Posted by: jayteea | Wednesday. 28 January 2009.

Summing up 7 months in Guatemala

I just read Lisa and Ann’s blogs and was reminded of how cool they are for keeping in touch with friends. Cue the resurrection of my own.

7 months after my last blog post, I find myself once again stateside. For about 3 weeks, that is. I love these interims at home…free food, good company, pets to play with (but not to pick up after), a closet full of clothes. It’s worth the inevitable awkwardness of running into those classmates who never left town or are working unhappily at 9-5 jobs.

My family actually had no idea that I was showing up when I did. They thought I’d be in Guatemala for at least another few weeks. I deliberately planned it that way so that my family didn’t have to stress out waiting and counting down the days until I got home. Besides, the way my mom screamed when I showed up at the front door was priceless!

So here I am. Faced with the impossible task of summing up all those months of hard work in Xela.

I can’t do it–not adequately, at least. Let’s just say this: it was one of the best experiences I have ever had. I worked and hiked and lived and went out with amazing people…people who ended up being my best friends. Hyperboles aside, though, Quetzaltrekkers just plain rocks. Nowhere else do such dedicated volunteers get so much done and work so many hours and support so many kids in need in a local and sustainable way without a single boss to organize them and tell them what to do. What’s more, we have fun doing it!

What did I do, you ask? Well…I answered organization e-mails, washed a million dishes, scrubbed the floors, led multi-day backpacking trips every weekend (sometimes more often), got my ass kicked by the kids in futbol once a week (when I didn’t make up an excuse to get out of it, that is), sold our treks to potential clients, went shopping, chopped loads of veggies for our treks, did website maintenance, baked cookies with the kids, cooked (or helped cook) quite a bit, trained new volunteers, cleaned and repaired our hiking and camping gear, checked and re-checked med kits, did sunset shots, shat in the woods, learned a bit of Quiche (not quiche, which is quite tasty but different) from the girls, corresponded with potential volunteers, served on the Board of Advisors, bossed around my fellow volunteers, ate more than my fair share of Chikys (cheap chocolate covered cookies), laughed often.

Whew. And that’s not counting what I did in my free time! (Which, in all honesty, wasn’t all that plentiful. We worked 12-hour days 7 days a week.)

Perhaps more interesting than what I did, though, is what I learned. Here is a summary, just as much for my benefit as for yours:

1. I need to dance salsa to be happy. (Which is why, out of all the countries in South Korea in which to live, I chose Seoul.) This is not negotiable.

2. Knowing how to have fun and be a reasonably happy person is just as important as working hard.

3. Crack cocaine is shit.

4. Sincerity is more important than I thought.

5. Fleas aren’t really all that bad.

6. Asking 30 people to cram in a minivan is not an unreasonable request.

7. Life is not fair. Especially to poor Guatemalans.

There’s much, much more that I could write about my experience in Guatemala. Maybe I’ll do that someday. For now, though, I will conclude this long-awaited and anticipated blog post with the words of indigenous Guatemalan poet Humberto Ak’abal.


No sé que extraña flor
es mi corazón.

Echa raíces
de la tarde a la mañana,
en cada despedida
hay que arrancarlo

y cómo duele.

(Somewhat loosely translated…)


I don’t know what kind of strange flower
my heart is.

It puts out roots
from morning to afternoon,
in each farewell
it must be pulled (torn) out

and oh, how it hurts.



  1. yay finally!

  2. Yaaaaaaaaaaaay Jen!! We did have such a blast! I loved reading your entire blog though. Its nice to see into the mind of another QT worker and read about their amazing thoughts of the experiences we all shared. And yes, I agree, it was one of the best experiences of my life as well. 🙂 I miss you!

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