Jenna Yordy
Jenna Yordy
Guatemala, 2023-2024
Hola! My name is Jenna Yordy, and I am a recent Global Leadership and TESL graduate. I am so excited to begin this 7 month journey in Guatemala, where I will be working at an orphanage in Cobán and at a trade school in Chimaltenango. Join me on this adventure as I experience living and working in Guatemala! Read More About Jenna →

“It’s Not Goodbye, It’s See You Later”

Hola friends and family!

It’s now been about a month since I’ve returned home from Guatemala and DEFINITELY a few weeks since I should have posted this blog. I’ve sat down more than once to draft it, but each time I have attempted, I find myself at a loss for what to write. I want to present my memories of adventures and loved ones with only the utmost respect, yet the task feels daunting. How do I put into words seven months of unforgettable experiences and precious people that all helped to shape my time in Guatemala, as well as shape who I am?

My last few weeks in Guatemala were filled with sweet celebrations and time spent with loved ones. On my last day of cooking classes, Chef Elliott and his students surprised me by preparing a delicious meal of traditional sandwiches, rosa de Jamaica to drink, and red velvet cake for dessert! I had no idea this was happening, and I felt so honored and grateful for their kindness. After we all had a chance to share a few words with each other, we eagerly partook in the food, shared stories, and laughed together. Some of my fondest memories from my time at Monte Cristo were made in the kitchen: singing with the students while we chopped vegetables, learning how to make rellenitos (a dessert made of plantains and black beans) together, and laughing when we couldn’t understand each other. I will always hold these moments close to my heart. Here is a picture of the chef and I as well as one with the students on that final day:

During my last week, I made it a priority to spend an evening playing games and reminiscing with my Antiguan host family. Felix, Are, Mariana, and Samuel were the first people to welcome me into Guatemala and supported me throughout my entire stay, even when I wasn’t living with them. They truly are my family now and I already miss them so much. After eating and sharing memories from all of the times I spent in their home, I was reminded how beautiful it is to have people in my life that I care about deeply and who feel the same about me. Life would be pretty meaningless without people to love and share experiences with. Saying goodbye to this family was extremely difficult and I shed more than a few tears, but as they reminded me, “no es adiós, solo es nos vemos(it’s not goodbye, it’s only see you later). Sadly, I did not get a picture with them during my last visit, so here are a few photos from previous moments together:

 

The goodbyes kept coming, no matter how hard I wanted them to stop. When my last day at Monte Cristo finally rolled around, it felt very bittersweet. After the reflection was over in the morning, I was called up to the front of the room by my host mom, Veronica, and host grandmother, Doña Mikaela. I didn’t know what they had planned, so I was taken aback when they began thanking me for my contributions to the school. Their kind words moved me so much that I couldn’t even respond. For me, it was an honor to have assisted in the areas of English, cooking, and music during my time with Monte Cristo. I’d learned more from the students than they could ever have learned from me. After my host grandmother gave me a hug, I was surprised again when all of the students started bringing me gifts! I gave hug after hug as each student came to tell me goodbye. It was a moment I’ll never forget. Afterwards, we all took a big group photo together in the courtyard. There were so many of us, we barely fit into the frame! I also wanted to make sure I had a picture with each class, so after all of my English classes that day, I made sure we took a picture together. Rudy (the music teacher) and I also had to, of course, play one last song together on guitar. We chose “I’m Yours” by Jason Mraz because it was a favorite song of ours and one we had learned together a few weeks before. Music is so special in that it truly is a universal language. I’m so thankful that Rudy and I could share in our love of music together during these few, short months. Here are a few pictures from my last day at Monte Cristo:

 

Before I left Guatemala, I also had the opportunity to return to Santa Cruz for a few days and spend time with my host family there as well as my Casa Gloria family. I am so glad that I could do this! I had a blast catching up with everyone, playing endless games of Uno, sitting around the campfire making s’mores, and looking for chocobananos (frozen bananas dipped in chocolate) with the kids. I was able to eat lunch with the children at Casa Gloria, participate in one last devotional, and even attend church with them again as well. I’d missed them so much and I was so grateful to be able to see everyone again. Here are a few photos from my visit:

