Being Half the Sky

“Women hold up half the sky” – Chinese proverb 


Exactly a year ago today I was in Xela, Guatemala on a week long volunteer and spanish immersion trip when I heard the noise off in the distance. It sounded like a parade. I asked my teacher Lilian if she knew what on earth was going on and she replied with a smile, “It’s International Women’s Day!” and asked if I’d like to go see the festivities. I had never heard of International Women’s Day before yet it sounded spectacular. I packed up my school work and Lilian and me were off in a flash to the main square.

There I watched in awe and joy how a community could come together as one and celebrate the rights and beauty of women. It was so incredibly touching that I rushed home and instantly wrote a post on the experience titled “El dia de la mujer in Xela, Guatemala“. Even a year later, the memory of that day will forever be engrained in my heart. It was beautiful so heartbreaking yet also so full of hope.


Violence against women is an enormous problem in Guatemala and sometimes women are victims of abuse and even murder. Lillian told me that this was the first time she remembered having so many men participate in International Women’s Day and was hopeful that it would lead to change.

Global Issues Guatemala SOCIAL GOOD TRAVEL BY REGION Women and Girls

The green of Guatemala

“Green is the prime color of the world, and that from which its loveliness arises.”

-Pedro Calderon de la Barca

It is hard to visit Guatemala and not become completely entranced by her greenery. The color green can be found in every place you look- from the verdant terraced farmlands, to the lush fertile peaks of the volcanoes. After a long, cold colorless winter arriving in Green Guatemala almost hurts your eyes and reminds me of the constant rebirth and cycle of life.


The color of Advocacy in Guatemala

A Word in Your Ear, a fantastic travel blog that I adore, started a fun travel and photography challenge called “A Word of the Day”. Basically she lets her dictionary open to a word and voila. That is the challenge. Her recent challenge is “colorful” similar to a recent photo challenge I did.

I adore colors, especially on a gray, dreary day like today. They brighten my mood and make me smile.

These photos were taken back in April in Xela, Guatemala on the International Women’s Day. The entire town was involved in a grand celebration and a huge, colorful parade honoring women and advocating for women’s rights. In a country in which domestic violence against women is a significant, unspoken problem, it was wonderful to witness so many people coming together to share their voice and fight for women’s rights.

Here are some of my favorite colorful pictures from the event.


The color of Guatemala

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky. – Rabindranath Tagore

There is no place on earth that has as vibrant of colors as Guatemala. From the brightly painted buildings in hues of a brilliant rainbow to the intense, magical colors of the Mayan clothing and textiles, I’ve found no place quite like Guatemala.

Here are some of my favorite photos from my trip that burst off the page with color and imagination. Since I’ve already written quite a lot about Guatemala, there will be no descriptions of these photos and it will only be a journey of colors.  Hope you enjoy!


The Doors of Guatemala

Doors are fascinating. They are also quite mysterious for who knows what lies behind the doors of a place. They are the gatekeeper when closed. Yet when opened, they offer you a look into a whole new world of possibilities inside.

When I think of doors, there is one place in particular in which I was utterly blown away by the doors:  Guatemala. This colorful country had perhaps some of the most unusual and interesting doors I’d ever seen during my travels. For those of you who have been following my blog, you have already seen these photos. However, I decided to spruce them up a little by playing around with the colors.

Come, take a walk with me and admire some of my favorite doors I found…..


The Signs of Guatemala

I have always been fascinated by signs, especially when I travel.    Signs can be a work of art or a simplistic view into an unknown culture.  They can be fun, fanciful, beautiful or rather plain.  But they are always one thing:  A glimpse into the life of a place, whether it be a home, a building, a store or a country.

Here are some of my favorite signs that I found during my recent stay in Guatemala.  


The drive to Antigua

I finished my last class of Spanish and my week in Xela on a Friday afternoon. It was a bittersweet feeling. Saying goodbye to Xela, my class and my host family for the week proved harder than I imagined. Yes, it was only a week. But the week was way too short and quite frankly, not enough time. It felt like just as I was finally fitting in and understanding the world around me, it was time to go. Plus I knew in my heart that even just another week would have greatly improved my spanish. Seeing how much I had gone in a mere week was astonishing. I realized that true immersion is far better than any college course. It is the only way to go.


