Field report

ASUDE'S JOURNEY THROUGH LATIN AMERICA

The people of Latin America are unique! Both in their way of thinking and their way of life. Every culture has its own peculiarities, but the warmth unites them all.

December 2020 - April 2021
Our participant Asude in Guatemala

Asude travelled to Latin America with our organization for four months and had an unforgettable time there, gaining many formative experiences. She worked in our hostels in Mexico and Guatemala and helped out in our children's aid project in Colombia. In this report, Asude shares her impressions and also gives valuable tips for future travelers.

ASUDES PROGRAM:

My preparation time

I had already planned my trip with WanderWorld before the pandemic and was just waiting for the situation to ease so I could finally set off. In January 2021, the time should finally come.

The preparation time was very relaxed for me. To be honest, I didn't do much preparation as I felt well looked after by WanderWorld Travel. I also wanted to be surprised by what was to come and didn't want to plan everything in detail. However, the excitement slowly built up while I was packing and, of course, the anticipation too. Using the preparation lists, I was able to get an idea of what I should take with me in terms of luggage and was then able to board the plane feeling relaxed.

The first days

The first few days after my arrival in Costa Rica were very exciting, as everything was new and there was a lot to see. When we arrived at the airport in San José, my fellow travelers and I were picked up directly and taken to our hostel, where we spent the first two days together. The next day, we were warmly welcomed by our contact person Lisa, who showed us around San José and showed us the most beautiful corners of the city. The streets were colorful, the people were super friendly and the food was varied and exceptional. Together we went out for a typical Costa Rican meal in a restaurant and ate a delicious dish of rice and beans. There was also some music and nice service. We felt incredibly comfortable!

After a few days, we traveled on to our respective project locations and got to work.

A day at the Hostel Experience & Youth Development Project

My first hostel was located on a beautiful Caribbean island in Mexico. I was assigned to the entertainment department and was responsible for the guests' activities. My daily routine was very relaxed and every day was different. For example, my tasks consisted of organizing excursions by bike to the various beaches for the hostel guests and accompanying them. In the evening, for example, I held cocktail classes or helped with the pool parties. I was able to get to know a lot of people from different countries around the world and quickly make new friends. One skill I learned during my time in Mexico was how to bring people from different cultures together. It takes a lot of self-confidence to approach people and get them involved, but I got better and better at it over time. I had a contact person who explained to us how to motivate people and which games work well to bring a group together. One thing I particularly liked was the turntable. It was like a wheel of fortune that the guests could spin and then there were different tasks or challenges to complete on the individual fields. This relaxed the atmosphere and people got to know each other better. One task, for example, was to go up to a member of staff at the hostel and give them a kiss on the cheek. In the evenings, for example, we also organized beer pong championships where guests could win free drinks.

My second hostel was in the small colonial town of Antigua in Guatemala. Here I mostly worked at the hostel bar during the day. I learned how to make a wide variety of cocktails and I always had the opportunity to meet new people. My day usually started with setting up and preparing the bar and then serving some of the guests at the tables. At the beginning, I learned how to make simple drinks and cocktails and was shown how to prepare a gin and tonic or Cuba Libre properly. After a while, I also learned more specialized things, such as a "Michelada". This is a somewhat strange-looking mixed drink made from tomato juice and Mexican beer. I prepared "cimarronas" particularly often. This is one of the most famous drinks in Guatemala and was drunk very often. To make it, you first put some lime on the rim of the glass and then dip it in salt. The drink is made by adding salt, lime juice, ice and soda to the glass. Then add a straw and a lime as decoration - and you're done! Super tasty and very easy to prepare. What I particularly liked about this job was that I was always in contact with guests and had people around me. I was also allowed to work freely very quickly and was given a lot of responsibility.

In my volunteer project on an island off the coast of Cartagena in Colombia the working hours varied greatly, as we had different projects every day. In the Youth Development Project, children and young people are given access to education and various workshops are offered. I usually spent around two hours helping with language lessons or homework and then played or did arts and crafts with the children. One day, for example, we organized a beach clean-up for the slightly older children. Waste disposal is a big problem at Tierra Bomba, so it is important that the children and young people learn as much as possible about it. We prepared everything early in the morning and brought garbage bags, cool drinks and food to the harbor. At around 7 a.m., all the children were given gloves and bin bags and we cleaned the beach together. We made sure that the garbage was separated as we collected it. Bottles, for example, were collected and then reused to build a hut. This is how the children and young people learn about "upcycling". Bottle caps were also saved and could then be used later by the younger children for handicrafts. The campaign aims to teach the children and young people how important it is not to consume too much and to recycle and, above all, separate and dispose of waste correctly. After work, we usually cooked together with the other volunteers - some of whom were locals from Bogota - and talked a lot. It was a great community and there was always something to laugh about. I also particularly enjoyed the days when women from other cities came to the project and gave talks in the "women's class". It was mostly about teaching the girls about their bodies. On one occasion, the children were asked to draw their own bodies and then talk about what they particularly like about themselves. They were also allowed to compliment each other. It is often difficult for the girls there to talk about their own feelings and it was only here that I realized how extreme the difference is to Germany. Some of the opportunities that are completely normal for us don't even exist in Colombia and if they do, then many children there are not aware of them. The Youth Development Project does a great job of offering the children a future.

