Last spring I had the opportunity to meet members of a group from Universidad De San Carlos CUNORI, in Chiquimula, Guatemala when they visited our SC4 campus.
This year when it was announced that SC4 would be sending a group of students to Chiquimula, I knew I wanted to be part of the group representing SC4.
When the applications were made available, I eagerly filled mine out and then anxiously awaited confirmation.
I was so excited to be selected that I remember choking back tears.
The weeks leading up to our departure were filled with reading everything I could get my hands on about Guatemala as well as reviewing Dr. William Easterly’s book, “The White Man’s Burden.”
I wanted to be prepared and all of us in the group needed to be aware of mistakes often made when rendering aid to impoverished countries. We needed to see firsthand what the needs of the country and her people were. In addition to this, we were building bridges for future students who would follow in our foot steps.
After arriving in Chiquimula, we were taken to a lovely restaurant. Here we would meet with representatives from the college, and our host students.
I was pleasantly surprised to see friendly faces from their trip to SC4 last year.
Marlone Bueso, Mario Diaz, and Neuri Galdamez were some of those familiar faces. Each one remembered having met me, Rachel Kobylas and Matthew Boyd when they visited SC4 last spring.
Hugs and smiles were all around as genuine excitement over our presence filled the air. One would think they were being reunited with long lost relatives, not students they had met the year before.
The people of Guatemala are so a loving, caring, and family oriented. Everywhere that we went, we were greeted warmly.
When I met my student host, I don’t know who was more excited, her or me.
I was assigned to spend the week with my student sister, Katherine Morales, and her family.
Morales works as a teacher while pursuing a degree in land management at San Carlos University. I was told that she spoke very little English.
I thought, “oh boy” as my Spanish needs a lot of work. To my surprise, Katherine did speak English. With her “little bit of English” and my “little bit of Spanish,” we got along just fine.
When I met Morales’s father, he handed me a set of keys to his home, telling me I was now a member of their family. Talk about trust! To hand your keys to someone you met just hours before. That certainly wouldn’t have happened in the states.
During our week abroad, we visited: the CUNORI East branch of San Carlos University, the main branch of the university in Guatemala City, and the original campus that opened in the 1600’s.
SC4 students saw a volcano, rode to the top of said volcano, then swam in a lagoon at the top of volcano. Talk about surreal.
We met with representatives from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras who were all part of a program called TRIFFINIO. We were interviewed for local radio, and filmed for local television. We were made honorary citizens of Chiquimula.
We saw and explored Mayan ruins. We met everyday people simply going about their daily lives, every one of which took the time to let us know we were loved, welcomed and considered a part of their culture and their lives.
Saying good bye to these people proved much more difficult than any of us expected.
I don’t believe any of us expected to develop such a deep, close bonds in so short a time, but we did.
I left a part of myself in Chiquimula, Guatemala. I found myself attached to this close knit group of people who accepted us into their hearts and homes as one of their own.
Reality hit fast enough once back on U.S. soil.
Pushing, shoving and every one hurrying everywhere at the Dallas airport made me wish I was back amongst the people of Guatemala.
We could all learn a thing or two from the Guatemalans about civility, kindness, and slowing down to take the time to enjoy the simpler things in life.