By Kennedy Jones
Today was our first full day in El Hawaii on the Guatemalan coast. We woke up to new sights and sounds that had been hard to recognize last night when we arrived. The beauty of the waves rolling in and the birds chirping was new compared to the bustling streets of the city.
We started off the day by meeting our new friends Willem, Lauren, and Mr. Viser who brought us breakfast. (They woke up at 4am in Guatemala City after their late-night flight to join us here early this morning.) They told us about trying unsuccessfully to find Paula who they were told sells beans, and how the lady who sold them tortillas ended up getting them beans. We ate breakfast and then headed out to ARCAS, a nearby NGO whose mission is to protect Guatemala’s wildlife along the coast. JJ and Andrea told us about the turtles they help protect along with other animals they rehabilitate such as birds, alligators, and fish. They shared that they had recently received a grant from Busch Gardens/Sea World to build new hatcheries. It was really cool to see how Busch Gardens has an impact on more than just Virginia but also internationally. Before we left, JJ was nice enough to tell us about his favorite nearby restaurants which led us in a good direction for lunch.
We then came back home to enjoy the ocean and everyone got in to experience the powerful (and misnamed) Pacific. Swimming through the powerful waves was a welcomed experience where even the most skillful swimmers were challenged. Thanks to Maggie’s deep knowledge of ocean swimming we all learned a few tips and tricks that made for a fun experience even when you got knocked around. Personally, this reminded me how every body of water is different and comes with its own challenges. After everyone was tired out we headed to our pool for a fun game of Marco Polo. This brought out everyone’s competitive sides. Although today was not as jam packed as others it was a nice way to ease our way into El Hawaii and all it has to offer. Personally it was calming to have a relaxing day to bond more as a group.
Overall this trip has been a learning experience that you can’t get in a classroom. I’ve been exposed to people from all walks of life here—the Meneses, Alvarado, and Hurtarte families who have sent their children to CCS; our lovely AirBnB host here Osman and his cute kids who welcomed us; all the roadside restaurant owners who have cooked and served us such delicious food; our tour guide who led us up the volcano. I’ve already been exposed to so much food that I’ve never tried before. It’s been a wonderful whirlwind of so many things that all connect into one big picture.