Saturday, May 26, 2018

Visit at the American Embassy

             Shortly after our arrival in Vilnius, Lithuania we visited the American Embassy. We met with an American foreign aids officer that works to build political ties and maintain relationships between the US and Lithuania here in Vilnius on behalf of the US Government. There are many ways that the embassy helps both the people of Vilnius and consistently improves relations with the US and other allies. When we were there we sat in a room that was completely decked out in everything America. American games, books, movies, posters, you name it, they had it. The embassy encourages both groups from abroad and student groups in Lithuania to come learn about the embassy and American life, as American life has such a global impact in so many ways.
 As a social work major and as someone who loves to travel, I was very moved and intrigued by his job. To listen to him talk about his work so passionately and how it makes a real difference both here and back in the United States was so inspiring to me. I was so moved, that when he mentioned that American embassies offer student internships all over the world, I decided that I want that to be in my future. I have been looking for a way to encompass my love for politics, social work, and travel and today I think I found it. I was so moved and could not be more excited and open to learning so much more about Vilnius and Lithuanian culture/Jewish life in Lithuania.
-Hannah Kipp

Friday, May 25, 2018

May 23rd

 We started our morning by first meeting the mayors of both Antaliepte and Zarasai at Krakyne. Krakyne is a memorial for the killing site in Zarasai. This site reminded me a lot of Ponarai. Jews from the nearby regions in Lithuania had to march to this location in the woods in the middle of August 1941. Men, women, and children had to strip their clothes and were shot by Nazi soldiers. After they were shot, the Jews' bodies were piled up on top of each other in large man-made holes in the ground. The site was rather small as if 50 trees in the forest were removed and all that is now left is a memorial in the shape of an oven. We read Jewish prayers out loud at this site in remembrance and reflection to the 2,500-8,000 lives that were lost. This site is not very far from Antaliepte, so it was mind blowing to think that some of the Jews that were murdered at Krakyne most likely walked from where we are staying.
 The next stop we made today was at the municipality in Zarasai and met with the deputy mayor. He discussed his role as the "representative" for Lithuania in the European Union. We got to see another branch of Parliament and also try to understand what life was like when Lithuanian was occupied by the Soviets. Our day excursion ended with a historic walking tour of Zarasai. Our tour guide explained how the town has changed over the last hundred years and was able to illustrate this with before and after pictures. We saw where the hub of Jewish life once was, but unfortunately there was only one building that still stands. Our tour guide showed us the beautiful lake in the town, which seems to be a popular spot to enjoy the outdoors for locals. We also got to go to a museum/art gallery that showed off the beauty of Zarasai and its rich history.
 After dinner, we had an evening walking tour of Antaliepte. After staying in the town for a few days, we finally got to explore it and learn about its history. Our guide was a 90-year old local who did not speak any English, so he needed a translator. He taught us about the buildings in view of our accommodation that were once used by the Soviet army. He talked about the Catholic Church in the village and where the Synagogue used to be. This man also took over the village's historic museum and we got to learn more about Lithuania during WWII and Jewish life in Antaliepte.
-Lily Ambrosius

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Education and Hope

Today was a day filled with hope for the future. Today, we visited the school in the neighboring town of Dusetos. The town is about double the size of the current one and has a larger Jewish cemetery, which makes sense. With a larger population comes a greater number of Jewish people. What was extremely striking, however, was the lack of knowledge of the students on the topic of the Holocaust in their town. Sure, they had heard from the female survivor of the town, but there was not as much coverage on the massacre, or Judaism, in general. When we were meeting with them, Rabbi Abbie talked with them and explained what happened in their town and what the basics of Judaism were. This is the most important part of the trip because we are educating a younger generation first on tolerance, then on celebration of those who are different. Most of the younger residents have never encountered a Jewish person before. Without understanding that they are the same as everyone else, the children might grow up to believe that they were different or bad. By educating the unknowing, we can prevent discrimination and violence on the world. Peace is for everyone, and education ensures this.
-Sophia Dallas

