Monthly Archives: July 2013

Tattoos and Guate City

¡Lotería!

For a moment on Thursday, I thought I was going to have a nostalgic moment to think about my aunts who love the Lottery. Apparently, the “lotería” here is Bingo. Thursday was a special day for Antigua because it was “El Día de Santiago Apósto” which I may have spelled wrong. He is the patron saint of Antigua so they had a celebration going on from Thursday through today. Well, in honor of the “Fería” (fair), my teacher brought in a game of Lotería to play to help us learn some new vocab. The game has pictures of different things, with the name (in Spanish) beneath the photo. It was so much fun. Willy made it really intense by making a bunch of noises between each drawing such as a heart beat or the jaws theme. I kept jesting at him that he wasn’t allowed to win and he’d keep sneering (jokingly) at me that I would lose. He is so precious. I don’t think I could have gotten a more fun teacher! I just want to keep him forever haha.

Madison somehow made MORE friendships with musicians at the Rainbow Cafe so we returned again Thursday night because they invited her to play drums for the band. The guitar guy from Wednesday night is so in love with her. It’s kind of ridiculous actually haha. She feels bad though because Marnie like this guy, but oh well. They are only here another week anyways. (SAD!) Madison did a really good job doing drums on the spot with no previous practice with the band!

Friday, my bus ride was rather awful. That would have been a good day to know the customs of another country. I sat in the first seat because it was empty and only had a towel in it (that I assume someone left behind). After the bus filled (and by fill, I mean the usual 3 people to a seat with people standing full), the bus helper boarded and proceeded to tell me that the towel meant my seat was reserved. Well, guess what that meant? Since we were only at our first stop, that meant I had to go back as far as possible to make room for more people so there I walked (it felt rather much like a walk of shame) to the very back of the bus squished between all the other people and standing, holding on to the rail on the ceiling all the way to my project. It killed my arm to hold on that way. I thought I’d end up on a lap for sure! Leastways, I survived.

The good news is I can definitely tell I’m learning more Spanish. I don’t think I’ve learned that much, but if I think about how little I could understand when I first got here vs. now, I think I’ve improved. Or at least I’ve gotten more confident in trying to speak and asking people to slow down. I was able to talk to a few of the girls on Friday at my project for about 10-15 minutes about their family and my family and tattoos etc. I also feel like I’ve been talking more in my Spanish class too because now I’m able to tease my teacher more. It’s so much fun. I also talked to Isolina and Maynor more at lunch on Friday after everyone already excused themselves. It’s fun to sit for such a long time at the lunch and dinner table and just talk. It’s really good practice too. Isolina has been saying the last few days that my Spanish is really improving and I’m learning a lot. That’s really encouraging to hear. I, by far, was given the best host mom in Antigua. Isolina is always willing to correct, whereas most people don’t as long as they understood what you were trying to say. I want to be corrected so I don’t walk around talking like a baffoon! I’m hoping to only speak Spanish in the house after this group leaves and before another group arrives so that the new group is forced to speak Spanish too instead of revert to English! I want to be fluent!

Friday we also went with Madison to get her tattoo. Tattoo in Guatemala?!?!! Don’t freak out. Actually, Antigua has a lot of reputable places and Máximo suggested her to this tattoo place because they are as reputable and clean as a US company. I wasn’t too worried about the needle being un-sanitized as I am that she’ll get it dirty or wash it with dirty water, but she made it to Tikal (the jungle) and back this weekend without any tattoo problems, so it appears that all will be fine! She only has a week left anyways so even if something happened, she’ll be back in the States to take care of it and her dad is a doctor. No thank you for me though. That was the first tattoo I watched. She said it wasn’t painful, but I feel like I’d probably end up psyching myself out with nervousness.

The only sign of pain I could see on her face

The only sign of pain I could see on her face

The end result- an A for Avery (her sister's name)

The end result- an A for Avery (her sister’s name)

Friday was also Anna Maria and Devan’s last day. I’m starting to get sad now with everyone leaving. It’s sad to watch Isolina get all emotional every time too. She is so sentimental. They printed a picture from our Pacaya trip and framed it for her for a gift and both her and Maynor teared up. It was so presh. It is the first legitimate frame I’ve seen in their house. The only others I’ve seen are those foam kind you get in preschool.

piñatas again!

piñatas again!

I also found out that even if I raised enough money to help them go to the States, they still could be denied a visa because apparently even if you can afford a trip there but you don’t have a lot of money in the bank, they will deny you a visa because it will be assumed you’re going over there to find illegal work. That really bummed me out! The US is so strict. I would love to have Isolina visit me! And I’d love to be able to help her see her brother. Going on a trip an talking to people like this will definitely change your perspective about immigrants. Not that I’ve ever had a problem with them, but for people who do have issues with all the illegal aliens, go meet one and hear their story and hear how difficult it is to go to the US legally. I just want to take them home with me and I’ve only been here 22 days! They’re so cute! UGH!

Yesterday, all the other volunteers were gone on a trip except me so I got a taste of what it will be like if the house isn’t full all the time. It was a bit lonely not being able to speak any English, but Isolina and Maynor invited me to Guatemala City with them so off I went. It was very interesting. It was most obviously a city and even though it was different that the US, it was also very similar to a big city in the US. The buildings maybe aren’t as nice, but there’s a lot of stores and people and pigeons and graffiti and a municipal building and a central park, etc. There actually were even quite a few US restaurants too (a lot of these we have in Antigua as well, but you don’t find them as easily because the building style in Antigua is so different, it’s sometimes hard to tell what a place is): McDonald’s (I’m pretty sure I spotted about 5 of these while driving through the city), Burger King, Subway, Wendy’s, Dominoes, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s, Ihop, Picadilly’s, KFC, Payless, Walmart, etc. The ad for Dominoes had different things on it that we don’t have though like a meatball pizza! They also use motorcycles instead of cars! Weird, right?

Anyways, Isolina and Maynor took me to a train museum first which was interesting. Very similar to what I might expect in the US. The train no longer runs, but apparently they are trying to restore it for 2014. I’m excited for them because it looks like it was a really cool form of transportation, especially around all the beautiful landscape here. Maynor was really excited too because it’s nostalgic for him as he grew up around the train tracks.

An old train station

An old train station

For lunch, we got to have pizza again (we had it the night before for Devan and Anna Maria’s going away party) which I most definitely couldn’t complain about. After that was Parqueo Central and an artisan market. Although, the artisan markets are all starting to look the same to me now. They pretty much all carry the same things.

Parqueo Central

Parqueo Central

After that, we visited some of Maynor’s family. I was then able to tell that they are middle class. His family had a pretty nice house and I spotted a couple of TV’s (that work properly), a DVD player, a stereo, and a Wii. When we arrived, his cousin(?) was dolled up and painting her nails. Also, when we had lunch, Isolina and Maynor paid for me (which since it was in place of a meal at home, I guess technically they are supposed to, but I still felt bad. They refused to let me help however). And Maynor pulled out a credit card to pay. They are also considering taking a beach trip in the near future which I can join them on. So I can now tell that they are middle class here. They do very middle class type things. They go to church every sunday & thursday(?). We went to a museum in the city. They try to take a trip to the city every weekend and that outing felt like a typical middle class outing. So even though they are obviously much poorer than our middle class, I’m now able to tell that they are middle class here. They have a decent sized home (obviously if 8 other people can live in it), they have 2 TVs (kind of broken, but still), a computer, a car, a motorcyle, a telephone line, cell phones, 2.5 bathrooms, and internet (but not wireless because I’ve never been able to use it). Still though, much different than US middle class.

