The flicker of the candle gives off an orange light which I see glisten on my legs. Steam has collected all over my body and the only relief from the heat is the cold bucket of water at my feet.
My host Mom Chona comes in and out of the temescal adding new plants on top of the burning rocks. The scent of Eucalyptus and Rosemary fill the thick air. I can barley breathe but with each breath the sharp kick of Eucalyptus fills my throat telling my body I’m alive.
Isabel sits next to me, her host mom Viviana is across from us. Once Chona joins us they start to tell us the properties of the medicinal plants. They also tell stories of their ancestors who used the sauna generations before us. As they speak the flicker of the candle’s light shines on the wall almost as if giving a visual to their stories.
As I listen to the information about the medicinal plants I can see why the San Juan community comes in the temescal to heal their ailments. I personally feel every pore on my body open and dispose of the toxins, my mosquito bites shrink, and the dirt that had collected on my skin run down to my feet and onto the floor.
When I check my watch I realize I’ve been in the heat for 40 minutes. I remember how I couldn’t originally breathe but now feel as though I could stay in it for another hour. This feeling is similar to my thoughts and emotions in this point of the trip. Before coming here I was so nervous and didn’t know how I would survive a month away from home. Now, after being in homestays where I talked through the night with the Mom, and having made memories while planting trees with new friends that will last a lifetime, I feel I could stay in Guatemala for another 4 weeks. The experiences I’ve had and the wide range of places I’ve been exposed to have opened my eyes to the government’s problems but also the strong resistance led by the people.
I’ve grown to call this place home; my roots are forever planted here. So, as I get ready to travel home I take all my photos with me as supplements to my stories. They will convey the passion and love the Guatemalan people exude to those who haven’t been as lucky as me to travel here.
So, as I write this final yak looking out on Lake Atitlán’s shimmering water I say, “Adios” and “Until next time Guate.”