I have been acquainted with Pura Vida Ministries for close to a decade. As an associate pastor, I serve a church that has a long relationship with Pura Vida, and I have heard many stories about the incredible experience and people that participants encounter on the work trips. In January 2017, I finally had an opportunity to participate in a work trip myself. Even better, I went with my new husband, also an associate pastor, and members of the church he serves.
Prior to this trip, it had been several years since I last travelled out of the country. Further, this would be the first time I would not be travelling to popular tourist destinations, and spend more time getting to know locals than I normally would on a vacation. I was nervous; I do not speak the language, I do not blend in, and Guatemala is very unfamiliar territory to me. In other words, I am a foreigner, and I felt like a foreigner before I even arrived.
We arrived in Chichicastenango on a market day, and the city was alive and bustling. Again, our hotel was beautiful and comfortable, a nice treat (especially since many of my previous foreign travel experiences involved staying in hostels). I was grateful to have trip leaders who could tell me do’s and don’ts, where to be when, and what was next. It allowed me to just focus on my own experience and soak it all in. That indeed is part of the impact of the trip, and important not to overlook. Being present to yourself and to the multi-sensory experience that is Chichi (and the other places we visited) will add much to what you take away from this trip.
"Communication happens even without words."
Even with a language barrier, I could connect with others. I played with the children at the work sites. What a blessing they were! They were kind, and receptive to my presence. Everywhere we traveled, children waved to us, even seemed excited to see the bus. And it wasn’t just the children who were hospitable. I encountered so many people who were warm, vibrant, and welcoming to this group of strangers. Communication happens even without words. Still, I was very grateful to have interpreters with us, and to be able to learn more about the culture by speaking with them. I have since begun to attempt to learn Spanish, because I hope to better connect with Spanish-speaking individuals where I live and when I travel abroad again.