We ended up being gone from 10 am-8:30 pm so it was quite a long day. The last stop we made was Walmart for me because I needed to find some things to organize my room with and I figured Walmart would be the easiest place to find something since it would be somewhat familiar. I’m not sure that it was much easier though because they definitely didn’t have all the same things we do. I was able to find some organizers though and now I am much happier with my room (Oh, and I switched into Devan and Anna Maria’s old room now because it has one (well 2, if there’s a couple) bed instead of three. Hopefully there won’t be any more married couples because if there are, I have to keep switching rooms! I really like this room, it’s the perfect size for all of my stuff and the bed is more comfortable. I also have a view of the volcano, instead of just the street. My window is a lot smaller and I have to stand in order to look out of it, but I still like this room much more. I’m hoping I won’t have to do any more switching, but I am so grateful I never have to share a room!

My old room- view from peering around the door

My old room- view from peering around the door

view from standing at the dresser

view from standing at the dresser

My new room - view from the door

My new room – view from the door

view walking into my new room

view walking into my new room

view from the dresser- much more organized than my last room! thank God!

view from the dresser- much more organized than my last room! thank God!

I also bought Isolina a waffle iron because we were talking about that a few weeks ago and she loves waffles but can’t make them. It was like $10-$15 at Walmart here which is so cheap compared to the US so I just grabbed one and gave her a gift. We had waffles for breakfast this morning. I’d say it was well worth the investment! :)

Two newbies arrive today! Can’t wait to meet them! And hopefully I’ll finally be going to check out the fair!

P.S. Did I mention we had a rooftop patio?

P.S. Did I mention we had a rooftop patio?

Pizza, Spaghetti, and Pancakes

I’m sure you’re all dying of anxiety to know if we had a piñata or not on Sunday. We did. This time, we had an Angry Birds piñata. Kershena killed it on her first turn! Kershena left shortly after that, which is a bummer. Everyone is slowly trickling out. No newbies yet.

You can't even escape Angry Birds in Guatemala!

You can’t even escape Angry Birds in Guatemala!

For dinner, we had PIZZA! Feliz Lizzie! It was really good pizza. Isolina didn’t have time to cook since she threw a party for Kershena so she and Maynor left us with the kids for a minute and went and picked some up somewhere. At dinner, Isolina was so excited because Kershena offered to take some gifts home with her to Texas from Isolina to her brother who lives close to Kershena. She apparently has not seen him in 10 years. He was only visiting the US, but ended up staying and neither party can afford a visit to the other. Isolina is very sad and really wants to see him and visit the States just to see what it’s like. It made me sad. I so very much want to help Isolina’s family. They are so good to us and deserve all the blessings they can take.

I’m a little upset because I found out I’m paying more for the volunteering than I would be if I just went through Máximo to take Spanish classes and find housing. Money I could have used to help Isolina or put towards some of my trips. I will never fully understand why you have to pay to help someone and it really puts a damper on your desire to do so. But, Máximo is going to give me a breakdown of my costs so I can better understand. They also said if I go on long term trips (i.e. 1-2 weeks), I can’t get my money back, but I can get credit towards other things so I may use that to tack on more salsa lessons, spanish, or if I have enough credit, TEFL certification. But I’m still irked that I’m paying money to give my time and help to others.

If you want to offer your support, please be aware of the support page on this site. :) Normally I fundraise for a volunteer trip, as I did for my mission trip in high school, but this was such a spur of the moment decision that I didn’t have time to do so. My darling sweet wonderful perfect Aunt Mary has paid a large portion of this trip, as a graduation gift that she does for all her nieces and nephews (sends us all somewhere for a vacation), but I like to think of her contribution as paying for all the fun stuff since that’s the vacation aspect! 😉 Thank you, by the way, darling Auntie! Love and miss you dearly!!

I will remind you of this page again later, as I am headed to the Dominican Republic in January to help build houses. If you want to help another way, please contact me. I just want anyone who is interested in contributing to know that all contributions go to help cover the costs of my volunteer trips, this one first, then the DR. I cover the additional costs of things that I’m doing for fun, and any money that I receive over the amount it costs me to participate in these programs will be put towards spending money to use on the people for whom I am volunteering. I may also start a separate fundraiser for Isolina’s family as I would really like to be able to get them a trip to the US, but I will have more info on that after I think about it longer. That would be a large amount of money to just gift to someone, but they are just near and dear to my heart already because they have come such a long way and work hard and are thankful for all the blessings that God gives them. We also heard the story of how they met and looked at wedding pictures. Maynor said he saw Isolina working at the market one day and thought “She is mine.” He asked for her phone number the minute he met her and she didn’t want anything to do with him. Her friend gave him her phone number and Maynor pursued and pursued until Isolina got so sick of him calling that she finally agreed to go on ONE date with him. Isolina finished the story with the wedding pictures and she talked about how she cried and cried the whole day because she was so happy. Congrats to Maynor for having the balls to pursue her despite her resistance. That’s a real man.

Ok, enough with the sappy stuff….On to the updates… I’m better!!

And this time I really do think I’m “100%” better. Energy levels have been up since Monday. I skipped work on Monday because I was still feeling a bit bad in my stomach region when I woke up. I didn’t want to push it and get to work and feel worse. So I decided to skip and go shopping with Isolina for some fiber rich foods.

Holy crap. I’ve been to the “mercado” before, but I was completely unaware of this entire HUGE area that has all the food in it! I had only seen a small portion where they were vending clothes and movies and street food. This was like farmer’s market to the max. I’m going to try to go back on Saturday with Isolina again to take pictures. There is fresh food EVERYWHERE. And all kinds of it. All the vegetables and fruits I could think of (and more I’ve never seen before) were there. There were places to buy fresh grain and flour and…. gross… even meat! And when I mean fresh meat, I mean unrefrigerated not packaged nasty stuff hanging from the ceiling and displayed on tables. I watched the butcher cut our steak off a slab for dinner. I’m pretty sure I don’t remember any gloves and I’m pretty sure I don’t remember any washing of hands before handling the money. Officially grossed out, but thank goodness meat has to be cooked! Still, it is a definitely a site to see. I’ve posted a picture of a butchers shop on my “Gallery” page, which now has all of my pictures from Atitlán and Pacaya uploaded if you want to go look. But, picture that butchers shop times about 100 and add some other types of meat and that’s the market! There’s endless vegetables too. I don’t know how Isolina decides which one to go to. I will always be going with her if I go because they try to charge the “gringos” almost double the price from what I hear. But with Isolina, I got 6 apples for less than a $1.25! And Isolina bought a bag of green beans and it cost roughly 25 cents!

