MAJOR FAQ-GUATEMALA

Internship in Argentina

FAQ-Guatemala
ABOUT IFRE'S GUATEMALA INTERNSHIP PROGRAM (IN GENERAL)
How long has IFRE been working in Guatemala ? With whom do you partner? Where are you located? What are IFRE's programs?

IFRE has been running internship projects for a number of years throughout Latin America . We partner with many orphanages, schools, NGOs, governmental organizations, non-profits and communities. IFRE's internship projects in Guatemala are located in Quetzaltenango and La Antigua. With people as diverse as its history and landscaped, Guatemala is a paradise for anyone – be it an archeologist, architect or world-traveler. There are ever-developing and sprawling cities that echo remnants of its multi-faceted past. Guatemala 's lands offer opportunities for those wanting not only to travel to another country, but another time as well.

Currently, IFRE offers the following projects in Guatemala : orphanage, street children project, English-Teaching Project, Healthcare Project and a Social Work Project. IFRE offers free Spanish lessons to interns based in Quetzaltenango. For some projects, a certain level of Spanish fluency is preferred to prevent interns from becoming frustrated due to the occasionally occurring language barriers.

APPLYING FOR THE GUATEMALA INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
How can I apply? What happens once I apply? Do you guarantee placement? How long does it take to receive confirmation?

Please read IFRE's 4-step application process:

•  There are two options for applying to participate in our Guatemala internship programs. You can apply online ( http://www.ifrevolunteers.org/apply-now.php  ) or you can simply download an application form, fill it out and mail it into IFRE's offices. Participants are required to submit their application with a $349 application fee plus the program fee for the number of weeks you choose. However to simply start the placement process, all that is needed upfront is a $200 deposit which will be deducted from the final invoice. This non-refundable deposit from you is required to validate and initiate the application process.

•  Once IFRE receives your application, we immediately forward it to country coordinator for processing. The in-country coordinator reviews the application carefully to determine the most optimal project for you while you intern in Guatemala . Decisions pertaining to room and board are made at this time - depending on the location of the project. The vast majority of participants stay in fully immersed in-home stays.

•  IFRE receives the details of the participants' placements from the in-country coordinator.

•  The information is then passed on to the prospective participants along with a final invoice. Final payment is due six weeks prior to departure and, in expedited cases, as soon as possible. The placement details contain local contact information to be used when applying for a visa and/or to get in touch with the local staff and host family.

Preparation for your internship vacation in Guatemala should include reading about travel to Guatemala , immunization, acquiring a travel visa and booking airfare for your internship journey to Guatemala . If you face any problems, IFRE's Program Manager is always available for any assistance.

IMPORTANT: Once participants purchase airline tickets, we request flight information be forwarded to IFRE's U.S. office by fax or by email. Participants' flight information will then be forwarded to the in-country coordinator in Guatemala , who will then arrange an airport pick-up.

AIRPORT AND ARRIVAL INFORMATION
Who will meet me at the airport? What should I do if I am delayed or miss a flight? When should I arrive?

All Guatemala interns are asked to arrive at the Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City. Upon arrival in Guatemala City , interns will be met and picked up by a local IFRE representative who will then transfer interns to their assigned accommodations/projects.

We ask that you fly with all your important documents, including your internship placement, passport, visa and vaccination booklet. Please have them accessible in case you are asked to produce them. Interns will receive a tourist stamp on their passport good for 90 days upon arrival in Guatemala . Our interns join our program on a tourist visa basis. IFRE interns do not need a long term or working visa.

If some sort of delay occurs, including flight delays or missed flights, contact our Guatemala office as soon as possible. Interns coming to Guatemala are advised to arrive one day before their program start date. The program fee will cover expenses beginning of the first day of the program (Usually first or third Monday) to the last day of the program. If you arrive before the first day of the program and/or stay beyond the last day of the program, expenses will be the responsibility of the intern (usually $30 per day for room/food in hostel).

ROOM AND FOOD
Where do I stay during my internship program? What do I eat? What about shower and restroom facilities? Do you accommodate special diets?

