Guatemala Timelapse by Andrea Parnell from Andrea Parnell on Vimeo.
This was one of the best things I did in 2014. Besides selling my house in Arkansas and moving to Colorado, this mission trip to Guatemala is right up there. Our purpose of going to Guatemala for a week was to help build a house for a family through ODIM Guatemala, which is an organization that promotes health and education in the area. The house this family had to begin with had cardboard walls and poor ventilation for their wood cooking stove. Andrea and Israel are the couple we built the home for. They have a new baby and it was imperative to build them a new home with sound walls and good ventilation.
The old house, which was already removed by the time we got there in early November. We built the new house on the same site as the old one, while the couple lived with her parents just up the hill.
All the blocks to build the house (watch in the video), had to be carried down a crazy steep and long hill to get to the work site. Our team carried down half of them and Andrea’s father-in-law carried the rest down that night. He could carry up to eight bricks on his back with a head strap wrapped around his head and the bottom of the brick on his back somehow balancing the. I could only carry two (the first time) and then went down to one brick, because I wore myself out.
The alley way down to the work site always seemed to have somebody greeting us as we walked down. This time was these little girls playing in a tuc tuc which soon followed one of my favorite pictures I took on the trip of one of the little girls hanging out of the vehicle.
Tyson and I made some little friends that lived in San Pablo and would come down to the work site every day. I’ll be honest, I had more fun playing with the kids than laying blocks and mortar. But I didn’t feel bad when we would take a little break from building the house to throw them a frisbee and hang out with them. I believe the hat Tyson is wearing didn’t make it back to the States with us. A little boy name Joselius (in red) is the proud new owner.
Our team from Father Dyer United Methodist Church in Breckenridge was there for week one of construction. They planned to finish it with one other American team and then the foremen would finish up the house in week three. During the five workdays we were there, we started by carrying down cement blocks to the work site and sifting sand for mortar. We laid the cement blocks and mixed mortar for the two exterior walls. Bending and assembling rebar to reinforce the walls was important because they are susceptible to earthquakes. On the last day we did start the bathroom interior walls. We didn’t get to see the finished house in person, but Joel, our coordinator, sent me pictures of the finished house.
I wanted to capture the progress everyday of the project so I used my GoPro on the time-lapse mode. You can see in the video that we got most of the exterior walls finished before we had to leave it to the next team to come in. Andrea and Israel received the keys the first week of December and now get to have a wedding party in their brand new home. It’s so amazing to me the progress that can happen in such a short time, but have an everlasting effect on people. I hope they are blessed by this house for a long time to come. I’m just thankful to be apart of it and be able to give back in some way.
Guatemalan Sunrise Timelapse INTRO from Andrea Parnell on Vimeo.
On our last morning in San Juan, Guatemala, Tyson and I decided to get up at 5 AM and hike up to the cross overlooking San Juan. From San Juan it looked like a great vista point to take in all the scenery we had immersed ourselves in all week. The only catch was that you had to get up super early, walk through town in the dark to find the trailhead, and then pay a guy waiting at the entrance to the park 20 quetzals (or Q’s, Guatemala’s currency).
This did NOT go off without a hitch. First of all, I forgot my money back in the room. Then after going back for the money and walking around in the dark for about 15 minutes, we couldn’t find the trailhead. Finally we find the trail head and the guy that you’re supposed to pay 20 Q’s to hike. But of course that wasn’t enough, he wanted 30 Q’s from us. The hike to the cross was supposed to be 20 Q’s and the hike to the very top was 30 Q’s. I don’t know if I just had tourist stamped on my forehead or if my Spanish was just that bad, but he would not let us go until we paid 30. Thankfully he took 26 Q’s from Tyson, which was all he had, and my 30 Q’s. I had added 10 Q’s to my pocket so we could get a tuc tuc on the way back. That wasn’t going to be a possibility at this point.
Now I thought there’s no way we are going to make it to the cross in time for the sunrise. The hike was short but not that easy with all the steps you had to take. Finally we made it up there. I felt defeated and tired because I thought all our set backs had made us miss it. It was pretty light out already, but 20 minutes in to watching the town of San Juan wake up, the sun popped up over the mountains and clouds. It was really a sight to behold.
I’m so thankful that we made it in time to witness the sunrise on our last day there. It was such a great moment to witness all of God’s beauty and reflect on the wonderful week we had there.
Make sure to watch the time-lapse video Tyson and I captured while we were there. He shot his on the iPhone 6 and I shot mine on the GoPro 3 Black. I blended both time lapses together for hopefully something you’ll enjoy!
