By Kale Reb
In Guatemala, I learned a lot about another culture and even more about myself. The two weeks that I spent there this past April were lots of fun and full of surprises. The trip was a great way to practice my Spanish. I also learned that I am easily homesick. “A thousand miles begins with a single step,” reads a quote from a famous proverb; Getting on the plane was the first step to a life change.
The first day of the trip was one of the most memorable. When we arrived, we visited the Guatemala City Dump. In all honesty, I had never seen so much trash in my life. The other thing that got my attention was that people lived down there. People like you and I were forced to make homes in trash and spend their lives digging in this tragedy for food and other resources. Sadly, I learned that most of the trash were things that could have recycled; Things like cans, plastic bags, et cetera. That is what scarred me the most. The fact that I could prevent this type of landfill in another country by taking a second to recycle continues to leave me in a daze. This was only the beginning of discovery.
I learned about the Armed Conflict that took many innocent Guatemalan lives. Many of the people I worked with were able to share what their grandparents went through. We also watched a documentary about the conflict. The movie and the stories helped me form an idea of what I want to do with my life in the future. This trip opened my eyes to the many countries, like Guatemala, that have been under the imperialistic power of the United States. Since I now know about what more powerful countries do to less fortunate countries; I feel that it is my responsibility to do something about it. I want to travel to other countries and give a voice to those people who are afraid or unable to speak up for themselves.
While on this journey, I learned about the people of Guatemala and about the circumstances in which they live. Through my participation in the coffee and hospital work teams, I was able to expand my knowledge of the Guatemalan healthcare system and the oppression that still plagues the coffee industry. Through my experiences, I was able to hear the stories of coffee plantation workers and also gain insight as to why many of the patients were hospitalized. In addition, I learned about the unfairness of wages that people in other countries often face, and I see now how much I take for granted. With this knowledge, I am able to practice my beliefs in equality. I check the labels of everything I purchase including everything I wear and eat. It becomes a daily habit of mine to do this and it makes me feel a bit better about my lifestyle.
I can remember everything from my trip so clearly; even the pictures I have taken do not give it justice. I would definitely recommend this program to everyone. It’s a chance to broaden your horizon. I am so glad I went on this trip and I hope that I will have another opportunity to do something like again.
Click here to read Kale’s powerful journal entries, created during her service trip.