In Guatemala , all interns stay with well-screened host families. Our host families are socially respected and are well versed in the art of hosting international interns. Host families offer a safe home, private rooms (occasionally rooms will be shared with other same-gender interns) and shared bathroom facilities with running water and a “western” style toilet. Interns have the ability to do laundry at the house or the host family may offer to do it for you for a nominal extra fee. You receive three prepared meals per day. If you will be out of the house during lunch hour, you can request a lunch "to go" that you can take with you or eat out on your own. Host families provide typical meals that are traditional to Guatemala .

Throughout the internship project, our local staff stays in contact with interns either with face-to-face visits or via email/telephone. With longer placements, we visit our interns every two weeks (when possible) and interns are always welcome at the local office. If project placement is local, we request that interns stop by the office once a week to keep us posted on how they are doing with their home stay and project. If project placement is very far, then our local staff members maintain communication by either email and/or phone.

VISAS
IFRE suggests all interns apply for a tourist visa before leaving for Guatemala . Though American, UK and Canadian citizens are able to acquire a visa at the airport, this can be time-consuming and is not guaranteed. Interns can acquire a Guatemalan visa from the Guatemalan Embassy or consulate in their home countries.

For stays exceeding 90 days, apply for an extension within the first week of arrival with the Guatemalan Immigration Department or exit the country for a minimum of 72 hours before re-entering on a new visa.

HEALTH AND SAFETY IN GUATEMALA

Being informed is your first defense against disease and safety risks. We recommend visiting some of the following websites for health and safety information:

WHO website for international travelers ( http://www.who.int  )

GENERAL HEALTH TIPS FOR INTERNS IN GUATEMALA

  • Public water is not considered safe to drink in most of Guatemala . When traveling to the beaches or very rural areas, drink only bottled or boiled water or carbonated (bubbly) drinks in cans or sealed bottles. Tap water should not be considered safe at the beaches, nor are drinking fountains, fountain drinks (soda pop) and ice cubes. If purchasing pre-packaged water isn't possible, make water safer by both filtering through an "absolute 1 micron or less" filter AND adding iodine tablets to the filtered water. Filters and tablets are found in camping/outdoor supply stores.
  • Buy bottled water from respectable outlets/vendors to guard against an upset stomach. Make sure that the seal of the bottle is intact as it is common for local street merchants to sell tap water in resealed bottles.
  • The most common health complaint in any developing nation is an ailing digestive system. In many cases, the illness may be attributed merely to a change in diet, but occasional cases of food poisoning can occur, whereby the symptoms occur very quickly, severely and explosively. These are seldom serious or extended illnesses, but medical treatment should be sought if it occurs.
  • Avoid eating food from roadside stalls/vendors. Don't eat unpeeled fruits or fruits that have already been cut by unknown handlers on the street. If you must eat food at a place that you have doubts about, make sure the food is served hot.
  • If you require any prescription drugs, bring enough for the duration of your stay in Guatemala . They will need to be carried in their original prescription bottle and the prescription must be in your name.
  • It is advisable that you carry a small health kit which should include remedy for upset stomach, some antiseptic cream, hydration powder, deer mosquito repellant, sun block, band aids, etc.
VACCINATIONS
We recommend all traveling interns visit the Center for Disease Control's website ( www.cdc.gov  ) for traveler's health recommendations. You should also consult with your personal regarding current epidemics and medical concerns.

RECOMMENDED VACCINATIONS AND PREVENTIVE MEDICATIONS

The following vaccines may be recommended for your travel to Central America, including Guatemala . Discuss your travel plans and personal health with your healthcare provider to determine which vaccines you will need.