[vimeo 112636202 w=500 h=283]
There was one thing I was a little nervous about before visiting Guatemala again. And that was taking pictures of the people. I knew I was going to bring my DSLR camera with me, but that’s not inconspicuous or anything. The first time I visited, 12 years ago, I didn’t have my big camera but a disposable camera. I will never forget people telling me to not take pictures of the Guatemalans because they believed taking a picture of them stole their soul.
So 15-year-old me was taking pictures on my disposable camera of this little park outside of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. I didn’t notice the man sitting on the bench at first, but he grabbed my attention when he quickly covered his eyes and stood up like he had been frightened by something. He was probably terrified of me stealing his soul with my little disposable camera. I felt so bad I muttered an apology in Spanish to him and stopped taking pictures.
This time around, I asked some people who had been there recently about this belief. They said some in the smaller villages still believe that you’ll steal their soul with a single picture, but most do not. They just said make sure you ask their permission first. I was so happy to find that when I asked for a photo, not only did they say yes, but most gave me the most heart warming and genuine smile.
This is Joselias. He’s the little boy who was my shadow all week at the work site. I had more fun playing with him than laying blocks and mortar. Jose is 11-years-old and had his first communion while we were there. Here he is smiling for a photo for me in front of a coffee tree.
This man works at the coffee co-op we toured in San Juan, Guatemala. He rakes the coffee fruit and picks out all the sticks and leaves before they take the seeds, or the coffee beans out.
Now this is what I’m talking about when I say they give you such a heart warming and genuine smile! This little girl was playing with her sister in a tuc tuc on the side of the street. When I asked her for a photo, she gave me the most beautiful smile! This has got to be my most favorite picture from the trip.
This was our tour guide at the coffee co-op. I learned a lot while I was there, like they don’t roast their own beans here. It’s too expensive so they sell and ship unroasted coffee beans in order to save money. Also, the coffee is 100% organic but the American organic seal is really expensive so they use the German organic seal on their coffee.
This little boy was fishing with his family on the dock in San Juan. All they were using was a spool of fishing line, a hook, and worms. For someone who has spent entirely too much money on new fly fishing gear, watching them catch fish with no rod was an eye opener. I did get to watch him pull in a small fish, which was intended for their dinner.
These lovely ladies were sorting coffee beans at the coffee co-op. When I asked them for a photo, they smiled and said yes, but not before they straightened up and the sweet lady in front uncrossed her legs.
As we head into a week where we celebrate as a nation all that we are thankful for, I can’t help but think of these beautiful people. I can hope that they remain happy, healthy, and thankful too.
I just returned from nine life changing days in Guatemala on a mission trip to build a house for a family in San Pablo. It was very hard to go through all the photos I captured during our time there and narrow it down to 10 of my favorites.
There are so many stories to be told through each image. So I looked at all the stories I could tell throughout the whole trip and tried to pick one that was central to each story. I will be featuring several different aspects of the trip on the blog. To start, here are my top 10 favorite images from Guatemala.
My most favorite image from the trip is from the cross, or La Cruz, overlooking San Juan and Lago Atitlan where we stayed throughout the week.
This is Iglesia De La Merced (La Merced Church) in Antigua. On Saturday they have several weddings there. Brides were lined up outside the church to get married in the cathedral. There are ruins on the left of the buildings facade.
This is Volcano Agua in Antigua. It’s elevation is 12,340 ft, which is close to the same elevation of the ski peaks in Breckenridge where I live.
Where we stayed it was easier to get to by boat rather than by car. We took a boat on Lago (Lake) Atitlan from Panajachel to San Juan.
Here you see a worker at the La Voz Coffee Co-Op. He is raking all the fresh coffee that locals bring in from the fields. He rakes and picks out all the leaves and sticks by hand before they take the bean out of the middle of the fruit.
The shores of San Juan showed us how much the lake has risen and covers a lot of buildings in water. The algae bloom and other global issues have caused the lake to rise and flood several homes, businesses, and farmland.
This cat caught my eye on the way down to the work site. Cats, dogs, and chickens roam the streets of San Juan and San Pedro freely. Some have owners but most I saw don’t.
This little girl was playing in a tuc tuc on the side of the street. I asked her for a photo and she gave me the biggest heart melting smile.
Our hotel in San Juan had the most beautiful flower garden in the front lawn. I captured this through a fence once the butterfly landed on a flower.
On our last day staying in San Juan, Tyson and I hiked up a mountain to watch the sun come up over Lago Atitlan.
This trip held so much beauty. Not just in the scenery but in the people who live here. It showed me many things, but most importantly showed me that these people are still content without all the things we have in the States. They live simply and they are still happy and smiling. My heart is definitely full.