This April, my best friend and I took a trip to what most would consider a third world country; Guatemala. If anyone actually asked us why we were going to Guatemala, we didn’t really have an answer. My friends were all going to popular party spots, such as Cancun and South Padre Island. Rather then opting for such amenities as room service and indoor plumbing my friend and I chose to traipse through the jungles of Tikal. We brought with us our cameras, digital camcorders and a sense of adventure. What we were going to experience was different then the drunken debauchery that my other friends were experiencing.
When we first arrived in Guatemala City we were awestruck by the immense paradoxes that greeted us. Guatemala City is teeming with intense poverty; however, it is framed by the beauty of the tropical jungle and the Agua Volcano, one of many active volcanoes in Guatemala. We journeyed back and forth between Guatemala City and the old capital, Antigua. We photographed the majesty of the volcano and we watched the Guatemalans, who are predominantly Roman Catholic, observe the Holy Weekend.
From Guatemala City, we drove to Tikal, which is in the middle of the jungle. Tikal is a Mayan City known for its beautiful temples and ruins. Tikal is not your typical resort city. There are mosquito nets on every bed to protect travelers from malaria and other tropical illnesses, the power was turned off nightly to conserve power and other limited resources, and the soft silence of slumber was shattered by the shrieking of howler monkeys at 2 a.m. each night. We trekked a mile each morning to explore the ruins. There, we learned about the Mayan culture, and what feats of architectural accomplishment these ruins really were. I was grateful to have my digital camera and my camcorder with me to preserve my experience, not only for my own memory, but so I could share this amazing adventure with others. I still take great joy in sharing the pictures and films that I took with friends and family members.
Even though Guatemala is considered a poor country, I was struck by the generosity of its people. They had nothing, yet still they donated generously to their church, welcomed friends and strangers wherever they went, and everyone seemed delighted to share what they knew about the cities with us. Our tour guide was exceptionally personable, and very patient as we took picture after picture and asked question after question.
At the end of my five days, I was sorry to leave and go home. I know that I will have many more spring breaks through college and grad school, but this trip to Guatemala was among the most memorable that I will ever have. I am a better person because of this experience, and I look foreword to the day when I can give back to the people who have enriched my life.
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