The Set Up for a Crazy April

I’ve followed Habitat for Humanity Pensacola’s email newsletter since I volunteered with them in my senior year of high school. Back then, it was all about getting to use a nail gun while meeting the quota of community service hours to graduate. After 3 years of cleaning cemeteries for hours, that nail gun was a power rush. I signed up for the email newsletter and planned to go back to volunteer as soon as I could figure out how to wake up that early on Saturday mornings. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, and the newsletters went without response for years.

Flash forward to late this February. I’m bored and procrastinating by reading my emails, you know the deal. I opened a Habitat newsletter email with “Collegiate Challenge” in the title out of curiosity, but what catches my eye is the graphic at the bottom:


Why yes! Yes I am interested in experiencing other cultures and making a difference! How did you know? A click of the link later shows that there’s a trip to Guatemala in Spring 2016. A few links later, and I’m tweeting about the pros and cons of voluntourism and trying to debate if I should take the time out of school or not for an international jaunt. As it happens, the trip is in early April, immediately after the Southeastern Psychological Association conference. I’ll have to leave directly from the conference in New Orleans to fly to Guatemala City.

So, to sum all the pros up: helping people, practicing my Spanish, getting to spend 8 days out of the country for ridiculously cheap, AND the option to explore some Mayan ruins, a colonial town, or hike a volcano and roast a marshmallow over the top. It didn’t take much convincing.

Next thing you know, I’m filling out applications with Habitat for Humanity, booking tickets to Guatemala City, and making arrangements to get a passport for the first time. Traversing the bureaucracy was it’s own brand of hell, of course, but one week and an absurd amount of money later, I had my very own passport in my hands! As an aside, I’d never considered this because the outsides of the books are pretty subtle, but the internal passport pages are the most patriotic things I’ve seen in my life. Quotes from dead presidents about freedom and independence pasted over red, white, and blue tinted Mount Rushmore and amber waves of grain… it actually might start singing the Star Spangled Banner when I open it on foreign soil for the first time.

Now I’m buying work boots, trying to figure out how to get hair gel through the TSA, and learning a few phrases in the local indigenous language (Kaqchikel, a variant of Maya) before the travel dates. I’m also trying to get a presentable poster ready for the SEPA conference and another separate one for the UWF Student Scholar’s Symposium. Awesome! Also my daughter is potty training right now.

It’s going to be a really interesting couple of weeks.

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