Thursday, February 11, 2016

Trama Textiles ♥ The Weaving School



If you ever come to Guatemala I advise you two things.
Number one - climb up a volcano or visit a lake
Number Two - take a backstrap weaving class with a Guatemalan women's weaving association


I was super excited when my Spanish teacher suggested I check out Trama Textile's all indigenous women owned weaving association. At first I thought he said trauma and didn't question it, assuming I would learn why trauma was part of the association's name. However, upon arrival to the association (just two streets away from the Parque Central in Xela), I learned that it was tra-ma, and not trau-ma. 
"For us, the Spanish word TRAMA, “the weft” or “binding thread”, is interchangeable with the word comida, “food¨. Our weavings clothe us, warm our families through highland winters, and carry our babies on our backs. They unite our people from generation to generation and sustain us as much as any food."   
-- Trama Textiles 2016
 The first time I walked down the steps, past the open teaching area and into the little store of textiles my eyes were wiiiiide open and I thought "So many beautifully local hand woven textiles in one place, what to do, what to do!?" After speaking with the vice-president at the the Xela (Quetzaltenango) location I made plans to visit one of the weavers to take a little video interview in a near by community. I also signed myself up for a 10 hour weaving course and selected a few things to purchase.

Of the 5 course options, I signed myself up for the chalina (scarf) course. This was a 10 hour, one-on-one weaving course with one of the women at Trama Textiles. When I first began weaving, and I'll be completely honest here, I WAS STRUGGLING! I could not remember which rod went where and when... and when to move the rod up and shift the threads down... and oh my goodness gracious I learned a lesson of patience and respect for these women weavers within that first hour than I could ever have imagined. That first hour of weaving fostered in me a new found respect that I would not have cultivated without taking the course and trying to weave myself. Weaving well is a skill that takes time to develop. Even the tension of how you hold each rod influence the final product. #Respect

backstrap weaving course guatemala trama textiles

Over the course of two weeks there, which were a mix of weaving and doing photoshoots, I also met really interesting and knowledgeable young women also taking a backstrap weaving courses. Not to be mean, but many times I find that travelers (specifically backpackers) think they know a lot about the world, but when they travel it is purely hedonistic. In this, it is quite easy for this certain type of traveler to travel through but not actually learn about the cultures they visit. In comparison, the amazing young women I met taking weaving courses at Trama Textiles came to Guatemala and Trama Textiles specifically to learn about Guatemala, indigenous textiles, their histories, and the women behind the patterns. It was actually inspiring (and quite refreshing) to be able to talk to other travelers who were interested in fashion as a means to share stories and learn about where the product came from and the context of it. Shout out to all you ethical fashionistas across the globe we all call our home!

So now, over the next few weeks I will share more photos from the course, the interview I did in the near by community, a blog piece on cultural appropriation and some photos of my new Guatemalan huipil made by Trama Textiles! But now for a few more photos. Below we have the final product of my 10 hour weaving course. There is also a photo from the interview which shows a backview of a woman weaving. The traditional backstrap weaving is done with the weaving contraption tied to a tree and the backstrap (which is more of a booty belt) behind you as you sit on your knees on the ground. You will learn more about that on an upcoming post later this month but for now I hope the picture below helps. :)

Xela Chalina Weaving Course
traditional backstrap weaving

Have you ever only realized the value and labor something was worth only after trying it for yourself?


With a new respect for weaving,
Christine


Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Santa Maria Volcano Hike in Xela (Quetzaltenango), Guatemala

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Aside from attempting to be on my univeristy's rowing team in college, this is pretty much the hardest thing I have physically done in my life. Although, bearing children will probably be worse (random thought). Anyways, when the hike guides say it is a "difficult level" hike, they are not kidding...

Santa Maria: 3,772 m (12,375 ft) @ highest point

I planned my hike to the Santa Maria Volcano three days before hand. All of the guided tours require at least two days notice which is something I wasn't aware of. I did this hike with my friend through Guate Guides! I chose them because they were one of the most economic options, and had great reviews on TripAdviser. We started our day at 5am, being picked up by their van. They provided us with walking sticks and we were accompanied by two tourism police. We began hiking around 5:30am in the dark. As we followed our guide and his flashlight up the non-marked path we were able to experience the sun rise from the side of the volcano! I would have taken more photos but was too exhausted to keep taking out my camera to snap some pictures. hehe. As we continued on, we passed a few plots of land where locals harvest various crops (I can't currently remember the types). It is incredible to think that locals make the hike all the way to that point daily when I was huffing and puffing away and could barely think of reaching the top!

