Erin Busbee Blog: Rain Forests, Snorkeling, Shark Encounters

Sep 6, 2013

Multi-event athlete Erin Busbee will share her experiences throughout the summer as she travels through Guatemala, working with the American Anthropological Association.

Entry 5: Monday, Sept. 6, 2013

Hey Wolverines,

Well as I said, Sunday (Aug. 11) I left Antigua and began my trek to Belize. After saying my final goodbyes to the family and my program mates, I took a nine hour, overnight bus from Antigua to Santa Elena (Flores), Guatemala. The ride was extremely comfortable and I slept like a baby the whole way. It proved to be a very tiring trip, however. I left Antigua at 6:30 p.m. and arrived at the bus station at 8:30 p.m. The bus then arrived in Santa Elena at 5:30 a.m. From there, my ride picked me up and took me by my hotel at 7:30 a.m. to drop my bags and we hit the road to Tikal National Park.

We began our tour at 9 a.m. and did not finish until 2:30 p.m. It is an amazing place! Not only is it a place to see grand Mayan Ruins, it is a rainforest full of wildlife. We saw a gray fox on our way in. The entire tour we had spider monkeys overhead in the canopy and you could hear howler monkeys calling across the park. The ruins here were huge -- much more so than those of Iximche that I visited a few weeks back. On the tour, I was part of a five-person group and met some great friends. Oh yeah, did I mention it POURED on us. For about 40 minutes, raindrops the size of small children fell on us. Okay maybe that's an exaggeration, but we were walking in 3-4 inches of rain on the forest floor and when it stopped, it looked we'd swam there but it made our bonding experience that much better. After Tikal, we had a nice lunch and I went back to my hotel to dry off and spent that night with some friends from the tour. The next morning at 5 a.m., I was off again for my final destination: Caye Caulker, Belize.

I arrived on the island of Caye Caulker at noon and the first thing I did was eat and bought scissors to cut a shirt -- it was SO hot compared to Guatemala. My first day, I did not do much. The island is not really set up for beach relaxation, more for boating, fishing, and water activities. I relaxed and tried to stay cool. That evening, when the sun went down, it was much cooler outside than in my room so I went out and stargazed on the boat at the dock out front. I ended up falling asleep but it was so peaceful. When I went back to my room, I found a nice little crab friend on my door -- kind of freaky to me.

My second day on the island was far more adventurous. I left at 10 a.m. on a sail boat to do an all-day snorkeling trip. We made three stops along the way and, my goodness, it was the most beautiful thing I'd seen so far. At our first water destination, we immediately saw a manatee. We got in the water and swam with him, and then we swam around looking at the different coral in the area and observing the fish.

The second stop was the best by far. We looked up and our captain was feeding the sharks, telling us to hurry and go in while he had their attention. We got in and I swam in the middle of a school of ... fish and nurse sharks ... our guide grabbed one and let us pet it (not scary at all). At the same time, sting rays were below us in the sand and the guide went to call some up to us (yup that touched me too). All I could think was, if something bites or stings me, coach Henry will kill me!

Our final stop was Hol Chan -- a protected reef area in the Caribbean. Here we had quite a bit of swimming to do. We swam through a huge reef with tons of schools of fish. Later we swam over the turtles that were grazing on the ocean floor. I looked up and there was an eel a foot from my flipper looking as if I were lunch. When we got closer to the boat, a barracuda swam towards me and we had a mini-staring contest. I was exhausted and we went on the boat to start our journey back to the island, listening to music, drinking punch and eating ceviche. To end our day, we were graced by three dolphins swimming past our boat in the sunset!

My trip ended the next morning and I returned to the States Thursday night. I cannot explain how great this experience was for me. I checked a bunch of things off my impromptu bucket list and had many firsts occur. Since I've been back, it's been a good transition into my normal routine. It took a few weeks but everything is back on track now. Thank you to everyone who read along and shared in my experience. I recommend Central America to anyone, but just remember wherever you go, forever GO BLUE!


Entry 4: Monday, Aug. 19, 2013


Hola Wolverines,

The final week of field school was pretty hectic, but very rewarding at the same time. It was a chance to bring together all of the hard work that we'd done throughout our time in Guatemala and produce something worthwhile. As I said, we'd finished our final data collection in week three so week four was full of coding, analyzing and writing -- crunch time!

