By Natalie Chaparro, Pro Justice Team
A wave of shock came over me when we landed. The airplane ride was full of “what if’s” and excited nervousness that everyone was able to relate to. I couldn’t believe we were going to Guatemala, so much anticipation and curiosities that are going to be exposed to me. We retrieved our bags, cleared through customs, and braced ourselves at the glass doors that revealed something that made my heart drop. Loud cheering and radiant smiles, countless people to welcome us to their home stood outside the airport to greet all of us. Shaking their hands and kissing their cheeks one by one, the genuineness of it all made me feel at ease, it made me feel like I was in paradise. We loaded our luggage onto our travel bus, and took our seats sitting tightly next to new friends.
We all finally sat on the bus waiting for what’s next. But it didn’t matter, the laughter and simple joy of knowing we were all going to go through this together reflected on every face, and was something that I could feel deep in my stomach. My cheeks flushed as I read my families welcome card, we were all handed one on the bus as we traveled to meet them and spend our first night with them. It felt good knowing that every word on that card was just for me, even if I could barely understand the language at first, it was still meant for me.
That was the very first memory that started a chain of growth for me in Guatemala. It was the very first memory that stood as the foundation for all other bonding experiences that have acted as the building blocks for what I am proud to be part of today. Every day I woke up, I went to work, I spoke to someone new, and I found a little part of myself. I knew that meeting that little part of myself would have been unattainable without my host family, without my GV family, but most importantly, without San Miguel. It is a part of me that grew and surfaced within the hour I was immersed in such a special place, and it’s a feeling that everyone should be given the chance to discover.
Explaining the journey that Guatemala takes a person on, the self-discovery, the exposure to a world outside your own and how much knowledge one gains is truly indescribable. To define Guatemala into a series and compilation of words that leaves so much to interpretation, does not do it justice. When I returned home, that was another thing I discovered. Trying to explain the path on which this amazing place took me and continues to take me is one of the most taxing things to put into words. Words are a powerful thing, but there is still that fear of denigrating all that Guatemala is with them. The encounter with it is the only thing that could emanate all of its beauty in the most articulate way.
When I returned home, the responsibility I felt to the people who were curious to know about this place, made me feel like my work wasn’t done. Working with the Chapines was for a purpose, how much they taught me and how much I was able to teach them is something I was ready to give to more people, something I wanted more people to have. The hesitation, the nervousness the utter unknowing of all the possibilities that await when traveling there is the beautiful chance I wanted to give to future students to take. I decided that after my first year in Global Visionaries’ leadership program, the second year program was where I belonged. I ended up combining forces with Pro Justice (PJ), a team that actively works towards giving first year students the preparation for their journey that we were given by the PJ leaders that taught us as first years.
I not only continue to feel like my PJ team is my family, but it has been what keeps what I found in myself in Guatemala alive and ambitious. The power I hold as a young person and knowing I can be the change in contribution to a sustainable world and environment has been the light for me these past two years.
New friends, new views, and a whole different type of active involvement has uncovered itself to me, and I feel honored to work with the amazing people that I continue to work with today.