Central America, South America

All packed up and off I go


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It’s less than 24 hours until I leave for Guatemala. I’ll be there for the next three weeks, volunteering and travelling the country.

It’s my first time volunteering abroad, but it’s something I’ve considered for years. In university, I actually tried to do an “alternative spring break” trip with the school, which would have had me building an elementary school classroom in Colombia, but my application wasn’t selected.

On this trip I’ll be spending two weeks teaching English for half a day and learning Spanish for half a day. I’m not really sure what to expect. I’ve been told that depending on the week, the work will vary and I might be teaching adults or kids and the work might be at a community centre, public library or school. My days will be spent doing things like providing tutoring, setting up workshops, assisting local teachers and organizing educational games and activities.

For the Spanish, I’ll be in a class with 5 to 7 other people and it’s supposed to be more of an informal style that concentrates on conversation and vocabulary, not on grammar. I’m excited for that!

After two weeks of volunteering, I’ll be heading out on a tour of the country with the organization. Part of the tour includes a half-day hike up the active Pacaya volcano, which should be a really cool experience. We’ll also be heading to Tikal, one of the largest Mayan ruins in the world. It was built about 1700 years ago and abandoned, 1100 years ago. (It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.)

My flight leaves Toronto at 6:15 a.m. tomorrow and I’ll be arriving in Guatemala City around 12:30 p.m. One of the people from the organization I’ll be working with will meet me at the airport and bring me to their office for an orientation centre. I’ve connected with another Canadian on Facebook, so we’ll actually be flying down together. It’ll be nice to know someone before I even arrive.

I’ll actually be based out of Antigua, during most of my trip. It’s about 30 minutes from Guatemala City and the downtown core is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Spaniards built it, when they first arrived in the 1500s and it was originally the capital of the country. Earthquakes destroyed much of the city in the 1700s and the capital was moved to Guatemala City. Antigua was mostly abandoned, which helped preserve much of the old architecture. (There are also a lot of preserved ruins.) Oh and its full name is actually “Antigua Guatemala” i.e. Old Guatemala City.

When we arrive in Antigua tomorrow we have a quick lunch at the orientation centre, then we’ll be taken on a tour of the city and then brought to our accommodations. I might either be staying in a volunteer house or at a homestay (with 2 or 3 other volunteers). I’m going to pick up some maple candies at the airport tomorrow in case I do end up at the homestay, so I have a thank you gift to give the family.

I will have internet access at the organization, so I’ll try to post either before or after my daily Spanish classes, but I might not always get the chance.

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