Ironically, after returning from the market to buy all my fibrous foods, I had diarrhea again. At least it emptied me from the pains of constipation! Sorry if that’s TMI for you readers, but I DID say I would be extremely open on this blog and talk about ALL my experiences so those that haven’t done this before can really get a feel for everything and see if they want to try it out or not. I guess a lot of my experience so far may make you not want to travel, but despite my two weeks of exhaustion, diarrhea to constipation back to diarrhea, with a slight fever thrown in there, I still highly highly recommend travel to anyone who can. Look how many experiences I’ve had so far despite my poor health!

In spite of the diarrhea however, I felt like I had enough energy to walk around and go seek out a massage. My bed here is really hard and I’ve been stiff along with all my exhaustion. I thought a massage could help. And hey, you can’t beat an hour long full body massage from a licensed US professional for $30. Yeah. I said it.

This is a bad picture of the beautiful entrance of the massage place I went to

This is a bad picture of the beautiful entrance of the massage place I went to

I was in heaven! The massage was fantastic and I think that really helped me out a lot. After the massage, my energy levels on Monday spiked and I finally felt like I was flipping back into my bubblier side. Tuesday, they didn’t go away and I noticed a spike in appetite despite some remaining stomach cramps. Now I still have energy and don’t need to sleep for 5 hours after work anymore and I’m sin cramps and sin diarrhea. I think that was the end of it, knock on wood! (They DID warn the first 2 weeks are always the hardest. I would say that’s true!)

Tuesday, I got to ride my favorite bus in the morning. There are buses going every 5-10 minutes so depending on when I leave the house, I don’t always get the same people. I’m trying to time it better now so I do because it’d be fun to be able to talk to the bus drivers and have them recognize you at some point. This is my favorite bus because the helpers (the guys that jump on and off to yell “GUATE GUATE GUATE” and herd people onto the bus) on this one are sweeties. They always lend a hand in helping me climb off the bus. Maybe they just want to touch me because they think I’m a hottie, but I like to think that they’re gentlemen. They are also some of the most enthusiastic helpers that I’ve encountered. I don’t know why I get such a kick out of their yelling, but it puts a smile on my face every day at 7:35 in the morning!

At my job, Richard(?) has gotten to liking me quite a bit. Richard is one of 2 boys at Rosa’s. One boy is Rosa’s son and Richard is the son of one of the girls (got pregnant when she was 13 I think.) I think he said he was 2, but he speaks rather well for a 2 year old. He’s obsessed with the “gallinas” (chickens) they have in the back of the complex. He takes my pinky every day after devotion and says “Vamos a las gallinas.” (Let’s go to the chickens). I’m rather sick of looking at chickens after 3 days in a row, so today I asked “¿Porque gallinas? Gallinas, gallinas. ¡Todos los dias! ¿Porque?” (Why chickens? Chicken chickens. Every day! Why?) and he answered “Porque las gallinas no tienen amigos.” (Because the chickens don’t have any friends). Melt. He’s too precious. But I hate those damn chickens. They were hilarious the first day, but now NO MÁS POR FAVOR.

Yesterday’s chicken bus ride was quite interesting. I wish I wasn’t so afraid to take out my nice phone in public because that was a good time to take a picture of how crowded it was. It was packed out the door. And when I mean out the door, I mean… well.. 3 people across in every seat and people standing in the isles all the way to the door. And they leave the door open while they drive.

And I was the last person in. Guess where I rode? :)

Haha, I only rode in the door for a bit, but it was rather fun, despite the danger of standing in the door of a bus going around windy roads. But it’s actually rather easy to hold on standing up vs. sitting in a seat and sliding around! More leverage.

Yesterday was also salsa night. My favorite! I think I improved since last week too. When I have more time, I hope to sign up for some somewhere else to get more practice in. Or just meet a hot salsa dancing guy who wants to teach me and take me dancing every night. 😉 That works too. We need more guys at the class Máximo provides. Not many guys show up and the ones that do, aside from maybe 1 or 2 depending on the night, are SO terrible. I know we’re all learning and they’re learning too, but it’s really important for the guy to lead and none of these guys have the confidence to lead, which makes it harder to learn my part because the guy is not doing his properly. They are doing their steps right (sometimes), but they are not putting any pressure on us at all and they are supposed to push the girl around essentially. Eventually maybe hopefully?

Afterwards, we were invited by one of the guys to partake in a delicious watermelon at his hostel. Madison and I and another girl we met at salsa and him and 2 of his girl friends shared in eating that beauty because he said he couldn’t have eaten it all himself. After that, we all met up with Marnie and headed to Rainbow Cafe again for open mic night again. This time, Madison sung! She has a beautiful voice. The guitarist didn’t know the song though so she had to brave it acapella. Not something I could do! She did great and the guy loved her voice so much that he wants to practice with her for next week. Lucky girl. She gets all the cute guys here. I think it’s because she has light hair and light eyes. (Well, aside from the fact that she’s sweet and pretty much drop dead gorgeous too!) Marnie is a little jealous because she’s pretty much in love with this guy. I preferred the cafe barista myself (Madison won his heart too haha), but I found out he’s only 18 so Madison can most definitely have him. LOL!

Anyways, open mic night was fabulous as usual and to prove my appetite and normal energy levels are returning- I ate 3 pieces of watermelon, followed by a 3 layer BLT and tiny salad, followed by a big brownie with 2 scoops of ice cream. (Oh, I’m sorry, did I mention that that only cost me like $8 including tip?) Example B is we didn’t return until midnight last night and I still got up and went to my job today and won’t be taking a nap before my class at 4! I also had 3 pancakes and a bowl of watermelon for breakfast.

Most I’ve eaten in a row on this trip! Least amount of sleep I’ve gotten too! Yay health. I also went to the Bodegona (the supermarket here) today to get more snacks because I’ve eaten all of mine up! Note to self: start carrying toilet paper. I had to pee there because I went straight from work and poor Rosa’s had run out of paper. Well, apparently the Bodegona doesn’t provide paper for the baño (nor do they have toilet seats!) so yeah. Drip dry for me! Gross! At least I got my snacks.

I haven’t been remembering to take pictures of my food; I’m sorry. But, Isolina definitely means it when she says she wants to fix what we like. Tuesday we had fried chicken for lunch with pasta and some kind of really amazing potato salad (and I don’t even like potato salad). For breakfast yesterday, we had fruit loops and a bowl of papaya. We had pancakes for breakfast today, as I mentioned, and for lunch we had SPAGHETTI AND GARLIC BREAD. She listens. I love it. She’s so cute. Or maybe I’m looking at all the good food she’s fixing instead of all the stuff I don’t like now since it’s easier to be positive when I’m not ill!

Working towards optimism is a difficult task, especially when you were surrounded by realists your whole life. Sorry mom & dad. Love youuuuuuuu. 😀 But poco a poco, it get’s easier.. And with that, I will end with a quote that I found in my travel journal today:

In the long run, the pessimist may be proved to be right, but the optimist has a better time on the trip. -Daniel L. Reardon.

