have a blog, or really any other instructions for what exactly I’m supposed to be doing. Luckily, one of the things you learn pretty quickly at Quetzaltrekkers is that even if there are no specific instructions for some set circumstance, you’ve still got to just put it on the to-do-list, and then figure it out. And, poco a poco, you start crossing things off and writing in new ones. Eighteen years of that, and there you’ve got your Quetzaltrekkers magic.
So, I can by no means speak to all 18 years of Quetzaltrekkers’ to-do-lists, and I’m still not really sure what exactly I’m supposed to be doing with this whole blog thing. But, if nothing else, I figure I can give you some details on some of the to-do-list items that have been checked off lists in the short time that I’ve been here. That way, if nothing else, you will at least know what exactly we’ve been doing in that back corner of Casa Argentina all this time anyways.
Okay, well where to start? Since trips are a big part of what we do we’ll start there with recent updates to our treks. First off, Quetzaltrekkers has been for the past couple months offering Rock Climbing treks to La Muela/Las Ventanas with a trio of three super “rock-star” climbing guides. Besides sending some dope routes and munching on some delish veggie sandwiches, the climbing guides have been hard at work trying to figure out what exactly is going on around them when they climb (the area QT goes to for its climbing trips is also sacred/religious area, so its visited by 100s of people every day to pray). From what we’ve picked up: the praying Central Americans all around us are mostly (but not entirely) Evangelical Christians, who come to the area to pray because it is up high and therefore close to God, the Israeli flags hung everywhere throughout the sight are a symbol of the holy land that many religions share, and finally, if you hike a few kilometers to the west-ish from the best climbing and religious sites, you get to the site where an evil brujo (wizard) lives, practicing black magic and sacrificing children.
Ah. And so it goes. Life at Quetzaltrekkers always leads to a new surprise. Besides black magic near our climbing site, a recent surprise involved everyone’s favorite Tajumulco dog, Doris, who on a recent trip, climbed into the client tent (we told them they shouldn’t leave the tent door open), and well… gave birth to puppies. We definitely didn’t have any instruction manual for that one. But, a good washing out, and a few Woopah’s to Doris later, and the QT train was back on track.
On our other classic, the three day Lago Atitlan trek, we’ve also got a few new special treats. As of October 2013, a local family has started performing a play/dance/concert for our Quetaltrekker groups in the municipal centre in Santa Catarina. Their work reveals the history of their people in a fascinating mix of exuberant music, dance, and costumes. Additionally, another newer touch to the Lago trek is a stop at a coffee cooperative in San Juan in the morning of our last day of the trek, a delightful way to exchange contact details and reflect on the past few days of trekking.
Back in Xela, our days are spent busily crossing of items on our to-do-lists. Bit by bit, the little changes keep the organization running smoothly: improving our water bottle rack, updating prep sheets, answering emails, inventorying gear, and finally throwing away all those random found items that should have been trashed a long, long time ago. And once all those tasks are completed? Add a few more things to the next morning’s list… paint some new signs, clean up the miscellaneous medical supplies, put some quick Spanish lessons on the wall in front of the bathroom…. Check, check, check. And then, finally, find some more ambitious, fun, and hopefully-diligent wanna-be world-saving volunteers, teach them to be trekking guides, climb volcanoes, and make a lots of money so that with a cup of coffee and a morning to-do-list, they’ll keep that magic formula going… filling the brains, stomachs, and hearts of the most wonderful children you’ve ever met.