Photographing the Mayor of Antigua, President of Guatemala and President of Taiwan on Arc Street, then feeling like paparazzi as I was almost trampled by Taiwanese journalists.
Hiking up Pacaya Volcano, frequently having to stop and take breaks so I wouldn’t shit my pants, then roasting colorful marshmallows over the volcano with sticks we found.
Photographing a woman about to have a hernia surgery the next day at her home in San Antonio Aguas Calientes, then immediately feeling icky about how nice of a hotel we were staying in.
Life is just a collection of moments which we can either choose to give meaning to or choose to move on from.
Motorcycles whizzed past me as I stood in the middle of the street, my right pointer finger firmly holding down the capture button on my camera.
Security and police officers with large rifles in hand traced the sidewalks. I scanned the crowds, trying to find the Mayor of Antigua.
We had no idea what we had just walked into. We tried to research what the event was the night prior, but we couldn’t find any articles or announcements about it.
“I feel like this is a bigger deal than we think,” I said to my team. Little did we know the President of Guatemala and the President of Taiwan would be there.
We strolled inside the building that the mayor and presidents entered, disappointed by the terrible lighting. But wait, now they were leaving!
We struggled to get good shots as we dodged other journalists left and right. Why were people in suits running around now?
We ran after the men in suits surrounding the first female mayor of Antigua and the first female President of Taiwan. Oh, and also the President of Guatemala.
I felt like the paparazzi. I wished I spoke Spanish. I wished I had longer arms to get a better camera angle.
I stared at my hiking boots as my feet slowly trudged up the path. Left, right. Left, right.
“I can’t believe I’m hiking up a volcano right now,” I thought. “This is probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”
But my digestive system didn’t seem to agree with me. After only a couple minutes into the hike up Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala, I felt something go terribly wrong in my body.
The elevation changes weren’t helping, and I now wished I had packed an extra pair of underwear, just in case.
A couple minutes before, I was running in front of the group, trying to be the first one to the top. Whelp. Gave up on that dream pretty quickly.
Now I lingered in the back of the pack with my two professors at my side who carried my backpack and gave me anti-diarrhea and anti-nausea tablets.
About halfway through, I wondered if my body would allow me to make it to the top. “No gracias,” I said to the men offering me a taxi horse to the top. If I was gonna make it to the top, I wasn’t gonna cheat.
Left, right. Left, right. I glanced up from staring at my feet to see the land flattening out. Immediately my body forgot about feeling like shit. I had made it.
We walked through the gate and onto the dirt path to Maria Trinidad’s home. I didn’t know what to expect – everywhere we had visited so far had been pretty touristy.
We strolled over the handmade bridge running across a small river in her backyard, making our way to a table she had set with tortillas, black beans and guacamole. But we couldn’t eat anything because we didn’t know if it would make us sick.
Trini couldn’t speak English, so Nataly translated everything. I was just there to take pictures. I took over 1,000 of Trini cooking, cleaning, washing.
She had waited for her hernia surgery for 16 years. I had mine when I was a baby. I don’t remember it, but I still have the scar on my stomach to prove it.
Nataly told us this is how the majority of Guatemalans live. It finally felt like I was experiencing authentic Guatemala, not the tourist bullshit we had been experiencing.
I felt sick to my stomach thinking about Quinta De Las Flores, the hotel we were staying in. It was too nice. I felt like a fraud.
I photographed Trinidad laughing, working, living. It was Abby’s story, and they just let me intrude on it. Trinidad let all of us Bethel girls into her home, made food for us, welcomed us, let us ask her personal, intrusive questions and let me photograph intimate moments of her life.
Why was everyone so nice here, so generous with their time, food, resources? Why are we so selfish?