Blog no. 1 Before arrival in Guatemala.

Hi I’m Dom, and I am off to Guatemala in a few days to help out on an environmental project for eight weeks. Had you asked me six months ago what I would get up to this summer; a few days at Glastonbury would have been as exciting as it got.

I have never really been a high achiever, I left school before earning a leaving cert and began working in hotels, bars and restaurants immediately and for the next 15 years.

Fast forward to Christmas 2014 and I have had enough of sixty hour weeks, so I packed it in and enrolled in an early school leavers programme in Dublin for a year.

Now I have completed that year and gone on to complete my first year of a History and Geography degree in Trinity College. I had begun to realise that I could in fact achieve if I put my mind to it. So when the email in relation to EIL travel awards arrived, I decided there and then I was going to give this everything I had.

So here I am, sitting in seat 31C, on United Airlines flight 153, with a row all to myself, feet outstretched and I am on the way to Guatemala for eight weeks. The build up to a fully funded travel scholarship is a funny one, periods of pride in myself with a spattering of I don’t deserve this – why me? – what the hell did I say to make them think I was worthy? Those are questions I’m not sure I will ever be able to answer fully.

At 33, it’s not the easiest thing in the world to just up and travel over 5,000 miles across the world for eight weeks, particularly with a fiancée at home trying to organise a wedding. Put it this way: at midnight the night before my flight we finally decided on our photographer – well kinda! However, I must admit the past few weeks have been incredibly exciting in the run up to my departure.

To be honest, I have found it a little difficult to manage my expectations of what awaits me.
I mean, Guatemala doesn’t have the safest reputation in the world, but I see that as somewhat of an adventure. What choice do I have? spend weeks afraid for my safety and too shitty to do anything exciting? oh no no no I think from now on I will be known as total emersion Dom! That said, I have no real fear to be honest: I have the safety net of the Host Organization, EIL and Anton’s emergency action plan – I should probably print that actually.
The language however, or lack thereof is a sobering thought. I didn’t really progress past the first CD so at least I can say stuff like no entiendo – a very useful phrase when you have no idea what’s being shouted at me.

A few aspects I am really looking forward to are: staying with a host family. I foresee this to be kind of weird, challenging but fun in the beginning, but I fully expect to attach real value to the exposure to the culture, language and customs this will bring. I think the normality of a family home will be very welcomed also, despite the differences in culture.

I am looking forward to getting stuck into the project. My partner in crime, Caitrîona has already been in touch about how we can try to make a real difference there, big or small. Following that, I am seriously looking forward to some travelling at the weekends, I’m not sure I will be sitting still very much – a good thing considering I’ve a good few pounds to shed for the aforementioned nuptials.

Ok about to land – here it goes!!