By Reed Freisner
Throughout my time here in Guatemala, my group and I have undertaken many adventures. The trip has shown me how the people you meet in new places really make the experience and that crossing new borders and boundaries together can help build relationships.
I have been positive for COVID-19 since my fourth day here in Guatemala and had food poisoning immediately after – however, I still have had one of the greatest experiences of my life on this trip. Prior to the formation of our first quarantine group, I was unfamiliar with the new members that I found myself surrounded by. I must admit, I was a bit weary of this at first considering most of us rarely talked to each other and ran in different social groups. However, by the end of our stay in quarantine we were closer than ever. We knew each other’s likes and dislikes, we woke up together in the morning to swim, and could share the experience of talking about our symptoms.
During the beginning of my quarantine, Mr. Alter mentioned in many conversations that we need to lower the barrier between students and teachers. He said we needed to see our teachers as less of authoritarian figures, and instead people as people who were sharing this experience with us in Guatemala, since we were all living together. This being said, I believe that the most important connection that I made in this group was with Kieran. At first, we definitely did not get along because Kieran often stated fruitless threats that if I got on his nerves he would find a new job. However, by the end of our stay in quarantine, we had an intense uno rivalry and numerous gin rummy skirmishes. I am very reluctant to say that being sick together successfully broke down that barrier between faculty and students and I found a new friend and mentor in the process. I learned that teachers or coaches are people too, and that new relationships are often what you make of them. Coach O’Connell smiled a lot more than he liked to admit when he was sick – and being sick with him showed me how to try to find laughter in the small and running jokes when not feeling well.
Before coming on this trip, I hadn’t really felt close to many adults at Christchurch – but, being here together has gotten us past the initial layers of the onion. After she joined us in quarantine, I learned that Ms. Wilbanks is thoughtful, caring, and wants to help those around her. When we’re back in science class, I know I’ll think about her differently and with a new layer of respect. She is a very outgoing person, constantly creating relationships with members of the Guatemalan community and finding a way to link the students here with the people we meet. Same with my new friend Kieran, who I cannot wait to see back at Christchurch. As I round out my senior year I have made connections with not only students, but teachers alike that I can keep in touch with throughout the coming years .
Guatemala has been much more than this place or the people we have found here. It’s about the people that we have found in each other. And these people that I ventured here with and the one’s I return with will be seen in a new light than which they were first cast at the beginning of this trip.