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Pepperdine | Caruso School of Law

Arrived Alone, Left With a Family

By: Melissa C.

Before leaving to Guatemala, I knew that I was going to be alone. As opposed to everyone traveling to Uganda, Rwanda and India, I was going to Guatemala by myself, and I thought that was okay. However, my first few weeks I realized that even though I have traveled plenty, I had always traveled with more people. This was the first time that I was completely alone and had to get out of my comfort zone to get to know people.

The first days at the office I quickly realized that Guatemalans (or as Guatemalans call themselves, chapines) are very much like Mexicans, where I am from. They are kind, warm, friendly, and treated me like part of the legal team since day 1.  I soon felt comfortable to make jokes and be honest about everything I was feeling. The lawyers made it a point to make me a welcome breakfast, invite me to visit Lago Atitlan (an amazing place you should go if you are ever in Guatemala!), always extend an invitation to have lunch with them, and on my last day, a goodbye lunch.

I also grew very fond of our mornings at the office: Quiet time, prayer time, and coffee time with the lawyers while we all prepared for a day of work. At these times of the day I learned that Guatemalans drink their coffee with some special cookies to dip into their coffee. I learned that Guatemalans really want to make their country a better place. I learned that work was not individualistic but communal, since everyone helped each other out. Most importantly, I learned that I was not alone and that leaving these amazing people was going to be extremely hard. And it was.