Pacaya, the Active Volcano

Pacaya was pretty awesome. Can’t say I’ve seen landscape like that before. I’m so glad I went. I had a small fever Friday night, which I assume I got from Marnie because she had a fever earlier this week, and went to bed at 8:30 because I was entirely exhausted. It was only 98.9, but it climbed to 99.6 at 2:30 AM. I thought for sure it was going up and I wouldn’t be able to make it to our 6AM bus ride, but I didn’t want to lose my money nor help pay for Isolina and Maynor’s way and not get to see them enjoy it! I put on cold wet socks and a wet cloth on my forehead and tried to go back to sleep. Alas, 5:30 AM came and it had gone back to 98.9. To go or not to go? I wrestled with the thought of getting worse or not being able to handle the awful twisty shuttle ride or getting there and feeling awful and having to wait on everyone in the bus. I wasn’t sure if my fever was just fluctuating and I was at a down moment or if it was actually going away. I worried, asking the two studying nurses in my house what their advice was, but they really couldn’t give me any because they weren’t in my body. I didn’t really want to stay home, despite not feeling 100%, but I was afraid of going and getting worse and then wishing I HAD stayed home.

Then, I decided to kick fear in the ass and go; and I had a great time. I was perfectly fine. The hike was rather steep the whole way, but aside from that being the usual exhausting time that it is, I didn’t have a spike in fever or any over-exhaustion of muscles. And wow was the view worth it. I really don’t know what else could possibly be like the top of a volcano. It’s not like the top of a mountain where there’s a small clearing where you’re generally surrounded by trees and brush. It’s barren with lava rock and you can see for miles. The trees and greenery are farther down. It would have been nice to be able to explore longer. I think I’m going to try to find a way to stop going on these tours. I don’t really like how they’re structured and they don’t really allow for any time for you to sit and explore. I could have stayed at the top all day and had a picnic.

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.

That's not a blown out sky you see- that is fog!

That’s not a blown out sky you see- that is fog!

One of many amazing views from the trail

One of many amazing views from the trail

Our cute little host parents stuck in a tiny crater!

Our cute little host parents stuck in a tiny crater!

It was a little disappointing too to find out that the marshmallow roasting that we could supposedly do was just sticking our marshmallows in a steaming spot and barely warming them. I thought we would be seeing some lava since Pacaya is currently active, but apparently there hasn’t been lava since 2008. We also didn’t hike to the tippy top and I was so curious what it looked like there. I suppose I’ve watched Lord of the Rings too many times and was expecting to get to the very top and be able to look down and see a crater full of bubbling red liquid. The place where we could roast our marshmallows was more steam than anything.

Kershena and Madison attempting their marshmallow roasting

Kershena and Madison attempting their marshmallow roasting

A terrible photo of me with an example of how little the marshmallow actually roasted after standing there for 5 minutes. Lukewarm marshmallows anyone?

A terrible photo of me with an example of how little the marshmallow actually roasted after standing there for 5 minutes. Lukewarm marshmallows anyone?

Aside from that though, it was absolutely beautiful. Such an interesting landscape. Moments like those make me so happy that I decided to come here. Earth is a pretty amazing place. Also, I’m pretty sure I saw the Guatemalan equivalent of Zac Efron on the ride in, but since we were in the bus, I could not take a photo.

It was a bit sad though in the town at the bottom of the trail. I think that may have been one of the poorest places I’ve been to so far. Their roads were not paved and there were a lot more begging dogs here than I’ve seen elsewhere. There’s dogs wandering everywhere here in Guatemala, but I actually haven’t had any follow me around for food yet until then. And a poor little girl watching Madison and I eat our sandwiches before the trek pointed to them and said “¿Por mi?” and really wanted our food. We each broke off a small piece and gave it to her. Really sad. I wish I had brought more food with me, as I would have given her my whole sandwich, but I needed the rest for energy to hike up the steep trail since I had not yet eaten breakfast.

Part of the trail up Pacaya

Part of the trail up Pacaya

These are moments I think everyone should experience firsthand as it really makes you appreciate what you have. Food is nothing to me. I can get food pretty much whenever or wherever I want and don’t even have to think twice about the cost. This girl was happy to get a piece of our sandwich. Isolina and Maynor couldn’t afford $15 tickets to join us on Pacaya. They’ve never gotten to see any scenery or take vacations and go places even within their own country! We were so glad to have them join us! $15 is so little to me. Look how lucky I am to be able to afford to travel to far away places and do so many things.

Another thing I’m learning is how important it is to just keep going. “Gotta keep a go” is what my NY family always says and it rings truer each time I actually listen to that advice. I’m in a foreign country and haven’t felt 100% myself since I’ve been here. I’ve only been here 2 weeks and already been sick twice, but look at me! I’m also having an experience of a lifetime. I think half of being sick is allowing yourself to think too much about it. What if I decided to go home when I had my stomach illness? I’d be kicking myself back in GA because I’d be better by now but I would have let the fear of not getting better or the fear of getting worse let me make a stupid decision. I would have missed out on Pacaya, one of the most interesting places I’ve seen, if I had worried too much about my tiny fever. It seems to me that the more I think about a small little symptom and what that might possibly turn into that the more likely it is to turn into something that I think it could turn into.

I’m still hoping for great health the rest of my trip, but I can tell you if my health keeps failing, it’s not stopping me from enjoying this experience! It really has been hard to get out and enjoy things though. I have gone to Lake Atitlán and Pacaya on the weekends, but I wasn’t feeling that great when I went to those things and during the rest of the week, I’ve been sleeping and sitting for quite a bit of the time. I’ve barely had time to do my Spanish homework which is very minimal, let alone join the tandem program to meet up with locals and practice my Spanish. I am dying from all these carbs. Not something I ever thought I’d say considering I’m a carboholic, but at home I pretty much always eat whole wheat if I eat carbs. With every meal here- white bread and pan tostada (basically cookies) because they can’t afford healthier things. My body no me gusta, but I don’t want to go buy different things and eat separately because my payment includes meals and I also don’t want to be rude. Le sigh. I went to Máximo today and asked if I could just do 3 hours of volunteering instead of 4 for a while and they were totally cool with it, so that will at least buy me some more time to relax. The guy in the office did say that the altitude here can definitely affect people’s energy as well, in addition to the diet, so my hopes are that I’m still adjusting and I will be functioning well soon.

When I was younger, I used to wish I was raised in a nicer situation, as it seemed that we didn’t have much money growing up because our house never got fixed up. Now I almost wish I was raised in a less nice situation. I am grateful for what I’ve had my whole life, but it certainly makes new experiences harder to adjust to. I can’t eat healthy here and it’s affecting my digestion which affects my energy which affects my mood. I’ve been so up and down here depending on how my body is feeling at the moment switching between “BEST DECISION EVER!” and “I want to go home and have my comfortable food and bed.” Isolina was telling us at dinner last night that they’ve only lived in this house since March. When they first moved to Antigua, they had nothing and slept on the floor of their business or something. They only had 1 quetzal a day to buy food while they had their 10 month old son and had to feed him sugar water instead of milk. She said they went for 4 months on 1 small meal a day. 1 quetzal here buys pretty much a pack of gum. Imagine how blessed she feels now to have what she has while I’m sitting here “roughing” it. She is so grateful that Máximo Nivel allowed her to participate in their program because now with the money she receives to host people she can feed her family well. And for me, I’m being fed poorly. Yes, there’s enough food so we don’t go hungry, but the food is so unhealthy that I’m having trouble coping. I can definitely tell you that if you’re ever acting like a spoiled brat in the States and being a snob about what you think you SHOULD have that you need to take a trip somewhere less fortunate. I never thought I’d be so thankful to be able to eat broccoli and apples and whole wheat bread.

