Today, I arrived in Guatemala. Flight was nothing special, and I was picked up right away by someone from the organization. Our ride from Guatemala city to Antigua was interesting. I definitely got a glimpse of some of the poverty that exists here. Even in the pouring rain, there were lots of people outside, walking with their products, using only plastic bags as rain coats. Not to mention the quality of the houses. Also got idea of the lack of rules…saw so many jeeps with people riding in the bed of the truck, one even with 2 kids in the back standing up and dancing around.
Coming into antigua with a car was…interesting. The streets are 100% cobble stone and it’s practically impossible to drive. When we finally got to the Maximo Nivel office, I found out where I’d be living. There was a slight mix up- I had requested a host family but they were putting me in a volunteer house. When I brought it up though there was no problem. The lady immediately called up a host mom and sent me there. The host family I’m with is a lovely couple in their 50s or 60s named Mary and Leo, who greatest us all with a big hug, and their sons. I am REALLY glad I learned Spanish before coming, because none of them really speak English. They also have 3 dogs – Sassy, Bobby and Pachi, and a parrot whose name I forget right now but she speaks Spanish.
The house is so nice. It’s hard to describe, so I’ll have to send along pictures soon, but it’s got like an open courtyard (covered but high up so the air and sunshine still come in) in the middle of it, so you’re half outside, and all the rooms are in a circle around it. There are 5 other volunteers here, all from the US and all staying for various amounts of time. There are 2 4th year medical students. Hopefully they can help me through any issues I have! There was also an older American lady here. I’m not sure what she does here and im not sure if she lives in this house or not because she went out with a friend of hers just after we ate. Mary and Leo call her “mama”. They were all talking about how Pat (mama) always makes a big thanksgiving dinner and how on November first Mary does a big celebration for all saints day (coincidentally my birthday). Makes me excited for November!
So after arriving here I went for a wander with 2 of the other girls in my house. After having read about Antigua I was worried about this bring a majorly developed tourist town, but it definitely isn’t. It may be more developed than other places, but there still aren’t names on most of the streets, and the majority of people here are definitely Guatemalan, not tourists. It’s super interesting to see the different ‘kinds’ of people here. There are some who dress like you would see in North America, but many others who still wear traditional dress who are Mayan. When we went to Parque Central, we stopped in the Cathedral and it fascinated me how many people were in there getting ready for the service, and more kept pouring in. At home, churches are practically empty and contain mostly seniors. Here there were tons of young people. I told Mary I wanted to go to church with them on Sunday and she said shed be happy to bring me. I’m excited to see what services are like here!
Sept 17th – Had orientation today and I will begin Spanish lessons today too. Will go to my placement for the first time tomorrow. It’s a small rural free clinic that needs help because their funding was cut and they had to let go of staff. I’ll be the only one at this placement for now! So glad I’m here and so excited to start my placement and spend so much time in this place. I already know I’m going to love it!!!