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Guatemala-The Place That Changed My Life

I was in Guatemala for a total of fourteen days. I first flew down a day early because everything I knew about the trip I was going on and camp I was going to, was full of question marks. I had no idea how I was going to get to the place I was going, what the camp was like, and I did not know a single person down there. I met up with one of the camp counselors at the airport who did not speak a word of English, so immediately, my Spanish knowledge was challenged. She helped me by talking to the Uber driver to get us from Guatemala City to Antigua. I spent half a day and one night in Antigua which was completely different than what I expected. At this time I met with a few more counselors and one of the campers. This was when I knew I was going to have a blast at camp, but it was going to be one of the most challenging experiences for me. After I slept the night away in one of the hostels in Antigua with five others in the room. The next morning I found out that it is very common to eat beans, heavy cream, and tortillas for every meal. After hastily eating, I rode on a Chicken Bus for four hours to Campamento El Eden which is right next to Santiago which is on Lake Atitlan. This is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We spent the next five days participating in activities such as: horseback riding, archery, boating, arts and crafts, and paddle-boarding. We had a bon fire, the Americans taught everyone else how to play kickball, did yoga, played soccer, and so much more. We did this all for the campers whom all were people with disabilities. People with disabilities are a marginalized group down in Guatemala. Having this camp provides a free space for people that are usually looked down upon, and allows them to express themselves as they are. This has been one of the most amazing feelings for myself and everyone else that was at the camp. The last two days for camp we took another Chicken Bus to Monterrico which is on the beach. The beach was about 12 degrees C hotter and it was suffocatingly humid. We got to be on the beach, lighting off fireworks, making s'mores, swimming in the ocean; all with an air conditioned room. The ocean was warm and saltier than I've ever seen (tasted). We brought all the campers into the ocean as far as they were comfortable with to let them get that experience. We also had a surfboard that we allowed some of the campers to sit on the front of; personally this was the first time I've ever surfed. It was a wonderfully experience for everyone. After the the camp was over, I still had a few days left, so I traveled to Panajachel. Here, I got to travel the city by myself, practicing Spanish in local shops, and keeping my collection of Hawaiian shirts alive (I bought three more). I got a ride to Antigua via shuttle with one of the counselors, Brayan. He does not speak a lick of English, so sometimes we communicated via translator. It was the camp director's birthday, 25th of December, and she lives in Antigua. It was great to see the counselors again so I could solidify those friendships before I left for the United States. More specifics will come. :)

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