Que Viva Guatemala!

Last week, I experienced Guatemalan culture for the first time, through Go Eat Give’s Destination Guatemala. Before the event started at El Quetzal, a Guatemalan restaurant in Chamblee, GA, I got the chance to interact with a few people who had travelled to Guatemala, and were excited to take a nostalgic trip back to the country they had fallen in love with for a night, through Go Eat Give.  Before that day, I didn’t know much about Guatemala, besides what I had studied in school about the Guatemalan Civil War, and the media accounts of poverty, drug, and gang violence plastered on T.V. in recent weeks, covering the unaccompanied minors from Central America. I was eager to learn more about the land and culture.

amaka destination Guatemala

While guests were getting settled in, photos from Guatemala and traditional music played in the background. The photos showed the rich biodiversity in Guatemala, including its plush rainforests, mountainous highlands, and clear blue lakes including Lake Atitlán . We then feasted on a Guatemalan dinner buffet that included arroz y frijoles (rice and beans), ensalada (beets and palm salad), Pepian de Pollo, Jocon con Pollo, Vggie Chile Rellenos;  and for dessert Mole con Platanos Fritos (plantains in a mole sauce) and Rellenitos de Platanos (fried mashed plantains stuffed with sweetened black beans), which was washed down with horchata and tamarindo. Some of my favorites foods included jocón (chicken stewed in green tomato sauce), and pepián (chicken stewed in a pumpkin and sesame sauce).

Guatemalan food

The event featured two speakers: social entrepreneur Stephanie Jolluck and the Consulate General of Guatemala in Atlanta, Rosa Mérida de Mora.  Jolluck has adopted Guatemala as her second home and is the owner of Coleccion Luna, a co-op located in the Guatemalan highlands that creates beaded jewelry, hand woven textiles, bags, and belts. She has formed an equal partnership with Guatemalan women, and proceeds from the business benefit the community to alleviate poverty, preserve tradition, sustainability, and promote cultural diversity and understanding. The fabric of her textiles came in many bright colors, which are found in the rich landscape of Guatemala. The handicrafts were a big hit of the night, and many guests took home items from Collecion Luna.

Stephanie Jolluck

Rosa Mérida de Mora spoke of the work of the consulate within the Guatemalan community in Atlanta and the southeastern region. She described the strong work ethic of the Guatemalan people whom are largely agrarian. Many Guatemalans in the southeast have continued this tradition in the States, harvesting the crops that we consume everyday. Although many Guatemalans work hard in the United States so they have a chance to provide a better life for their families here and in Guatemala, they face hardships. Over 60% of Guatemalans in the United States are undocumented which causes them to live in shadows of American society, as they risk being deported if they get caught driving without a license. Although Guatemalans have contributed so richly to American society, it is heartbreaking that they are treated so poorly due to many anti-immigration sentiments in Georgia. I hope this event encourages people to keep an eye on the news about the effects of anti-immigration legislation.

Rosa Maria

After the speeches, guests put their dance moves to the test. A traditional Guatemalan dancer showcased cultural Mayan dances, and many guests jumped in, not afraid of learning a new dance in front of complete strangers.  The highlight of my night was definitely watching everyone dance along to the beautiful Mayan music.

Mayan music

Destination Guatemala was a great event because many people who had been native Guatemalans and tourist of Guatemalans came out and spoke about the land and culture they loved so much. Witnessing the passion and love that others shared for the country encouraged me to begin a way to plan my own trip to Guatemala. In the meantime, I look forward to learning Thai culture at Go Eat Give Destination Thailand next month.

~ By Go Eat Give intern, Amaka Ifeadike. Amaka is a recent graduate from Emory University. She loves to travel, teaches Spanish, and most recently lived in Buenos Aires. 

Atlanta – Antigua Culinary Tours with Stephanie Jolluck

For the past 17 years I have traveled, worked, volunteered, explored, eaten, drank, & hiked my way through Guatemala completing over 80 trips to a place I adore & call my second home. Based in Atlanta, I travel to Guatemala four times a year to work directly with the Mayan Indians of the Highland region on my award winning line, Coleccion Luna: a line of beaded jewelry and accessories, as well as wood carvings, and textiles created with PURE LOVE from their reclaimed Indigenous clothing using Fair Trade practices.

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In January 2015 I will launch my Atlanta~Antigua Culinary Tours…unforgettable gastronomy travel adventures! While Guatemala seems to be most known for the violence, drugs, & corruption that has plagued it for years, it is also a magical place full of intrigue, beauty, and color with a fascinating history and a wealth of food culture and biodiversity. I am organizing an amazing team.

of A US~Guatemala partnership of Coleccion Luna, INGUAT, Guatemala Trade Commission & Investment, Guatemalan food & drink producers, Top Atlanta Chefs & Media, and Antigua hotels, farms, restaurants. The tours will focus in and around Antigua.

