The fourteen of us sat in a circle on top of a grassy hill overlooking the city of Quetzaltenango, nicknamed Xela. With the cluster of city buildings spread out below us we discussed our thoughts and hopes for the rest of the program. After we wrapped up our orientation, we jumped into the meat of the Carpe Diem trip. Introductions to homestays and preparations were made for our first week of Spanish classes at Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco Español (or PLQE), a school devoted to teaching Spanish and supporting other community organizations and projects in the region. In addition to intense one on one conversations with our teachers, we also had trips in the mornings to introduce us to a broad view of Guatemalan culture. We took a trip to the neighboring town of Zunil. hiked up a volcano, packed into the back of a pick-up truck for a late night soccer game, and heard a testimonial from an ex-combatant in the internal armed conflict – a 36 year long civil war that has defined the history and life of it’s people.
These experiences, though varied, helped broaden our understanding of the place we are visiting and the world our homestay families live in. The relationships we formed with our homestays were hard to leave! We will miss walking around the city to the markets and shops, but there is so much more left to see and do on this trop that there is always more around the corner!