My week in Guatemala was one of the most magical and most meaningful of my life. My flight into the country was severely delayed, and so the main group of volunteers had already been shuttled to the base. I was nervous that I would be alone, left scrambling to find my way there. However, that was not the case at all! Two of the staff had stayed back to welcome myself (and four others of us who were on the same plane) and personally drove us to the base, after offering us snacks and a warm welcome. This was the first indication that my week was going to be special because of the people I was surrounded by.
The in-country staff in Tecpan, Guatemala became a family to me. Juan Carlos planned an amazing tour of his country for us, taking us around Lake Atitlan by boat, visiting many small villages and taking a hands-on approach to cultural immersion activities. One day, we climbed the mountain behind the base, which is something I was very scared of. I have knee trouble, asthma, and vertigo, which are three things that do not equate easy climbing. However, two of the staff stayed back and helped me every step of the way up that mountain, comforting me despite the language barrier. It was a truly magical experience for me to reach the "top" - I CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN! I could not have done it without all the help and support of the wonderful people at CCS Tecpan.
We learned about the history of Guatemala and how we can actually create change. We met the last woman in the area who still handmade clay pottery, and she taught us her trade. We learned how to speak Kaqchikel Mayan, the local dialect. We visited ancient ruins and were blessed by a shaman in the valley of mountains.
And of course, we were warmly welcomed into the lives of several hundred kids at the local elementary school we volunteered at. I spoke very little Spanish, but it didn't matter. Those kids were so receptive and kind and eager to learn everything. It was absolutely inspiring.
We were placed into groups of three and assigned a classroom to teach for the entire week. This way, we were able to bond more closely with the kids. Hearing the shouts of "Miss Bre! Miss Bre!" every morning is a memory I won't soon forget.
On our last day at the school, the kids put on a dance show for all of us, and then our group performed for them. It was so awesome to dance with the kids and see their smiling faces! They even held an awards ceremony for us, presenting each volunteer with a handmade clay vase and handwritten letters.
Leaving was hard. The little girls in my fourth grade class latched onto me in a giant hug and didn't let go until I pried them off as I got into our van. Tears were shed and souls were parted.
Guatemala is a special place filled with special people. Go, and you shall returned changed for the better.