I will be looking around today or tomorrow for some healthier snacks. Wish me buena suerte! Prayers for good health would be appreciated!

Today is Kershena’s last day here. I’m sure I’ve been spelling her name wrong in all of my other posts, but I’m certain I have it right now. Everyone in my house is slowly trickling out. I was so lucky to have such a great group here for my first few weeks. Kershena was super sweet and so helpful when I was sick to come encourage me or give me pills that she brought. I will miss her too! Isolina is so sad every time someone leaves the house. We will be celebrating at 4:30 today. I wonder if we’ll have another piñata or something different…

Cat Calls and Birthday Parties

So I’m feeling pretty much 100% better now. Still don’t sleep perfectly well, but my stomach is all better. And I can’t believe how happy I am here already. Like, not in the OMG I LOVE THIS PLACE I’M GOING TO MOVE HERE way, but like… I’m happy. My complaints have dwindled and my blessings have grown. I’m really enjoying myself now. I want to sleep better so I can have more energy to do things besides go to work and go to class, but I can honestly say that I’ve never been able to be THIS happy when I have to wake up at 6:30 am every day. Traveling is the best. I can’t wait to speak fluently!!

Isolina made pasta with garlic bread Monday night. I can’t say how much I overemphasized my love for it in hopes that she would make it more often haha. Actually though, since then, she has asked us all what our favorite type of food is and asked us to tell her when we don’t like something so that she cooks better for us! She is insanely accommodating. I can’t get over how sweet she is.

On Tuesday, Marnie was sick (I think just about everybody in our house has been sick now) so I stopped to get her a coffee on the way home from some grocery shopping. McDonald’s was the only place I passed that sold iced coffee so I thought I’d give it a go. It was so interesting! It’s not a McDonald’s, but it’s 3 McDonald’s in one (Icecream, cafe, and food). So there’s 2 entrances. Inside one is a tiny little ice cream bar. Inside the other and to the left is what looks like a regular menu, but I couldn’t find coffee. I asked someone and he pointed to my right and there was another area for coffee and dessert. They had legitimate desserts too like cheesecakes. And in the back of the restaurant there was a really nice courtyard with beautiful seating to eat in! What McDonald’s is this?? I’ll have to take some pictures for you all.

I also finally bought some ear plugs. On Monday night, the car alarm that went off from 10 pm – 2:30 am about did it for me. Yeah. 10PM-2:30AM!!!! Ridiculous. A lot of car alarms go off here, but I found out that apparently the cars that come from Guatemala City have really sensitive alarms that can be triggered just by the vibrations of large vehicles tromping down the wobbly cobblestone streets of Antigua. I assume people must just park their vehicle and walk far away or something though because I still can’t figure out why it would go off for 4 hours straight!!!

I started receiving cat calls on Wednesday. I don’t know how I’ve been here a week and a half with nothing and then all the sudden since Wednesday, I get about 3-4 cat calls a day on my way to or from bus. I try to just ignore them, but sometimes I think it’s really funny and can’t help but smile. Usually that’s after my back is to them though. I think it’s mostly uncomfortable because I worry about what I would do if they actually approached me since I don’t know much Spanish yet, but so far it only seems to be an admiration from a distance. Fingers crossed.

An example of a Chicken Bus that I ride

An example of a Chicken Bus that I ride

Another view of a Chicken Bus

Another view of a Chicken Bus

Wednesday was also Marnie’s birthday and we went out and had ice cream today after all of us got off of work. We also checked out the market and a couple of the others went with her to a museum after that, but I had some Spanish homework to finish.

I feel like I’m catching up a little in my class now. I looked some things up in the text book I brought because the book we have from Máximo doesn’t really explain things well in my opinion. After I had a minute to sit with it, I could understand the past tense a little better. I still have much to learn though and much more vocabulary to memorize. There’s a joke in my class now, at least between me and my teacher, because I keep forgetting to change the “o” to “a” at the end of an adjective when describing myself. O is masculine (end adjectives with o to describe a man) and A is feminine (end adjectives with a to describe a woman), but since most of the time examples are in masculine form, it’s hard to remember to say I’m “bonita” instead of “bonito.” My teacher, Willy, is hilarious and in order to correct me, he’ll put his hands flat on his chest and say “o”? and then pull the top of his shirt out to signify a woman and say “or a?” And then I’m always embarrassed at my silly mistake. Finally, I decided when I messed it up again to just say “Tengo secretos” (I have secrets) and Willy about keeled over laughing. Now we laugh every time I accidentally call myself a man.

After class, I finally got to go AND participate in Salsa since I wasn’t sick. It was so much fun. The teacher is hilariously energetic and adorable. I love him! The turn out was really small compared to when I watched last week though so that was odd. I am not sure what happened. I’m hoping some super cute guys show up next time. I know. I know. I’m being shallow, but it’s REALLY hard to dance something as sexy as salsa with someone kind of gross looking. (Ok, ok. I’m complaining because I had to dance with a sweaty creepy old dude that spoke no english and wasn’t very patient when I messed up because I think he knew a little more than me at that point). The teacher seemed to hang on Marnie a lot so I told him it was her birthday and he basically gave her a lap dance. She was so embarrassed and we all loved it hahaha.

After Salsa we went out to a place called “Rainbow Cafe” for her birthday dinner. Isolina and Maynor joined us which I thought was so sweet. It was open mic night and Anna Maria played a song she wrote. It was so good! We also sang happy birthday and after dinner, Maynor had purchased firecrackers and set those off! Marnie was so happy.

Anna Maria singing

Anna Maria singing

We are really blessed here with our family. I honestly couldn’t be happier. I was telling a Máximo member about everything that Isolina has done for us and she was amazed at how much our family has gone far above their call of duty. I’ve also heard that a lot of families serve the same meals all the time and no one likes them and that the other families don’t sit down with the volunteers at dinner and they don’t communicate much. Isolina is a good cook and has only made a few things twice and asks us what we like and dislike so she can accomodate more. Maynor and Isolina sit with us almost all the time, especially at dinner. We’ll sit long after we finished dinner and just chat and laugh with each other. Isolina checks on all of us when we’re sick. They threw a party for Audria when she was going away. Isolina came out with us when we went to a bar to celebrate Audria going away. Maynor bought firecrackers for Marnie’s birthday. Isolina and Maynor came out and paid near American prices for themselves for the food at Marnie’s birthday dinner. Isolina offers to do our laundry for less than the price that Máximo Nivel told us we would be paying. Isolina often walks with girls to the market so she can help them find something or help them get a better price since she’s a local. And they offer to let 2 of us join them on Sundays to visit Guatemala city whenever they go. They worry about us if we stay out late and they wake up when we come back to make sure everyone’s safe before they bolt the door for the night. They even woke up at the butt crack of dawn last weekend to say bye to us before we left for Lake Atitlán. “Con cuidado. Con cuidado” they say (Be careful). Absolutely love them. They certainly make staying 6 months here sound like it’s going to be a piece of cake.