10537180_10204258732010028_4872919898845950669_nResting in the shadow of three volcanoes, Antigua Guatemala, or “La Antigua”, as it’s often called, was the country’s capital for over 200 years. It offers a fascinating blend of European and Indian culture, with its monumental sixteenth century Baroque churches, colorful colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, art galleries & markets, local & international cuisine, and vibrant natural beauty. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, Antigua exudes a unique atmosphere of history, mystique, and local custom.

10291190_10203521666143842_7627323611236669500_nSome of the highlights include:

  • Learning to cook some of my favorite dishes: Chicken Pepian (Chicken in spicy pumpkin and sesame sauce~like a mole…comes in a variety of colors) Kak’ik (A traditional Mayan turkey soup, with spices like coriander, achiote, and chile peppers), Jocón (chicken in green tomato sauce), Subanik (beef, pork and chicken vapor-cooked in a highly spiced chili sauce), Pollo con Loroco (A chicken stew with vegetables served in a cream sauce seasoned with the flower that gives the dish its name)…all served with the best handmade blue and white corn tortillas.
  • Indulging in “dulces tipicos”: old-fashioned handmade treats made from milk, marzipan, honey, sesame seeds and local fruits such as guava and coconut.
  • Exploring Cacao/Chocolate “food of the Gods”: learning the fascinating history as we make our own Mayan spiced hot cocoa and creating chocolate from bean to bar. (The Mayans were the first to discover, cultivate, use in spiritual ceremonies, eat, and drink chocolate.)
  • Visiting my friends gorgeous organic farm on the outskirts of Antigua for a tour & tasting: a experimental, self sustainable, biodiverse, low environmental impact organic farm using ancient Mayan techniques
  • Tasting of Guatemalan Rum: Learn the history & taste the legendary, award winning Rums of Guatemala
  • Touring Organic Coffee Cooperative: Lead by small-holder coffee farmers, we will receive the opportunity to experience a day in the life of a farmer. After a short hike up Volcán Agua to see the coffee fields, we will be invited into the farmer’s house to learn about and utilize the machinery used to process coffee. But the best part of all comes at the end: we will roast coffee in the traditional way over a fire and share a cup of coffee with the farmer and his family and a lunch of traditional Guatemalan food cooked by the farmer’s wife.
  • Exploring the colorful markets of Antigua: Discover the wide array of gorgeous and delicious fresh vegetables, fruits, beans, herbs, and spices found in Guatemala.
  • Visiting edible gardens: See how families and individuals are growing their own edible gardens for fresh, healthy, delicious food in an organic and sustainable way.

10422333_10204365363515749_1705929521154121635_nGuatemala is experiencing one of the worst droughts in years that is affecting over 236,000 families have been affected. Also in Guatemala, the face of poverty & hunger is young, indigenous & rural. Guatemala, with the 4th highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world & the highest in Latin America & the Caribbean, faces a serious challenge to reduce chronic undernutrition, currently at 49.8% among children under 5 years old. With these facts and issues, a percentage of my tours will go to various local, national, and international organizations that work to find local, community based solutions to food insecurity in Guatemala.

The tours will happen twice a year in late January and October. For more information, please contact me at stephaniejolluck@gmail.com

~ By Stephanie Jolluck, CEO of Coleccion Luna.

Celebrate Guatemala’s Independence Day with Go Eat Give on Sept 18

Guatemala’s Independence Day falls on September 15, just three days before Go Eat Give Destination Guatemala dinner on September 18, 2014 at El Quetzal in Chamblee, GA. Guatemala, along with other Central American countries, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Honduras, uses this day to celebrate its independence from European colonial power Spain in 1821, complete with traditional dances, fireworks, and parades.

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Unlike most other Central and South American countries, Guatemala achieved its independence in relative peace. Since then, it has made a name for itself as a biodiversity hotspot. The country itself is beautiful. It is made up of a variety of different ecosystems, including wetlands, rivers, lagoons, mangrove forests, and over 1,246 types of fauna. There is still evidence of the ancient Mayan civilization among its people, as illustrated by the traditional “traje” style dress many wear.

