I started Day 1, Saturday, by waking up at 4:30am to take a quick shower and get ready. I had just come off of a 4 day conference for work the four days before, where I had been getting up at 5am, so I was used to it, but I was exhausted. I hadn’t slept much the night before out of excitement, though, so it wasn’t too hard to get going. The O’Hare airport in Chicago was easy to get to through security, buy a bottled water, and find my gate. Before I knew it, I was on my flight to Miami.
I had never been to the Miami airport before, but it’s huge. I had to go get my suitcase from baggage claim, since the flights were not connecting, and then find my terminal to check into my next flight. Thankfully I had about 4 hours between the flights, but was quite a journey to get where I needed to go. I started out by terminal A and had to get all the way to J, rolling my heavy suitcase and carryon bag along as I went. I also seemed to be swimming upstream, and for some reason, everyone was going in the opposite direction as me, which left little room for me to get through sometimes. I was so glad when I finally found Avianca airlines, that I was eager to check in and get through security. Once I got near my gate, there was really nowhere to eat. I filled up my water bottle, had a protein bar and some nuts for lunch, and headed to meet my fellow travelers at the gate.
It wasn’t a big flight to Guatemala, and thanks to our Compassion name tags, we were all able to find each other very easily. We had a unique trip in that there were quite a lot of Compassion staff members on our trip. And since almost all of them had a spouse/family member with them, most of our group of 21 was from Colorado Springs. I loved getting to spend time during the week getting to know some wonderful, hard-working, huge-hearted people that work for Compassion. And they brought unique experiences and perspectives to the trip that were really valuable.
The La Aurora airport in Guatemala City is small but nice. They have been doing a lot of work and adding on to it, so soon they can have more international flights. We got our bags and went through customs. We then had to push a button that would randomly trigger either a red or green light. If we got red, our bags had to go through another x-ray scanner. Of course, I got red.
David and Emily, our Compassion Guatemala leaders, met us at the airport and we boarded the bus to the Mercure Hotel in downtown Guatemala City. Our hotel was amazing, and our rooms were small suites! It had a kitchen, a living room, 2 couches, 2 TVs, a bedroom, and a bathroom. We ate dinner at the hotel and learned a little more about Guatemala and Compassion’s work there. They brought me a different dinner so that mine was gluten free. I have celiac disease, which means I can’t have gluten. I let our trip leader know this ahead of time, and she was very knowledgable as her daughter is also gluten free. I have to say that the Compassion Guatemala staff was amazing at making sure I had enough to eat at every meal and that everything I was served was safe for me to eat. Having been on other trips in the past not with Compassion, but with other tour groups, this experience far exceeded any other by being so accommodating to my dietary needs. I truly believe that with a Compassion tour, you get what you pay for and so much more, and this is just one example of that Compassion experience! By the end of dinner, we were all very tired after a long day of travel.