  • Hepatitis A  or immune globulin (IG). Transmission of the Hepatitis A virus can occur through direct person-to-person contact; through exposure to contaminated water, ice or shellfish harvested in contaminated water; or from fruits, vegetables or other foods that are eaten uncooked and that were contaminated during harvesting or subsequent handling.
  • Hepatitis B  especially if you might be exposed to blood or body fluids (for example, healthcare interns), have sexual contact with the local population or be exposed through medical treatment. Hepatitis B vaccine is now recommended for all infants and for children ages 11-12 years who did not receive the series as infants.
  • Malaria: if you are traveling to a malaria-risk area in this region, see your healthcare provider for a prescription anti-malarial drug. For details concerning risk and preventive medications, see  Malaria Information for Travelers to Central America and Mexico  .
  • Rabies , if you experience extensive unprotected outdoor exposure in rural areas, such as might occur during camping, hiking or bicycling or engaging in certain occupational activities.
  • Typhoid  vaccine. Typhoid fever can be contracted through contaminated drinking water or food or by eating food or drinking beverages that have been handled by a person who is infected. Large outbreaks are most often related to fecal contamination of water supplies or foods sold by street vendors
  • Yellow fever for travelers to endemic areas in Panama
  • As needed, booster doses for  tetanus-diphtheria  and  measles .
  • Precaution again Malaria

The best prevention of mosquito born diseases is long-sleeves and pants (especially in the early evening) in addition to using insect repellants. This area of Guatemala has no malaria, but there are other mosquito-carried/transmitted diseases, such as dengue, that are just as bad and there is no vaccine, just prevention through clothing and repellent.

MONEY MATTERS
What is the currency of Guatemala ? What is the exchange rate? Where should I change my currency? Can I use a debit card or credit card? Should I bring travelers checks?

Guatemala 's local currency is the “Guatemalan Quetzal” (GTQ). Dollars can be changed at the exchange houses in the airport. Many businesses accept dollars at the current exchange rate. ATM machines are available in various regions throughout Guatemala , especially Guatemala City and the airport where the option of US dollars or the Quetzal is often available.

Do not arrive in Guatemala without any cash as ATM machines can be down or fail to accept your card. It is wise to check with your bank ahead of time to confirm that your card will work overseas. Debit cards and credit cards are becoming more acceptable at major stores; however, they are still not accepted as widely as in your home country.

Credit card fraud is an issue in Guatemala . Do not use your cards at any smaller or non-reputable locations. Information is often stolen and used fraudulently just by paying with a credit card. For this reason, IFRE suggests cash and travelers checks to settle your bills. You will have trouble actually paying with traveler's checks, but you will be able to exchange them at local banks. Traveler's Checks are recommended as a safe way to carry money with you, make sure you write down the check numbers and contact information you need to cancel stolen checks. Different brands of traveler's checks work better in different countries so consult your local financial institution regarding which Traveler's Checks to bring to Thailand .

How much money you bring depends on your personal spending habits. Thrifty people can get by on less than $10/day. Your budget should also include money to explore Thailand in free time as well as for your personal use. A good rule of thumb for money management is the 1/3 method, bring 1/3 cash, 1/3 traveler's check and leave 1/3 of your money in your account - plus a credit card for emergencies.

Find the Exchange Rate for Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) at  http://www.xe.com/ucc/

FIELD SUPPORT AND SUPERVISION
How does IFRE help me when I am in the field? How can I maintain communication? Do you visit me

Once your internship program begins, our local staff members stay in constant touch with you. However, interns staying far from our Quetzaltenango office, our staff will be visited every 2-4 weeks (if possible) and they are always welcome at the office. We recommend that interns stop by the office once a week, if they are staying/working in the local area, to give feedback on their home stay and project. Many minor issues can avoid escalation with a just little extra communication. Your project will have local staff members in addition to our in-country coordination staff. If your project is located a substantial distance from our offices, then our local staff communicates by either email and/or phone.

We are available for you at the local office via email and phone for your entire trip. It's our job to make sure that you are safe and healthy.

COMMUNICATION
How do I communicate with my family? With IFRE staff members? Is there internet available?

There are a number of internet cafes located in some of the major cities such as Guatemala City . La Antigua and Quetzaltenango and usually cost about $1/hour. There are also international phone cards available to make international calls. Also, please use local phone cards for local calls as every minute of local or international use is billed to the families. If you need to contact the local IFRE staff members, your host family or project will generally allow you to use the phone for short periods of time.

CLIMATE IN GUATEMALA
Yahoo Weather forecast ( http://weather.yahoo.com  )

Weather channel ( http://www.weather.com  )

Weather Underground ( http://www.wunderground.com  )

Guatemala has a lovely climate year round. The rainy season generally occurs from May to November. Fluctuations in weather are usually due to escalating altitudes, but warm temperatures are normally found throughout the country. Northern Guatemala features a hot, tropical climate with the majority of the rainfall occurring between May and September.

