Honors Summer Snapshots: Sarah

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2016 summer routines via photos. Sarah Leichty went to Guatemala at the last minute…and loved it:

Canche en el Campo (Blonde in the Field):
10 Things I Learned After a Summer in Rural Guatemala

Leichty 1

Selfie with the corn at the experimental farm

1. When an NGO in Guatemala asked me if I’d like to come down to live at an experimental farm near a tiny town in Suchitepequez and figure out how to breed high-yielding corn with higher levels of protein, I said yes even though I’m primarily a soil scientist with only one genetics course under my belt. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

2. Sometimes the intense storms during the rainy season resulted in the loss of electricity, so we had plenty of flashlights and stored water in case of a lack of running water. And I realized that maybe a shower every day isn’t a necessity.

Leichty 2

My view from Volcano Pacaya

3. As a blonde, I was stared at wherever I went. But that doesn’t mean that people were hostile. They were generally sweet and very helpful and even shared food or wanted to take pictures with me. In all honesty, I’d stare too if I saw a tall, blonde gringa run down a dirt road with a large dog running beside her (the farm’s dog would sometimes accompany me when I went running).

4. Scorpions are a thing, so I shook out my clothing and tucked the mosquito netting around my bed, so they wouldn’t crawl in during the night. I’m speaking from experience.

5. Sometimes the water isn’t the most potable. I learned to appreciate the simplicity of drinking tap water in the States and the power of cinnamon, cardamom tea for when the water didn’t agree with my body. Enough said.

Leichty 3

Lake Atitlan in all its glory

6. I had to remind myself constantly to appreciate and take in the beauty of the plants, people, and places around me. It was inspiring and hard to comprehend even without the language barrier.

7. Slang is something that really separates the locals from the tourists, so learning fun slang that only Guatemalans know was highly entertaining and surprising to the locals when the gringa knew a few Guatemalan words.

Leichty 4

That time that I tried to learn how to make tortillas and mine were the badly misshapen ones

8. The fanciest food in the States cannot compare to the simplicity and deliciousness of a 15 Q (roughly $2) meal made by a kind Guatemalan woman who lived at the end of the dirt road near the experimental farm I was housed at in La Maquina, Guatemala.

9. My parents didn’t need to know about all of the little crazy details about Guatemala that would make them worry. I’m sure they had mini heart attacks when I traveled alone to the city of Xela, climbed an active volcano, and jumped off an 8-meter high platform into Lake Atitlan. Or when a scorpion crawled out of my bathroom sink.

10. I owe Iowa State and especially the Agronomy Department for funding this trip, so I could experience all of these crazy, bananas, amazing, and unbelievable things. They made my adventure a reality.

If you’re interested in learning more about Semilla Nueva, the wonderful NGO working with rural Guatemalan farmers and improving the nutritional health of thousands of Guatemalans in the process, please visit semillanueva.org. If the mission of this organization interests you, please donate at http://semillanueva.org/donate/give-the-gift-of-a-better-tomorrow.





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