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Micho Viejo, The Most Beautiful Place I Have Ever Been

A broken or separated heart is said to be a bad thing, usually. For me, my heart being in pieces is the best thing that could ever happen to me. Every place I have traveled to, owns a piece of my heart. In Paris, France my heart found adventure and spontaneity. In Germany, it learned peace and solitude. In Brugge, Belgium my heart learned to wander and explore. Most of all, in San Miguel Escobar, Guatemala my heart learned to beat with honesty, sacrifice, family, pain, happiness, anger and love.

SEMI-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP   

In September of 2014, my sister and I decided to venture together on a humanitarian trip to Guatemala with 24 other students. While there, we built classrooms, planted trees, and helped in a hospital.During our trip, we stayed with host families. My mother’s name is Ana Victoria, my father’s is Efree and my brother’s is Renato, Nato for short. It’s hard to imagine that in 14 lengthy, emotional days I would consider three strangers, with whom I could barely communicate with, my family.

On this trip, I traveled with my group to La Antigua, Mayan ruins called Micho Viejo, the Earth’s most toxic dump, and some of the most poverty stricken towns in Guatemala. These places collectively took my heart, set it on a table, re-designed it, and put it back into my chest with a new perspective.

It is hard to talk about the activities we did on the trip. I could tell you how we built  classrooms, block by block, mixing our own concrete, but you wouldn’t understand how it felt. With every cinderblock I layed and every wire I twisted I felt I was building a safe place for a child. A place where they could focus on themselves and grow like I did in my own school. The children then gave me something in return, something that books and teachers can’t give. They gave me a work ethic and a separated heart.

On the last day, the entire group sat in a circle in the middle of a church ruin.  A leader asked us “When you get home, what are you going to say to friends and family who might not understand what you went through on this trip?” I sat and pondered, what incident on this trip would best explain this amazing, eye-opening, heart-wrenching, love-finding, series of events to someone who has never experienced them before? None of them. The only phrase I could think of was “You had to be there.” It might be a little harsh, like I was leaving them out of some kind of inside story or joke but it is true. Trying to explain the significance of my trip would be so hard.  I felt people couldn’t ever really understand it, unless they were there. But I still try. Guatemala has such a large part of my heart that I can hardly go a week without talking about it. It is impossible to go a day without thinking about it because it has shaped so many different aspects of my life. I am lucky to have the privilege of giving a piece of my heart to the town and people of San Miguel Escobar, and I am fortunate that they let me.

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