Spanish class on the road

For anyone who knows me or has gotten to know me by reading my blog, it is obvious that I am one who doesn’t like to sit around. I have boundless energy at points that tends to get a little out of whack if I am not moving. I am not good at sitting still. This can be both good and bad. The good is that I’m not a couch potato; instead I am an extremely active and energetic person who can get things done at breakneck speed. The bad is that I really don’t know how to relax and tend to wear myself out to the bones.

Someday, when I’m not so busy raising a family and doing a million things in a day, I will work on gaining more balance in my life. I will take up yoga, learn to sit still and sleep better without jumping out of my bed each morning. But until then, I must deal with the cards I’ve been dealt with and face the facts: I’m kind of hyper.

Given my spirited temperament, you can only imagine how difficult it was for me to be in a new country sitting in a one on one spanish class for five straight hours. I absolutely love to learn but five intense hours holed up in a small room, seated at a desk is not my cup of tea. Thus, when my dedicated and loyal teacher Lili told me about her approach to learning on the road, I was thrilled. This is how it worked.

Leaving Casa Xelaju and taking our class on a road trip…

Xela, Guatemala

The churches of Xela

Like most Guatemalan cities, Quetzaltenango (Xela) is centered around a large glorious Catholic church.  Espiritu Santo Cathedral was founded in 1535 after the Spanish conquered the city of Xela and has remained the heart and blood of the city ever since. It is located in the parque centroamerica and can be seen well above the city from numerous vantage points.

Although Guatemala is predominantly Catholic, many other religions have established themselves throughout the country thanks to missionaries.  You can find loads of evangelist churches and even Mennonite communities as well as Mormons. In fact, you can find any religious establishment except Jewish or Muslim.  For some reason, I found this surprising. 

Most churches in Guatemala are either dove white or brilliant yellow-gold.   The architecture was sensational of course and the churches instantly became a focus of my attention for numerous pictures.  Here are some of my favorites. 

Here is Xela’s centerpiece, Espiritu Santo.


An afternoon at Fuentes Georginas

It is not possible to wake up at 4:30 am, hike a volcano and not follow up with an immediate visit to most popular natural spa in all of Guatemala.  The plan to go immediately to Fuentes Georginas proceeding my volcano climb popped into my head during the knee-aching, slippery descent of Santa Maria.  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the remainder of the day, rewarding my tired body and soul, and soaking in one of the four hot pools of Fuentes Georginas located in the mountains nearby.

Adventure Travel Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

The long, slippery descent down Santa Maria

View from the Top: Xela lies thousands of feet below.

“Getting to the top is optional.   Getting down is mandatory.” -Ed Viesturs climber and author of “No Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World’s 14 Highest Peaks”

After my surreal experience on top of Santa Maria volcano, witnessing my first live volcanic eruption just a few thousand feet below my perch on a jagged rock, it was time to say goodbye.  Heading back is always the anti-climax of a hike, especially a good one in which you reach your peak and for that moment in time you are on top of the world.  But as I always say, all good things must come to an end.  It was time to head back.

The start of our descent….you can see terraced farmland first, followed by the town of Xela far below. 

Adventure Travel Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking

Watching a live volcanic eruption from my perch atop Santa Maria

“No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied — it speaks in silence to the very core of your being”.  —-Ansel Adams

Around 10:30, five hours after starting our hike up the dark and slippery path of the Santa Maria Volcano we had finally arrived at her pointed peak.  The clouds had started to form and blanket the valley of Xela thousands of miles below.  Yet fortunately they hadn’t fully conquered the peak.  There was still a spectacular view of the surrounding volcanoes and valley beneath.

As we approached our resting spot for an early lunch I was perplexed by a low humming sound.  The sound of voices, high and low, big and small, filled up the empty open space around me.  As we come closer to the noise I realized with amazement that it was a human chain of chanting.  The Mayans were singing their prayers to their gods.  The voices of their chants flowed smoothly together making a monotonous tone at times, entrancing me and captivating my soul.

Adventure Travel Guatemala TRAVEL BY REGION Trekking/Hiking