I Went to Guatemala, and Nothing Could Have Prepared Me For It

Day 6:

It’s 5 AM, why am I awake? 

I fell asleep the last night in my clothes from the day before, with my hiking boots still laced up and on my feet. We have to leave for breakfast in two hours before heading to our last day of work. I should just go back to sleep. If anything, this trip has proven to be exhausting. That is due to a number of things. It’s the limited down-time, it’s the fact that when you do have down-time you want to hang out with everyone (because FOMO, and when will you get to do this again?), it’s the non-stop moving, it’s the pace of the people around you, and it’s your own excitement. I am exhausted. But something in me says “Get up, go outside, you want to be awake right now.”

I pull on sweatpants, pick up my journal, and go outside. The air feels reminiscent of home. It’s a little humid, cool, and windy. I hope to catch the sunrise, but there isn’t one because of how overcast it is- but it’s still beautiful. That seems to be a fitting theme for today “It’s a little off, but it’s still so beautiful.” Because, today my heart is so heavy. Today we’re saying goodbye to a community of people who we’ve all fallen in love with. They have been welcoming, generous, and loving to us; we are total strangers. I love their children. I love the mamas. I love them. We’ve been here for only two full days- and I feel like I’m leaving dear friends.

We came to this specific village to help out however we can. This community, they don’t need our help. They don’t. Their cups are full, and they are joyful; they are not poor in the slightest. But some things just aren’t as accessible to communities as they are to others.

We’re a group of about 20 people, all who don’t really have any experience in construction whatsoever (except Megan, I think, I don’t know, home-girl has been working a power saw like it’s her job this week, so maybe she was a carpenter in a past life- I don’t know. Whatever.) So, our skill set consists of “What do you need done? Where are the tools? Okay, we can give you a hand with that.” We paint a ton, tables are made, and men who are working on the school put on a new tin roof. They need a new roof, because the old one has holes in it. When it rains, water drips and pours into the classrooms, and school can’t happen on those days, because everyone could just get sick. It ruins the teaching supplies- the books, the desks, everything. This new roof changes that. We spend a lot of time repainting the walls with a fresh, blue/green color that reminds me of Corpus Christi’s water (on a good day).

I love it here. We love it here.

My friends on this trip have become my good friends. We sit at breakfast and warm chatter fills the 12-feet-long table, we drink the best coffee in the world, eat delicious fruit, pancakes, and eggs.

I think back to our first day here:

Only 6 of us had arrived, it’s 2 PM, and we get lunch. Conversation is quiet. We don’t know each other yet, we don’t know each other’s stories’, quirks, or secrets. It’s awkward in a way that feels temporary, and I say more than once “Just wait, by the end of the trip, we won’t ever shut up.” 

(I’m right.)

Also during lunch, there was an earthquake. It was crazy. Don’t worry, it wasn’t like, crazy-crazy, it was more like, “Oh, the earth is moving. Oh, it stopped.” 

I feel so lucky. I feel lucky as we ride in the back of this truck on our way, music is blasting, and Mehdi is getting L O W. We’re all laughing, and I wish I could slow down time for just a little bit. That’s a reoccurring theme- wanting to slow down time, even if it’s just for a little. I wish with all of my soul that I could hold onto these feelings and moments, so that I could remember them perfectly when I look back- because it’s unlike anything I’ve ever felt.

When we get to the school, it dawns on me that we’ve basically finished all that we needed to do here. There are soccer goals set up, and immediately a game commences with the kids.

I’d like to state- only, like, 3 of us can speak and understand Spanish well, so doing these activities with the kids is one of the ways we bond with them. We just pay attention to them. We play with them. That’s all that they really want from us. They just want us.

Katherine has become my best buddy since we arrived on Monday. Although she’s shy at first, I began asking questions with my friend Peyton, while she quietly sips a juice box. Katherine is six years old, her favorite color is pink, and those are the very few things I can talk about with her on my own. I meet her mother, and she’s 20. She’s twenty years old.

Today, when I see her walking up to the school, I yell her name, and when she sees me, she runs for me and into my arms. For the next hour, I hold her on my hip, and we watch the soccer game. Hours fly by as we all hang out with the community. Everyone has come out to spend our last day together. They cook for us, they drink tequila with us, (and by drink, I mean, mamas are asking us to take shots with them at 11 AM in the morning) and before we know it, we’re piling into our trucks to move onto our next destination.