The hike up the mountain took us 3.5 hours in total (which to me seemed more like 6). Upon arrival to the top of the mountain, we saw about two dozen people praying. I was a bit startled because I wasn't expecting it but people really pour their hearts out at the top of the mountain by an "alter" made of large rocks, praying and crying out loud to God. Previously, this alter was used for Mayan religious rituals. A little ways away from the alter area we laid down a few mats and ate the lunches we packed and chilled for about an hour. In this hour we were able to watch the San Tiagito Volcano spew ash three times, which apparently is quite lucky! (yay!) Apparently San Tiagito and his fellow volcano friends were on caffeine or something because the following day it spewed so much ash that air traffic in Guatemala was halted. Anyways, after our one hour break, we were made our way down in 3 hours. During this hike down, we walked through light snow... which was really ash from San Tiagito. The hike was very hard for me and without the motivation of my friend (Super Miggy) I would have never made it up to the top, which I would have regretted. THANKS SUPER MIGGY! Overall it was SUCH an incredibly challenging and amazing experience with a breathtaking view that I recommend to all who are able to make the hike!

Have you hiked or traveled? What are your favorite hikes? 



Now for a few questions you may have about the hike:
  1. Do I need a guide to hike the Santa Maria Volcano? Yes you do, unless you already memorized the way. The the trail is unmarked and there are many points where you can get lost because there are diverging paths.
  2. Do I need experience to hike the Santa Maria Volcano? Okay, so I am not a hiker. I do exercise a few times a week running, but this hike was very hard on me. If you are super motivated and are somewhat fit, I say go for it. Also be aware of the elevation change. The thing that helped me most was my friend who kept pushing me to not give up. Thanks Super Miggy!
  3. What hikes can I go on in Quetzaltenango? Okay, so obviously I recommend you to hike the Santa Maria Volcano. In Xela, there is also the Chicabal Volcano and the Tajumulco Volcano. More info here!
  4. How long does the Santa Maria Volcano hike take? In total it took us 8 hours, which includes the one hour break on top. I was told that we were walking at a medium pace, as a point of reference.
  5. Can we stay overnight at the Santa Maria Volcano? Yes you can! Unfortunately, my schedule didn't allow us to do so, but there are Full Moon hikes up the Santa Maria volcano where you stay overnight atop the volcano. If you do this, be sure to bring warm clothes and a shirt to change into for sleeping because climbing that volcano does make you sweat! :) Cotton is best because it wicks out sweat.
  6. What do I wear and bring to the Santa Maria Volcano hike? The day will start out chilly! Think layers and wear layers. I had a long sleeve cotton top with a fleece jacket and a scarf. I would suggest gloves, long pants and good grip sneakers (some parts are very steep). They recommend 2 liters of water. Bring 2 liters of water and also a flash light, if you are clumsy since you will be walking in the dark.
  7. Will I get elevation sickness? It is possible. Due to the quick elevation change, make sure that you don't hike this until a few days after arriving in Xela (Quetzaltenango) because you don't want to get elevation sickness! ... But if you do, ginger tea is helpful! :) 
  8. Review on Guate Guides? Our guide was great, he was friendly, motivational and loved to hike. This means that when I felt like giving up and literally told them to continue without me, he encouraged me to keep going.

Ethical Activewear Worn for the Hike
Orange Top //  Threads 4 Thought via Ecolissa
Ethically and sustainably made in one of the world's "most advanced water recycling programs"
Black Organic Cotton Yoga Pants // c/o Satva
non GMO organic cotton, education scholarship program for farmer community



Tired but Worth It,
Christine



Monday, February 1, 2016

Travel Diaries ♥ Cakery in Xela, Guatemala

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I am so sprinkliciously excited to share with you a new discovery I found in Quetzaltenango (Xela)! I know usually I only do ethical fashion and faith even when I travel, but this time I'm going to go a bit beyond fabric... because CUPCAKES are worth it! Today we take a trip to Guatemala to visit Cakery. This gourmet cupcake shop opened the same week that I arrived in Xela. What a coinkydink, right?

Of course when I discovered how beautiful the cupcakes are and then how delicious they taste, I was hooked! Even more addicted than myself was my friend Naiima and my teacher. It's funny because one day, on my way home from Spanish class, I saw my teacher outside of the Cakery. What was he doing? Treating himself to a cupcake. haha. (GERSON, I saw you!) Back to my friend, she went so far as bringing back half a dozen. Heads up to you all, USA TSA is not a fan of cucpakes. :/ Boo!

Anyhow, since I visited Cakery quite often, I decided that it was only right to do a mini interview and video about my new sprinkly find. For Zully, the owner, making cupcakes began as a hobby. She started selling them to family and friends and a few years later it grew so much that she opened up her own shop! Unfortunately, I was told that there aren't that many local cupcake fanatics in the area. :/ However, she is so super talented, that I am sure that once people discover her bakery, the cupcakes will be practically flying out of the oven! Just look at that Snoopy below. So cute, right? ;) I hope you feel like you are walking through the bakery when you watch this video. 


Nom, nom, nom.
What is your favorite dessert?
Note: I am a huge fan of dessert, but balance is key.
Don't forget to eat your veggies daily!


Sprinkled Covered Hugs from Guatemala,
Christine