I had no idea what to expect for my first trip abroad, especially over the holiday season, where all my friends, family, and usual customs and traditions were miles away. To my own surprise, when I first arrived in Guatemala, I was not overwhelmed with anxiety of being boldly confronted by completely foreign culture and landscape. Instead, I fell head over heels in love.
There is so much color and life in Antigua, Guatemala. You can hear it from the music blaring in the streets, and see it in the color draped over every building. Also, with the lush green hills of the surrounding mountains, and sight of the volcano looming over the town, I was easily captivated by this magical place.
I came to Guatemala as a volunteer through the local organization called Maximo Nivel. I didn't have any volunteering experience beforehand, knew very little about the city of Antigua (other than the fact that I would be living there), and had a very limited Spanish vocabulary.
Maximo Nivel did an excellent job preparing the volunteers about the city and the culture. On the first day, they gave a thorough tour of the city, showed us good places to eat, where to find an atm for money exchange, and gave several important tips for getting around and staying safe. They were very caring and accommodating for each of the volunteer's needs.
Finally, the actual volunteering experience, is what really made my time truly invaluable. For the holiday experience, I spent my time working in a few different spots, with a local coffee farmer, playing with children in an after school program, and help building a wall in a local clinic. Even if my volunteering roles sometimes felt small or really simple at times, I still felt a great sense of appreciation from each individual whose life was directly effected. I really felt that I really got to catch, the real glimpse into the heart of the Guatemalan culture and community. Also, it was really amazing realizing you don't need to share the same roots, culture, or even fluently speak the same language to connect with another human being. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, and a little bit of time and energy.
I know this is long, and I could easily keep going. My point is, if your contemplating going, just do it. Don't worry about your job, bills, or your messy room. Those things will always be there for you waiting. Its ok to let them wait a little longer. Go out and experience life the way we were meant to live it.