A Morning in Dusetos

Today, we traveled to Dusetos with the mayor of Antaliepe to meet a lady named Maria who witnessed the events of the Holocaust in her backyard. We had the honor to witness the retelling of her story, specifically in the context of her town and how it was shaped by the Jewish community prior to World War II. Around ninety percent of the town had been Jews before being murdered, which estimates to over five hundred people, which shows how even the most quaint and small community in the heart of the Lithuanian countryside was not immune to the evil sweeping across Europe. She told of how neighbors turned in neighbors, which meant their deaths. As we walked from the art gallery to the town square, Maria pointed out different houses and buildings that had once belonged to Jews. Now, there is little to no active Jewish life still present in Dusetos.
After our walk, we met the principal of the local school. He took us inside and we were welcomed into a classroom filled with students. Each of the Xavier students had brought gifts from their respective hometowns to present to the school. Rabbi Abie spoke in front of the class about his connection to the Holocaust and the importance of begetting evil from our hearts. Love is much stronger than a leaf blowing on a winters wind because wherever it settles, hopefully it will find a new place to call home or to start over. For many Jewish people, they did not get the choice to live. That fate was chosen for them. Rabbi's story of his parents was very impactful because "God gave me two eyes, two legs, two arms. If he gave me two hearts, I could love with one and hate with the other. But he only gave me one, so you have to make the choice to hate or to love."
That is a choice we all have to make someday- to be consumed by a quest of rage and hatred, or to embrace the humanity and celebrate our differences. It is not rocket science.
-Lauren Dencker

Arrival in Antaliepte

We arrived in Antaliepte in the afternoon of May 20th. The place where we are staying is beautiful. There are two lakes, a treehouse, swings, and plenty of green space. Did I mention that there are also horses? In this rural village, it is relaxing and peaceful; however, there was a lot of work to be done. Upon our first morning here, the mayor of the valley greeted us and thanked us for coming. Soon after that lovely discussion, we all headed out to the cemetery. The fence that will completely surround the cemetery was already being installed. The fence, itself, is brilliant and it has a Star of David at the opening gate. The Star of David is a nice touch; it acts as a reminder that this cemetery is one for Jewish people. People and buildings die and become dilapidated; by restoring this cemetery, these people are remembered and they have their own place in society. Throughout the day, each of us found tombstones that were broken in pieces, covered in moss, and had trees growing in them. At times putting the pieces of the tombstones back together was difficult, but it was nice to know that we are bringing respect back to the person whose name is on the stone. Overall, I believe we left the cemetery in better condition then how it was when we arrived. By the end of one day's work, we have found and uncovered several dozen tombstones.
- Theresa Anhofer

Monday, May 21, 2018

Transformative Experience

Today was our second day in Krakow. We started off the day in the Old Jewish District and it was really powerful to see that Judaism has survived all the trials and tribulations of Polish History. We went to multiple Synagogues, which was a great way to get more of an idea of Jewish tradition. Just walking around, I really found myself reminiscing about the drastic changes that Jews faced. They had such a peaceful life and it was ripped away from them in the flash of an eye. The injustice is scalding and we cannot change the past, but we can create the right type of future.
Lastly, we went to Schindler's Factory New Museum. Seeing all the compiled evidence of this atrocity put me in disbelief that anyone could deny that it indeed occurred. People need to own the part their countries had in these events, and we need to reflect on the past to prevent this from occurring in the future. Overall, the second day was enlightening!
-Jenna Kay

Modern Day Jewish Life in Lithuania

On the night of Friday the 18th our group visited the Orthodox Synagogue in Vilnius. Being the only Jewish student on the trip I was able to do a few special things during the service.  I was able to light a candle and recite some prayers with the rabbi's wife.  Even though I do go to Temple sometimes I am not orthodox so it was still very different for me.  It is always moving to see some traditions that I may not practice but my ancestors probably did.  For the most part, everybody at the synagogue was accepting and pilot.  I was happy to see Jewish life in Lithuania knowing so few Jews remain.  The next morning we went to meet Fania, a survivor of the Holocaust.  She lived in the Vilna Ghetto during the war and lost all her family in the atrocities.  While I have heard the testimonies of many survivors Fania was unique.  She seemed to have a lot of hope in people and the future.  Many times the survivors feel guilt for surviving over others or thinking they caused someone's death.  It shows you the struggles many of the survivors dealt with after the Shoa.  Fania seemed to have found peace with herself which was something I was extremely happy to see.  This trip has meant a lot to me as I am visiting the countries that my Jewish ancestors come from.  While none of my direct ancestries were involved in the Holocaust many cousins died.  Some of my family never talked about  their past so there is a lot we do not know. This trip has brought me closer to my roots.
-Shellbi Malon

