La Puerta Abierta Summer Retreat June 28-July 7
Amanda is the co-founder of La Puerta Abierta. She arrived in Guatemala in 2003 as a Peace Corps volunteer. While she never imagined that she would be planting her roots in rural Guatemala, she couldn’t be happier living in a colorful rural village with her husband, two rambunctious daughters and equally rambunctious dogs. Amanda feels fortunate to have work that is creative, meaningful, and keeps her connected to the playful spirit of children.
Juanita is the current director of La Puerta Abierta. She began volunteering at La Puerta Abierta as a high-school student and currently is the backbone of our center. In addition to working at La Puerta Abierta, she is studying Psychology at the university with the goal of opening a mental health support center in our community. She enjoys being outdoors, spending time with her family (she is the eldest of four sisters) and reading.
Khushi lives both in India and the US. Her family is from the Himalayas, and she loves to trek deep into the mountains and experience and meditate in nature. Khushi has been teaching yoga & meditation for over 10 years, and conducts teacher’s trainings in the West. She has a Master’s in Clinical Social Work and a Master’s in Public Health, which she combines with her training as a yoga and meditation teacher to serve those in need. In Philadelphia, she provided yoga and meditation to incarcerated individuals, children with behavioral problems and those recovering from drug and alcohol abuse. She also served as a trauma therapist to children ages 3-18 at the Penn Center for Youth and Family Trauma Response, where she provided mindfulness services for children and their families.
What to expect:
Food: All the food served during the retreat will be freshly made Guatemalan vegetarian. Maria, a local mother of one of our students will be our chef. There is an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables and legumes that are locally grown in our community. Purified water will be provided for participants throughout the retreat. In Antigua and Guatemala City, participants may choose to have non-vegetarian meals. Please let us know if you have any specific dietary needs.
Climate: The climate at Lake Atitlan is ideal. We receive cold air from the highlands and warm air from the coast creating a lovely 80F microclimate. Guatemala is known as “the land of eternal spring.” July falls in the middle of the rainy season (come prepared for rain),but is also the month of “la canicula” or Indian Summer when we often receive a dose of sunshine while the rain stops. Guatemala is close to the equator, and the sun is intense. Please use sunscreen and bring a hat.
Transportation: We will be travelling via shuttle from Antigua to Santiago Atitlan. The road trip will take approximately 3 hours. While in Santiago Atitlan, we will use a variety of transportation including boats, moto-taxis (tuc-tucs) and pick-up trucks.
Accommodations: Accommodations at the retreat site are simple and comfortable. We will staying at La Posada de Santiago www.posadadesantiago.com, which is just a 3-minute walk from La Puerta Abierta. Accommodations are simple and clean, double occupancy with attached bathrooms. Single rooms are available at an extra expense. Hot water and electricity will be available. The power outlets are compatible for US appliances.
Laundry: We recommend that you bring soap and hand wash clothes. We will introduce you to the pila washing system used in Guatemala.
Wi-Fi: You will have access to Internet at La Posada. Internet cafes are available throughout the country.
Medical Needs: El Hospitalito is a small hospital in Santiago Atitlan and will provide care for minor ailments. Guatemala City (3 hours away from Santiago) has many high quality hospitals. There are pharmacies in Santiago Atitlan.
Yoga Classes: Yoga will be offered to all participants daily. We recommend that you come to all sessions to gain maximum benefit. Chair yoga can also be provided for participants with physical difficulties who find it challenging to participate in the general yoga classes.
Participants are expected to dress modestly and in line with local cultural norms. Shorts (long shorts for men and women are ok), tank tops, and other tight or revealing clothing is not appropriate at the retreat site or at La Puerta Abierta. We recommend packing layers…mornings and evenings may be cool, while afternoons can be warm. Rural Guatemalan culture is traditional and conservative. Most women use Mayan clothing called “traje,” which consists of a delicately embroidered blouse or “huipil” and a woven skirt or “corte.”
Travel Health Insurance
You are not required to carry personal travel health insurance in order to participate on this retreat. If you so do wish, there are various economical options available including World Nomads.
You must have a valid US passport in order to travel to Guatemala. Please bring a photocopy of the first page of your passport for emergencies.
We recommend bringing one suitcase per person in addition to one carry on bag. You may consider leaving some space for items purchased in Guatemala. Most airlines to Central America allow you to bring one 23kg suitcase and a carry-on.
Tips are recommended and appropriate for drivers, cooks and assistants. The group organizers can help in suggesting adequate amounts for service acknowledgement.
You are welcome to donate to our work at La Puerta Abierta. Please ask Amanda or Juanita the best way to give donations Post Retreat Stay. Also, a portion of your retreat expense is tax deductible.
If you are interested in staying longer at La Puerta Abierta or in the country, please let Amanda know and she can make additional arrangements for you.
Suggested list of items for participants to bring:
- Personal medications: Please bring enough for the entire retreat.
