The Trail of Tears Part 2
category: Emilys Guatemala

To leave our site, we planned on renting a van just for ourselves, but then we put the word out to our friends that they were welcome to ride along if they thought they wanted to, and we could split the cost. Most of them thought it was a great idea. From our house to Huehue, it was just the two of us with the driver Mario and his wife, who he brought along for company and so she could enjoy the scenery. The ride through the mountains was beautiful, watching the sun come up and turn the sky red, watching the deep shadows of that first light slowly recede as the hill turned greenish gold. We watched Kab’ tzin, the two stone monoliths, grow larger until they were right up next to us and then behind us. The smell of hot coffee was enough to perk up Mario when I popped that thermos open. The red sword flowers and little gold blossoms were brilliant against the dark green rocky fields. I just tried to soak in every minute of it until we started the descent into Huehue where things are still nice looking, but definitely not as lovely as the top.

Funny side note, we still had a vaccination cooler from the ministry of agriculture, and though I’d called our contact there to try and get it back to him, I had no luck until the day before we left. He said he’d be climbing up to a village in the cumbre, and since there’s only one road I just had to keep an eye out for his white truck. Sure enough, we passed him, and since I had my phone out, I made Mario pull over and called Nelson to turn around. We handed off the cooler with a list inside of how many chickens we’d vaccinated in various communities, then took off in opposite directions. One more final task finished.

First we picked up Maggie from Aguacatan just outside of Huehue, where I started crying all over again just watching her have to say goodbye to her host family. Then we picked up the much-less-sad and much-less-weighed down Ana and Dan in Huehue. Those two weren’t moving out just yet, but they wanted to come to our final lunch the following day. The last stop was to pick up Ashley and Anne and all their luggage at the Pollo Campero in Cuatro Caminos, one of the few intersections outside of Guatemala City where there are stop lights. They were both driven to the Campero by friends and community members, dressed in full traje and bawling. I started crying all over again. But once we were all squished into the van amongst our luggage and on our way to Antigua, it felt good to be surrounded by people who knew just what it was we were was going through. Somehow I’ve turned into my mother’s daughter with this PackSnacks mentality (because buying them elsewhere is more expensive and less healthy!), so I had found time the last day in site to bake cranberry scones for breakfast and to turn our leftover garbanzo beans into hummus dip. Ashley brought a bag of donut holes from the famous Bake Shop in Xela to help drown our sorrows. It was never a problem that someone would randomly start crying, and no one ever had to explain why. As tired as we all were, I don’t think any of us slept on this last journey down the InterAmerican highway.

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The following day, Wednesday July 14, we had to run around the Peace Corps center to collect all the necessary signatures to leave: to receive health insurace, to get our cash in lieu of a plane ticket, to say that we had indeed (FINALLY) finished our SPA project, and to turn in any and all things that belonged to Peace Corps…so much to do! But once the entire page and a half of signatures was full, then and only then would we really no longer be volunteers after midnight on July 17.

There was also a lunch that day, in honor of all of us who were completing our service and all the Peace Corps staff. In Guatemala you get diplomas for everything, and they mean a lot to the people who receive them. Peace Corps gave each of us our very own diploma for making it through two years in Guatemala. We were invited to say a few words, and I felt compelled to thank all of the staff and my fellow volunteers and my husband, for helping me realize a long standing dream of mine, to serve in the Peace Corps. It’s an organization full of hardworking, dedicated men and women, and it was truly an honor to serve here. I connected early on in our service with Anne, my best friend in our training group, because this had been something we’d both wanted to do for so long. It was great to sit beside her at the very end and hold our diplomas, saying that we’d “successfully completed service with the United States Peace Corps.” Again, many tears. Feeling absolutely worn out that afternoon we went to quit our crying over giant dessert crepes at our favorite little French place in Antigua, the Luna de Miel. Anne and I always share the peach crepe with ice cream instead of whipped cream.

Thursday was spent saying goodbyes to our host families from training. We went to San Luis, where Fletch had lived, along with Anne, to say goodbye to families there, and in the afternoon we went to my host family’s house for dinner. I was feeling so emotionally drained that I didn’t think I’d survive the dinner, and I started crying on the bus to Pastores. But again we heard the same thing: “Thank you.” My host father Hilario started off by saying, “Two things. First, thank you for coming to help my country. You’ve done wonderful and necessary work. Two, thank you for remembering us and coming to say goodbye.” Then I was glad I’d made the effort. We had the usual dinner of eggs, beans, tortillas, cream, and tea, as we shared a summary conversation about our two years and answered their questions. It was good to have gone, and good to return to the hotel in Antigua for some well-earnerd sleep.

Posted by: emily