Looking Ahead to Guatemala 2011

Today, with 8 weeks until the official start of Operation Groundswell Guatemala 2011, I’m celebrating an anniversary. One year ago, I arrived in Guatemala City as a member of the OG Guatemala 2010 crew. Whether I expected to or not, I began to fall in love with this country nestled in the mountains of Central America. Over the following six weeks, myself and my fellow OG’ers would experience Guatemala’s character in a unique way.

We climbed volcanoes, planted coffee in the jungle, rode chicken buses, and played basketball with kids. We met farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers, politicians, tuk tuk drivers, artisans, mothers, students, and ex-guerrillas. Guillermo, Maria, Juan, Catarina. People fighting in small ways every day to improve the lives of their families, their communities, and their country.

Everyone has a story. We heard about war and suffering. We witnessed hope and renewal. We learned about sustainable development, “fair” trade and global citizenship. We gained an understanding that our university textbooks could never offer, though each answer provoked a dozen new questions.

We fumbled through rookie-level Spanish phrases, stayed up late a few times too many, and wrestled with questions about what the heck we were actually doing in Guatemala. And somewhere in the midst of all that imperfection – or perhaps because of it – something changed within us.

Okay, maybe that sounds corny or cliché. I know this is a travel blog, not a Hallmark card. But it’s the truth: there was a change, and it was for the better.

I’ll leave the details to your imagination, but that growth is what compelled me to talk to the good folks at OG headquarters last fall. I told them I wanted return to Guatemala as a volunteer trip leader in 2011, to offer an experience for another bunch of enthusiastic young people. And so that’s how I came to be a trip leader for OG Guatemala 2011.

My co-leader Ben and I have been working since November to plan an epic adventure and to recruit a great team. From July 5th to August 18th, our crew will be traversing Guatemala, visiting some of the communities from last year’s trip and also forging relationships with new organizations. We’ll trek through the Cuchumatanes mountains, help build a school out of recycled bottles, and experience the reality of rural Maya villages. And hopefully learn a thing or ten along the way.

Now in the comforts of my Toronto home, I eagerly await my return to the country that has my heart. I’m stoked to share it with the people on my team. This is why we do what we do.

Beloved Guatemala, we’ll be seeing you soon.

Hasta pronto,

(P.S. » shout-outs to our fantastic team members from West to East: James, Eva, Japleen, Allison, Nikki, Laura, Ben, Porschia, Chelsea, and Allie!)