From Andrea Francisco: Life Lessons Learned In Guatamela


Andrea Francisco is my blog intern. She lives in Cincinnati and is a student at Indian Hill High School near me.  Andrea is such a positive person and you will enjoy reading her posts. She wrote this about what life lessons she learned on a recent trip to Guatemala.


High up in the mountains, on a moist, darkly soiled hill, a few of my friends from church and I, fully clad in paint-stained scrubs, gaze Indian Hill High School student Andrea Francisco in Guadalupe with wonder at the bustling town of San Juan Ixcoy down below, as it pulses to the rhythm of current latin-pop music. Relaxedly sprawling on the grass side-by-side with our new Guatemalan friends, we gulp down orange flavored juices and reflect on the impressive progress made throughout a hard day’s work. Just a few hours ago, we were overwhelmed by the site of thousands of large rocks that needed to be moved all the way down a hill into a deep trench, which we also needed to dig.

“Impossible,” I secretly thought to myself.

Our ultimate goal for the day was to clear the territory around a stone, one-story building so that it could be turned into a church with a basketball court. A smiling Guatemalan teenage girl came straight to me, and not knowing each other’s language very well, we used gestures to communicate and help each other lift dozens of rocks, some of them weighing more than thirty pounds.

“Me llamo Guadalupe,” says the confident young girl, clearly a natural-born leader, as she was one of the first to make contact with us Americans. Over the next week, we would become great friends, inviting each other to play soccer games and exchanging hand-made gifts. Before we knew it, what was once a huge pile of rocks became a flat layer of soil, perfectly prepped for us to lay down a concrete foundation for a basketball court.

Before setting foot on this amazing journey down to Guatemala the summer before my junior year, I thought that the directions my life was heading were limited. However, after traveling around the world without my family and learning things I never could have imagined, I realize that my life can go any direction, if I so choose.

“When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific,” recalls the great comedian Lily Tomlin.

When I was little, if someone asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would say, “Maybe an artist or a farmer,” because I like to paint and play with farm animals. Now I don’t know what I want “to be”, because there are so many things I love to do, and I am content with that. All of us, from when we are very young, are spoon fed the notion that we must “choose”, as if we are ordering lunch from McDonald’s, what we are to become when we “grow up”. However, over many years, as I have garnered wisdom, strength, and a strange sense of humor from my friends, family, fellow classmates, teachers, colleagues, and coaches, I now realize that life is not about the destination, but rather the journey.

As I look back on my escapades to places like Guatemala, I recall the strange feeling that my happiest moments did not come once the building was complete, but instead as we belted out “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey while lifting heavy concrete-filled buckets towards the sky.



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