My free time in Latin America

In my free time, I often went to the beach or out with friends and visited the cities. The excellent locations of the project locations allow for a varied leisure program. On my days off, I also went on one or two day trips to more distant places to discover even more, which was great for a change.

In Colombia I went on an excursion to San Gil with a friend one day during my trip, from where we were taken by mini-bus to the starting point for the highest bungy jump in South America. From there you jump 140 meters into the depths - pure thrills! The location is breathtaking even without the bungy jump. You are on a high point between two mountains, with a small stream flowing in the valley and a view of the small town of Barichara. After all the action, we drove to the small village, which is somewhat similar to Antigua and has a lot of charm. There we had dinner in a local restaurant. The perfect end to the day.

In Mexico my project was on the small island of Holbox, which has an incredible number of beautiful beaches. On a day off, I rode my bikes to Punta Cocos beach with some friends from the hostel. The ride alone was a real experience, as there are no real roads on Holbox and there had been heavy rain shortly beforehand, so we had to ride through lots of puddles. After about 20 minutes, we arrived at the beach and relaxed and enjoyed the crystal-clear water. We spent the day playing countless games. One of them was called "Plomita" and is similar to the twister we are familiar with in Germany. A large circle is drawn with a stick and you line up back to back in the middle. The first person is then allowed to take a big step with the stick in their hand and reposition the stick. Then the name of another player is said, who has to grab the stick with one hand and then repeat the same process. We laughed a lot during the game and had a great day. There is also a particularly amusing local who walks around Punta Cocos every day with a box in front of his belly, selling empanadas in a variety of shapes and sizes. He is simply part of the beach and conveys a warm feeling. In the evening, we enjoyed the sunset before riding our bikes back to the hostel. We often visited this beach with guests from the hostel.

In Guatemala there was a beautiful viewpoint very close to my hostel. We often walked there with the guests from the hostel. You walk about 10 minutes to a small mountain and then another 10 minutes up the mountain. From there you have a wonderful view over the whole of Antigua. You can see over the city and marvel at all the volcanoes in the surrounding area. I particularly enjoyed going up here for the sunset. It always had a very special atmosphere. Afterwards, we went out to eat in a restaurant in Antigua. The restaurants there are often very inconspicuous and you don't really know what to expect. In one local restaurant, for example, there are different dishes from different Latin American countries in every corner. There is also a small fountain in the middle, which creates a really nice atmosphere. You simply sit down in one area of the restaurant and can then choose a dish. I ate meat with a very special sauce and vegetables. It was very tasty!

My experience with culture

The people of Latin America are unique! Both in their way of thinking and their way of life. Every culture has its own peculiarities, but the warmth unites them all. Whether it's tacos in Mexico or arepas in Colombia... The food is delicious and you can never get enough. What particularly fascinated me was the attitude of the people, as everyone goes through life very calmly and lives in the moment, whereas in Europe everything is usually very hectic.

The open-minded nature and warmth of the people is unique and definitely rubs off! There are wonderful places to discover and different cultures to get to know. For me, Latin America is a place where you can always discover something new and also learn a lot.

My most beautiful moments

I had the opportunity to learn something new every day. Be it a word in Spanish or a new dish. There were many wonderful moments on my trip, but one highlight was the trip to the Acatenango volcano in Antigua. Hours of hiking, cold and exertion, but every single step was worth it, because the feeling of having reached the top is breathtaking. I think the photos speak for themselves and as the saying goes "sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words".

My favorite place

Each place fascinated me in its own way!

The island of Holbox is extraordinary in its layout of streets and small houses. Punta Mosquito beach in Mexico is one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. And don't forget the little taco stands!

Antigua is a small town, but so diverse in all its facades that it could be a big city. The architecture is incredible and there is something completely new behind every door.

No matter where you are in Latin America, you will fall in love with the unique places and everywhere you go you will find something that will inspire you.

Why I love Latin America

I love the open-minded people, the delicious and varied food, the beautiful places and the different cultures. For me, Latin America is a place where you can always discover something new and also learn a lot.

How the trip changed me

I had the opportunity to learn a lot on my trip, even if it wasn't always good things. I have become much more independent, self-confident and also more self-assured in my decisions as a result of my trip. Embarking on such a journey means being courageous, acting responsibly and taking risks. Over time, I have also been able to adopt the laid-back attitude of the people. Every single place I have seen and every single person I have met has influenced me positively or negatively on my journey. This allowed me to continue to develop day by day. When you travel, you experience your impact and charisma on other people and get to know yourself from a whole new perspective. Especially when you spend your time alone and have to plan independently!

My tips for future participants

Enjoy every moment! There is so much to discover, even if sometimes you don't know exactly where to start.

Another tip that would have helped me when packing: as they say, "less is more". It's best to take as little as possible with you, because traveling light is always easier. If you still need a few things, you can easily get them locally.

Also, be open to new things and don't be afraid to make mistakes. You can learn an incredible amount on a trip like this!

And very important: don't be afraid to travel alone, because only when you are really on your own do you learn how to deal with many situations and gain an incredible amount of self-confidence.

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