When exhaustion, brain block, and emotional drainage are all screaming that you need to spend the next 24 hours sitting on the couch staring blankly at a television screen, you need to tell yourself “Si se peude!” (Yes, you can). And that is the only option. The last few days have been a whirlwind of nonstop Go, Go, Go. Each day has blended into the next and I find myself wondering how I got to be sitting in my homestay bedroom here in Xela, Guatemala. My fellow MS1 graduate Sara and I completed our final exam of our first year and proceeded to celebrate by packing for 6 weeks in Central America. Our flight plans, which included a 7-hour lay over in LAX and a 6:45 am arrival in Guatemala City, did not spare us a moment to catch our breaths or celebrate properly. But we know the journey will be worth it. We will be spending the next 6 weeks participating in a non-profit program called Somos Hermanos. Students from medical schools across the country will be spending their “last summer” living in a homestay, taking 4 hours of private Spanish lessons a day, and volunteering in medical clinics.
Upon arriving in Guatemala City, we located a group of students from UCSD (they had luckily had a week to recuperate after their last exams). We all boarded a shuttle that took us to meet the rest of the Somos Hermanos group in a nearby hostel. When Sara and I entered the building we immediately went looking for our classmate Quinn, who had braved the hostel over night. We found her asleep in the top bunk of one the rooms. After a short orientation, where we met students from medical schools including USC, UCSF, Tulane, George Washington, Albert Einstein, University of Arizona, Creighton and Oklahoma State, we piled 22 people worth of luggage into 2 vans and began the 5 hour drive to Xela, the second largest city in Guatemala.
Once in Xela, we gathered at the school to meet our teachers and be picked up by our host moms. Elisa Rojas, our house mom for the next 6 weeks helped drag my second suitcase over the uneven, cobbled rocked carpet of the Guatemalan streets to our house. Her family was sitting outside in the yard of their 3 story house playing with their 2 puppies. We kissed and hugged Elisa’s 9 children and her husband Dr. Alvero Rojas.
After settling into our shared bedroom on the second floor, Sara and I had a light dinner of beans, patators, and tortillas. We spent the night talking to the eldest brothers, who are studying medicine at San Carlos University, and comparing medical curriculums between Guatemala and United States (in broken Spanish). Tomorrow we will be transitioning to only speaking Spanish with each other and starting our first day of classes. We are ready to immerse ourselves in the culture of our new home and learn as much as we can. It is going to be a great 6 weeks!