Breaking Free

October 14, 2008
By Kaitlin Kumlien, Nashotah, WI

Donkeys are walking around carrying homemade goods; filthy children are running barefoot and screaming, “i Aquí arriba!” while kicking a soccer ball down the street. Live animals are surrounding me. People are shouting to hear themselves over the commotion. It is a whirlwind of hectic society. The colors of the market spin together, forming a mixture of confusion and thrill. The only thing standing still is the volcano in the background of Antigua, Guatemala.

The opportunity to go with my school to Guatemala gave me a way to get out of Nashotah, Wisconsin, and explore the world. Before my trip, my life was routine. All I saw was Hartland. Milwaukee, if I was lucky. The only knowledge I had about the world came from the movies.
In Guatemala, I got to be a part of a home stay with three people from my school. We stayed in a house unlike the high-ceilinged, open roomed mansions in Hartland. I did not know my roommates well, but during the trip we became good friends. The family we were living with connected through me because I understood more Spanish than my roommates did (I was in a higher level of Spanish). Mi familia taught me how to speak more fluently. Every night, we would sit and have bonding time under the roof outside of our bedrooms. They taught me new words, sayings, and expressions. I love the family because they share my personality. They love to talk, learn, laugh, and teach.
As I was walking through the crowded mercados and speaking to people, my passion for language grew even more. For ten days, I was immersed in a foreign culture. I was there to learn and become part of the culture.
My roommates thought of this trip as a vacation. For me, it was not a vacation; it was a cultural submersion intended for learning and teaching. Not only did I learn about the Guatemalan culture, but I came home with a new perspective on life. I can no longer look around Hartland and think I have it bad. I saw what life in a war-stricken, third-world country was like. I saw the filthy children running around playing games. I saw the poverty, along with the unawareness of economic situations. My family gave me hope and a new experience. As mi Mama would always say, “Todo necesitan es amor.” All they need is love.

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