Liv’s volunteering in Guatemala
“I can only advise everyone to embark on this adventure. Far too often, people stay in their familiar surroundings or don’t trust themselves to do something. I learned that it pays to jump over your own shadow.”
Liv traveled with WanderWorld Travel to Guatemala for two and a half months. There she experienced wonderful moments with the animals and other participants at the Eco Farm and Wildlife Shelter. In this report she talks about her unforgettable time on site, her experiences and adventures in the project, as well as her free time.
MY FIRST DAYS
Before the start of my trip, I was very well looked after by WanderWorld, so that I could start my adventure abroad with a lot of anticipation. In my first days on site, I was already able to gather great impressions. In the beginning, everything is new and you have to get used to the new daily routine. But once you get used to the new daily routine, you quickly start to feel comfortable. Since there were already other participants in my accommodation, I was very grateful that they showed and explained everything to me directly. They also took me on their excursions and showed me some places. In Antigua I felt very quickly secure and also at home. You can only love this city and I took it directly into my heart.
A NORMAL DAY IN THE PROJECT
My day always started around 8 o’clock. I especially liked the mornings because everything was still so peaceful and sleepy. After breakfast, I walked to the Eco Farm so that I could start my shift there at 9 am. At the farm, there was a short briefing every day where everyone was assigned their tasks and told about any changes. The tasks are very varied and you can bring your own interests and skills into the daily work. For example, you can get involved in gardening and learn a lot about sustainable agriculture or be creative with your crafts. There is always something to do and you never get bored. In addition, there are many animals on the farm, all of which are happy to be cared for. Especially the work with the puppies put a smile on my face every day. At 1 p.m. the shift was over and you could organize your day freely. Either I walked back to the house with my roommates and we cooked ourselves or we had lunch at the farm. On the farm itself, there are also many recreational activities that you can participate in for free. Once we even organized an Oktoberfest, a real experience.
The day at the Wildlife Shelter started early, as the first shift already starts at 06:30. First we prepared breakfast for the enclosures assigned to us. For this purpose, there is a specially compiled nutrition plan for each enclosure, which is adapted to the needs of the respective animals. After preparing the breakfast, the respective enclosures were cleaned, whereby it was important to work thoroughly. After cleaning, the water was changed and the food was distributed to the designated eating places. Afterwards, it was our task to closely observe the animals and their behavior so that any diseases or injuries could be quickly detected.
From 08:00 we had a well-deserved breakfast. Afterwards, we inspected an enclosure with all the keepers and people in charge to discuss any abnormalities. The perfect time for us to ask all our questions and learn a lot. Until the 11:00 a.m. shift, various tasks were then distributed, for example: making small “enrichments” for the parrots, cleaning in the kitchen, cleaning and refilling the pools of the crocodiles and turtles, or installing a privacy screen in new enclosures. Twice a week, a large delivery of fruit and vegetables arrived, and we all pitched in to help with the stowing.
At 11:00 a.m. was the next shift. Here we cleaned the eating areas, changed the water and thoroughly washed the eating boards and put them in front of the enclosures to dry. At 1:00 p.m. we had lunch for all the employees until 2:00 p.m. when it was time for the last shift. Here we prepared lunch for the respective enclosures, brought the lunch boards back to the enclosures and again observed the behavior of the animals. Most of the time, we finished work at 3:00 pm. This we could arrange individually. Often all volunteers and keepers went by boat to Flores, visited beautiful beaches and bays or spent the afternoon on the grounds.
At 6:00 pm we had dinner. If we wanted to have dinner in nearby Flores, we could just tell the cook at lunch and then it was no problem at all. The food there was always typical Guatemalan and the cook always cooked extra for vegans/ vegetarians. It was especially great that no one was too shy to help out everywhere. The working atmosphere was characterized by cordiality, helpfulness and a cheerful interaction with each other.
MY FREE TIME
In my free time, I often went on excursions with the other participants. In Antigua we often walked around, visited some ruins and explored the endless alleys. We also spent a lot of time on the large roof terrace of our accommodation. From there you even have a good view of the active volcano Fuego. The city itself, as well as the places around it are very diverse and there was always something new to explore. The hike up the volcano Acatenango, the visit to Tikal National Park or the time spent in picturesque Flores were also unforgettable. The cooking class that we attended together with other volunteers in Antigua also remains unforgettable.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE CULTURE
When I was traveling in Antigua or working at the Eco Farm, I always noticed how open and warm the Guatemalan culture is. People are always happy and smiling at you, which is a great feeling. On top of that, they are very helpful and would help you with anything as much as they can, even if they don’t even know your name. The culture fascinated me a lot and I hope to have absorbed a part of it as well.
THAT’S WHY I LOVE LATIN AMERICA
My love for Latin America starts with the bright colors that accompany you everywhere you go. Antigua is such a colorful and lively city that you automatically feel good mood. It definitely made me want to go back and explore more exciting countries. The culture here is simply unique and anyone who has been lucky enough to be here will understand what I am talking about.
MY MOST BEAUTIFUL MOMENT
I loved working with the animals and therefore there were countless beautiful moments here. A particularly beautiful moment for me was when the puppies that I had been caring for a few weeks were adopted by a family. At that moment I was close to tears, because I felt that they will have a good life and maybe I could even contribute a small part to it. The excited jumping around of the little dogs is something I will remember forever.
MY FAVORITE PLACE
I was particularly fascinated by Semuc Champey. Here you explore a stalactite cave that is completely different from the caves you know from Germany. I enjoyed that very much and it was a fascinating experience. I was also very impressed by the story about the formation of the cave and I was able to learn a lot of interesting things.
MY TIP FOR FUTURE TRAVELERS
I can only advise everyone to embark on this adventure. Far too often, people stay in their familiar surroundings or don’t dare to do something. I learned that it’s worth jumping over your own shadow. Many things will not go as planned, but this is exactly where you learn to become flexible and more spontaneous. A stay abroad is definitely worth it, if only to get to know new cultures and become completely absorbed in them. Because you are always surrounded by other great people, you don’t have to worry about feeling lonely. A feeling that I liked very much.
THIS IS HOW THE JOURNEY HAS CHANGED ME
I have definitely learned to perceive the present moment more intensely and to appreciate life more. I remembered so many small moments, not just the big picture. On top of that, I learned to approach new people much more openly. I was brave to jump over my shadow and now it is easier for me to ask for help when I need it.