Guatemala A journey that gave me A family!


Friday, March 10th, 2017

The day included the following:

Check-in at Philadelphia Airport: Poor Parth and Rachel struggled through luggage checking whereas Khyati made it through so easily.

Travel: United Airlines (UA) Philadelphia, USA to Houston, USA (UA1957K) + United Airlines (UA) Houston, USA to Guatemala City, Guatemala (UA1751K)

Arrival at Guatemala City Airport

La Aurora International Airport, Guatemala City, Guatemala
Wall art found in the streets of Panajachel
Hotel Rancho Grande Inn, Panajachel with the amazing Guatemala snapchat filter

First Guatemala Dinner:

Amazing "VEGETARIAN" dinner

The experiences I had in America over the four years were way different than I had on the first day in Guatemala. It was totally different and took me back to my days in India, reminding me of my home! In Panajachel, I barely saw an ambulance or a hospital in the parts of the town where we walked around and resided.

The people at the airport and hotel were so welcoming and open to share their culture. The first night at the hotel and restaurant reminded me of India, where the small streets with people walking on the streets and cars honking to get a way. From that very moment, Guatemala occupied a small corner in my heart. I considered it being home away from home with friends being my family.

The first day there were a lot of questions that were not answered which included the following:

  1. What's next?
  2. Can I get more of Guatemala?
  3. How can the people be so welcoming and open to share their cultures to strangers?

When Land meets Water!

Saturday, March 11th, 2017

Woke up at 7:30 AM for that amazing breakfast. We thought the pancakes were biscuits but we were wrong! The fresh orange juice, amazing brewed coffee, honey syrup and juicy fruits made my stomach really happy!

My favorite people waiting for the pancakes (PC: Megan Romeo)
Let's take our first group picture before we go on that boat ride! This picture has been my desktop wallpaper till today, you know why? It increases my screen brightness because of the amazing bright and lit people in there!
Living on the edge of the boat! I was scared to on the edge, not going to lie but you got to take the risk for a picture with an amazing background.
Water + Mountains + Clouds + Snapchat Filter = Best Combination (What else do you want?)
Beautiful streets of San Juan, Guatemala
Cafe La Voz (Coffee Plantation & Tour) in San Juan
That coffee still keep me awake till today
Ancient church in San Juan, Guatemala
Manager of the Coffee Plantation that provided us with additional details about the plantation and how coffee was grown, processed and exported.
Our tour guide showing us the packed coffee beans for exporting
  • As a visitor to this land, examine your experiences including a brief analysis of something related to the cultural differences in the land compared to your lived experience in the US or elsewhere.
  • Keep within the context of a “culture of health”.
  • The church visit and coffee plantation tour showed how people were religious and dedicated to their work. The church was well maintained and people had faith in God that He will heal and protect them from every difficulties that comes in their life.
  • Coffee tour showed how much work it requires in making the amazing coffee that keeps me awake during my finals week.

Details at the end of the day:

  • Coffee isn't grown the way I thought it was!
  • Different Christian cross in Guatemala church made me learn more about Christianity and provided me with additional details.
  • Tuk Tuks reminded me of rickshaws in India so again made me miss home!
  • The weather that day was sunny and as we rode the boat, the mist that penetrated our clothes and skin made the day even more perfect. We then went to the Cafe La Voz, one of the many coffee plantations in Guatemala. We learned that Guatemala is exploited by developed countries for its resources that in America Guatemalan coffee would be sold $15 a packet whereas there it is only 10 Quetzales ($1= about 7.61 Q)

Being Rutgers-man!

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

We started the day with natural garden with butterflies, hiking about twenty miles (as Sierra’s walk watch said) up the mountains to zipline the seven “Ultra Extreme” ziplining paths. I outgrew my fear for wooden bridges but I told myself that if Khyati can do it then I can totally be better than her. It was my first zipline experience to the many to come. I really liked flying with cape as it gave me more confidence and encouraged me to go with passion showing the Rutgers passion!

Beautiful butterfly (PC: Alessia Mattioli)
  • From Panajachel to Chichicastenango, our bus ride took another two and half to three hours from our first hotel to the second.
  • Here, I learned more about the Guatemalan culture. The Guatemalan people are religious, frugal, and convincing.
  • Churches were found in the midst of the crowded markets.
  • I have purchased my first souvenir for my mom and then helped everyone bargain prices.
  • People did not have much but they still showed appreciation and kept a smile on their face being so welcoming to their stores and trying to show the best customer service they can even when they did not know English.
  • Presentation at AMA, a place that became home for most of our trip, was amazing as it introduces me to the non-profit that we will be assisting for the next following days.
AMA (PC: Alessia Mattioli)

Questions I came across throughout the day:

  • “How Long Is The Bus Ride?
  • I am so thirsty, can I have some water?
  • How much? Donde? Cuanto? and many more with my broken Spanish. I probably made the shopkeepers go crazy with my bargaining skills.

