19 Sep My Guatemala Story
by Charlotte McGlone
Touching down in Guatemala after a long day of traveling is one of my favorite feelings in the world. You see the huge mountaintops rising on either side of you as you skim low over the colorful homes and markets of the country’s capital. You know your friends are down there waiting for you, new and old, and you can’t wait for the memories you know you’re about to make together.
The T2T-I June 2014 trip was the second time I experienced this. I’d been to Guatemala before with a different organization the year before but everything felt even more exciting, as I knew this was the inaugural voyage for T2T-I. I knew we had big things in store for us!
The first couple of days were spent in Guatemala City, doing some sightseeing, planning our time in Santa Avelina, gathering supplies, briefing the newcomers, and for me, watching the World Cup by the pool. It was really great to have this time for everyone to get to know each other before we headed to the William M. Botnan school. By the time we were ready to go, all the team members felt prepared and excited for what was coming up.
We loaded up early on Sunday morning, groggy, yet enthusiastic for our trip to Santa Avelina. On the way we stopped at the bustling, bright market in Chichicastenango for lunch and a little bit of shopping. Despite our many breaks, it was a long and exhausting drive. By the time we reached our destination, everyone was more than ready to unload and go to bed. Yet, when we pulled up at the school, there was a whole gaggle of kids waiting to greet us! It was raining, so some of the older students held umbrellas over our heads as we carried our luggage from the bus. This heart warming welcome set the tone for the rest of the week. There were so many little memories and amazing breakthroughs that I had with the kids, that it would probably take me a whole book to share them all.
Saying goodbye to my kids at the end of our trip was probably one of the most profound moments I’ve ever had. Although I don’t really speak their language, and I had only spent five days with my students, I felt such a strong connection to every single one of them. Mrs. Pace (the head American teacher), Hans (our interpreter), and I, shared a final goodbye with them. I already had tears running down my cheeks before it was my turn to speak.
How the kids chose to thank us was one of the most incredible things of all. Without directions from their teacher, or even communicating with each other, they lined up in a single file line, and all took turns coming to hug us. Most of them were crying as well. I remember a couple kids who squeezed me so tightly I couldn’t breathe! I could see in every single one of their faces that our time with them meant more than they could ever say, and the best part was: I felt the exact same.