Students share summer anecdotes

Going to Guatemala was seriously the most amazing experience of my life.  I met some amazing members of my faith and made a ton of new friends, many of whom I now consider some of my best friends in the whole world.  Being there was an eye-opening experience that made me realize just how many things I take for granted.  I spent a week way out of my comfort zone, sleeping with spiders and showering with chickens.  My heart overflowed with empathy for the people who live like that everyday.

I stayed in the Polochic, a region in the easternmost part of Guatemala.  In the valleys of that mountainous area there are tons of small villages populated by Mayans that were displaced by Spanish conquistadors.  I worked in two small villages, Senahu (sen-ah-oo) and Seritquiche (ser-a-keetch-ay).  Senahu was slightly more urbanized, with luxuries such as electricity in homes and paved roads.

We stayed in Senahu with locals who spoke Spanish (inhabitants of Seritquiche typically speak Q’eqchi, a dialect derived from Mayan language).  In my broken Spanish, I gathered that my host mother’s husband left her with four baby girls and ran off to Idaho for another woman.  She was not the only one who struggled.  Walking through the streets I saw old men carrying twice their body weight in planks of wood.  I saw tiny boys with bare feet, torn clothes, and rotting teeth and young mothers clutching their babies, floundering to find something for them to eat.  It amazed me most that in spite of it all, these people were happy.

One morning, everyone in my expedition hiked up a hill to a gazebo overlooking the entirety of Senahu.  There was a ledge protruding from the side, just big enough for five of us to sit on with our legs hanging off.  I felt like I was floating above everything.

My trip to Guatemala made me grateful for the life that I have been blessed with.  This earth is beautiful, life is amazing, and although I cannot say for sure that I will be perfectly grateful from here on out, I can promise that I will strive to show my gratitude for the freedom, luxuries, and happiness that I have been given.

-Laynie Calderwood


Lying underneath a giant blue whale was definitely my favorite part of the summer.  Okay, I will be honest, it wasn’t a live blue whale, but it was still pretty great.  I spent my summer as an intern at the American Museum of Natural History, and the most memorable part of the whole experience was wandering the exhibits alone during my free time.  At first it was strange, but I got used to the atmosphere and learned to enjoy and appreciate the opportunity I was given.  One day, I began to think what it would be like to look up from underneath a whale.  Because of this, I decided to lie down on the ground under the blue whale in the Hall of Ocean Life, completely alone, and just relax and enjoy myself.  As I lay down on the ground, I got lost for a little while.  I looked up, only to find waves dancing across the ceiling, and I was able to hear the music of the ocean.  It was then that I  saw a tail that was impossibly huge, frozen in movement across the upper level of the hall.  It was completely mesmerizing and captivating.  I was able to escape from reality, not thinking about any outside stress.  I imagined what it could possibly feel like to be that blue whale, making its way through the beautifully mystifying and dangerous depths of our oceans.  As I took in the moment, a crazy toddler sped by almost trampling over my face.  The spell broke, as I stood up, collecting my things to leave.

-Julia Zeh


This summer I took part in a two-week teen community service program in Guatemala called “Children of the Maya”.  This trip was one of the best experiences of my life.  Throughout my trip, I met the most incredible people, who I know will be life-long friends.  During the amazing fourteen days, my group volunteered at a government-established orphanage almost every morning for three and a half hours.  While we were at orphanage, we repainted walls and created murals that depicted scenes of joy and adolescence: such as rainbows, flowers, butterflies, and cartoon characters.  On our last day at the orphanage, the children enthusiastically helped us finish the final mural.  By its completion, each child’s handprint was stamped onto the trees as leaves on either side of the mural.  It was the perfect final touch.  What amazed me the most was that even after just two weeks, the language barrier between the children and us seemed to dissipate.  When it came time to leave the orphanage, we had to bid our sorrowful farewells.  Everyone was choking up, saying goodbyes that consisted of hugs and whispers of “gracias” and “te amo.”  Tears began to stream down our faces as we realized that these magnificent children had changed our lives, and that this was a once in a lifetime experience.

-Delia Rush