Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First Team Retreat

One of the parts of this job that I was most interested in when we applied was being a part of (and leaders of) a team. I love facilitating group activities and also having time to hang out in teams. Some of the best memories of my life are from group bonding. We will have team retreats every few months and after this first one I am convinced it will be something I look forward to throughout our time here.
Because we have staff that live 8 hours away (or more), many traveled into the city the night before we left for the retreat. We enjoy hosting guests and had almost all of the team members over to our apartment for dinner the night before. And several slept in our living room. A pre-retreat hang out.

I'm thankful that our staff have attached to our girls. Ellie talks about all the staff being "her friends." 
The retreats are usually near where one of the team members live and work. This retreat was in Alta Verapaz, about 4-5 hours north of the city. We ate most of our meals on this covered patio attached to our hotel overlooking the city of Coban.

We spent the morning on business and get-to-know-you activities. We have staff who only speak Spanish, and others who speak very limited Spanish (including myself), so we have to translate or speak in both languages throughout our meetings.
Next, the team headed to an agroecology educational center. It's a large farm on top of mayan ruins. It's run by ex-MCC staff who came to Guatemala about 12 years and worked for 6 years with MCC. Now they do this. 

They host educational programs where local Ke'kchi young women come and learn basic skills. They are currently building dorms and bathrooms and can host up to about 40 people at a time. (For much better pictures, go here. For more information about this conservation and agroecology leadership training program, click here).
We took a hike on the gorgeous premises and headed for some caves.
Nothing says team bonding like hiking through the mud and rain.
Big cave.
Why not grab a family photo inside a big, dark cave?
And while we're at it, a team photo too.
Team MCC Guatemala/El Salvador.
To get to and from the caves we had to cross these bridges. 
We were told to walk across them one at a time as they are a bit precarious. 
I decided not to make Hazel walk across by herself. (Just kidding).
Ellie loved seeing animals all over the place. 
Here, she's posing with one of our staff members, Lilian.

On Friday, after a morning of connecting and bidding farewell to the Murch family who will be ending their internship with MCC in less than a month, we visited Bezaleel, a vocational school connected to the local Mennonite and Q'eqchi (indigenous group) churches, where the Murches have been working.
The boys dorms are on the second floor and there are classrooms below.
 One of the many buildings on campus.
 Ellie had a blast playing with these kids for two days straight.
 John, one of our staff who has been helping teach the carpentry classes, helped build these picnic tables (check this out to see the process) that were placed throughout the campus. The genius of these is that there are no chairs and they are EXTREMELY heavy so they don't disappear!
 One of the classrooms. I don't know if it's usually decorated like this or if it's in preparation for the big Independence Day celebrations coming up this weekend.
 The library. Yes, those are all the books. 
 This is Jennifer. She has been teaching baking classes. Here, she's showing us the cake pans that her crafty husband not only made, but in a previous MCC assignment in Nicaragua, taught local women to make to sell (you can read about that amazing story here). (Also, if you haven't gone to her blog yet, you should. I've linked to her blog several times).
Cooking lunch. 
 Simple bread recipe.
 Meet Beraldo. He's from Colombia and just joined our team for a year through the YAMEN! program. He's working in Sibinal and we took him to his assignment just a week ago. He and Hazel are buddies.

After our visit to Bezaleel we stopped by the market for a quick lunch before our drive back to Guatemala City.

We decided to eat a quick lunch from these women. They make tortillas and fill them with cheese or sausage or both. Similar to pupusas but, in my opinion, pupusas are better.

We had a wonderful time at our retreat. It was fun to be with the team for the first time. We played a lot of card games in the evenings and laughed a lot. And ate a lot of chocolate. 

With the way MCC staff cycles through, every staff retreat will have changes. We will be saying goodbye to the Murch family as well as another staff member in the next few months.

If you'd like to read about MCC Guatemala and see pictures from the perspective of one of our newest staff members, meet him here on his blog.
And, to see more fun pictures of our retreat, including a couple cute little Chapman girls, go here.
Feeling very blessed to be a part of this team. 

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