While no pictures can do the breathtaking mountains and glassy Atitlan Lake justice, no words can describe my experience in Guatemala. While I thought I was going to San Pablo to help others in need, I believe I got the better end of the deal. I traded in warm showers for dirt-caked clothes, clean work gloves for blistered and sore hands and comfortable living for life in a third world country. I would do it again in a second as I came home with a full heart, amazing friends and new appreciation for the Mayan culture and the beautiful perspective of the Mayan people.
And so the journey began…
March 2: Day 2
Today I woke up to the sounds of church bells ringing and “buenos dias!” in the street outside my window. Yesterday I was in Ohio and today I am in Guatemala! I am so excited for this week – even though it may not have showed yesterday after being awake since 2:30 a.m., having a delayed flight, a non-volunteer tour of the Miami airport (your flight gate is D36 – no, D15 – just kidding, D46), a walk around Antigua and dinner at a fun Mexican restaurant. I’m pretty sure I was sleep eating and walking back to our hotel.
First impression of Guatemala – OH MY GOSH THIS WEATHER! Not too hot, not too cold, perfect with a light breeze. Second impression – during our drive from Guatemala City to Antigua – what have I gotten myself into and will I make it back to the U.S. alive? Men with military guns were casually walking in the streets, stray dogs were slumming around and Joel (our ODIM coordinator) told us of the robbings and danger on the red community buses that were driving all around us. Third impression – the culture here is amazing. Little boys were playing soccer in the streets, young girls were wearing long, traditional dresses and many older women were selling handmade items in the street.
Joel called Antigua the “Disney Land” of Guatemala. While it’s pretty, poverty is still evident. If this is what Disney Land looks like, I can’t imagine how San Pablo and San Juan will look. Guatemala is so colorful. Buildings are painted red, blue, yellow, some pink. I love how much they use color. Joel also talked to us about politics a little bit. If I understood correctly, one candidate running for president is a very popular drug lord. The current president has a past connected with violence and no candidates keep promises they make during elections. Twenty-five of the 40 candidates were killed during the last election process. I can’t even imagine that happening in the U.S.