Kirshina and I decided to pay their way to Pacaya this weekend. The house was talking about hiking up Pacaya and Isolina and Maynor thought they’d want to join us (SO CUTE!), but they found out the price and said it was too much. It’s only ~$15 a head which isn’t much for us, so we decided to split it so they could join us. I am so excited! They have never been to any of these places even though they’ve lived in Guatemala their whole lives. How blessed we are to be able to travel places and experience new things. And now we get to help pass that on to another family. I am so excited to see their faces at the top of the volcano when they come. Isolina started crying when we told her we all wanted them to come so much that we were covering the cost. This little family melts my heart! They deserve all the blessings we can give.

I honestly thought when I came down here that I would be giving more at my job and my host family would just be my place to stay and eat, but I think I’ll end up giving more to them than anyone else here because of how great of hosts they have been and how incredibly deserving they are! They are paid to host us, but they’ve really gone way above what they’re required to do in order to get that payment and I think they deserve so much more for how hospitable they’ve been. Our whole house is so crazy about how precious they are!

Today was my last day at Rosa’s. I’ve been complaining about it since the day I started because all they’ve wanted me to do is clean and clean and clean (sometimes the same thing over and over 3 days in a row. IT’S NOT DIRTY!). I asked to be switched, but now I actually think I may stay there. The last two days there they finally had me do some other things besides clean and they melted my selfish little heart when they found out I was leaving. Rosa was very sad and said Máximo Nivel always breaks her heart because they send volunteers for such a short time and then they leave. The girls also have started to be more outgoing and they ran to hug me as soon as I arrived today and I’ve been helping with math and english homework. So now I may stay and at least finish out the month. Past that though, I don’t know because it does cost me about $40 a month to take the bus out there and I’d really like to be able to use that towards some more weekend trips (They other project only costs like $10 a month in transportation). We’ll see what happens!

Rosa is not pictured because she was not there, but since I'm continuing to work there, I will get another photo later

Rosa is not pictured because she was not there, but since I’m continuing to work there, I will get another photo later

Tomorrow- Pacaya! Volcano-roasted marshmallows, here I come!

Atitlán, Chichi, Theivery and a Going Away Fiesta

[Warning: EXTRA long post]

Well, yesterday we returned from our Lake Atitlán and Chichicastenango adventure. Adventure is a good word for it.

I went with 5 other people in my house. Only one girl stayed behind. The shuttle ride (these fit about 10-12 people in little half-seats) was quite a bit sickening with all the driver’s stopping and going and with all the windy roads through the mountains. Especially with leaving at 5:30am, my body wasn’t prepared for more stress. I had to pee shortly into the trip, which was also uncomfortable. I think that need eventually blocked out my carsick feelings, but having to pee with no where in sight to stop (and no desire to make a bus full of 10 people wait on you) is not the best feeling either. Fortunately, the ride was only 2.5 hours and the last bit where we were descending into the valley where Lake Atitlán lies was so pretty that it distracted me from the pains of the ride in.

¡Que bonita! Lake Atitlán is so beautiful. It reminded me a lot of Lake George, which was a sweet little nostalgic breath of my traditional summers in the US. Of course, Lake George has much smaller mountains compared to these massive volcanoes, but the surroundings are covered in greens with spurts of rock nonetheless.

The view riding into Lake Atitlán

The view riding into Lake Atitlán

Our hotel was really nice, especially in comparison to our home stay. I suppose I forgot to take pictures of that, but I don’t have pictures of my home stay yet either so it’s not like you could compare them. The beds were softer, there were TV’s, the walls were painted properly, and the floor was a nice shiny marble or something like that. That was a nice break. I had been wondering if it would be more like one of the really rundown hotels we stayed at in Costa Rica back in high school.

After dropping off our stuff, we proceeded to get some breakfast before the boat tour. The restaurant wasn’t quite open yet that we decided to eat at so we stood around waiting when a little stray dog came up to us. He was so precious. Marnie decided to pet him, but I was being a germaphobe. These restaurants are all right on the strip and their door is more like one of those metal garage doors that you pull up, rather than a normal one-person-fits-through regular door. So it’s basically an open air restaurant (Sorry, forgot a picture of that. No me importa.) The little puppy followed us in to breakfast and we were worried he would beg or bite us for not feeding him, but he simply lay down under the table the whole time we ate. Fue muy preciosa.

Sweet little stray that followed us

Sweet little stray that followed us

My stomach has been rather rude to me this entire trip. After being sick, it’s been like super-metabolizing everything. I was DYING to eat breakfast and it was taking so long to get to our table that I felt rather sick AGAIN. After a nice bathroom trip, it helped a bit, but I was honestly afraid to eat again because of all the different stomach issues I’ve had. But I ate since I had been hungry before waiting so long and once I ate and walked to the dock, it was feeling up again. I had a waffle for breakfast. Don’t judge me. :)

The boats were made out of some kind of painted metal and they were a lot of fun. We first rode for quite a while all the way across the lake to a village called “San Juan.” It was interesting driving up because we all thought the water was completely trashed, but they were just using a lot of empty bottles and jugs to float fish traps! We got bombarded by tuc-tuc drivers waiting at the dock to offer to take us on a tour. It was a little intimidating when you don’t know much Spanish because they don’t stop trying to get us to come take a ride with them. We are fortunate to have Madison with us because she has become a translator for us. If she wasn’t there, we simply would have said “No Gracias” and passed on, but she translated that they will take us to 5 different places in the village for 25Q each (~$3.50). It was my first tuc-tuc ride and it was so much fun! We absolutely loved it.

Our boat

Our boat

What we thought was trash floating in the lake

What we thought was trash floating in the lake

Tuc-Tucs

Tuc-Tucs

They took us first to a weaving place where they demonstrated how they turn cotton into string and dye it and then they use that yarn to make all of their textiles. They use natural things to dye the “yarn” different colors from carrots to avocado pits to sage to whatever. They had something in almost every color! (Bright ones too!)

The weaving demo

The weaving demo

Next we went to a place where they grow medicinal plants for different things like stomach aches to sleep problems (Maybe I should have bought something there! ;)). I actually understood most of what she was saying, even though she couldn’t speak English, but I couldn’t repeat it back to you in translation.

Medicinal herbs talk

Medicinal herbs talk

Next was a church that was under construction, but I didn’t quite catch the significance of it or the name because I didn’t hear Madison translating the tuc-tuc drivers haha. It was next to a mountain that looks like a sideways face!

Tilt your head to the left!

Tilt your head to the left!

After that, we visited a Mayan astrological mural that I didn’t catch a lot of the story for either. However, after that, we went to a store with a book to read about our birthdays in Mayan astrology. Two of the girls were spot on with theirs, but I didn’t care much for mine. There were 3 different parts to it and the first part (I think your “origin”?) for me was a “T’zi.” Having a “T’zi” in your origin means that I would be a good leader and am a just person. I would be a good government official or secretary. No me gusta. The two others I wasn’t sure which was which. One is something I didn’t catch at all and the other is your “dream.” I’m assuming my “dream” one was the one that said I was a free spirit like the wind who changes quickly and likes spontaneity because that would make perfect sense. (Your dream one I think is what you dream about? Not quite sure. I need to learn more Spanish. We were in a hurry here so there wasn’t a lot of time for Madison to translate and me to write it all down). And the other one, which I didn’t catch the name of meant that I am a lucky and sensible person. Okay, I’ll take it! I like the second two, but I would beg to differ with the first.