Building Stoves: Making A Difference

Monday, March 13th, 2017

The day started with Mayan Breakfast in the morning at AMA house. The great thing about the breakfasts was not only the food but we will get to know more about the Mayan culture but the printout that will talk about the Mayan calendar providing details about that particular day and what characterized it.

Mason teaching us how to build a stove with the materials like bricks, sand and mortar
Amazing team members that helped us build the stove at our resident's kitchen
Megan and I working on the base of our stove after leveling the floor

Here is the city where we faced more challenges and hands-on services like building the plancha stoves, understanding the religious rituals, and educating the Mayan women. During our stay, the Mayan women cooked and looked after us, we were like family.

This is the city where I learned to be less conscious of myself and more concerned towards both the others in our group and the indigenous people. The Mayan women at AMA cooked, fed, and entertained us to their most potential while we had speakers who educated us about the natural health method the Guatemalans used such as bleeding oneself to reduce high blood pressure. Each long day and long night exhausted us as we would get up at 6:30 AM and not sleep till the speakers left at 9-10 PM.

Love, Unity, Happiness, Gratitude, Humility

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017
More stove building...
Carrying those watered bricks for second level of the stove!
This biscuits were always there when I was hungry

Medical Clinic + School Teaching

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017
Teaching Kids about Sugar Shock!
Teaching the ladies/mothers about various medical information that will be helpful for home remedies and in absence of medical facilities
Running around with the kids got us so tired so ended up taking pictures afterwards to catch our breaths!

After Solola, we visited the village of Nahuala. There, we met upon thirty to forty more Mayan women and educate them about exercise and diabetes. We met a bone setter which is specialized in healing sprains and fracture by using natural methods such as relying on medical herbs and plants. At the end of the day, we felt yet again accomplished just as we finished the stoves prior to this day.

Muchas Gracias!

Thursday, March 16th, 2017
All the pretty ladies rocked those local Guatemalan outfits (My lady looked the prettiest)
Alessia as always being a great mom!
Those smiles made those goodbyes really hard!
  • After two days of working on the plancha stoves, in addition, we educated the Mayan women and their families about diabetes.
  • Some of our members asked their medical family history (in Spanish), worked with the people to test their glucose levels, measure their height and weight, and keep records for their future reference.
  • Before our departure, the children could not cease to play with our hairs, ask for Polaroid photos, and the families cannot keep thanking us for our service.
  • At the end of the day we were given flowers which they collected and wrapped with intricate, small table cloth that they themselves have hand-made.
  • It was difficult to say good-bye that we ended up staying until the food arrived.
  • Lastly, they clothed all the females like themselves which made it difficult for us to hold back tears. I wish they had something for the guys as I was undressed while all those ladies rocked their outfits and I ended up taking pictures for everyone!

Good-byes and New Beginnings

Friday, March 17th, 2017
Hot Spring Place!
Natural Hot Spring with Sulfur from the lava
We couldn't resist for too long being outside the hot springs
Had to pose for the picture. Mike trying to take a picture with his GoPro under the water!

On the last day at Quetzaltenango, our group met other members of the AMA (Asociaciones de Mujeres de Atltiplano), Women association of the Highlands, the organization that works with the larger non-profit organization Highland Support Project that we both worked with in order to connect to the people of Guatemala and carry out our service.

In addition, we educated them about childbearing and how to monitor blood pressure. This day was the start of less work as we wind down, approaching the ending days of our learning abroad trip. During these times, we were finally able to sleep and had more time to talk with each other of our own reflections of the prior days. This is when our group became more tight-knit and I enjoyed the visit to the hot spring afterwards with everyone. No one wanted to leave but we had to as we had to reach Antigua before it was too dark.


Saturday, March 18th, 2017

From Quetzaltenango to Antigua, we have grown more into a family.

Mayan Ruins
Model of the whole establishment of the Mayan Ruins
Mayan Ruins Tourists

We learned about the Mayan history during the visit to the Mayan ruins. We also got the chance to see how Mayan women weave clothing and purchased products from AMA’s own souvenir store, Pixan.

Hotel Room at Camino Real, Antigua
Hotel Bathroom
The ginger drink that everyone loved on their arrival, maybe it was just them being tired and thirsty!

Shopping, Salsa Dancing, Rooftops, Last Guatemala Meal

Sunday, March 19th, 2017

The city of Antigua was beautiful and the markets were full of color. The vivid material which the blankets, bags, hats, and clothing were made out of were from Guatemala’s own plants that produces bead-like beans with color. Most of the store took dollars or Quetzals so it was not difficult to buy stuuf in and around the market. Great coffee shops and amazing city to hangout and walk around with your friends. Hotel was every better which made it hard for me to leave the indoors and go to outdoors. Overall, souvenir shopping is worth it either you get steal deals or expensive deals with the vendors. One thing for sure, the Guatemalan people are determined vendors who will not allow bargaining unless you persist! Unfortunately, we had to say our good-bye to Guadalupe (Lupe)!