Meeting with a Holocaust Survivor

The morning of Saturday, May 19th, was a very special one. We were lucky enough to have the wonderful opportunity to meet a Holocaust survivor, Fania Brantsovsky. Fania shared with us her experience in the Vilinius ghetto and how life was during this time. Living in Vilinius, Lithuania during the Nazi invasion she suffered at the hands of the Nazis. At the age of 19,  the Nazis invaded her home and demanded that she take all of her belongings to the Vilinius ghetto. Living just one street away from the ghetto did not mean things were going to be easier for Fania and her family. However, it did allow her family to bring more belongings because their was less distance to travel. Her life in the ghetto was anything but appealing. The conditions were awful and the brutality from the Nazis and policemen was unnoticeable. Meeting Fania was an incredibly moving experience. It is highly unlikely that I will ever again have the opportunity to meet another Holocaust survivor. At ninety-six years old Fania shares her story in hopes of spreading awareness so another horrific event, such as the Holocaust, never happens again. Her final message to us was, "I wish you never experience what I saw in my life. I wish friendship among the people. Friendship among the people is very important. Never again." Immediately following the talk with Fania, we walked through the ghetto she had lived in. Being able to hear and connect the stories Fania and Rabbi Abie told us to the buildings right before my eyes gave me chills.
-Jacob Murphy

May 18, 2018

Today, the rubber really started to meet the road for us travelers.  I do not mean for our drivers, but really for ourselves.  We walked all over the city of Vilnius today, and I would like to share a couple of my thoughts.
First, I just want to give to you a very brief summary, so you will better understand what the entire day entailed.  We started our day bright and early.  We soon disembarked and made our way through the old city.  Along the way we noted several important landmarks.  Our first destination was the Parliament building, known here as the Seimas.  Here, we went on a tour and learned more about the system of government which they employ in this beautiful country.  After this, we were quite hungry from our walk.  So, we settled in and ate lunch at a small Ukrainian place.  It was quite good, but quite slow, due to 23 people descending upon them.  Following this, we made the trek back to the hotel so that we could prepare ourselves for Shabbat.  We attended Shabbat and Shabbat dinner at an Orthodox Synagogue, and we were given the opportunity to meet several of the Jewish people who call this synagogue home.
I have several thoughts that I would like to share about today.  First, in respect to the Seimas, I found it interesting how close their governmental setup was to our own setup in the United States.  I do thank that this might have in some part been due to the fact that we were seen as the "anti-Russians" as was told yesterday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Something neat to think about is a point that Ruta has brought up several times.  The government here has taken advice from the United States several times.  However, it does not seem that they ever question what the Americans tell them to do.  She does not mean to say that what has been done is wrong.  She just wishes that their could have been more questioning going on, so that her leaders could have come to conclusions on their own.  I can certainly understand that.
I quite enjoyed the Shabbat celebration as well as the dinner.  As a Catholic, I have always grown up in post-Vatican II church.  So, to me, I have never known a church that considers the Jews responsible for the death of Christ.  But, obviously, this was the case for nearly two thousand years.  So, I can certainly understand any lingering animosity that the Jewish people hold towards us.  Individually, I have nothing but respect for the Jewish community.  I thought that the celebration was wonderful, and I would very much like to attend one again.  One thing that was unpleasant was a man who spoke to Rabbi Abie afterwards.  He was quite upset that the Rabbi had brought a bunch of Christians into their house of prayer.  After hearing this, i disagree with the man.  However, I understand him as well.  And I see that their is much bridge building that is yet to be done between the Christian and Jewish people.  I think that we all are hoping to be a part of that!
-Alex Tokarsky

Friday, May 18, 2018

Lithuanian Dawn
Our day began early. Quite early to be extact. 3:20 A.M. to be percise. The mourning featured a flight to Warsaw at 5:45AM and a flight to Vilinus at 7:15AM. The air peursure was a little bit pressing on some of our ears. We then arrived in Vilinus, the captial of Lithuninia. Now irregradless of the work I had done in reading about half of a Ebook on the history of Lithuninia, like most Americans I was quite ignorant about every aspect of the country. However a day of wandering the country made be realize that in every way this is a quite intersting and important place. Once upon a time Lithunina was actually an empire, spanning from what is today Lithunina and most of what is today Belarus and Poland. However our first stop focused on Lithunina's role in post cold war world. We had a meeting with Lithunina's Ambassdor for Jewish affairs and learned about the vital role that Lithunina plays in perserving the memory of Jewish life in Europe. The ambassdor passed us a detailed map that documented the demograhpics of Lithuninia in the late 19th century. The Lithunian government is active in promoting this knowledge both within and beyond the country. I was amazed to see how diverse the country was with its large Jewish populations in almost every villiage and city.  The recent history of the country has seen genocide by the NAZIS and then over four decedes of forced forgetfullness by the Soveits. Yet the Lithunian people have risen up beyond dark history forced upon by outsiders and has taken its past, persent and future into its own hands. Today Lithuninia plays a large in organizations like the European Union helping build a more united world. By his sharing about the countries Jewish heritiage, the  Ambassdor showed us that the Lithuniain exsperence can be valuble for any people seeking healing and learning after terrible events. Most Americans either do not know that thier is a country named Lithuninia. Most who do know write it off as a small country, indeed with a population of around 2.8 million, it is smaller than many US states. Until today I was one of these people. Yet small does not mean unimportant. As our world grows more diverse and we seek ways to move to tolerance (and then hopefully to celebration) Lithuninia can prove quite instructive.
Matthew Crowe

