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My Experience in Guatemala

Carlos Tamayo '17, Associate Editor-in-Chief

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guatemalaguatemalaAs van six pulled out and away from the Tuluche community, I noticed that we were being followed by fast-paced Guatemalan children. We kept motioning for them to turn around and go back, and they slowly listened. One by one, they finally gave in and stopped chasing our van. But one boy, Norman, kept going. He kept on running after us for about a half mile, while the rest of the children stayed behind and stared in awe. We then baptized Norman as “the marathon runner.” There were tears in our van, but mine had already evaporated under the blazing heat of the Latin sun. We had all done something amazing in as little as eight days. We had arrived as strangers, but we had become one of them.

The first night in Guatemala, I regretted leaving Boston. I felt uneasy about embarking on a trip to unknown territory with people I hadn’t met before. I missed my mother dearly and even felt a little jealous for my friends back home who didn’t have to worry about anything over April vacation. I even became paranoid because of the Zika situation and wondered if I was going to die after finding that I had been bitten by a mosquito right when we had arrived at our hotel in Guatemala City. But I knew I had chosen this risk, and I prayed for protection.

The next day, we travelled through winding roads and mountains for about five hours to the town of Santa Cruz del Quiche. Then, almost forty students from the Massachusetts area were divided into three groups and sent to do construction work to three different communities. I belonged to van six, one of the two vans that was sent to work on a new playground for the Tululche community’s elementary school.

The first few days were difficult in Santa Cruz del Quiche, the region in which Tululche was located. We spent several hours under the blazing sun creating the cement, laying out the gravel, painting the tires and positioning the playground pieces while, at the same time, interacting with the members of the community and trying to maintain a positive attitude. By the end of the first day, when we all returned to our hotel in the nearby town of Quiche, the tips of my ears and my nose burned fiercely even with the slightest touch. I poured large amounts of aloe on my skin each night with the hope of getting a good night’s rest and getting ready to go to work the next day.

But I was beginning to feel happy. The Guatemalan people were extremely welcoming and kind to us. As the son of Colombian parents, I was fortunate enough to be able to communicate with the adults and some of the children in the community. I listened intently and was inspired by the courageous immigration stories of many of the adults, who had visited the United States in the past. I was able to share my family’s own immigration story and played tag with the children. The other volunteers from the School the World Organization were becoming my brothers and sisters, and we laughed endlessly while playing card games and dancing to Zumba back at our hotel. At the end of the week, we were met with celebration and tamales by the kind Guatemalan people, and none of us wanted to leave.

Today, a plaque with our names sits in one of the corners of the playground in Tululche. Growing up, I had dreamt of doing something different on a global level – something beyond my own limits. Thanks to the School the World Organization and generous donors, I was able to spend my April vacation in Guatemala doing something wonderful and bringing joy to a community that needed it. I don’t regret a thing, and someday I plan to go back.

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My Experience in Guatemala