A Final Guatemalan Reflection
Whatcha know about Guatemala?
When Daniel and his parents arrived to pick me up (far beyond what I like to refer as, the bum-crack of dawn), I still couldn’t believe Guatemala was really happening. I was feeling practically every emotion ranging from fear to pure happiness. My dream of studying abroad was coming true.
To be completely honest, and I tried to hide it, but a huge part of me was completely scared to death. However, it was a little too late to turn back now. I believe, I believe I’m falling in loveee.
It departed in Cincinnati, and it arrived in Guatemala City. As we flew over Guatemala other students and I immediately noticed the patterns of houses and streets. In the US they patterns are quilt like, exact measurements with a flowing rhythm that can be seen from the sky. Guatemalan streets had no organization and appeared to be in complete disarray, things were already seemingly different from what we were all accustomed to.
As soon as we entered the airport a sign caught my eye warning travelers about child sex tourism, which was part of the research I conducted before this class. My heart sinks to the bottom of my stomach at the thought of this tragedy, and it is a hopeful sign that they’re taking responsibility for the actions among tourist. However, through our time in Guatemala I did not see any of the claims made by the research that I found. I believe this is only true due to the reasons that we specifically stayed in really touristy areas where the crime rates were the lowest, meaning that the likelihood of the crimes against children and women being committed were also at the lowest.
Upon leaving the airport, we met our amazing driver, Timotee (this probably isn’t how his name is spelled, but it’s how its pronounced). Then, we were off to the quaint Donde Monica to see Antigua. While driving it became very apparent that road laws were also quite different in Guatemala. There would be families of four or more on mopeds, people riding in the back of pick-up trucks, people surfing on the tops of buses like in the movie Teen Wolf. I feel that it’s safe to say traveling via bus was the first true culture shock of Guatemala.
Donde Monica – Antigua
Excited and ready to roar, our first day in Antigua was spent roaming the streets in search of Vino, learning the art of haggling vendors, and taking touristy photos.
After a solid day of exploring, and a nice night of dinner and vino with good friends we were ready to march onward to Los Andes.
Los Andes – The Farm
Oh, it was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Slaving away four solid days building outhouses with the carpenters was an immense amount of fun, and taught us a tremendous amount.
At this point in time we were really feeling like outsiders looking in, we finally knew what it was like to be the foreigners. However, everyone there was super welcoming. After being around the carpenters and other people in the community we just felt right at home with them.
Something that does stand out to be about the community, is how communistic it felt. Everyone appeared to be on the same level, making the same amount of money, wearing similar clothes and all living in similar houses. It really made the gears in my mind start turning with questions:
Who goes and stays? Who decides? Who owns this place? Who pays these people? Why are we staying in a nice house while they live in little shacks with no glass in their windows? Who picks which family does which job? Who is in charge here?
I wish the people of Los Andes nothing but the best, however this lifestyle just does not seem to be sustainable to me because they have no judicial system. Paradise cannot be perfect forever, and in my personal opinion it’s just a matter of time before something snaps to create some type of drama.
Most study abroad programs consist of traveling around, sight seeing the historical stuff, and then drinking their vacation away. In my opinion, service learning is so much better than that. We were able to help a community in a sustainable way. The out houses we assisted them in building will last them the next 25+ years, and in my opinion that is completely amazing.
From Los Andes, we were on to Lake Atitlan.
Our bus rides are fun.
In order to get across Lake Atitlan we took a boat, which was easily one of my favorite parts of the Guatemala trip. It was just completely beautiful being surrounded by the water and the volcano’s.
Our first stop was the nature preserve, where Nancy was scared to death of falling through the unsafe looking bridge, but we were able to see REAL LIFE MONOS!
Our evening here contained a solid night of laughter and salsa dancing, which made for unforgettable memories with unforgettable people.
Daniel and I took a Guatemalan taxi to dinner, where we then ordered sangria and mojitos to take a load off after all our hard work of outhouse building.
On the way out from Lake Atitlan, we couldn’t resist stopping to take photos of the amazing scenery Guatemala has to offer.
It was back to Antigua we went.
Antigua, round two:
Upon our return to Antigua, we grabbed a small bite to eat and went straight back to exploring. We had scheduled a city tour, which I’m not going to lie, I was dreading because we were nearing the end of the trip and I was completely bogged down and dead tired. However, it ended up being pretty amazing. Through this tour we learned a great deal about the history between the native Guatemalans and the Spanish. Such as, when the Spanish came to Guatemala they tried to push their catholic religion onto them, and in protest the native people decapitated the heads of all the statues on their churches which stand today as ruins.
This brings us to our last day.
Our final day of the Guatemalan trip was spent in the black sand, fighting the huge waves, laughing, talking, and saying good-bye. Words can no better describe my feelings than the facebook post I made the day we left, which reads:
As much as I’m going to miss: tortillas with every meal, ab throbbing laughter, banana grams, constant Spanish, lap dances, deep talks, three wheeled taxis, salsa dancing, haggling vendors, naps in hammocks, vino on vino, Guatemalan sweethearts, 50 million bug bites, new adventures with mojitos, and most importantly the amazing people that shared this amazing experience with! I am ready to come home. Adios, Guatemala. As I have taken a little part of you with me, I hope I have left a little part of me with you.
If you want to go fast go alone. If you want to go further go together.