One thing that surprised me the most upon my trip to Guatemala was that many things I thought would be easy to me weren’t. I thought with my Spanish speaking background I would have a better chance at maintaining conversation and getting what I wanted to say out clearly. It turns out that wasn’t 100 percent true, 100 percent of the time. It was more than just a language barrier, it was a culture barrier. I think it in turn forced me to work harder to connect with people, and made every conversation and connection that more important.

I have grown so much in just those mere 2 weeks. When you are in a country with no one you know, you really learn who you are. You learn how you interact, what you can bring to the table, what you can change, and what you shouldn’t just for the benefit of others. There is a saying that you know a person by how they treat the people that have nothing to give them. I am now confident in my intentions and will forever be humbled.

This trip definitely made me consider what being a global citizen is, and what could happen if more people had been on the same trip as I had been. I am now, more than ever, interested in pursuing a career in travel journalism. Being in Guatemala further showed me that there is never one side to a story, and in that lies a story. I’m hoping this career will lead me to many experiences like the one I was lucky enough to have in Santa Clara, and forever give me the materials to share new ideas of different places to anyone who will listen. read more →

In the beginning of my project I had this very abstract idea, or thesis, that I thought was going to lead me to dramatic and intense findings. I thought my trip to Guatemala was going to be a Nicholas D. Kristof-esque type escapade of critical journalism.

That was not the case upon my arrival. After a long relaxing day of shopping and sightseeing in the beautiful place that is Antigua, it became more and more apparent to me that the amount of days that I would actually be spending with my host family would only be about eight. This was hardly enough time for the idea I had planned in mind. It also didn’t help that the answers to my questions never seemed to be answered “correctly”, or lacked specifics.

I knew that in order to have a presentable piece I needed to narrow down by a lot. So I did. I chose three things I wanted to learn about in the Santa Clara La Laguna community: religion, health, and crime. That was a major way my project developed or changed during my stay. The challenges I am facing now are more along the lines of organization and research. I feel unprepared with just my 20 minute interviews and I think it would be beneficial if I had more of a background in each area before I present it to a body of people that will only ever forge an idea about Santa Clara based on what I show, or fail to show. I especially wished that I got more information on the crime aspect, however, I don’t think the patrolling cop cared much for my greeting let alone two or three recorded questions. That is what I am hoping the research will cover. I am, however, really confident in the area of health and religion, so that is something I’m looking forward to.

 

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My last day in Connecticut was a strange science fiction novel in which nothing seemed real and time was not consistent. I was practically waking up into the surreal realm of Salvador Dali with melting clocks on my bedroom walls. I did not know if I had packed well enough, if I had remembered to bring socks, or sunscreen, or if I needed anything I had packed in the first place. I had wanted to fold my self like a collar shirt and slide right into my carry-on. But I do not think I went well with the 3-1-1 rule.

I joke that I am prepared enough for two women. In my purse is always a clutter of “well what if it rains,” “what if I need to change,” and my personal favorite “I might need these coupons.” Kind of like a modern Mary Poppins carpet bag. But packing for different countries always leaves me dumbfounded. I am not familiar with the weather, social norms, or latest fashions. All I can do is pack two of everything I’m not sure I might need. This I’m hoping will work for me, despite the fact that I was advised to pack lightly, especially since flight details make me nervous and my luggage could weigh me down.

So I did what I am sometimes afraid to do: ask for help, and I got it from good friend named Frank. He helped me without trying much. “I’ll miss you” he said, then it suddenly occurred to me that I was going to be thrown into an entirely different country, without anyone that I knew enough to say I’ll miss you too. This made me get my act together immediately.

So this post is for you Frank. The great guy who declared bringing an umbrella was stupid if I was also bringing a rain jacket, and the same man who frequently chanted “FOR GOD SAKES IT’S ONLY TWO WEEKS, PUT THAT BACK”.

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Guatemala went through one the longest and most gruesome of civil wars in Central America. The phrase (often said by 9/11 sympathizers) “Gone but never forgotten” is more than a reality for Guatemalan citizens. Especially for those like Jennifer Harbury, human rights activist and author, who refuses to stop trying to unmask the cruelties of many Guatemalan soldiers, like those responsible for the kidnapping, torture of three years, and ultimately the death of her husband, member of the resistance, Everardo Bamaca. The Guatemalan soldiers were trained by specialforce American soldiers, in the “sophistication of combat.” Or at least that is what was told to Harbury and the citizens of Guatemala before the genocide of Mayan citizens began.

Almost two decades later the Guatemalan people are liberated, yet many believe the government to be be corrupt, despite the fact that the agreement of peace was signed in 1996 and the fact that Guatemala is considered a democratic republic. Victoria Sanford, author of a NY Editorial titled, “It’s Too Soon to Declare Victory,” in highlights the controversy of current president Otto Perez Molina, who went in office in 2012. She, like many others, believes there to be serious incriminating evidence that the President was involved in the genocide for which former dictator, General Ríos Montt, only just recently has been convicted.

Since the end of the civil war Guatemala, unfortunately, still maintains heavy crime rates, like any country. The growing rates of femicide in developing Guatemala is enough to make any feminist cringe. Femicide, in which “misogynistic brutality” led to over 1,800 reported complaints of domestic violence in the first few months of 2007, or the varying cases of sexual assault are enough to make any human being with a decent belief in equality cringe. As well as intense drug trafficking, Guatemala marks itself as one the most dangerous countries.

However, the media has its way of portraying every country with only negative qualities. The media would rather cover the story of drug trafficking than an editorial of the rich and complex culture of the Mayan communities, who were able to strive through all their adversity.  American news as well is notorious for deeming every country as the most dangerous, and never worth going to. It is important to acknowledge Guatemalan people for their history, but to also acknowledge change; to always question every media header as we would for any other country, and not to believe it solely because of the civil war. Every country has crime, every country has abuse, not that it is ever, ever, ever, to be justified, but it should not prevent anyone from experiencing the cultural richness, and all that Guatemala, it’s modern cities, or indigenous people have to offer. read more →