I’m here! A little exhausted and somewhat overwhelmed, but safe, happy, and so excited for the adventures (and hard work) ahead. My journey started around 4am this morning as I headed to the airport to catch a 6am flight to Houston, and a connecting flight onwards to Guatemala City. The “trusty CE Solutions cab driver” Don Tono picked me up at the airport and drove me the hour or so into Antigua. I had just enough time to literally check into my hotel and drop off my things but then headed right to the office to get started.
The rest of the day has been crazy from there. I spent the morning and early afternoon at the office, sharing lunch with a few of my coworkers in celebration of one of their birthdays (you guessed it – fried chicken from Pollo Campero) and meeting tons of different people. The office is cute but not fancy. There’s a shared work space with tables, a computer and printer, and a dorm area where the Field Consultants stay during the monthly staff meetings, along with a small bathroom and kitchen. Everything opens up into a really pretty patio area and garden. After lunch, I headed over to the bank to open up an account and to fill out some paperwork for my local health insurance plan, a pretty confusing process navigate with my still somewhat-rusty Spanish. Then, I was introduced to the 30+ students who are here through the Social Entrepreneur Corps program as our interns for this summer – pretty funny that I’m only a year or two older than many of them! They’re broken up into teams of ten and have been spending the past week or so doing Spanish language training (four hours a day of one-on-one tutoring) and learning about SolCom’s work, programs, and products. Starting next week, they’ll be going off on field weeks all around the country – one of the groups will be coming to my region, Solola, to work with Bo and I in San Juan (Bo is the Field Consultant in Antigua, but he will be working with me in Solola during the duration of the SECorps program as I get adjusted). I’m the only new Field Consultant, though we do have one other new person on staff, Jorge, who is a previous SECorps intern and so is here just for the summer to help us out.
The rest of my week is shaping up to be just as crazy as today. Tonight, we’re having a team dinner in Antigua to celebrate my arrival and the departure of my predecessor, Michelle, and our Country Director, Lydia. Tomorrow morning, Michelle and I are taking an 8am shuttle back to Pana. I’m checking into a hotel as the apartment we had lined up fell through at the last minute, and Michelle is going to help me find at least a temporary apartment within the next few days. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be visiting the office/storefront in Solola, on Thursday I’ll be going to San Juan to meet a few of our partner communities and organizations, and then Friday I’ll be back here in Antigua to help out with what’s supposed to be a very successful campaign with our SECorps students. On Monday, I’m heading back to Solola with my group of ten students but will be going directly to San Juan, where we’ll be for the week doing a few different field research projects with the students’ VNGO (Virtual NGO) groups. Michelle will be leaving shortly after that but hopefully by then I’ll have a good grasp over all of the different products and programs of the organization!
It’s been a jam-packed first day in-country, but I really couldn’t have asked for a better one. Everyone has been so nice and welcoming, my hotel is perfectly comfortable (I’m staying here rather than in the dormitory with the other Field Consultants simply because of lack of space – but honestly having some space to myself on my first night is pretty nice), I surprised myself with how much of my Spanish I’m recalling after not using it much since leaving Madrid last May, and I already feel like a part of the CE Solutions team (though of course, I still have much to learn). One important lesson learned today, though – never again will I pack my raincoat at the bottom of my suitcase when traveling to Guatemala during rainy season!