July 28, 2010
Written By Molly Hickok
My trip to Guatemala has changed my life forever. I worked in the hospital down in Antigua where I got the chance to meet some of the most genuine people I have ever come across. There, a young boy Roberto and his friend Brayan left a strong impression on my heart and I still think about them often. Though I couldn’t communicate very well with the two young boys, it didn’t seem to matter. The only thing that did matter was that I was touching and hugging them and rambling on and on in Spanglish while they laughed and gave me kisses in return; it didn’t hurt that I told them how “muy guapo” they were every chance I could get also. These ten-year-olds reached within my soul with their smiles and taught me how to become a better person, or at least strive to be and urged me to continue to want to work in hospitals. I have never felt so loved as I have with Roberto and Brayan and I miss them so much, but the thought and wish of returning to work with them and the other people in the hospital always gives me hope.
The last day I worked in the hospital, I got the chance to give a tour to people who had worked in construction and reforestation. I walked them through the hospital, timid at first that it would seem like I was leading a tour through a zoo, observing the patients like “its” rather than people, but once I showed them all of my friends in the wards and introduced them to my group, all fear washed away. I could see on their faces that they were afraid of the patients, afraid to touch them and get close to them. I was just like that on my first day and it made me feel so good to be able to teach them not to be afraid. Once they broke that boundary of fear, I could see a difference in their eyes, they were still hesitant but more open somehow and willing to get to know the patients. Our last stop was in the Los Hombres ward. This time my group didn’t need any help with introductions because they were doing just fine with them all on their own. Other groups were in the los hombres ward as well and Maria was in the corner crying. I drifted over to the corner, abandoning my group and integrating myself into a crowd of gringo children from GV and a few Chapine men. One man stood out in particular, I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but I will never forget his face. He was blind in both eyes and was sitting down in a chair. It was as if he was telling a story to children before bed because everyone seemed to hang on every word of his as he asked questions about everyone and Maria continued to cry with a smile on her face. I looked at her and couldn’t understand why she was crying, we were with them right now weren’t we, the patients I mean. She could come back next year couldn’t she? We had all the time in the world with them today if we wanted didn’t we? It hit me then that we didn’t. We didn’t have any more time with these patients that we had come to love so much. Even when saying goodbye to Roberto and Brayan it had all felt so surreal, but now reality set in as burning tears coursed down my face. These amazing people had taught us all so much and now there was no promise that we would ever see them again.
From leaving though, GV was still teaching a valuable lesson, the power of love and kindness. I really can’t express this lesson in any less of a corny way, but I hope I can still get my point across that in life, we can learn so much and sometimes we don’t realize how much we learn from others until those people are taken away. In the Los Hombres ward, a group of us in GV stayed behind while all of the other groups left the hospital. Chris stayed behind with us and told us the story of a good friend of his in the hospital who passed away this year, Marco-Antonio. He began to cry as he told his story about his friend and taught us about how important Marco-Antonio had been in his life and how much he had learned from him, just like we were learning from our friends in the hospital. It was at that moment in time when I think I realized that something shifted inside of me and I couldn’t go back to my old self any longer. It’s hard to express how amazing Global Visionaries is and how important they are in this world without sounding superficial and scripted or like I’m trying to sell the name to everyone, but it’s true. Words can’t describe GV, nor pictures, only personal experience. Each day, we learned something new and experienced another side of life.
My mother, while cooking dinner one night, sat down with my roommate and me while we ate. She sat there and stared at us while we remained silent, tired from the day, until she began to cry. Naturally, my roommate and I thought we had done something wrong and immediately began apologizing for something we must have done, but she explained to us that she was crying because we were leaving her soon. She told us that even though we still had a week left in Guatemala she felt as though she was losing some of her own children. She told us that we were her children and she was our mother, that her house would always be our house and that she would never forget us and always await our return. My roommate and I tried to convince her not to cry anymore, that we still had a whole week left together, but she was not convinced, probably because we had become sad too and I was unsuccessfully hiding my tears. This was the other side of life we all got to experience. This was Guatemala, a place where people opened their hearts and their homes eagerly, went out of their way for others and were always forgiving and genuine.
It would be unfair for me to write about genuine and kind people without mentioning the Chapine leaders that we also worked with. All of them were so willing to be our friends, even after a couple of days without showering and wearing smelly dirty clothes. I don’t even know where to begin with them, there’s so much to say. They treated us like what we had to say was important to them and interesting, they gave us a chance to be ourselves with no judgment attached and taught us about their country. All of them were always ready for the day, never turned down a dance and introduced us all to the world of reaggaeton for which I will always be thankful. Although the bus rides were long and tiring, the Chapines always cheered us up with a game or dance. I will never forget all of the times I danced on the bus with the Chapines. As insignificant as a dance may sound, those were some of the best times, we all got to laugh and joke around with each other, as well as witness Billy and some others awesome dance skills. The thing that stands out the most to me though, was the Chapines immense understanding and patience with us. I am so thankful to have had the chance to meet all the of the Chapine leaders who worked with us, I will never forget all they have taught me, nor will I ever forget their kindness and friendship.
Thank you Global Visionaries for giving me the opportunity to go down to Guatemala and work with some of the most amazing people, eat some good food and extend my family. I hope to do more with Global Visionaries in the future and I might just have to go back to Guatemala soon.