After 9 months of preparation we have finally arrived in Guatemala!!! The day began at a very early (3:00am) and cold (-30s) to catch the shuttle to Des Moines Airport. Although it was extremely early, I could feel the nervous and excited energy radiating from the group as we did our first of many headcounts for the day. Thankfully, all flight logistics and travel went relatively smooth aside from a couple of moments of turbulence.
For me, the day was a range of emotions. Being my first time traveling internationally I was excited, nervous, and apprehensive of the new language and customs I would be encountering during the next 10 days. Particularly, I was nervous of the level of Spanish I would be able to follow and how that would impact my ability to engage on a personal and group level. These feelings were compounded by the fact that I am a Latino male who does not speak Spanish and how that would be perceived as being both along with a “gringo” American. Additionally, I was nervous from an administrative standpoint as the staff member placed “in charge” of the group. I found I spent a majority of my day running through scenarios of ‘what ifs’. Thankfully, however, this range of emotion was eased in our long Houston layover as I had great conversations with the 9 students that I would be spending the next 10 days with.
Once we got to Guatemala, however, I was overwhelmed with the excitement of a new land and the opportunity to learn, grow and challenge myself in new ways. I was happy to see that although students were disappointed that we did not get as much as anticipated in our currency exchange rate it was joked about as part of the experience. It was also good that Jenny, the Grinnell alum, who had dedicated so much of her time to the group and preparation of the trip was one of the first faces we saw as we exited the airport. We immediately received warm embraces from the Jhonathan and Ellen who were the other in country coordinators and within minutes conversation flowed very naturally.
We also greeted with a great dinner and delicious coffee (in which I drank waaaaaayyy too much of) and more importantly an exercise in which discussed privilege, race, colonialism, and other facets of the trip we would learn about over the 10 day excursion. I felt this set a great tone for the trip and was extremely impressed of the level of critical thought and real world application the group was able to contribute.
Although it was about 1am and nearly 24 hours later after I finally began to settle, I still felt it a bit difficult to sleep as I replayed the various conversations and first impressions I had of beautiful Guatemala. I am looking forward to the personal and professional growth I will get to experience over the next 9 days!!!
Below is one of the first pictures from the plane I took overlooking the beautiful lands of Guatemala. Although the picture is far from giving the view I had from the plane justice, it was the first glimpse I got of the land as the clouds began to part. As a Colorado native, I am deeply impressed and appreciative by nature and breathtaking scenery.