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GUATEMALA | Thursday, 20 June 2013 | Views [343]

Since writing a blog for my trip for my summer 2013 trip was a challenge I set for myself since the day I started planning the trip itself, I have finally began. Not in the best of circumstances admittedly, since walking in the gushing rain that is frequent in Guatemala during the rainy season to reach a computer, does not make it seem worthwhile. But being able to record and then review the nitty-gritty details of this fantastic experience is what has pushed to start this blog. Another reason would involve my best friends with whom I never have the opportunity to travel together. My hope is that by following my blog and me telling my stories, it will be second-best to my friends actually travelling with me, since they will know everything I got up to as well as I do, as if they had travelled with me.

I have lived wanderlust but not with the means to satisfy it. Of course I have travelled with my mother, a prominent example being Jordan and more specifically Petra, one of the modern wonders. However a trip with my mother would not be complete without thousands of photos and I think I spent more time posing for photographs in Petra than actually exploring. I have also wanted to immerse myself locally in the culture, make friends with residents of the country and gain a deeper understanding of what makes a country tick. With time these goals were complemented with the desire to bring something back to the community in which I would reside and to learn the language. Due to my studies, I had only one extended window of opportunity to accomplish this. In fact I had more time than I knew what to do with, leaving my options open. Over the past 18 months, in an effort to plan early, I had accumulated around 50 different possiblities; study abroad, language courses, cultural immersion programs, internship and volunteer abroad programs in many countries around the world. I had considered WWOOFing, which is traveling to other countries and exchanging your labour on organic farms for room and board. I had seriously researched the possibility of completing a CELTA program, a certificate for TEFL, and then teaching in various exotic countries in Asia.

Many of them, however, shared one thing in common, great expense for something of limited time duration. As I began to comprehend just how much all these potential adventures would cost if I included living costs and the cost of flights I included affordability in my search criteria. Surprisingly only 2 organisations remained: Love Volunteers and IVHQ. Both offered long-term volunteering placements around the world at an affordable cost with room and board included. Such was the abundance of choice that I had almost booked a flight to Mongolia back in January and I had planned on volunteering in Costa Rica until the beginning of April. Clearly I changed my mind many times and only commited myself to Guatemala in mid-May. In all my choices I had pursued construction placements, as those seemed the closest in spirit of those typically on offer to my program of study, engineering. Whereas my first of engineering featured a lot of problem solving but not as much practical work, my hope was that through construction I would get to become more competent with various instruments, and that I would learn skills and techniques that might prove useful in the future to me. Admittedly I knew nothing about construction, but I hoped that the necessity to learn quickly on the job would also sharpen my mind and prove invaluable to me in future jobs.

Why Guaremala? An important factor was my desire to intensively study Spanish. I enjoy learning languages and an important justification for this trip was the opportunity to vastly improve the fluency of my Spanish, which considering the fact that Spanish seemed not too difficult and shares a lot of vocabulary with Spanish, seemed like an ambitious but achievable goal for a 3 month trip. When comparing cost of lessons between Guatemala and Costa Rica, Guatemala came out on top, assisted by its lower cost of living overall. It also leaves me with a budget for independent and group travel making it the ideal final choice for me. Having been in the country for almost 2 weeks now, I have settled in, and my intention is to keep writing about my experiences that have already happened and the fantastic experiences to come.

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