By Destiny Gonzales
We never learned his name. I wish we could have spent more time with the children at the restaurant, Calle Real, and gotten to know them. I went from eating my lunch on the restaurant patio, to playing soccer with two younger boys on the sidewalk, to giving the boy a hug when he got hurt. These boys made me feel like a kid again and helped me with my Spanish. It s interesting that people from different cultures can come together and learn from one another. This is only one out of many experiences I have had in Guatemala so far. Even just this one interaction has made a tremendous impact on me. It felt amazing to go to a new country and so easily get along with locals. I felt immediately comfortable in this new place. We as a group still do not fully understand their culture, but it helps us when the community here is inclusive and our group is so curious.
However, before we had lunch in town, we went as a group to a nearby village. This village was located across a river in Monterrico. When we first arrived I noticed a lot of trash on the ground and the wooden buildings (or huts) they have made. It turns out all the trash I saw is washed up from the current and is piled up onto their land. This is not relatively new because the other locations we have stayed at have a lot of trash around as well. I have also noticed the locals have larger portions of land than we’ve seen before, although they are very quickly losing shoreline and we saw one large concrete house collapsing into the water. The village was filled with mangroves and tiny houses. Also, they plant coconut trees in order to make a profit. This is not nearly as effective as it is on larger farms due to the lack of space for coconut trees in their small village compared to the land their competitors have available.
The main goal of our visit was to have conversations with the locals and get a deeper understanding of where they live. So, we spoke to an older man and he told us he takes care of the land with his two sisters. This conversation gave me insight into how close the people are and how family “sticks together.” Also, my group had the job to walk around the village and learn more about the environment. I learned that the mangrove trees filter the air and water. They also stop strong currents and storms that often take away the locals’ property. After a long morning at the village, we went back to the markets in the main town nearby to get lunch. This is where I met the young boy who let me play with him. Many of my fellow peers began to get up and play with the kids. I think we have all learned to be more social and try to make deeper connections here.
After we ate and hung around the markets we went back to our beach house to get a couple hours of regeneration. This is what everyone needs after a long morning. So, all of us swam at the beach and the pool, and just got to hang around each other. After all the arguing that sometimes happens, it is a good opportunity to just talk with each other. That two hour regeneration period helped us all connect better. Sadly our beach time came to an end and we decided to go out for ice cream and watch a soccer game. When we arrived at the ice cream place, we all got out and got delicious ice cream. We as a group were enjoying the snack and each other’s company. However, a storm came out of the blue and we did not get to see the soccer game. My favorite part was when Mr.Alter took my jacket to run through the rain, though I am not sure he thought that through because he grabbed the smallest person’s jacket. All jokes aside, we got back to the house and all sat in the dark for around an hour just watching the storm through the large windows; we were all in a “free” state. I enjoyed staying on the patio in a hammock and talking to my friends.
The day was not a hard day, but it was a day of connections. Not only between the group but with the locals and Guatemala in general. Being leader of the day was a great opportunity to immerse myself into the area around me. Who knew that traveling to a place you’ve never been to before would be the best decision of your life?