On September 18, Go Eat Give will partner with Consul General to Guatemala in Atlanta and Coleccion Luna to present an evening with authentic dinner, speakers, art and entertainment. Keynote address by Cónsul General de Guatemala en Atlanta, Rosa Maria Mérida de Mora. Born and raised in Guatemala, Ms Rosa Maria has served as a diplomat for over 25 years serving most recently in Buenos Aires and New York. She will share important facts about the Guatemalan population in southeast US, as well as cultural insights from her homeland.

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Featuring social entrepreneur and founder of Coleccion LunaStephanie Jolluck. A social entrepreneur, Ms. Jolluck started Coleccion Luna in 1999 to focus on women’s empowerment, alleviating poverty, preserving tradition, sustainability, and promoting cultural diversity and understanding. Coleccion Luna works with a women’s co-op located on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala to create beaded jewelry, hand woven textiles, bags, belts and more.

guatemalan food

Authentic Guatemalan menu at family-run restaurant, El Quetzal includes Tostadas con guacamole and frijoles, Pepian de Pollo, Jocon w/ pork, Chile Rellenos (Vegetarian); Beets & Palm Salad Ensalada, Arroz, Frijoles, Mole con platanos fritos & rellenitos de platanos. Non-alcoholic beverages include Horchata & Tamarindo. Also, enjoy live music and door prizes!

Ticket includes buffet dinner, speaker and entertainment. Free parking. Portion of proceeds benefit Go Eat Give, 501(c)(3) registered nonprofit organization that raises awareness of different cultures through travel, food and community service.

Read more details or purchase tickets here.

Destination Guatemala

Teaching and Learning in a Week in Quetzaltenango

Traveling to Latin America, particularly if you already know Spanish, can be an unforgettable experience, especially if it is your first time there. Just imagine getting a study abroad opportunity, being able to teach English, soaking in the scenery, and that was my week in Quetzaltenango.  After a 3 hour plane ride from Atlanta to Guatemala, a 1 hour taxi ride from the airport to the bus station, and a 3 hour bus ride from Guatemala City to Quetzaltenango, my week officially began.

host family in Guatemala

I start the week with meeting my host family. They are warm, hospitable people that demonstrate a lot of interest in making me feel at home. My mouth was watering as I was treated to my first meal, which consisted of rice, tortillas, and frijoles (beans). It was so delicious, but the excitement didn’t stop there. I had a delicious homemade breakfast, lunch, and dinner waiting for me every day of my trip. It was like a buffet of gourmet goodness, as I chowed down on soup, potatoes, soy, guacamole, and more.

food in Guatemala

This was an ideal week for anybody that wanted to test their ability to speak a foreign language in a setting where you are surrounded by people of limited English proficiency.  From the taxi ride to the bus station, and eventually at my host family’s house, I had to get out of my comfort zone of speaking English, and adjust myself to the new environment that I was in.

The city of Quetzaltenango is filled with breath-taking natural scenery and life. Exploring the hills and trees across the city simply left me speechless. Cows and horses were everywhere.  The rooms, including the Nahual Community Center where I was teaching English, were filled with plants.

Walking through the local markets in the city will make anyone want to stop and check out all the marvelous products being sold.  Guatemala has a large textile industry, and the fresh produce is abundant. Looking at all those fresh from the farm and probably organic juicy strawberries, peaches, and raspberries, left me drooling.

I kept strolling through toy stores, hospitals, car shops, and so much more. There were too many stores I wanted to see that it was difficult to see all of them.

shopping in Guatemala

Teaching English was the most difficult part of the trip.  Imagine being in front of a group of students who know very little English, and having to help them learn the language.  But instead of giving up when things got tough, I endured the rigorous task of working to develop lesson plans for the students.  What made the experience a lot easier was working with a group of other volunteers from all over the world, including Indiana, Czechoslovakia, and Switzerland.

Did I say study abroad? The Nahual Community Center also provided Spanish classes for me and other volunteers. Imagine taking 4 hours of Spanish every day, for five days,
and compare it to 3 hours a week of Spanish training, and you can have an idea of how much more prepared I needed to be to keep up with the material.  But my Spanish classes focused on more than just learning the language, but also on learning about the local economy of Guatemala.

Guatemala study abroad programs

Did you know that many people in Guatemala enjoy listening to American music, particularly songs from the 80s?  During my taxi ride from the airport to the bus station, I was bopping my head as I listened to “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.”  Also, at the school I heard the staff listening to “Party All The Time.”  Looking back at the trip, I am glad that I went and I recommend people reading this blog to try it out.  This trip makes me want to visit other countries in Latin America.

~ By Gaurav Bhatia, a philanthropist who wants to advocate for the rights of all people around the world to get a good education.  Check out his website at www.seedsofsharing.org