Both the coastal and northeast regions are hot and the drier period occurs from November to April, with average temperatures of 68°F (20°C). Guatemala City and La Antigua (designated as the “highlands”) both have a pleasant climate with less rainfall (as compared to the coastal regions), but experience colder temperatures in the evenings.

ITEMS TO BRING
Most items of daily use are available in Guatemala and are inexpensive. However, we suggest interns pack the following items:
  • Camera
  • Mobile phone (Unlocked, for in country use once SIM card is swapped)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Mosquito/insect repellent
  • Sunscreen, SPFs
  • Work gloves (if joining conservation or construction project)
  • Some books about Guatemala
  • Map of Guatemala
  • Toiletries
  • First aid kit
  • Flash light
  • Electricity adapter/converter
  • Sunglasses
  • Shoes/boots (for work and travel)
  • Towel
  • Hot weather clothing but not overly-skimpy (conservative clothing)
  • Jeans or pants or skirts
  • Swimsuit
  • Long-sleeve shirt and jacket for cooler areas (cool temperatures occur in the evenings in Guatemala City and Antigua )
  • Raingear (especially during the rainy season which occurs from May to November)
WHAT GIFTS SHOULD I BRING FOR MY PROJECT AND/OR HOST FAMILY?
It is a common courtesy to bring a small gift for your hosts. You are not required to do so, but if you choose to bring something, it can be simple. We suggest a box of chocolates, a t-shirt with a hometown/country logo or pictures of your family and local post cards.

If you want to bring gifts for your project and if you are working for an orphanage or a school, please bring pencils, pens and paper, art supplies like markers and construction paper pads, as well as games for the children to enjoy. Remember that every child will need these items so you may wish to bring enough for a number of children.

MORE ABOUT GUATEMALA
Info adapted from Wikipedia.com

CULTURE AND RELIGION

Music

Guatemala 's national instrument is the marimba, an idiophone from the family of the xylophones, which is played all over the country, even in the remotest corners. Towns also have wind and percussion bands that play during the Lent and Easter-week processions, as well as on other occasions. The Garifuna people of Afro-Caribbean descent, who are spread thinly on the northeastern Caribbean coast, have their own distinct varieties of popular and folk music. Cumbia , from the Colombian variety, is also very popular, especially among the lower classes.

Guatemala also has an almost five-century-old tradition of art music, spanning from the first liturgical chant and polyphony introduced in 1524 to contemporary art music. Much of the music composed in Guatemala from the 16th century to the 19th century has only recently been unearthed by scholars and is being revived by performers.

Textiles

The Maya peoples are known for their brightly colored yarn-based textiles, which are woven into capes, shirts, blouses and dresses. Each village has its own distinctive pattern, making it possible to distinguish a person's hometown on sight. Women's clothing consists of a shirt and a long skirt.

Religion

Roman Catholicism combined with the indigenous Maya religion to form this unique syncretism religion that prevailed throughout the country and still does in the rural regions. Beginning from negligible roots prior to 1960, however, Protestant Pentecostalism has grown to become the predominant religion of Guatemala City and other urban centers and down to mid-sized towns.

The unique religion is reflected in the local saint, Maximón , who is associated with the subterranean force of masculine fertility and prostitution. Always depicted in black, he wears a black hat and sits on a chair, often with a cigar placed in his mouth and a gun in his hand, with offerings of tobacco, alcohol and Coca-Cola at his feet. The locals know him as San Simon of Guatemala .

HISTORY

Polarization leading to civil war

1960 was also the approximate start of the long and brutal Civil War, which pitted the wealthier urban ladinos against the poorer rural Mayans. Both sides engaged in death squad tactics, although by all counts the losses were far greater on the villagers' side as the Ladinos controlled the government and the military. The government hit squads were aided by the traditional practice of Mayan villagers wearing distinctive fabrics identifying their home village, allowing the government soldiers to kill suspected anti-government villagers on sight.

The civil war forced moderates and the middle class to either take sides or flee the country, further polarizing the country.

