Hilary Hambrick Taft
Hilary Hambrick Taft
Guatemala 2013-2014
I am volunteering at the Monte Cristo Center in Chimaltenango, Guatemala. This family-run community development center provides education, healthcare, & vocational training to the surrounding community. I will assist with teaching English and computer literacy as well as possibly working on a micro-loan fund for local farmers. Read More About Hilary →

Update on Our New Reality

The past two weeks have felt like the fog has lifted off our dream-like experience and the reality of our adventure here has slowly settled in.

A couple weekends ago, some of our Guatemalan family took us sight-seeing. First, to Iximche- ruins of the ancient Mayan Kaqchikel kingdom. This was the first site the Spanish visited during their conquest in the early 1500’s. Although the most powerful kingdom of that time, the site consists of the homes of only 4 families. Each home has monuments to the sun, moon, and mountain gods, as well as a football field. The grounds are expansive and some of the altars are still used by Mayan priests today for various ceremonies. In fact, during the civil war, Iximche was the location of a peace treaty between Mayan community leaders and guerillas.


A Mayan “futbol” field.


Remaining floorplans of one of the 4 homes, with the monuments in the background. The far left is the monument to the mountain, middle is the moon, and the tree on the right is on top of the sun monument.


The next day, we visited Lago de Atitlan and the town of Panajachel. This is a notoriously ex-pat dominated part of Guatemala. Even knowing this, our ears were shocked at the prominent English being spoken all around us. I’ve also decided that most Americans living here in Guate are sort of… odd. Despite some awkward conversations with random North Americans, we had a fantastic time with our Guatemalan family and their toddler and infant. The view is unbeatable, and we’ll definitely be returning- with a Spanish only policy the next time.


Volcán Tolimán y Volcán San Pedro.


The harbor at Panajachel.


Our wonderful friends and tourguides.

A few days later, we returned to CEMOC just in time to help catch tilapia for the celebratory lunch on the last day of school. Eric did a great job of cleaning some fish, while I made friends with some of the students. The girls I hung out with are normally very shy, but when it was just the 5 of us, they opened up to me, taught eat me how to eat an entire lime off the tree, and promised to visit me during the school vacation.  Two days later, we ate the fried tilapia- head, bones, and all. They were nice enough to cut the head off for me, because I’m too gringa, haha. But even for a gal who just started eating fish last year, I’ve got to say, it was delicious.


Eric cleaning a fish that was, impressively, still alive.


The final product!


Making friends while bonding over my iPhone camera.


The girls wanted to have a picture together.


This past weekend, we became more and more indoctrinated into the Cardenas family. We got to be involved in the planning of a family wedding shower and helped assemble a “cama elastica” or “elastic bed” (aka trampoline) that was an early Christmas present for the kids in the family. We were even invited to a family birthday party, Despicable Me 2 themed, complete with piñatas and pizza. It’s lovely to be included in so many special events, and I’m honored to be a small part of such an impressive family.


Eric and Juan assembling the (giant) trampoline.


And now, my focus is planning a re-vamped English curriculum for next school year, as well as doing some English tutoring with a student who didn’t do well on her exams. Additionally, Eric and I have been working on a sample website for CEMOC’s tourism business (click to the link to check it out:


and searching for the ingredients we need for a trial run of a potential lotion business. We would use the beeswax from the potential honey business to create additional products like body lotion, chapstick, and maybe even candles. But it’s all hypothetical right now and we’re eager see what our viable options end up being.

All in all, it’s becoming a reality, and let me tell you- I like it.


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