Universidad Francisco Marroquín, Guatemala City – Week 9 – Guate, Until We Meet Again

John Gray

The final week. The final week of an incredible journey into a third world, central American country that I probably would never have thought to go to before. Despite that position coming into the experience, it’s certainly not one I hold now. Guatemala has been good to me, UFM has been great to me and the people have been the best. I have formed lifelong friendships and in leaving, it wasn’t goodbye but see you next time. The week was a lot more relaxed than the preceding three but that didn’t mean I wasn’t still busy. I spent the week working on the donor report to get it in good shape for when I departed. This meant a lot of experimenting and checking with Wayne Leighton but the final result (technically a work in progress) was better than it had been in the past. I was grateful to be able to provide the extra man-power that UFM just couldn’t afford and that wouldn’t be possible without Ron Manners and the Mannkal Economic Education Foundation.

It’s never easy saying goodbye to people you have worked with, even briefly, but it’s far harder to say goodbye to new friends. Luckily, I was able to make the most of the last week with a number of dinners arranged throughout the week. On Wednesday it was out to Zone 9 to a restaurant called La Media Cancha, a famous steakhouse opened by an Argentinian footballer, with Gabriel (UFM President), Karen (UFM Professor and Gabriel’s wife) and Pablo (Gabriel’s Executive Assistant).  We had more Guatemalan meat than any of us could possibly eat but we certainly gave it our best crack. It turns out that Gabriel and I are very similar in background and ambition and we had a great time talking about how we would make great truck drivers! We had so much fun over dinner, we just couldn’t end it there – after dinner cocktails were in order so we went to a great new bar called Minerva. Amazingly, not only did they make a rum old fashioned (my favourite) but it was one of the best ones I’ve ever had. I have since converted Pablo and Gabriel, who now swear it is their favourite too. (We tried to get some photos, but it was too dark, and we were probably not at our most glamorous by that stage in any case).

On my final day of work, the team surprised me with doughnuts and gifts over lunch which I was incredibly humbled to receive. Isa Moino (Antigua Forum facilitator) gifted me one of the things she makes and sells at UFM – an Adam Smith shirt from her company “Face Liberty – Guatemala” – as well as an Antigua Forum badge and a card with some lovely messages in it. My final night in Guate was with Lissa, Daniel Green and Pablo at a tiny Mayan restaurant in downtown Zone 1, run by a traditional family from one of the villages. We were able to share stories, eat to excess and laugh heartily while drinking beer and traditional cacao shot that I am certain was pure fire.

While it was sad leaving Guatemala, I am off on a new adventure for the next month, to sunny Michigan, where they’re expecting snow! I’m sure I’ll be back to Guatemala, next time it’s likely I will have an Antigua Forum project of my own. Farewell Guatemala, until we meet again…