Day 3 in Poland

Today we went to Auschwitz. It started as we walked through the gates. Over the gate, it read Arbeit Macht Frei which means work will make you free. We learned so much there; it was really eye opening. In all the history textbooks and classes I have ever taken, Auschwitz was a place where the Jews were murdered. The concentration camp actually began in April of 1914 as a concentration camp for Polish prisoners. The original camp only had a few thousand Polish prisoners. When the Nazis took over, the Jews would have to buy tickets to get on the train to Auschwitz. 
Walking through the camp really helped me to learn what life was like there; however, I will never understand it because I did not live it. Auschwitz was the only concentration camp where prisoners got their numbers tattooed on their forearm. Some Jews sent their children to Germany to work for their military just so they would survive. Another way some survived was if they played in the orchestra, because the music helped to keep the camp calm. This really touched me because I played the violin for over 10 years. That could have saved my life had I been there. 
As we continued through the different barracks, Rabbi Abie pointed that his family had been Jews from the Zamość region. Rabbi has become so much more than just another professor, so it hurts me that he does not have all the answers that he wants. Throughout the next rooms I was speechless. We walked through and there were piles of the victim’s hair, suitcases, dishes, clothing, and shoes. Seeing the children’s clothing and shoes made my heart stop. I could not imagine losing my children, my brother, my parents, or anyone else in my family, but that was the reality the Jews faced. From the middle of May to the beginning of July in 1944, over 400,000 Hungarian Jews were taken to Auschwitz and all they could take was a 25 kg suitcase, which was later taken from them. The SS could kill 1000-1500 people in 15-20 minutes with Zyklon B.
As a future nurse, the tour guide talked about the women having to have OB appointments and examinations. If it was a normal exam, they were then injected with things that created her 
Fallopian tubes to swell so the Jewish women became infertile. This is horrific. Someday I hope to have kids of my own and that option taken away from me would be devastating, especially if it was not my choice. 
We then went to Birkenau. Seeing these horrific living conditions and the gas chambers shook me. There were roses left by visitors in the bunks of the beds. I thought that was a beautiful. As a group, Rabbi Abie led us in a reflection/memorial service at the stairs of the gas chamber. The ceremony was very meaningful. 
After Auschwitz, we went to get John Paul II’s favorite cake (it was kind of like a cream puff). It was very good. My knowledge about popes and Catholicism is very limited. I grew up a United Methodist; however, my mom was raised Catholic. I did not really understand the significance of being the Pope until I experienced it here. Walking into the cathedral where Pope John Paul II was baptized really showed me how beautiful this world is. 
I learned so much about John Paul II. His mother passed away a month before his 9th birthday. His brother was a doctor but died when he was in his twenties because a patient gave him scarlet fever. Pope John Paul II is special because he grew up within close proximity to Jews, as his best friend was a Jew. As a Catholic, going to a synagogue is a sign of respect according to John Paul II. When he was a teenager, his best friend (who was Jewish), came into the Catholic cathedral and a woman said something to the best friend about not belonging here. John Paul II’s response, as a teenage boy, was," Doesn’t she know we are all children of the living God?" That statement moved me. We are all children of the living God and we are asked to show love and compassion to one another, which John Paul II knew as a teenage boy. 
When he was growing up his name was Karol Wojtyła. He was a brilliant young man. By the age of 10 he spoke four different languages, which is amazing to me. I have taken about five years of Spanish and I am barley fluent in that. By the end of his life, he knew over 40 languages. 
 While he was the Pope, John Paul II was shot twice. One shot was in the arm and other in the abdomen by a professional shooter. John Paul II forgave this man, even through the shooter did not ever apologize. I want my faith to be like John Paul’s. Forgiving someone after they shot you is amazing. The man who shot him is a free man today and he sent a letter to Pope Francis asking to go to seminary. I would love to read that letter and understand why and what changed. Pope John Paul II was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. This disease is a brutal disease and he passed away in 2005. John Paul II said, “Be grateful to God,” which is important to remember to be thankful for all you have. 
-Maggie Sullivan

