A final reflection at we enter the snowy land we call Grinnell, IA. Leaving Guatemala was difficult. It was difficult to say goodbye to the friends we had made, Jenny and Jhonathan, at the airport. As we departed, it was difficult to wave goodbye to the beautiful green mountains knowing that we would be landing into icy hills. I did not miss Grinnell one bit after our adventures in Guatemala…
On the last day in Antigua during discussion, we wrote down a word that describes our whole experience in Guatemala, except Jhonathan put Guatemaya at the center instead of Guatemala. Guatemaya makes reference to the people of Guatemala, descendent of Mayans, and to changing the view that the country is truly Guate “mala”. Words such as educative, solidarity, knowledge, humbling, green, coffee, chingon, and inspiring were written down on the sheet. I put empowering. I think the trip through Guatemala’s history, culture, cities, foods, music, struggles, and triumphs empowered me in the sense that it enlightened me. I learned not only of individuals’ stories or the story of a community, but also about the structural problems that are causing the struggles that we witnessed. I learned where my coffee came from and what I’m supporting by buying Alianza coffee. I felt empowered as a consumer because it was reiterated how my choices as a consumer are important in supporting or not supporting a corporation. I felt empowered to see people standing up to the mining, standing up to landowners, and governing their communities. I felt more alive and in touch with myself after hiking the volcano. The fresh air refreshed my lungs and brain. Being in that sacred place brought me peace and serenity. I felt empowered after burning my fears and worries at the Mayan cosmovision ceremony and leaving with a greater connection to the earth. I took in the natural beauty of the country and the knowledge of the people through the lessons they taught us.
On this trip, not only did I meet new people from Guatemala, but I got to know the people in the group better. We learned and grew as a group. Although the group dynamic was set in Grinnell, the group bonded more each day as we met challenges and gained new knowledge. I have to say, my compañeros are some amazing Grinnellians that are going to do great things. I connected with Cassie and her love for the environment, which reignited my own respect and passion for preserving nature. I am excited to see the art that Martin and Amy will make in the future, perhaps inspired by the political art we saw. I would like to talk more with Enrique about his thoughts on politics. I would like Jason to teach me more about the education system in the US. Its always great to talk to Kiyan and connect our experience to all the concepts we learned in our seminars, both Economic and Spanish. James’ interest and respect toward the unfamiliar and unknown are sure to help in his chemistry experimentation and musical compositions. I loved that my fellow co-leader, Marlu, went on this trip and is as excited as I am to bring it back to SOL. Gabe learned with us and grew with us too, so he shared the same struggles and confusions as we did. I appreciated his knowledge of theory and his opinion as an educator as we all struggled to wrap our minds around some hard concepts.
The most important thing about the trip was that it was not a classroom setting. We weren’t graded on our thoughts or feelings about what we were learning. For once, I didn’t have to structure my thinking to please a grader. We openly talked about our thoughts, ideas, or feelings in any way that helped us process the information. We were honest with each other and with ourselves. I was able to let go of my fear of saying something wrong and be able to say what I really thought, even though what I was saying might not have been clearly thought out. It was a hands on experience, a real world experience, a human experience, and a humbling one. Seeing the world, actually seeing other parts of the world, brought a different perspective to the world we live in (being the US of A), which is actually really different than from the rest of the world. Talking to people, actually talking to people that are affected by the policies we talk about in class, taught me more about economy, political science, sociology, Spanish, anthropology, history, etc., than I will ever learn in Grinnell or any other institution. Because sometimes, being institutionalized isn’t enough. Sometimes taking a walk with a farmer is what we need to learn how a seed grows.