By Maggie Lancaster
Social isolation is a concept I understand through experience. I know how it feels to not really fit in, and I sometimes feel a sense of disconnection from large groups. Before going on this trip, I was worried about feeling disconnected from the group because I didn’t really know anyone. Usually, I hold back from socially joining groups because I often don’t really know where I belong naturally, and I don’t want to artificially insert myself where I feel I don’t belong. This trip has presented opportunities to challenge some of these feelings. This experience made me realize the importance of connections, and I believe this may be the most important lesson of this trip, or even the most important thing I will learn this year in high school. Life isn’t about the connections you already have, but instead, it’s about the connections you make during the process.
During this trip, seeing how the different communities relied on connections motivated me to step out of my comfort zone and make connections of my own. I ended up sharing a room with Ana and Kendall only to find out they’re actually really cool people. I swear we tried so hard to watch a movie on the living room TV one night and it just didn’t work. The late-night talks with both of them were so much help to my homesickness. Both of them were so encouraging on the hike while we were at Lake Atitlan, too. I could not stop falling on the way down with loose rocks and dust. In that moment I really wanted to cry. Falling into a rock really really hurts, but they helped give me the motivation to keep going. Although this experience is about exploring a new place and culture, deepening connections with people you don’t really talk to but end up forced to live with for the two weeks could be just as important.
My ability to allow myself to feel comfortable with this group, empowered me to connect with the people in Guatemala. One of those connections is from a time spent with someone like Esteban, the boy who tried to teach me how to skateboard in Antigua. I’m so thankful he spoke English, or else that would have been even more difficult than it already would be with my natural clumsiness. He was such a nice person and so patient. No matter how many times his skateboard slipped out from under me, and I had to go catch it, he always let me try again. He always reassured me that I would get it, and he always took the time to try and correct my absolutely horrid footing. I think that is a story I will carry with me for the rest of my life; the story of how I “learned how to skateboard” in Guatemala.
It doesn’t have to be big things. It could be little things like all the kids in the town square at Cerro de Oro playing games with us (by the way those kids are very fast runners). Just seeing the smiles on their faces while we were playing with them and talking to them made my day so much better. It could also be just a gracias to the girl running the stand where we were all constantly buying Coca-Cola. I think she’s going to be so tired of us and our horrible Spanish by the time we leave. There are too many connections to mention. On this trip, seeing how connected the communities in the different villages are really motivated me to open up as much as I could, and these connections have allowed me to make what I believe to be connections that I will keep for a while and hopefully be able to deepen