Reaching the airport and realizing that my phone was stolen or lost was like the worst part of the trip but at the end the picture, memories and friend...oops sorry family I made covered about the sadness of losing something materialistic and gaining all the love and affection from everyone!

Back to United States of America and time for some reflections and realizing the sadness to be back to the reality!!!

Monday, March 20th, 2017

The most important lesson I learned was that any day above ground is a great day, because anybody else could be having it worse. Be thankful for what you do got rather than wishing for something you do not have. For example, I realized that I am fortunate to be given the opportunity to travel and learn abroad while so many would want to but cannot. To make most of college experience is to really appreciate what is available to you and never cease to learn different ways. Learning is flexible and never ending.


1. Based on the readings, lectures and observations during the course, please explain your insight into the sociocultural, economic, legal and political factors influencing healthcare delivery and practice in Guatemala.

I changed my perspective that not everything will always not run out, we have to always remind ourselves to conserve and just because there is ample of something, does not mean it can exhaust in the future. Similarly, I learned that just because you may not have plenty of something does not mean you cannot help. The readings, lectures and in-person observations provided me a different way to loving and exposure to be a better person not just for myself but for others in need.

2. Based on the readings, lectures and observations, what are some of Guatemala’s health policy implications on issues of health equity and social justice?

Based on the readings and observations, I can conclude that the Guatemala government and people have not established stable health services. These folks are cable but I think the lack of education or financial support makes them deprived of what they are really capable of doing and being in a better situation than they are right now. The issue of health equity and social justice will be solved if everything is addressed from the basic level of education and awareness about the other medical aspects necessary for better living.

3. What similarities and differences do you see when comparing Guatemalan culture to your country of birth?

I realized that it is easy to get acquainted to the habit of being wasteful when you are living in a place where there is ample of basic needs such as water. I learned how to conserve basic needs such as soap and conditioner. Before I would just lather myself up with as much soap on my skin and as much conditioner to my hair, without thinking about it because I have plenty of it. In contrast, people in Guatemala are still facing lack of water and droughts. We had to get used to using bottled water to brush our teeth because the consequences of using the tap water is the same feeling of a traveler’s diarrhea. It was very similar to my homeland, India, and in previous slides I mentioned that a couple of times. The rich culture and amazing people make Guatemala one of my favorite places to visit.

4. What was the greatest barrier/challenge related to this experience? How did you attempt to overcome the barrier/challenge?

My biggest challenge was language. I knew the book Spanish but when it came to implementing with people talking, I almost failed or looked for assistance. I asked for help when I needed and used technology as a medium to convey my message and interpret what they were trying to say to me. Even though, I failed a few times, I learnt from my mistakes. Despite knowing that the Highlands are remote, lack resources, and lack technology, the people there were still managing and thriving to live their lives. They do not waste, that is one of the explanation. Despite they are impoverished of resources, the Guatemalan people appreciate what they are blessed with. With humility and confidence, they come as they are. At the churches, many prayed with their heads bowed to their knees on the floor as they face the cross at the altar. Also, using candles, holding religious ceremonies, and looking after each others’ backs are the other explanations why such a strong tight-knit community is able to thrive in such a remote region. Knowing that bowing down to God was not a sign of weakness but seeking for his blessings to be even stronger than you were before. The barriers challenged me to be better and make my experience into my strength. The willingness to learn the unknown made me realize that anything is possible and I can do it!

5. What did you learn about yourself as you interacted with the team and the Guatemalan people?

My personal statement that include the things that I learned from the trip whether it be people on the trip or people I met in Guatemala. I hope to travel, photograph, write, and ultimately inspire others through my shared experiences upon embarking and learning throughout these learning abroad adventures. “Because of you (referring to our whole Rutgers University group), the hills will not cry no more” as translated from the words of the Mayan women. I hope that same feeling of gratitude and appreciation will always remind and teach the generation today and the succeeding generations to never forget where they come from and what they have. We may not always receive for what we give unto others, but what we sow, we will reap. I hope that in sharing my experience on my first learning abroad will not only encourage others to engage in learning beyond a classroom environment but encourage others to never forget how to feel, remember, and reflect on both who they are as person and who they are yet to be. For the Mayan women and Guatemalan people in general, a comfortable life can simply mean having drinkable water, food to eat, and a place to sleep. Yet, uncountable of them still do not meet the basic needs but still they are willing to give and help just like how we were welcome to their homes. We were welcomed, fed, clothed, and most of all healed. I felt accepted, needed, and appreciated as much as I did for them. There is no greater love than finding yourself again in an age and generation in which people have become dependent on technology and have become blind and deaf to the calling or purpose of their lives. I hope to inspire people not merely to encourage them but to inspire, meaning to awaken them from their sleep and state of fear resulting in lack of communication, lack of understanding, and lack of listening and seeing the life around them. I hope that others will find peace in their hearts and minds once they take the time to discover their purpose. To be loved, you need to spread the love to others!

Love them all. I can proudly say that I don't have friends but I have a family!
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