Guatemala is a beautiful and lovely place whether you are going as a place of tourism or if you are going to work with the young children of the isolated villages. I first was able to experience this mountainous country when I was in the 5th grade. The first place I encountered was an orphanage for children named Casa Aleluya located in San Bartolomé Milpas Altas, Guatemala, where two of my siblings happen to be adopted from.
I have visited the country six times after, but not always to the orphanage. Other place I also visited include: the beautiful artisan markets of Antigua, hiked the incredible volcano Pacaya, visited Chichicastenango, been to Lake Atitlan and visited the village of San Mateo. The city of Antigua was quite loud and complicated, because of the number of people and cars, with many intricate streets lined with shops and restaurants. Antigua also stands in the wake of the shadow of dormant volcano Agua.
From Antigua one can see the views of two other volcanos, which are very active and sometimes emit smoke. The volcano Pacaya was large and difficult to hike as an 11-year old, but turned out enjoyable and exciting, especially feeling as if you’re on top of the world. The trip up the volcano was done horseback, or on foot if you dared, and was around 7,000 feet of a hike. The market city of Chichicastenango was another boisterous and obnoxious city with lots of people shopping.
When I went I had blonde hair and that was seen as a rarity to the Guatemalans and they allowed themselves to feel my hair whenever they pleased because they had not seen it. It was a peculiar thing for me, being 11 years old and having people I didn’t know touch my hair. Lake Atitlan was one of the most beautiful and scariest places I have ever been. When I first went I was deathly afraid of boats, which was seen when we had one take us across the lake to our hotel and it began storming during the boat ride. When we did finally arrive at the hotel we had to hike up 400 steep, curvy steps with only the lights of cell phones (it was nighttime) as the only light source, with a group of 10.
One of the first nights of being at the hotel we actually were able to see a volcano across the lake explode with flowing lava and smoke, which was beautiful at night. We then ventured across the lake to a city, Santiago Atitlan, where there were more markets and many churches, with one hutch that contained the heart of a priest in a box.
The next time I was able to visit Guatemala I was 14 years old, July of two years ago, and my cousins were living in Guatemala working with Clubhouse Guatemala. When I went for two weeks I was able to go with them to the village of San Mateo where we worked with children, providing them with food, games and also candy for their enjoyment. The team also worked with the farmers and cooks of the village, providing them with new stoves that properly disposed of smoke, since most of their previous stoves caused them lung damage.
Going to Guatemala is incredible because of the many features of the country, with beautiful black sand beaches on the Pacific, with the artisan markets and shops of Antigua, with the many volcanoes that are accessible to tourists, and with the many villages where working with the villagers is a privilege.
About the Author: Griffin Dirrim- I am a 16 year old male from Atlanta, GA who enjoys soccer and traveling to Guatemala. I have 4 siblings, three adopted from Guatemala and one biological.
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