Guest post by our summer intern, Philip Sansone, a Fusion Academy high-school student from Austin, Texas. Philip spent time in Guatemala experiencing the culture and craft of shoemaking and all of the history and fun that Guatemala has to offer!
I’ll be honest, I wasn't that excited to be leaving my house and computer for a week. However, when I got there my mind was slowly changed because the people I met were so kind and the city has a certain awe and charm to it that draws you in. I mean, you look at a building and it looks old-timey and run down but you walk inside and it's one of the nicest darn places you have ever seen.
This is me and Joy Stoddard in Panajachel on Lake Atitlan, which is surrounded by several volcanoes. The beautiful lake is over 1,000 feet deep and has been called one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. Joy is Whole Planet Foundation Director of Outreach and Development. We traveled together to Guatemala.
Here I am looking out at the Lake Atitlan.
And Sophie and me at the lake. Sophie is the owner and founder of Teysha.
Once you get to the Teysha workshop, called a “taller”, you’re going to see some great murals on the walls, and on the inside, there is a motherlode of intricate fabrics. When you go upstairs you'll see their hard working cobblers. I got to talk to them and they all had great personalities. Usually, when you walk into a workplace people are just depressed and trying to get through the day, so I was definitely impressed.
This is the taller with me in the background being introduced to a local cobbler by Sophie, the owner of Teysha and once my babysitter.
I’m being sized for the boots I’ll be making. The fabric I’ll get to pick from are in the background.
So here I am cutting out the leather, you can make as much of the shoe you would like but the company is not liable for your failures. :D
This is Eddy, an employee of Teysha, working on my boots.
Here is another view of the taller and a cobbler hard at work.
Oops! I think I did something wrong here!
My hammer for pounding the boots!
My boots half finished.
In the taller with some of the Teysha team, shoemakers, and Joy.
This is the lovely courtyard of the Teysha Workshop.
The Airbnb that I stayed in was very nice. Right next to the Airbnb was the nicest hotels in the city, Casa Santo Domingo, and the food there was just delicious. Basically, food and housing are not problems for non-frequent travelers. Want a bonus? Ok, I’ll give you one. You don't even need to speak much Spanish, because most people speak some English and those who don't are extremely patient with you.
A typical wonderful breakfast at the Airbnb.
Here I am having a little breakfast at another popular restaurant on the main highway between Antigua and Lake Atitlan.
Here I am with JP Kloninger, who is Whole Planet Foundation’s Regional Director for all of North and South America.
Here are my finished boots with Leonel the taller manager, Sophie and JP.
Beyond learning about shoemaking, there are so many activities and things to see in Guatemala. We stayed mostly in Antigua, where you can also visit the artisan market, do coffee tours, and lots of museums. We also were able to visit Hobbitenango, an awesome eco-lodge just outside of Antigua. We also visited Panajachel and Lake Atitlan for the day, which I highly recommend.
Here we are at Hobbitenango, see the round door of the earthen hobbit house!
There are so many beautiful crafts in Guatemala -- I bought a nice little sculpture, a cool leather hat, and a few other things I wouldn't be able to find anywhere else in the world.
The Final Product! A pair of handcrafted boots that I helped design, and a whole lot of memories. This is the Teysha Summit Boot if you would like to design something similar for yourself!
I think the trip was really worthwhile and very interesting. I highly recommend this internship for anyone wanting a unique Guatemalan experience that no tourist will ever get, and you’ll come out with your very own Guatemalan handmade boots that you helped make.
Thanks, Philip, for sharing your experience!! Curious about visiting us or interning with us in Guatemala? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.