Next we stopped in “San Pedro” and chose not to take a tuc-tuc ride there, as they were more expensive there and we thought it would be fun to just explore. We stopped in a coffee shop where we got a very brief explanation of how their coffee is made. I didn’t buy any, but it smelled very good. After that, we walked through a farmers market and stopped in a pretty park to take a few pictures. There’s not a lot of time when the boat tour only gives you an hour in each location.

A statue of St. Peter in the park. Not sure what's up with Guatemalans and roosters...

A statue of St. Peter in the park. Not sure what’s up with Guatemalans and roosters…

Chickens on someone's roof??

Chickens on someone’s roof??

After that was Santiago where we decided to get lunch since we had an hour and a half at this village (They take a really long time to serve you here). I had a chicken sandwich and fries. Yeah yeah, more American food. I’m afraid I may never break my picky eating habits. I’ve missed American food all week, especially after I got sick. Don’t get excited for food updates on this post; I had American food all weekend. Or the Guatemalan equivalent of American food that is.

It started to drizzle in Santiago so they had to cover our boat with plastic on our ride back, which was unfortunate for seeing the views as we passed. Audria (another of my housemates) and I were lifting it up at the edges to peek out. It was SO much fun riding in a boat in the rain. The waves were really choppy and we probably had a few times that could have caused some whip lash, especially with the metal seats, but Audria and I thought it was HILARIOUS. I’m not sure what happened, but I get overwhelmed with five-year-old “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE” feelings when I’m in a speed boat, especially that trip. I started laughing and then as the waves got worse, Audria joined in laughing and it just got worse from there because Audria’s laugh is the most contagious laugh I think I’ve ever come across haha. I’d say Audria, Marnie, and I were all laughing for half of the ride across the lake. Poor Madison was getting seasick though. I’m pretty sure the rest of our boat thought we had some drinks at our last stop haha.

We wanted to swim later, but unfortunately the rain never stopped and only got worse. We went back to the hotel to wait it out but ended up just watching TV in Spanish. I actually got a little pink that day, but I wasn’t even wearing sunscreen. I guess I have good skin because they talk about how burnt we will get here because of the proximity to the equator without feeling it because we are in comfortable temperatures, but I have not experienced a problem yet. All I have noticed is being a lot more thirsty, which I am wondering if it has something to do with the altitude differences or not, but I’m not sure.

After hanging in the hotel, we ventured into the rain for dinner to an authentic Guatemalan place, but they served American food too. I had a cheeseburger, but it had some different kind of sauce on it. They also fry their french fries in something different because they have some kind of sweet taste to them. I think I prefer McDonalds.

Sunday we got up early to head to Chichicastenango. I was a bit upset that we didn’t get to swim much at the lake. We got up at 5:30 am to be done by 2pm Saturday essentially. But I decided that was better anyways because it otherwise would have rained the whole time we were at the lake. Sunday we had to leave Panajachel by 8:00 am. We arrived in Chichi around 10am and were set loose to explore the huge market. The ride to Chichi didn’t give me as much carsickness and I was able to enjoy the landscape. We passed a waterfall on the way out of Panajachel and I wish I could have taken a picture. Fue muy bonita.

We split into groups of two at the market- Audria and Madison, Me and Marnie, and Devan and Annamaria (the married couple staying with us) and set out to explore all the vendors. I’m not sure if it was my negative side taking over this weekend or if Central American artistry isn’t my thing, but I was not too impressed with the market. It was very big, like everyone said, but there were a lot of vendors that carried the same thing kind of like tourist strips in the U.S. and everything I could see, I felt like I could also find in Antigua so it seemed a waste of money to go there when I could have just stayed an extra day at the Lake. Possibly just wasn’t my thing, but at least it was an experience and I can say that I’ve been. I got really irritated with all the people that come up and pressure you to buy things. It is worse than the marketers in the US at the mall that ask you to come get your hands exfoliated. Every step you take, there is a person walking with things on their shoulders holding something up for you and saying something like “10 quetzales. Buen precio” and when you say “NO GRACIAS” they continue to push you to buy. Not only that, but all the shop owners invite you into their shop multiple times and stalk you when you come to look at their things. Marnie and I felt like we couldn’t really browse in peace and got frustrated by the end of our exploration. I also felt like I would be rude for taking pictures of specific shops and would probably be charged to take a photo so I didn’t get many shots of the market.

A glimpse of the market at Chichicastenango

A glimpse of the market at Chichicastenango

A glimpse of Chichi from above

A glimpse of Chichi from above

One of the streets of the market was interesting because it had a lot of vendors that literally seemed to be selling trash. They had piles of very used looking wrenches, saws, knives or things like cell phone backs or chargers, but it looked like they had gone to a dump and dug it out and brought it to sell at the market. Perhaps that’s like their form of eBay here. It was kind of sad actually. We are so lucky in our country!

I felt really bad for having such a bad attitude about the weekend, but I really liked the Lake and wanted to stay longer and really disliked the market. I felt bad because I’ve heard such great things about it, but it just did not interest me. I think I lost complete interest in that area when my PHONE WAS ALMOST STOLEN.

Yeah. That’s right. That was interesting. So I have my phone in one of those little pouches you carry around your neck that’s usually for passports and money. I also have a bag with my water, travel book, and money and I have my camera. One hand is on my bag, one on my camera and I was just letting the little pouch dangle because it was behind my hand that held my camera. WELL, Marnie and I got to this REALLY crowded spot in the market. I mean, people just pushing and pushing each other. They are not like Americans where people try to squeeze and say excuse me. They simply just PUSH. Kind of like pissed off Americans trying to get to the front of a stage at a really famous band’s concert. So after standing and trying to wait for it to clear out a bit, I realized we were just going to have to push through as well. So we began.

Well, every time I pushed, this same lady with her husband behind her kept pushing directly into me! I wasn’t really noticing at the time since I was being pushed in all directions, but I did find it annoying that everywhere I tried to go around her, she still ended up right in front of me. I didn’t realize why this was happening until I felt a little tickle at my tummy. I smacked my hand to my pouch when I felt this because it felt like she was pulling out my passport copy (this is in a part that doesn’t zip up). When I did this, she made what I would call a “damn” face and looked back and said something to her husband (who seemingly had been encouraging her to push into me, which I had at first just thought was her husband trying to help her manage her way through the crowd). When I got to the other side, the zipper pocket on my pouch was open. Mhmm. No me gusta este mujer. ELLA FUE MUY MALA.
Thank God my phone is hard to get out of my pouch. I was actually really irritated with this at first because I have so much trouble pulling it in and out of this pouch, but I was so grateful today. The ONE thing I can’t insure almost getting stolen a week into my trip. Phew. I will be avoiding crowds from now on.

