Friday, July 22, 2016
Today’s the day! My day of travel began at 2:30 AM when I left for the airport. I spent the entire previous day preparing for the trip: packing, shopping for supplies, and stopping by practically every bank in town in an attempt to get crisp, clean money (I don’t know why, but for some reason in Guatemala they will only accept new-looking American money). In the end I didn’t have much luck, but I was able to get a great tip that worked out well. Apparently, ironing money between pieces of fabric (I used a t-shirt) will make bills look brand new!
After getting the packing done, I hit the hay at 8 PM and slept till midnight. I was too excited to sleep, so I got up and had something to eat. My 10-year-old woke up and came downstairs to see if I had left yet. Upon finding me, she asked if she could wait with me until I left, which I thought was a great idea. So, we hung out and chatted until 2:30. My husband had fallen asleep, so I woke him up to say goodbye, then my ride got me and off we went. I was really glad that someone was able to drive me, so I didn’t have to wake all of the kids up in the middle of the night to take me to the airport!
After picking up one more team member, we arrived at the airport at 3:30 and got all checked in. Our team of about 30 was unable to all go on one flight, so we were split up onto 3 flights. There was one minor fiasco where I accidentally kicked the hard plastic bottom of my suitcase and ripped half my toenail off (I couldn’t believe how much it bled and how hard it was to find a bandaid!), but overall the entire check-in process was surprisingly quick and easy. The flight I was on left just before 6 AM, so there was enough time to grab some breakfast and caffeine before we left. I was feeling so excited and nervous that I was barely able to eat, but it did at least help pass the time as we sat at the gate waiting to board!
Our first flight took us to Washington, DC. I had never been there before, so it was super exciting to see the Lincoln and Washington memorials, National Mall, and even the White House! The sun was just rising, making the entire experience even cooler. We had a very short layover with just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat before hopping on our next flight. This one was much longer and took us to Miami, FL. This was yet another first for me, as I had never before seen Florida, either.
The next flight, going from Miami to Guatemala City, was the longest leg of the journey at about 2.5 hours. There were some issues with baggage delays, so we sat in the plane for about 30 minutes before taking off. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except there was something wrong with the air conditioning on the flight so that the air it was moving never got cool. I was pretty miserable for the 3 hours I was stuck on that flight! (Little did I know, it was nothing to the heat I was about to experience!)
Flying over Guatemala was pretty amazing. I was really blown away by how lush and green everything was, and the view of the mountains was absolutely spectacular. I hadn’t realized how much I missed seeing mountains since moving away from Colorado. I was deeply moved by the beauty of it all.
I was dismayed upon entering the airport in Guatemala City and discovering that there would be no relief from the heat I had endured since boarding in Miami. It’s a third-world airport, so they do not have any air conditioning whatsoever. I was also shocked at the state of the bathroom. It was less than what I would consider clean and tidy, smelled awful, and there were signs on the doors asking us to throw toilet paper into the trash cans and not flush it down the toilet. (I later learned that this is the case everywhere in Guatemala, not just in the airport. I had never before realized that flushing toilet paper was a luxury that could be taken for granted!) We were all too glad to get through customs (a surprisingly quick and painless process) and get outside into the fresh air. Feeling a cool breeze on our faces was absolutely amazing. Outside we met up with Dave and Debbie Amsler, who would be our missionary hosts for the next 8 days and the rest of our team of about 60 people from 3 different states. We loaded ourselves and all our baggage onto 3 buses and then set out. Driving through Guatemala City for the first time in my life was very interesting. And by interesting, I mean frightening and absolutely insane. I thought California drivers were bad, but they’ve got nothing on Guatemalans! We would quickly learn that we put our lives in the drivers’ hands every time we got on those buses!
We headed straight to a Pizza Hut where we ate dinner, heard speeches from our hosts, had some time to meet and greet one another, and got instructions about the week ahead. From there it was a short drive to the hotel. Wow, what an impressive place that was! I honestly felt guilty getting to stay in such a nice hotel, knowing the level of poverty of the people we where there to help.
We got checked in and settled into our rooms, then rested for the remainder of the evening. We were all exhausted from a very long day of travel, and were more than ready to get some rest so we could get to work the next morning. I was very excited to see what God was going to do!
To read about Day 2, click here.