After returning to Chimaltenango from my visit in Santa Cruz, I spent one final afternoon at Monte Cristo. I walked across the campus taking in its beauty and reflecting on all of my memories there. I met the little piglets that had just arrived for the agriculture program and also sang to the students one last time. Singing for the students was a special, full circle moment. I sang “You Are My Sunshine” which was the first song I’d ever played and sang for them, so it seemed only fitting that it be the last as well. Here are some pictures from that last afternoon:

That same day, my host family in Chimaltenango all gathered for a goodbye dinner. We ate pepián (one of my favorite Guatemalan stews consisting of chicken, roasted tomatoes and peppers, and potatoes), reminisced, laughed, and sang together. I couldn’t have dreamed up a better, final night together. It was, of course, very bittersweet, but I chose to live in the moment and be thankful for those people and my experiences with them. That being said, it was incredibly hard saying goodbye the next day. The ride to the airport was somber; I didn’t want to leave. As my host grandparents walked me to the doors of the airport, I started crying, knowing I would say goodbye to them for an unknown amount of time, possibly forever. We all hugged and cried, and somehow, even in all of that sadness, it was enough to know that we loved each other. Here is the final picture we took together before I departed (and before all of the crying started haha):

As I was reading through a few of my journal entries, I came across this paragraph from a week before I left Monte Cristo. I’m sharing it now because I feel that it accurately portrays my thought process as I prepared to say goodbye. It says: “As I wrap up my time with Monte Cristo, I have spent many moments thinking and reflecting on all of my experiences here in Guatemala. I feel a bit more weight as I prepare to leave, because this time, I’m not only leaving Chimaltenango, I’m leaving Guatemala as well. Living in this country for the past seven months has been one of the most incredible experiences of my life, and I’m forever grateful to all of the people who made it possible.”

Before I close out this final blog, I’d like to share a few memories from my time in Guatemala that I never want to forget. This is obviously not complete as a list could never truly capture all of the experiences and wonderful people that live on in my heart. That being said, here are a couple memories that stick out:

  1. Samuel’s (my host brother in Antigua) first communion party
  2. Bonding with Mariana (my host sister in Antigua) over reading and music
  3. Feeling like I was going to freeze to death while climbing Volcán Acatenango
  4. The many times I felt uncomfortable due to the language barrier
  5. Playing hundreds of games of Uno with the kids in Santa Cruz
  6. The way Michelle (my host sister in Santa Cruz) always tried to sneak in my room to say hi
  7. Meyli’s (Casa Gloria’s secretary) constant patience with my subpar Spanish abilities
  8. Arm wrestling the Casa Gloria boys
  9. Watching soccer with Emerson (my host brother in Santa Cruz)
  10. Sulmi’s (my host sister in Santa Cruz) random hugs
  11. Looking for chocobananos about a million times with my host siblings
  12. Going to the doctor twice with kids from Casa Gloria and feeling like I couldn’t understanding anything
  13. Visiting the art museum in Antigua with my friend, Adrián
  14. Making two pie crusts in record time with Anna (my American friend in Santa Cruz)
  15. Laughing and having incredible conversations with Monte Cristo’s English teacher
  16. Accidentally telling a student at Monte Cristo that “often” was “desnudo” (which means naked) instead of “a menudo”… whoops!
  17. Learning about life, family, and Guatemalan history from Don Mario and Doña Mikaela (my host grandparents in Chimaltenango)
  18. Singing “Un Idiota” with the seniors at Monte Cristo

Thank you, friends and family, for your thoughts and prayers throughout this seven-month journey of mine. I am eternally grateful for all of the support that I received through phone calls and texts while I was away. Technology is incredible, right? Knowing that I had people at home rooting for me and cheering me on was so encouraging, especially when I was missing home. And to everyone reading this blog right now, thank you. Thank you for taking interest in my adventures over the past seven months, for celebrating my successes and mourning my losses right alongside of me. I am forever grateful.

Much love y hasta luego,

Jenna

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