- Recommended medications: motion sickness pills, preferred fever and pain medication, preferred cough & cold medication, cough drops
- Antibacterial hand sanitizer
- Yoga mat and any other yoga related supplies you need
- Raincoat and/or umbrella
- Durable water bottle
- Bug repellent
- Hair brush, elastic, barrettes
- Good pens, notebook
- Secure money belt
- Sun protection: hat, sunscreen, sunglasses
- Footwear: 2 pair, plus flips
- Bathing suit (we live on one of the most beautiful lakes in the world) . La Posada has a pool and hot tub.
What is included in the program fee:
- Transfers to/from Antigua/Guatemala City to retreat site (all in-country travel which is retreat related)
- All accommodations during the retreat (one night in Antigua, eight nights in Santiago Atitlan)
- All cultural and environmental activities
- Twice daily yoga and meditation
- In School immersion
- Guided treks, village visits, family visits at retreat site
What is not included:
- Food in Antigua and Guatemala City (Dinner on the 29th and lunch on the 30th)
*Small changes might occur due to weather or unforeseen events.
*Each day will begin and end with yoga.
- June 28th—Arrive in Guatemala City, transfer to Antigua.. Spend the afternoon/night exploring Antigua charm with group. Antigua was the colonial Spanish capital of Central America. It is a World Heritage site, and is celebrated for colonial architecture, handicrafts music and traditional food.
- June 29th—Antigua exploration (artisan and fruit market, museums, central park) and lunch at Caoba Organic farm caobafarms.com. Travel to Santiago Atitlan.
- June30—Boat tour around the lake. Visit San Antonio Palopo, famous for handmade pottery and textiles. San Antonio is virtually ¨at the end of the road¨ and offers the most stunning view of sunset from the gleaming white church in the center of town.
- July 1nd—Explore Santiago Atitlan, visit local families, market, weaving museum. We will explore the historical cathedral, meet local artisans and visit Maximon (a famous local deity) .
- July 2rd-July 6th—Collaborate with La Puerta Abierta in the AM. In the afternoons, enjoy free time, kayaking, swimming, hiking, folklore, Spanish classes, cooking classes, etc.
- July 7th—Adios, return to Guatemala City in the AM. *If have an early flight on July 8th, we can arrange for you to stay in Guatemala City on the evening of the 7th.
Lake Atitlán is believed by the Maya to be the center of the universe where God’s seeds of mankind evolved. This large endorheic lake (one that does not flow to the sea) is the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of 1,120 feet (340 meters). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Atitlán) The local people speak of a 50-75-year cycle during which the level of the lake water fluctuates dramatically. For this reason, the Maya have strategically built their pueblos far above the lakeshore.
There are 12 villages around the lake. Each village has its own distinctive style, revealed through the traditional dress of the women. This clothing is called traje. The women’s huipíles, or tops, are ceremoniously changed each New Year to reflect the evolving fashion of the Mayan women. Most men now wear western clothing, but if you walk around town, you will undoubtedly spot a few in the traje of his pueblo. The two Mayan dialects spoken on Lake Atitlán are Kaqchikel and Tzutujil.
The lake’s landscape features three volcanoes. Facing the lake from La Puerta Abierta, sits the oldest volcano, San Pedro, rising to 9,908 feet (3,020 meters). Directly behind La Puerta Abierta are two volcanoes, although they often appear to be only one. In front is Tolimán, standing at 10, 361 feet (158 meters) and behind Tolimán looms the youngest volcano, Atitlán, at a height 11,605 feet (3,537 meters). Volcán Atitlán is the only one of the three believed to still be active, though its last eruption occurred in 1853. Most of the year, the volcanoes are clearly visible in their supreme grandeur.
About La Puerta Abierta
La Puerta Abierta Learning Center began in one small room on the second story of a building in the heart of Santiago Atitlan. Recognizing the importance of having access to books and literature for children and teens, founders Karen Hedrick, a retired schoolteacher and Amanda Flayer, a former Peace Corps volunteer started La Puerta Abierta in 2007. The project opened with one part time librarian, a few tables and chairs and a large collection of books. A sign was hung from the roof of the building and not long after, children began to flow into the center.
Throughout the past ten years, La Puerta Abierta has launched and maintained a variety of projects to inspire the children of Santiago Atitlan to connect with reading including the Traveling Library, Saturday morning story hours, Mommy and Me classes, radio readings and a teen reading circle.
In 2010 La Puerta Abierta expanded to include a progressive preschool which provides an inviting, stimulating, and nurturing educational environment for our young learners We follow a creative curriculum which embraces art and exploration.
We’ve grown up over the past ten years. Our staff of one dedicated librarian has evolved into a team of 12 talented and innovative teachers who continue to build our center. La Puerta Abierta is now housed in a simple yet aesthetic two-room building and 3 outdoor classrooms, with large windows and ample sunlight on the outskirts of town. We have an outdoor play garden, which welcomes children to jump, run and imagine. We visit eight schools in the Traveling Library program, accommodate two groups of young children in our Mommy and Me classes on weekends, receive a group of 35 teen scholarship students on Sundays for study hours, host a teen reading circle and offer preschool-4th grade at our center. All of our programs have a focus connected to literacy, creativity and critical thinking.
Retreat cost is $1600 (before May), $1650 (after May). All proceeds after expenses will support programs at La Puerta Abierta.
*Please contact [email protected] if you would like to solicit financial aid for the retreat.