I grab a friend of mine, Fedora to translate a few things for me before we go. She’s from Germany and is pretty fluent in Spanish (girl also is fluent in German and English, dannnnnnng, right?). I tell Katherine that it’s time for us to leave, and that I’m going to miss her so much. I tell her that she’s so special, smart, and important. I say that I’m going to think about her always, and be praying for her daily. I tell her that Jesus loves her so much. As I’m talking, I take off one of my necklaces. This is a necklace I’ve worn every day for two years now. It’s something I would have never even considered taking off and giving to a friend- let alone someone who is six-years-old, doesn’t speak my language, and I’ve only known for two days. But, in that moment, I realize that it doesn’t matter to me at all- but this girl does. For lack of better words, that make sense in my head: She matters so big. I adore this girl with every piece of me. I just want her to feel all of these things, despite being so young. More than anything, I just want her to feel loved.

I see pretty quick that I’m the last one to get into a truck, and everyone is waiting on me. As I walk away, I have tears just falling out of my eyes, and when we pull out of the driveway, I see Katherine waving at me from behind her mother- with the beads necklace I gave her in her mouth (lol, kids.)

Up until this day, I never really understood why people post pictures of children/people they meet in third world countries. It always seemed to rub me the wrong way; in my eyes they were exploiting these people by posting pictures with them. In my head, it looked like they were saying “Look! I’m a good person! Look! I’m hanging out with people who are less fortunate than me! Look at me! Look at me!” and I didn’t want to be that kind of person. But, then, I spend time with families, I take walks with them, we laugh at each other’s jokes despite a language barrier- and I feel it in my heart how badly I want to share this precious girl with the world.


If you don’t know how I even ended up on this trip- check out this post to give you a rundown, otherwise you might be pretty confused.

This is just a chunk of my Day 6 journal entry that I wrote while I was in Guatemala. If I wanted to, I could post on this every entry- but that would be a lot of reading for you guys, and some pretty irrelevant stuff (like being carsick for all of Day 3). In a separate post, I’m going to share my daily entries for those of you who are interested. But, in this one, I need to share the important things.

Sustainable living is something Vivid Roots seeks to provide to people who are under-served. They believe (and I completely agree/second/retweet them on this) that every person deserves to have access to education and clean water.

I cannot rave about this service enough, and this post is so long already- but I have more to talk about:

These people I took this trip with, and I need to talk about each of them. We were all so different, and it was unreal to watch the way we came together like a family by the end of our time in Guatemala. Our relationships with one another were all different, but we meshed.

Also, we still talk every day. 🙂

When I was writing this blog post, I realized pretty quickly that I so badly wanted to talk about every single person I took this trip with. I wanted to put each of them in the spotlight for at least a second, and highlight something I loved/admired about them… but then that added literally almost 3,000 words to this post- SO, I made a separate post about my team. You can find that here.

We explored the city of Antigua together for two days, we hiked a volcano, we logged more hours in vans and buses and trucks than I can count. We stayed in a hostel on a river under an overpass, and rode a bus out to a waterfall that was so warm that it felt like a hot tub. We took a boat on the Rio Dulce to another hostel where you eat family-style dinners, drink with the owners, and have hammocks for seating- and got to explore a cave that you have to SWIM in, in order to explore. We took a two hour boat ride to a private island in Belize, ate sandwiches on the beach, played in the water, caught iguanas, and snorkeled.

Last month, I got on a plane and flew to a country where I didn’t know anyone, anything about the culture, and didn’t speak the language.

More than anything, though- what I feel like I came back with was immense thankfulness.

What am I thankful for?

  1. The community we worked for. They welcomed us in like we were family. They let strangers into their homes and lives, let us love on their children, and were so kind to us.
  2. This experience. Not everyone gets to go to Guatemala with the coolest people in the world, jump off of hot water falls, swim through caves, annnd get to eat really good fruit every day.
  3. My people. Please go check out this page. You should know who these guys are.
  4. Vivid Roots. They put this all together. They’re the guys that made it possible for us to go, and they’re doing big things in Ecuador right now.
  5. Jesus, dude, Jesus. My biggest prayer for this trip was that I wouldn’t shy away from being myself – which is a girl who isn’t afraid to talk about Him, and I didn’t.

Nothing can prepare you for a trip like this. These words can hardly do it any justice. But, man, am I lucky. I am the luckiest girl.

Until next time,

Happy November! I now think it’s completely acceptable to start getting stoked for Christmas. My roommate put up our decorations literally in September- which I was opposed to, but according to her- people who put up Christmas decorations earlier in the year, are the happiest ones, so I don’t know, this sentence has too many commas, but guess what, it’s my blog, and I can do what I want.

I like you guys, and I love you.

-Tori

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