Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala City – Week 5 – From One Program to Another

John Gray

There are times in your life when you look back upon the things you’ve done and just can’t believe it was real. I predict that this time in my life is one of those times; in a few years, I will look back fondly on the experiences, the memories, the friendships and new networks. The week started still in the United States but would end up in a country so dissimilar that it came as a bit of a shock: Guatemala. 

Still enjoying the holidays, I started week five in Boston where Irish pubs reign supreme and the people talk a little funny. Coming from Irish heritage, it was nice to be among a people that were so heavily influenced by Irish culture but also, a people who truly believe in freedom and liberty. Walking the Freedom Trail in Boston was an awesome experience, taking a journey through history, learning about the American Revolution and other significant events (such as the Tea Party). Despite the weather being forecast as higher than last week, it felt much much colder and this resulted in us having to walk the trail over two days!

From Boston, we travelled back to DC, through New Jersey for a night, so that I could get my flight on to Guatemala, where I would start my next adventure at Universidad Francisco Marroquín (UFM). After a short stopover in El Salvadore, I was greeted at the airport by a beaming Pablo Velasquez, personal assistant to UFM President Gabriel Calzada, who embraced me on arrival and said how great it was to finally have me in Guatemala. It was certainly a warm welcome. Pablo was nice enough to show me around the city, pointing out different things as we drove through the intense city traffic. The following day I was given an even warmer welcome to the University, meeting all of the people I would be working with over the next month, each one more pleased to have me there than the last. I was fortunate enough to sit down with Gabriel Calzada for a really great chat, with a promise to have more time for coffee in the future. Gabriel was very excited to have someone from Mannkal with them. He spoke very fondly of Ron Manners (I haven’t yet found a person that doesn’t love him) and decided we had to get a photo to send through to him. 

I was introduced to the rest of the team and invited into the Antigua Forum facilitators meeting, which was kindly done in English so I could understand. We got onto brainstorming and I found myself involved in the process as though I had been part of the team all along! I’ve been given a large amount of work, which I couldn’t be happier about, so I plan to sit at the desk they kindly arranged for me and get stuck in.