Macrina Garcia - Global Gap Program
My trip of a lifetime first started off in Accra, Ghana in October, 2011 as part of the first Global Gap program offered through Projects Abroad in the US. The selling point of the trip was visiting and working in 5 different countries and being able to experience a native’s point of a view in a 7 month time frame. Through this programme I have had the privilege of living in Cape Town, Cusco, Madurai, and Krabi and a small stay in Accra, Ghana where the 7 of us global-gappers were all taken to get to know each other before becoming practically family. The experiences in all of the countries were very different but also very rewarding in their own ways.
Arriving in Ghana
Our first destination on this long journey was ten days spent in Accra, Ghana. This is where we all met each other for the first time and the tone of the trip was really set from there on out. We all discovered our similarities and differences as everyone on the trip are from different parts of America, with the exception of a Canadian and so we had a lot of things to talk about.
In Ghana we were not volunteering, but we spent our time with a staff member who made sure we felt as comfortable as possible in a country that was very different from the ones we came from. It was definitely an experience and I wish we could have experienced Ghana longer but shortly after arriving we were back on an airplane headed to Cape Town, South Africa.
Human Rights Placement – South Africa
Cape Town was our first big trip together. We spent about 2 months working in the Human Rights office and travelling around South Africa. The first night we arrived was actually a large social gathering for all of the volunteers in South Africa; it was the full moon hike up Lions Head Mountain to see a beautiful sunset over the ocean on one side and the large full moon come up over Cape Town.
The volunteer work was also very rewarding. We were involved in helping people figure out their refugee status papers and some other legal troubles that they had as all were unable to afford a lawyer. It was very nice being able to see the people and knowing that what you were doing was actually benefiting someone, and they were always extremely thankful and outrageously happy, especially considering the situations they were coming from.
After our long and amazing stay in South Africa we were all able to enjoy a nice stay at home for Christmas with our families but after three weeks we were ready to get back into the swing of things and packed our bags and headed off to Cusco, Peru.
Teaching in Peru
Getting back to Peru and being able to see everyone again was almost like coming back to college and being able to move back in with your roommates and your best friends. Cusco is absolutely beautiful and we were surrounded by lush green mountains and endless hiking trails that we could explore whenever we wanted. The slight issue with Peru was the small factor of the language barrier but we were able to figure out enough Spanish to help us get through all of the little markets along the streets and be able to bargain with the shop owners for the little presents for our families. Our stay in Cusco was broken up into different segments. The first six weeks were spent preparing and teaching English to teachers from around the local areas.
During this time we were split into different teaching pairs and we were all given the freedom to decide how we wanted to proceed with the teaching process and the games and activities we would plan. It was really fun, being given that opportunity to really let your talents shine as a teacher and becoming a friend to your students. The students were all amazing and really eager to learn all of the things they were being taught. They were very attentive in class and would pose good questions but at the same time we would be learning a lot about their culture and the cool places to visit.
The next two weeks after Cusco were spent living in a small self-sustaining community house in Huyro. We used our time there maintaining old ruins and managing the local forests to help bring in tourism and add to the splendour of the Inca Trail. This part of the trip was slightly taxing and full of hard work but it was gratifying seeing the results at the end of the day, plus we were surrounded by very fun people and a good working atmosphere. Our time on the Inca trail led up to the day we were all anticipating and dreading, heading to the 4 day hike up Machu Picchu.
Macchu Picchu and onwards to India
Machu Picchu was an amazing hike that took a lot of self-determination and pushing yourself to the limit. The four days seemed like it was going to be the longest four days of our lives but we were able to grow very close to each other, helping each other and giving words of motivation to reach the end. Living in tents in close proximity for 4 days will definitely made us feel like family at the end of it.
After Machu Picchu we all packed up our bags again and headed off to Madurai, India. When we first arrived in India we were overwhelmed by the outstanding heat as well as the very different scents. This was the place that was hardest to adjust to, it was also the one with the biggest time difference; needless to say we were extremely jetlagged when we arrived.
In India we were given the luxury of being able to choose our own projects that we wanted to work and so some volunteers went to medical placements, others went to journalism and I chose to work in the care program. It was hard to get acclimated to the environment because everything was so different. We had to dress a certain way, eat a certain way, and few locals were able to speak English, however it was great working with the children. After a very challenging 6 weeks in India we were all very excited to head to what we thought of as our own paradise, Thailand.
Diving and Conservation in Thailand
As we all got excited for the last leg of our trip it was very bittersweet knowing that this would be our last time travelling with each other. Krabi, Thailand was everything that we could have hoped for and more. We were all so excited to see the beauty of the ocean as well as the lush green scenery around us. The diving was something that we were all very excited to accomplish, but unfortunately for me I found out the hard way that diving would not be something that I would be able to lend my talents to.
Even though I wasn’t able to dive with my friends I was able to snorkel and hang out on the boat and participate in some ways towards the process of documenting fish, which contributed to the conservation aspect of the project. The boat trips were amazing, and even the actual labour side of the project is something that is rewarding too.
As a whole the entire project is something that has helped me grow as a person and discover who I am and how I want to live my life in the future. As I go back home I know that I am bringing with me the life lessons of seeing those less fortunate than me still live life to the fullest.