I just finished up my Masters Degree in Elementary Education at Westminster College. HURRAY! Seriously I can’t believe I am actually finished with school. It is really weird to think about. The last month of the program we are given the opportunity to go to either Mexico or Guatemala. I was able to go to Guatemala for a week during this last May. I will not lie, I was NOT excited to go. I love traveling, but I didn’t want to leave Kyle and I was terrified of getting sick. Back in January the school had us read letters from students who went on the trip the previous year. After reading the letters I was even more nervous to go. Most of the group last year got very sick, hardly slept at night, and sounded like it was awful. I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to go to Guatemala though, so there I was in the airport waiting to board a plane to leave the good ol’ US of A for a week.
The first day was mainly traveling. We didn’t get to Guatemala until late in the evening and we were all pretty exhausted. I was so happy that I had international texting though because I was one of few who were able to text back home, which if any of you know how frequently Kyle and I talk you know how amazing this was.
The first official day in Guatemala was really fun. We started out by going to see a school that was run by an organization of women. It was fun to see the students, especially the kindergarten age students. It made me miss my kindergarten class back home though! They sang some songs for us, a few being in English. It was pretty cute.
After that we were able to go to Guatemala City and look around the main square. They had a cathedral there which was fun to go inside. We found out a few days before we were there, a big protest was happening at the same square. We looked up pictures online and it was crazy to see that where we had been had held thousands of people just a few days earlier.
Later that day we went to an all girls school where they are learning to become teachers. They put on a program for us to teach us about their culture and what life is like for them. They dressed up, sang popular songs, danced, and had us play some games with them.
By the end of that first day I was exhausted and really excited to go to bed. That night though I got sick. It was not fun and was exactly what I had been afraid of the whole time. That morning I was seriously debating on whether to stay in bed or go out with the group. I finally decided it would be best to go and that I really didn’t want to miss anything.
We went to the head office of education and had a meeting where we were able to hear about their education system and ask them questions. It was interesting to hear how their education system compares to ours. The gardens surrounding their building were beautiful as well and we spent some time there taking pictures.
Oddly enough one of my favorite parts of the day was visiting the dump. There were people that actually lived on the grounds of the dump in these small shacks. Dogs roamed the streets and kids walked around as well. Some people were even selling food items, such as candy bars and snacks, out of their homes to earn a little extra money. The people would then work at the dump to earn money as well. It smelled awful and flies were everywhere. I couldn’t imagine living there and it made me so grateful for everything I had back home.
After this we drove to our next destination Chichicastenango. This point in the day I was feeling much, but still a little sick. I owe it all to the medicine cipro too! I was so glad my doctor gave it to me before I left. It is a miracle worker. When we go there we went out, but it was raining. The rain wasn’t too bad though and we went to our dinner reservation closely after the time it began. I was so happy that Jessica, Megan, Megan, and I were able to share a room together. It was a blast being with these girls. Our dinner that evening was great. This was probably my favorite restaurant the whole trip. I was actually surprised at how much chicken and rice we ate. I was expecting more beans and maybe even tacos, but we never once had a taco. They did have tortillas at every meal though, and one of the other meals they provided rice, beans, meat, and guacamole and so I made my own taco. That was one of my other favorite meals. This restaurant also allowed us to order a variety of drinks. I ordered a pina colada smoothie with milk, and it was one of my favorite smoothies of all time. (Don’t worry, there was no alcohol people haha) After dinner we went back to our hotel and had a guest speaker and went to bed.
The next day consisted of more trips to visiting sites. I loved seeing the children and being able to be with them. They were always so happy, even with having nothing.
We also were able to go to a Mayan ceremony, which was awesome. We couldn’t take pictures during it, but here were some before while we were waiting for it to begin.
That evening we went to our first night of home stays. I was nervous about the home stays because I can’t speak Spanish and I was nervous about getting sick again. I had been continuing to take medication, but the food still sometimes did not sit well with my stomach. If I had known that the home stays were going to be as amazing as they were though, I wouldn’t have worried one bit. They were definitely my favorite part of the whole trip.
Jessica and I were rooming together and it was crazy to see the house we were staying at. They had hardly anything, but they were so excited to have us come and visit them. The little girl we stayed with, Sandy, was the cutest girl I’ve ever met. She loved having us there. We played soccer both nights we were there and ended up having quite a large group meet us out in front of the church to join us. They were so nice to let us stay there. They only had one bedroom which consisted of two beds for the 4 of them that lived there. The mom, grandma, and two daughters all shared those two twin sized beds. It made me so grateful for the country I live in and all the wonderful things I have (especially being able to flush my toilet paper down the toilet, which was probably one of the things I missed the most).
It was fun to be able to play soccer at night with everyone. It was one of my favorite memories, especially since soccer has become such a big part of my life recently. I sure wasn’t good at playing, but we had a blast.
The next morning we went on a boat ride, which was really pretty. The water was beautiful and it was a really nice day out. We went to a permaculture after the boat ride, but in order to get there we all piled into the back of a truck and held on while they drove. Definitely unsafe here, but super cool there.
After that we went back to the home stays and went exploring the city with Sandy. She showed us the library, the soccer field, and the beach. We also got to help take down the mom’s kiosk on the street where she sold a bunch of cool items she made. She was so nice and even gave us some stuff to take home with us for free. That was one thing I really remembered learning from them was how humble and giving they were. They had nothing and yet wanted to give us everything.
The next morning was our last time with them. Jessica had a braid in her hair and they loved it, so she braided Sandy’s hair and she thought it was the greatest thing ever. She hair sprayed it and put bobby pins in as well and she acted as if she had been given the $100. So Jessica let her keep the rest of her bobby pins and some elastics and the hairspray. I gave them my colored pens I had in my backpack because Sandy loved art. They were so excited that we were giving them things that they wanted to braid our hair with thread. It turned out really cool and even the 10 year old was able to do it, which I was really impressed with.
We then went and visited Sandy’s school. It was fun to see where she went and what they were learning. I saw Mickey Mouse posters everywhere, which made me really happy.
That night as we were getting ready for bed, our tour guide came by and told us that we needed to be ready to leave at 6:00 am in order to get to the airport in time because there was going to be another protest that morning in Guatemala city. Then about a half hour later they came by and told us that it sounded as if they were going to be shutting the roads down before the protest and so we were going to have to leave at 4 in the morning. It was not fun waking up that early to drive to the airport. The drive didn’t take us as long as we thought though so we ended up being at the airport by 5 and our flight didn’t leave until 11. Longest morning ever! We tried to switch our flights to earlier, but it ended up not working out. So sleeping on the ground at the airport was what we ended up doing. It was quite the adventure.
We arrived back home around 10:45 that night and I was ready to be back! It wasn’t that I didn’t like Guatemala, because I did, but I was ready to be home. It was so great to see Kyle again, and Lou! I never thought that I would actually miss my little puppy, but I totally did. I was really grateful for the opportunity though and was so happy that even though I was scared to go, that I went!