After I left the volunteer house yesterday, I somehow maneuvered my way back to my homestay at Casa Shekina and joined everyone there for dinner. It’s so awesome having a ton of young people all come together around one table to eat and share our experiences. I am living in a homestay with about 23 other male and female volunteers aging from around 18-25. There are volunteers in our house from all over the States, Canada, Australia, England, Ireland, The Netherlands and a ton of other places.
After sharing dinner together, we all went out to La Plaza Mayor to celebrate in the Lenten Festival where there street vendors selling food, crafts and clothing. There were parades and music, and it was a lot of fun. The other volunteers and I shared some amazing churros and chocolate-covered strawberries. After that, we headed back home – I had had an insanely long day and was ready to pass out. I honestly didn’t even notice the buses and trucks zooming and honking outside of our window all night.
I woke up this morning ready to go to orientation. I ate delicious French toast and boiled eggs for breakfast and sipped on the delicious Guatemalan coffee (no seriously this stuff is so freaking good). I headed for the volunteer offices for my orientation at 8 AM. There, I met even more amazing volunteers from places like New Zealand, Holland, Germany and the States. We took a walking tour around Antigua, locating the essential places like the bank, grocery store, Parque Central, etc.
Our group leader brought us to the most beautiful McDonald’s ever. It was huge inside with a really long counter and tons of tables and then it had a gigantic courtyard that had more tables, a fountain and tons of plants. I will definitely have to go back there and use the wi-fi.
After our walking tour, we found out our volunteer placements and got ourselves acquainted with the volunteer facilities. I will be volunteering at Viva – it is a school for children in the town of Dueñas. In Guatemala, children with diagnosed disabilities are not allowed to attend the schools. A few years ago, three guys started La Ascociación de Desarrollo Vida en Dueñas. Now, a ton of students go to the school for three hours a day taught by three unpaid teachers and can receive physical therapy from a volunteer student therapist. The children are incredible. I was only there for a few hours today, and most of them already knew my name and hugged and kissed me goodbye before we left. I can’t wait to spend the rest of my week working with these kids.
I also signed up to take part in the Tandem Partner Program – I will be partnered with a student in Antigua learning English and we will spend an hour together every day speaking in our native languages. There are so many amazing opportunities that this volunteer site offers and I wish I could take advantage of all of them.
Everyone here is so relaxed and available. There are so many amazing opportunities to take advantage of and it kills me to know that I won’t be here long enough to do all of them. I am one of only three other volunteers who are only staying a week, so it’s sad to think that at the end of the week, we will be saying goodbye to others who will be staying here for so much longer.