It all comes down to first impressions. Maybe it shouldn’t. But, though we tell each other “not to judge a book by its cover,” realistically, it’s hard not to do so. With international teaching, I think this is especially true. When you’re setting yourself in a new country where you know no one or almost no one, a good first impression will color your entire experience.
Thankfully, I’m happy to say my first impression of Guatemala and my new school has been a great one.
But let’s backtrack a bit so I can tell you about the journey to get there.
When I was packing on Tuesday (because I always leave packing until the day before leaving), I was chatting with my friend Lucas, who has been teaching in Guatemala the past 2 years. He brought up the travel embargo during the summer—which I hadn’t bothered to read or learn about. See, for some reason, in the summer, you’re only allowed to bring 2 50lb bags into Guatemala City (unless you have a 1st class ticket—then you get 3). Lucas told me to call the airline and make sure I could take 3. So I did, and they said it would be fine.
Jump to Wednesday morning, 8:30am, at the La Crosse airport. The lady, sure enough, told me I could only check 2. Thankfully, I was ridiculously early so no one was behind me in line, because I just stood there until she figured out a way to override the system and print luggage tags for all 3 of my bags. She did charge me for them, of course, and the price was hefty, but it was worth it.
My luggage concerns didn’t quite stop there, though. As I passed through security, they flagged my carry-on and stopped to search it. They pulled out my 3lb hand weights and told me whoever had dropped me off could pick them up as long as they got back to the airport before my flight left. They did NOT pull out and confiscate my pair of full size scissors. (What was I thinking bringing them in my carry on? Answer: I clearly wasn’t.)
And then I got to Chicago (my first layover) and they made me check my rolling carry on (free, of course, but still mildly annoying just for the peace of mind factor).
And then, I got to Dallas Fort Worth. My flight was already delayed by a half hour when I got there. We changed gates shortly after that, and in the process, I bumped into another teacher who had been hired at the same job fair as me, so we got to chatting. Talking loudly enough about going to Guatemala to teach while sitting at the gate, and you’re sure to find other teachers. The guy sitting right next to us turned out to be new to our school too. One hour later and another gate change, and we met up with 2 more girls who were headed to Guate to teach on the elementary side.
We finally got into the air 3 ½ hours later than planned, which put us in Guatemala City not at 7pm as planned, but closer to 11pm. The advantage to this, however, was that there was almost no one in line at customs or immigration. Everyone’s bags came through and no one had problems in the lines. As we walked outside, our principals were there waiting, calling us by name and herding us to various vans and cars to get us home. Even so late at night, it was the epitome of a warm welcome. There was even cold Domino’s pizza waiting for us in the car.
And then we arrived. My place…oh my goodness. I spent probably 15 minutes just exploring it, and jumping up and down in glee, and then I was so excited I couldn’t sleep. It’s new—sparsely furnished at the moment, but furnished. And it’s HUGE. I have 3 bedrooms and 3 ½ baths. And then I have 3 other rooms that I just don’t know what to do with on the 1st floor. The place is airy and light and full of windows. It’s nothing like the dark cement cell of a house I had in Puerto Rico (even though I loved that house too, in its own right). This house actually allows air flow through the windows! Heck, it has windows that open, period! I’m kind of in heaven.
Oh, and the best part? I can see stars outside my bedroom window at night. I was so afraid that being in such a big city, I’d never see stars again! But I can see them! And I have trees in my view.
Suffice it to say, I’ve had a very good first impression.