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

First day in Krakow

When I got onto the plane I did not know what too expect, the flight attendants ran around handing out food and drinks while the pilot announced everything in Polish. I slept through the vast majority of the plane ride and only woke up about an hour till the plane landed. When I woke up however I was suddenly hit by a blast of major excitement. I was suddenly about to land in Poland a country that I have always wanted to visit. My first view of the country was the landscape through the planes window, the countryside was green and beautiful with rolling hills and red roofed houses. When we finally landed I was bouncing in my seat I was soo eager to see Krakow. When I finally stepped out of the airport and on too the bus I saw people go to and through about their business. We first visited the Krakow ghetto which was a humbling experience and later the Glashow concentration camp. Standing on a location where you know that thousands perished has a funny way of playing with you mind. I was standing on the site of a major massacre yet their were new homes and businesses popping up around us. Then it finally hit me this country which is so defined by it's past is pushing itself into the future. Later when we went to the town square I saw children running around old medieval churches and structures. The country had pushed itself into the modern age while still in remembrance of its past.
Jakob Krejsa

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

A Community with No Boundaries

I have been privileged to spend four decades in higher education. Each and every student who has crossed my path has taught me something. I hope I have offered a small teaching in return. But no learning experiences can match the growth that comes from an immersive, deep-diving international opportunity. This year, our Interfaith Medical Service Trip to San Lucas was perhaps the best illustration ever. Our group of twelve students came together 7 months ago to bond and to learn, to prepare themselves and to chart a course of service to the other. We prepared to join in bringing healing at the hands of our medical team, and to be in solidarity with the descendants of the great Mayan civilization.

But this particular team went above and beyond anything I had ever experienced. The community they created knew no boundaries. Each and every one could at any time step up to the plate to do what needed to be done, to lead and to follow. Each one extended a hand as we climbed the hill to the clinic, unloaded suitcases filled with hygiene packs and pharmaceuticals, and incredibly, though we only had one “count-off” that went smoothly, showed up on time and ready for service – every time!

Most of all, this team looked like the world community they were to serve. Our students came from continents around the globe, faith traditions that reflected journeys in dialogue with the Divine, and every hue of God’s created humanity. And the experiences they shared included Mayan spiritual ceremonies, a visit to the Holocaust Museum in Guatemala City and a meeting with the president of the Jewish community of Guatemala. Sabbath eve dinner in Antigua added young voices rising in wishes of Shabbat Shalom (a Sabbath of Peace) as hugs and embraces were exchanged around the festive table. New initiatives have been put into place for future trips to include meetings with the Imam serving the mosque in Guatemala City, and the potential collaboration with Padre Sergio, a Diocesan priest, doing incredible mission-driven work in Coban with the most economically and health impoverished young and old Guatemalans.

When you open your eyes to see interfaith, when you open your hands to do interfaith, and when you open your heart to feel interfaith, the world enters easily into your young soul. These young souls will yet bring peace to our fragile world. I am certain of it.

Rabbi Abie Ingber

Monday, March 19, 2018

Unbreakable Bond

My journey has finally come to an end and what an experience it has been. Prior to the trip, a lot of people kept telling it will be life changing. However, I was disappointed at first as it took a while for me to find out that I had been looking in the wrong places for this ‘life changing’ part. Recently, I came to realize all that just happened over the course of a week.

I just found myself a family out of complete strangers.

Having people that bring out the best in me, share laughs, go through challenges together and of course, celebrate our victories as one, has definitely been something worth giving up my spring break for.


Trajectory is a word that, before coming to Guatemala, I had only heard about in the context of projectile motion in physics class. It’s a simple enough concept- an object’s trajectory is the path it follows upon launch. But during this trip, the word trajectory has adopted an entirely new meaning in my mind. From two of our incredible teachers Rabbi Abie and Dr. Lauri, I’ve learned how simple things that we take for granted in the US can completely change the trajectory of a child- that is, their path of life leading to their destination.