My research group Educational Transition, worked well. We had a good time putting together our data and deciding what it meant for us and our research goals. We wrote up a 45-page paper called "NGO's and Civil Society: How Common Hope Programming Supports the Educational Transition in Guatemala." All in all, the final week was too bittersweet. I wanted to spend the time enjoying the people I'd met, going out and being with my host family, but work was the objective. Thursday was our last day of Spanish class, and we had a nice quasi graduation thrown for us by the school's director. When it was all done, each group was able to present their work to the entire "class" and the Director of Education at Common Hope.

Friday came! Friday after we'd completed all of our work and presented it, we were free!! That night we had a group dinner at the Perez house (my host family). We ate, gave gifts, laughed as usual, and the best of all were "forced" into a round of piñata that was supposed to be Donatello the Ninja Turtle, but it oddly looked much like a green Barney. Either way we struggled, but it was a ton of fun making complete fools of ourselves. I ended my time in Antigua Saturday, taking a trip to a private finca (farm) with Suchi, the Chihuahua, and my host brother Rodolfo and his friend so he could practice his flying. It was a great experience and a good way to end my time there. Sunday I hit the road for my own personal vacation. Can't wait to tell you all about that!

Check out the pictures from the week: Photo Gallery

Until next time,

E. Busbee

Entry 3: Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013


Hola Wolverines,

This past week and a half has been all over the place. Last week, each group of the program finished up our data collection; I was ill all week; we volunteered at Long Way Home and helped build; visited a curandera -- a traditional healer, I took a road trip to a beautiful lake, where we boated from town to town; and finally visited the first capital of Guatemala -- a Kaquichical Maya ruin called Iximché [I-shim-shay].

The final day of data collection was bitter sweet because though it meant we had that much less work to do, it also meant it was the last time I got to see our amazing social worker and the town of San Miguel. Volunteering was fun and interactive for us. We saw and participated in the process of self-sustaining alternative building and construction.

The trip to Lake Atitlan was pretty amazing and offers the most amazing view of blue-green water, surrounded by rolling hills and volcanos 5,000 feet up in the clouds. Finally the visit to Iximché, for me was emotional. For some reason the view of the remains of the ruins and the thought that people lived and sustained there gave me a sentimental feeling. It was a great experience and I'm excited to see the larger ruins in Tikal, Peten Guatemala.

Check out the pictures from the week: Photo Gallery

Go Blue!

E. Busbee

Entry 2: Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013



This past Saturday (July 27), I climbed a volcano as part of a clean water campaign through an organization called Ecofiltro:one. The campaign was designed in solidarity with the many people who must hike to retrieve water that is contaminated. Ecofiltro:one is an organization that provides a water filter to Guatemalan families to allow them access to clean water and the opportunity to help themselves sustain it for a lifetime.

The hike for me was extremely difficult but extremely rewarding. I cannot put in words the feeling of climbing seven hours to the top of an active volcano and then climbing down five hours more. Even more amazing was the feeling of being 12,000 feet high, with nothing between yourself and the air, clouds at eye level, fighting the wind; I'll never forget it.

Please check out the ecofiltro blog for a great description of our day. Enjoy! 


E. Busbee

Entry 1: Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hey everyone!

I am currently in Guatemala on behalf of the AAA (American Anthropological Association) in a program called NAPA-OT (National Association for the Practice of Anthropology and Occupational Therapy). We are here to do research on three different programs provided by the NGO to gauge their impact and progress, as well as provide suggestions that could help improve their implementation.

A little background that makes our presence worthwhile -- Guatemala has the highest population of indigenous peoples of all the Americas. It was also the home of a 30-year civil war that victimized that population and has resulted in a high level of marginalization in every aspect of the society. As a result, many NGOs have come and are currently in Guatemala in order to fill some of the gaps in access and rights that exist. One well known NGO here is La Familia de Esparanza (Common Hope), which is the basis of our research here.

My group works with educational transition, which is part of a program implemented to provide health care, conducive homes and educational support for children and their families. I work in a town called San Miguel Milpas Altas, Sacatepequez Guatemala, observing a social worker on home visits to families of children affiliated with the foundation.

Aside from all the work, Guatemala has been the best! I'm staying with a wonderful family and have host siblings. There are 15 members of our program, including the three project leaders, and they are all great people. The food is amazing, the accommodations as well. The city of Antigua, where we are staying, is very lively and welcoming; I'd recommend it to any travelers. At this time, I've been here two weeks and have two and a half more to go. I recently climbed a volcano and will share that experience with you all soon. If you'd like more information on the NAPA-OT program visit:

Busbee with her group partner and social worker Busbee with her group in Guatemala

Go Blue!

-E. Busbee