“What does it mean to pack up your bags and go somewhere new? To leave family, friends, school, your way of living… and just restart in a new place, a new country perhaps? Well, these were my thoughts when we first left the United States in January, and I had similar feelings as we left Guatemala for Colombia this week.”
I started planning this blog post entry at the beginning of March.
Oh, how the tables have turned.
So, let’s restart.
What does it mean to be stuck in quarantine during a global pandemic? Not being able to see family and friends, an empty EMU campus, a quiet city, and confusion and worry throughout the world?
We are currently in unmarked territory, and of course, our cross-cultural group was in Guatemala when this all went down.
As of March 15, we officially knew our Colombia plans were cancelled because of COVID-19. The organizations thought it would be unsafe to have foreigners in the national capital, so we decided to change our plans and stay in Guatemala for the remainder of the semester. It was around this time that my free travel group changed our anticipated plans from Belize to Lake Atitlán within Guatemala because we feared that the borders would close within the week we were gone for Community Learning (March 17-21).
March 17 was a tough day. I said goodbye to my host family for the last time and arrived at CASAS sort of ready for a week of community learning. We were supposed to be joining Canadian Mennoite University for the service week, but their group decided to end their trip early and travel back to Canada due to COVID-19. Our EMU group decided to continue in the community learning week and we split into smaller groups and departed our separate ways Monday morning. I personally was travelling to Lake Atitlán. I was thrilled to get out of the busy cityand have some personal space from the group until Saturday.
Oh, how the tables turned yet again.
On our way to Lake Atitlán, our driver pulled over along the road and the CASAS leaders were talking quietly in the front. The rest of us in the van were confused about the unexpected stop.
“What’s going on?” someone asked. A few minutes later, we heard a response.
“President Giammattei had a national announcement this morning. The Guatemalan government closed its borders and the organizations at the lake do not want you guys coming out, so we are turning back around to CASAS” said one of the leaders.
“Oh.” That was all I could think of.
I just said goodbye to my host family, and now I’m not going to Lake Atitlán for the week? What’s next? There were a lot of emotions in the van on the way back. For me, I got that terrible feeling and that I denied the whole ride back to the city.
“We’re not going home. There’s not that many COVID-19 cases in Guatemala. We can still do other things for the next six weeks. This is my cross-cultural experience. I don’t want to leave now.” I kept telling myself.
We learned that afternoon that we were departing back to the states as soon as we could get a flight.
But I didn’t want to leave Guatemala. Not. one. bit.
Now, I feel heart broken. I keep asking, “God, why was my cross-cultural experience cut short?” or “Was this REALLY in your plan for me?”
Today is March 31. It’s the day we should have left for Colombia, but instead, we had our first cross-cultural Zoom meeting in our individual American homes. I was so happy to see my group friends and catch up with their re-entry experiences, but it didn’t feel completely right. I’m used to having meetings in the Guatemalan atmosphere. Are we really taking cultural learning classes through the computer for the upcoming weeks? When I first thought about writing this post, I thought we would be in Colombia now. I was not thinking THIS would be my reality.
“What does it mean to pack up your bags and go somewhere new?”
Change. A LOT of change. And I pray that God will be with us throughout this unknown journey and that he will guide our feet towards his light.”