After 36 years of war, a peace agreement was brokered in 1996 and the country has been gradually healing since that time. Understandably, great animosity still exists between rich and poor, Maya and ladino, although they all identify themselves as Guatemalan or Chapines.

GEOGRAPHY

The southern edge of the western highlands is marked by the Sierra Madre, which stretches from the Mexican border south and east, and continues at lower elevations toward El Salvador . The mountain chain is characterized by steep volcanic cones, including Tajumulco Volcano (4,220 m/13,845 ft, the highest point in the country and Central America . All of Guatemala 's 37 volcanoes (4 of them active Pacaya, Santiaguito, Fuego and Tacaná), are located in this mountain chain, and are frequent in the highlands.

The northern chain of mountains begins near the Mexican border with the Cuchumatanes range, then stretches east through the Chuacús and Chamá sierras, down to the Santa Cruz and Minas sierras, near the Caribbean Sea. The northern and southern mountains are separated by the Motagua valley, where the Motagua river and its tributaries drains from the highlands into the Caribbean being navigable in its lower end, where it forms the boundary with Honduras.

CUISINE

The cuisine of Guatemala reflects the multicultural nature of Guatemala , in that it involves food that differs in taste depending on the region. Guatemala has 22 departments (or divisions), each of which has very different food varieties. For example, Antigua , Guatemala is well known for its candy that makes use of many local ingredients fruits, seeds and nuts along with honey, condensed milk and other traditional sweeteners. Antigua 's candy is very popular when tourists visit the country for the first time, and is a great choice in the search for new and interesting flavors.

Many traditional foods are based on Maya cuisine and prominently feature corn, chiles and beans as key ingredients. Various dishes may have the same name as a dish from a neighboring country, but may in fact be quite different for example, the enchilada or quesadilla, which are nothing like their Mexican counterparts.

There are also foods that it are traditional to eat on certain days of the week - for example, by tradition it is known that on Thursday, the typical food is "paches" which is like a tamale made with a base of potato, and on Saturday it is traditional to eat tamales. Certain dishes are also associated with special occasions, such as fiambre for All Saints Day on November 1 and tamales that are common around Christmas.

There are reportedly hundreds of varieties of tamales throughout Guatemala . They key variations are what is in the masa or dough (corn, potatoes, rice), what's in the filling (meat, fruits, nuts), and what is it wrapped with (leaves, husks). The masa is made out of corn that is not sweet, such as what is known as feed corn in the U.S. In Guatemala this non-sweet corn is called maize and the corn that we are used to eating on the cob, sweet corn, they call elote . Tamales in Guatemala are more typically wrapped in plantain or banana leaves and mashan leaves than corn husks.

  • Tamales colorados ("red tamales") owe their name to the tomato and achiote (annato seed) that give them their color, developed with corn or rice masa and are stuffed with tomato recado, raisins, chili, chicken, beef or pork.
  • Tamales negros ("black tamales") are darker and sweeter than their red counterparts due to the chocolate that is added to them. Other black tamales are not sweet but are simply made out of blue/black corn.
  • Tamales dulces ("sweet tamales") are tamales that are explicitly sweet and contain fruits and nuts (such as raisins and almonds) and may not contain meat.
  • Tamales de elote ("sweet corn tamales") do not use the typical masa but instead are made out of sweet corn. These usually contain whole kernels of corn in the masa and do not generally contain meat.
  • Chuchitos ("little dogs") are a very typical kind of Guatemalan tamal made using the same corn masa as a regular tamal but they are smaller and with a much firmer consistency and wrapped in a tusas (corn husks) instead of plantain leaves. These tamales are smaller than the tamales above because they are usually very plain with no filling and are used instead to dip in other things such as soup or salsa. Chuchitos are often accompanied by a tomato based sauce and sprinkled with a hard, salty white cheese, from Zacapa. Chuchitos are a very common and are commonly served at luncheons, dinners and celebrations. The masa can be mixed with tomato recado or with a meat broth, if available.
  • Tamales de chipilín and tamales de loroco are other varieties that have said ingredients added to the mix.
  • Paches are a kind of tamal made from potatoes instead of corn.
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