On Tuesday, I worked with Rabbi Abie in glasses and had the privilege of finding the perfect pair of glasses for our patients to improve their vision. Having had poor vision as a child myself, I know the importance of glasses in order to better see the beauty and vibrancy of the world around us. But I had never given much thought about the importance of glasses in a more concrete setting - school. Children with poor vision can’t see the chalkboard in school so they don’t learn the material as well as the other students. Then they can’t answer the teacher's questions and to avoid being singled out, they go to the back of the classroom. Now, they really can’t see and have an even more difficult time and the teacher may even treat them like they are stupid. Eventually, they will believe they are stupid themselves and will lose their drive for learning. The students won’t ever live up to their full potential- be it a scientist, engineer or author- because they never got glasses. When we gave them glasses, we enabled them to excel in school. We changed their trajectory.

With Dr. Lauri, I saw even more profound effects of changing trajectory through the water filters known as Ecofiltro. Many of the families we saw drank tap water, and that unfiltered water is swarming with infectious agents, parasites and bacteria. The children of the community were especially prone to illness from drinking this water and would often get chronic diarrhea. They’d lose so many nutrients and end up falling off the growth curve- their trajectory for healthy growth and development. Dr. Lauri, with the help of our awesome translator, Diana, had the power to educate families about the importance of drinking clean water and connecting them to the Ecofiltros. It was astounding to see how something as simple as a water filter could bring a child from the lowest percentiles of developmental progress to thriving.

This trip has inspired me to look for ways to change the trajectory of those around me. I’ve learned that these life changing resources are often very simple and well known, all it takes is getting connected to these resources and the education on why they are so important. I’ve seen our medical team change the trajectories of our patients, but as a result of this incredible trip, the people of Guatemala have changed my trajectory to be a medical professional dedicated to educating and caring for those who are marginalized and forgotten about.

Prasun Shah

Tall, Dark, and Handsome

Today, I got to shadow Dr. Richard and then I worked with Rabbi Abie later in the afternoon. It was a particularly empowering experience for me as that day as I saw the importance of care and attention to detail. At the same time, I observed multiple cases of people suffering because whoever was responsible for their healthcare handled their work carelessly.

With Dr. Richard, I saw a man who was on a very strong pain reliever that produced large doses of cortisol in the body. However, the problem was that he was on the drug for so long we feared his adrenal gland was compromised because it had not been functional for a long time. It was such a great learning experience seeing Dr. Richard perform all sorts of diagnostic tests and from there explain to detail why whatever he said was so. Another interesting trend of the day was seeing how the patients just sat there with smiles on their faces as the doctors took their time to explain different things to us, mid-diagnosis. It was such an exemplary expression of patience, which, to me, is one of the most underrated virtues. This also made me very grateful to the Guatemalan people because they really were the true reason for the knowledge I gained.

Later in the day, I was working at glasses and I had a particularly emotional experience with a 96-year-old woman who was probably about 5 feet tall. She had less than 20/125 vision and could barely see a thing! After trying countless glasses to no avail we were at the point of giving up when I handed her the last pair and asked “mejor o peor?” then she replied “ooooo, PERFECTO!” The expression on her face made me remember my brother’s first words when he got his glasses; he said “is this what the world really looks like?” It was such a touching moment for me and it was that day I remembered how hard it is to fight back tears. I then stood up from the chair I was sitting in and then she realized I was about 6’3 and then she said “ahhhh, alto, Moreno y guapo!” meaning “tall, dark and handsome”. Wow, this 96-year-old woman just made my day!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The sun was intense, but I absorbed it all in.

The sun was intense, but I absorbed it all in.

Today we departed from Cincinnati to go to Guatemala. I strived to be on this journey for the past three years, and it was finally here. After applying to the trip three years in a row, this year was finally the year that I was able to apply the knowledge I have learned about health care, Guatemalan culture, and how to be an effective teammate.

As the plane landed in Guatemala, all I could see were mountains, colorful buildings, and a new landscape that I had been unfamiliar with. Everyone on the plane began to squeal with excitement, and the Guatemala team began to get restless to start the journey. Once getting off the plane and gathering the luggage, we stepped outside into the airport pick up. My first sight of Guatemala was of the hot sun overhead; next, I saw dogs lying in the sun near the terminal, children and their parents in beautiful colorful garments sitting on the sidewalk, and children playing soccer in and around the cars passing by. As the team packed up the luggage on the top of the bus and in the back of a truck, the sun was beating down and we were sweating, but it was almost like Guatemala was welcoming us with its warm presence and loving touch. I admired the people around me, and the excited, smiling faces.

After packing all the luggage, we drove away from the airport toward Guatemala City. The sun was still shining through the bus windows, and I smiled. The loving touch of Guatemala never ceased to be present, and I knew that this week was going to be amazing.