Guatemala Trip: SIUE Student Perspective by Alissa Crandall

I began writing my first draft of this article, and soon it became nearly a page long, without even having gotten to day three of eight. My experience in Guatemala is difficult for me to share in a couple of paragraphs; so many moments along the trip are worth discussing. This was my first trip out of the U.S., and it did not cease to amaze me every step of the way.

There were the silly things, like seeing so many fruits growing on trees or bushes, and advertisements on huts rather than billboards. The trip to the community of Virginia was long, but not in the least bit boring; the countryside was beautiful. The priorities of the people were not what we here in America would completely agree upon, but the closeness of the families, and more so the community, was something we could not replicate. In my first draft of this article, I found a common subject: the people.

From beginning to end of this journey, the people of Guatemala were kind, helpful, and patient with us outsiders. Ruben, our driver/historian/translator extraordinaire played a huge role in us making any progress on the trip, always reassuring us with “Have no fear, Ruben is here”. Lorena, the hostess of our stay at Hotel Dos Lunas in Guatemala City, made us feel all at home in this foreign place with her awesome hospitality. Virinia and Roberto were two of the most motivated, selfless university students I’ve ever talked to; they have great wishes of their people to take care of each other when in need and have high expectations of themselves to start the movement. The sisters at the church we stayed at in Playa Grande had no hesitation in accommodating us in every way we needed during our stay. Multiple families fed us lavish meals three times a day, not thinking twice about opening their homes to these strangers who wanted to help with their water situation. Pablo, the leader of the community was a quiet and kindhearted man, but knew how to silence a room when it came down to the business of the community. He was the connection between us and the community, and was able to gather his people multiple times to help with our studies. Francesca, Pablo’s wife, was quite the no-nonsense fireball, but was also the communicator for the women of the community and was always amused by our attempts in speaking Spanish.  There were many other people: people who observed from a distance while we surveyed the land but offered tools and guidance when needed, kids who just wanted to be around us out of pure curiosity, and all the rest who took time out of their routines to meet with us on any given day.

We were all truly thankful for the welcomes, open doors, food offerings, and patience from the whole of the community. Their actions made such an impact on us, changing us even, but in the end they still made us feel humble for helping them. There is a story for every person we met along the way of our travels, and I cannot begin to express the influence each of them made on myself and the rest of us.  I went with a group of students from Engineers Without Borders to Guatemala for the experience, for the travel, and to help a community to achieve a clean and convenient water supply.  In the end of the trip, I would go back for the people.