Updated: Sep 7, 2019

Isabella Leon

Routine is important to the Guatemala STEM Empowerment team. We all knew this about each other going into this project, and because we are all such routine-oriented people, it was no surprise that being in Guatemala became much easier for all of us once we found our routine. Every morning, without fail, I open wake up at 8AM, walk over to Libby’s room to get my phone, and wait for her to get up to go to breakfast. Adrienne always comes to breakfast almost exactly 15 minutes after we do; and that’s when our day officially begins. We work on lesson plans in the teachers’ lounge, have lunch, teach, eat dinner at 6:30, work out, teach until 8:30, journal, and go to sleep by 11.

I know I personally tried to adopt this new routine as quickly as possible, and just as I was getting comfortable in it at almost exactly 1:30 in the morning on the Wednesday of our fourth week in San Andres Semetabaj; our eight hours of sleep were interrupted. I began to toss and turn and I remember everything shaking in my dream before I woke up to a bright light and loud rattling.

Irritated at being woken up, I tried to go back to sleep when I noticed that the shaking was not in my dream. I slowly touched the light pink wall next to my bed and felt it shaking violently. I looked up at Adrienne who was sitting up calmly and moving away from the window under her head. She calmly, but forcefully, spoke over the racket our guest house was making “We’re having an earthquake.” I was so tired and confused that all I could think to do was run into the other room and unplug my phone in case the power went out, at her suggestion. As I stumbled into the other room, and I mean literally stumbled because the floor was moving from under me, I didn’t even notice our third group member, Libby, who was still and silent as a statue on her bed or the whimpering German Shepard’s outside our room. After I unplugged my phone, I ran under the nearest door frame, a trick I, no doubt, took from a movie I watched in middle school, and waited out the rest of the earth quake. Once it was over, I tried to sit on my bed again but noticed by body was shaking even though my surroundings had stopped shaking. I was so unexpectedly panicked that Adrienne, invited me to her bed and we noticed that Libby still hadn’t spoken. She ran over to the bed next to Adrienne and we all just started laughing. We made fun of Adrienne for the way she announced the earthquake, Libby’s muteness, and the fact that I ran to save my phone before anything else. As the shock wore off I realized I had given myself a bad headache. As I waited for the pain to pass, we saw that the earthquake was ranked initially as a 7 on the Richter scale. It is the biggest earthquake Guatemala has had since 1976. We all then contacted our families and tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to go back to sleep.

The next morning, we were exhausted; our routine had been literally shaken up by the earthquake. As I went through the day, I couldn’t get the fact that I had initially been irritated at this earthquake for disrupting my sleep routine out of my head. It felt a little absurd in my head. So, I decided to shake things up some more. I had my work out earlier, tried a new Guatemalan food, played a new game of cards with a new group of girls at the school, and didn’t wait until Thursday night to call my parents like I always do. I realized that I had once again begun to grow comfortable in my environment, but I didn’t want this to be the case for me in Guatemala. Just like the earthquake shook up our day; I think we all want my time here, with these girls, at this school, in this beautiful country to shake up not only our routines but our way of thinking and looking at the world and everything around us. The only way this is going to happen is if we honestly make an effort to shake things up and soak up as many experiences with these 124 girls. And that is exactly what we intend to do.

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