by Gary Wingenbach
At some point in life, we all have the same nagging doubt, “if only I knew then what I know now, it would’ve been much different.” I could’ve acted differently. I would’ve, or wouldn’t have, said what I said. Damn it all, if only I had known that time was running out!
We seldom get the chance to purposefully plan our thoughts, actions, and deeds when we know the imminent end of something is near. But, that shouldn’t keep us from purposefully planning our future thoughts, actions, and deeds for living a different life because of our most recent experience.
That is how we find ourselves, 10 Aggies, three ALEC faculty members, and one future Aggie, preparing to leave Chajul, Guatemala this morning. Our time here was too short, but we vow to live our lives differently because of the changes Chajul has made in us.
Ironic, we came to Chajul to collaborate with the Philanthropiece Foundation and Limitless Horizons Ixil in service-learning projects that would change lives in several mountainous villages. Chajul and her villages of Visuchuj, Batzul, and Ixla, changed us!
Now we are more open-minded about rural development. We are more tolerant and accepting of each other. Certainly, after many “it’s just a short hike” warnings, we’re more in shape now than when we arrived. Probably most of all, we are less naive about the necessities of life.
We could not help but be changed by the thousands of warm smiles, waves, and greetings every place we visited. We could not help but be changed by Jake Matlak and Laura Myers, our ever positive, upbeat, and energetic cultural program leaders. Thank you Jake and Laura! Thank you so much for understanding that the transition from a U.S. cultural perspective to what you now see from our group is an arduous undertaking. Thank you for your infinite patience.
A little more than two weeks ago, we all knew this ending would occur today. Yet, I don’t think any of us realized just how difficult it is to say goodbye. Through the many heart-felt conversations yesterday and last night, through the hugs and the tears with our Guatemalan collaborators, these Aggies have dedicated themselves to take their experience back to Aggieland, to share it widely with family and friends, to make a difference elsewhere in life.
Several Aggies now have plans to assist the Philanthropiece Foundation and Limitless Horizons Ixil with their artisan projects, agricultural science curriculum development, and sponsorship of a LHI scholar. I am not surprised by this outcome because the Aggie spirit and work ethic knows no bounds to the challenges of life.
I am very proud to have shared this experience with Annalee Antoon, Caroline Black, Julie Brod, Kesley Fraley, Joshua Hardcastle, Daniel Haywood, Jenna Howell, Cristina Palomino, Poleth Robledo, Cera Southerland, Lori Moore, Landry Lockett, and most of all, with Sydney Wingenbach!
And so, our Guatemala Study Abroad 2012 is nearing its end. A mere four days from this writing will find us checking monitors in the Guatemala City airport, anticipating our return to a very hot and humid Texas.
I will miss this cool, spring-like climate. I will miss these mountains. And until 2013, I will surely miss you, Chajul!