La Antigua, Guatemala

Today marks 5 days until I leave for Guatemala. Still not believing it’s really happening, still can’t visualize myself being there. So I figured it was time to do some research. Now, IVHQ won’t tell me where my placement is before I get there, but I do know that I’ll be “living” in the city of La Antigua. So, here we go!

LA ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA – Population: 34,685 (as of 2007)

As you can see from the above photo, Antigua is bordered by three volcanos, one of which is very much active. In fact, my dad sent me a video the other day of it erupting…ouch! bout to get HOT!…just kidding, it is active but it’s actually still safe to climb.

As if the gorgeous natural scenery weren’t enough, the city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Their website gives  a good description of its importance:

“Built 1,500 m above sea level in an earthquake-prone region, Antigua, the capital of the Captaincy-General of Guatemala, was founded in the early 16th century as Santiago de Guatemala. The conquerors chose this location as the previous capital had flooded in 1541 and the valley provided an adequate source of water and a fertile soil. Antigua Guatemala was the seat of Spanish colonial government for the Kingdom of Guatemala, which included Chiapas (southern Mexico), Guatemala, Belize, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. It was the cultural, economic, religious, political and educational centre for the entire region until the capital was moved to present-day Guatemala City after the damaging earthquakes of 1773, but its principal monuments are still preserved as ruins. In the space of under three centuries the city, which was built on a grid pattern inspired by the Italian Renaissance, acquired a number of superb monuments.” [http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/65]

Cool, huh? If you look on Lonely Planet, they say : “This is fantasyland – what the country would look like if the Scandinavians came in and took over for a couple of years. It’s a place where power lines run underground, building codes are adhered to, rubbish is collected, traffic diverted and stray dogs ‘disappear’ mysteriously in the middle of the night” [ http://www.lonelyplanet.com/guatemala/antigua#ixzz26BB6rmY1]  But, given that it’s about the safest city in Guatemala, and my placement should be outside of the city, I’m good with having my accommodations located there.

IVHQ has a facebook group, and I’ve been keeping my eye on it ever since I decided to do this trip with them. I’ve chatted with, or seen posts by, a number of people who are saying that the place is gorgeous and the people are wonderful.Here is a list of the things I’m looking forward to today:

Getting to know a whole new group of people – other volunteers, my host family, the organization people, the other docs and nurses…

Learning about a new culture – I know little to nothing about Guatemala and it’s traditions. This is going to be such a fun adventure!!

Improving my Spanish – I’ve wanted to learn Spanish since I was about 9, the first time I remember going to Cuba (went once when I was 3). I’ve always thought it was such a beautiful language, and I can’t wait to start speaking and understanding it more fluently!!

Learning about and engaging in health care – I’ve been volunteering in hospitals in Ontario for 3 years now. I have learned a bunch, but nothing compared to what I will learn in Guatemala. Here, I am very  restricted due to my limited qualifications. Given our privileged circumstances here, I think that’s a good thing. But there, I’ll have the opportunity to learn about things in such a more hands-on way. I’ll get a real feel for medical practice, even if the circumstances are likely more extreme than at home. I’m really excited to dive into this, and bring what I’ve learned home, apply it to my education, and some day to my practice. AWESOME.

Things I’m nervous about:

I can’t picture it – I have noooo idea what to expect. EEEP!

Oh my goodness. only 5 days….

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