Anyways, after this I had really had it with Chi chi. Marnie and I were tired and hungry so we found a cafe and had some food. I had french toast and eggs because I still wanted American food. Their french toast had a weird orange flavor to it though which was kind of good. I accidentally asked for a spoon for my butter instead of a knife though. Cuchara, Cuchillo, whatever. The service here is hard to get used to. They actually are more timely than Costa Ricans in most cases… within 15-30 minutes of when they say, but at restaurants they take FOREVER for everything. I had to ask for ketchup twice and my eggs were super cold before I got it. Waited 20 minutes on butter that didn’t automatically come with bread. Le sigh. Spoiled American I suppose I am.

I’m not going to beat myself up for disliking Chichi. I’ve felt that I’ve been super negative this weekend and I kind of had been, but I really just didn’t like much. I liked a few things, but I suppose my dad has beat it into me to think “Do I REALLY need that?” first before I buy. And I’ve only been here a week and think it would be silly to start buying souvenirs for my friends. I would be being more negative if I beat myself up about my attitude. It happens. It’s not always easy to be positive about something that had so many negative events.

It was an experience and it makes me see how lucky I am to be from the U.S. and have what I have. And I did enjoy some things. The hotel that we were dropped off at for Chi chi, just for a meeting place, was so beautiful. They had a courtyard with BIRDIES and I was so excited to look at them. They had macaws, parrots, and toucans. They also had a live band with four guys playing Marimba, which I totally enjoyed. Give me a boat ride on Lake Atitlán with the birds and band from Chi Chi and I’d be set.

YAY BIRDIES!

YAY BIRDIES!

The toucan was my favorite. Too bad they were in cages which didn't allow for a great picture

The toucan was my favorite. Too bad they were in cages which didn’t allow for a great picture

Hallooooooo

Hallooooooo

I hope my stomach adjusts to everything. The drives make me so carsick and I don’t usually get carsick unless I read in the car. I really need to get used to this because Lake Atitlán was only a 2.5 hour drive… Mexico and Belize are 11-12! Yikes. I want to barf just thinking about it.

I learned a lot this weekend, but since this post is already WAY too long, I will update later with a “what I’ve learned” post. But let’s just say, I am very grateful for US food and US transportation and US emissions.

Yesterday was Audria’s last day. We got back to Antigua around 4 or 5pm and Isolina had planned a surprise going away fiesta for her with a piñata and cake and everything. Basically what they do for a birthday party for a family member. Isolina is SO STINKIN’ SWEET. I love her. I missed her a little at our lake trip actually. I couldn’t wait to tell her all about it (well, not really because I can’t speak enough Spanish yet). She’s the perfect second mom. We are going to miss Audria so much. She’s absolutely hilarious with the way she tells stories at dinner and tries to tell them in Spanish. She knows the least Spanish of us all but it doesn’t bother her and she will mime things as best she can to get it across to Isolina and Maynor. She cracks us up all the time and her laugh is crazy contagious. We’ve had a lot of good laughs over dinners because of her and she will be greatly missed. She’s been here only 10 days and Isolina teared up just trying to sing Feliz Viajes (Happy Travels) to the tune of Happy Birthday when we brought out the cake that she bought. Isolina and Maynor say they love us and we are their Antigua family. The kids warmed up to us more at the party too since we all got to have fun together. They are such an adorable family.

Our little Antigua family (Back to front, left to right: Marnie, Maynor, Devan, Annamaria, Audria, Giovany, Me, Madison, Isolina, Giovana) Kirstiana wasn't here for this photo

Our little Antigua family (Back to front, left to right: Marnie, Maynor, Devan, Annamaria, Audria, Giovany, Me, Madison, Isolina, Giovana) Kirstiana wasn’t here for this photo

Isolina even participated in the piñata! Best host mom ever.

Isolina even participated in the piñata! Best host mom ever.

Typical family dinner

Typical family dinner

Audria wanted to go out with all of us to a place called Riley’s that the rest of them have been to a few times now. Since it was her last night, I sucked up being tired today so I could join them last night. Isolina came with us too! I can’t get over that. So funny that she’d come out with us to Salsa Wednesday and then last night to a bar! Her and Maynor joked around at dinner about it because we all got excited when she said she would come. Maynor said she doesn’t have permission to go out late and she basically said “I don’t need permission. I do what I want.” We all did the typical “OooOOOooOOOOO” that us humans do when someone does something bad and Maynor said “If you go out, you won’t come back” and we all laughed and she simply looked at us and asked if we all had our keys so she could get back in. They are too funny together.

We went to a place called Reiley’s (sp?) a few blocks from the house. It is a bar that allows you to dance on the bar at your own risk. We, of course, had to be goofy and dance on the bar, even though on a Sunday night there were like 10 other people in the bar. Isolina took pictures for us and told us how to dance certain dances like “cumbia(?)” but she could not dance with us because she only dances in church por Dios or with her husband at home. She has a blast watching us dance though.

Being tired today was a small price to pay for having a great time with my house mates last night. I was glad I got to go out once with all of them while Audria was still here. And once I got to my bus, my desire to not wake up wore off. I cleaned again for them. Go figure. How often does a floor need to be washed? You tell me.

I think I’m getting into a routine now and don’t plan (at the moment) to go to any places for the next weekend or two so I can get caught up in my Spanish classes so I may only update once or twice a week now. I think I was placed actually one class too high because I can tell I know much less than the other classmates, but I really love my teacher so I want to try to catch up if I can. So I will see you guys next time I update the blog!

¡Hasta luego!

Pascal goes to Cerra de la Cruz

A quick post today to just let you know I’m feeling better. I had already told them yesterday to cancel everything for today so I could rest up for the weekend, so I slept in. I woke up at the normal 7:00am and felt like I should eat so I had a banana and felt kind of icky again so I went back to sleep until 11:00 or so. Marnie, one of my housemates, wanted to go walking around exploring once I woke up. I was originally not going to go, but I had got a headache from sleeping so much. Even though my stomach was still bugging me, I decided to go with her in hopes that it would be good for it.

Turns out, it seemed to help a lot. I’m returning to my classes today and I’ve been out and about a bit. We hiked to Cerra de la Cruz where you can see the whole city, but it’s a bit cloudy today (Rained for the first time early this morning) so I will post better pictures later when I bring my real camera to the top.

Pascal made it to the top of Cerra de La Cruz. It was pretty steep at the beginning. Wasn't sure he would make it! ;)

Pascal made it to the top of Cerra de La Cruz. It was pretty steep at the beginning. Wasn’t sure he would make it! ;)

I’m not 100% better. It seems like my stomach hurts every time I eat, but each time it seems less bad now at least. I think sometimes you just need to push yourself through something to get better. I think I would have felt worse if I had stayed home today because I would not only have a stomachache, but I would start hating on myself for missing so much.

This is the chicken soup Isolina made yesterday. I had it for lunch and dinner yesterday

This is the chicken soup Isolina made yesterday. I had it for lunch and dinner yesterday

I just wanted to let you guys know I am feeling better because I know you all worry and I most likely won’t be posting again ’til at least Monday since we are headed to Lake Atítlan for the weekend! All of us can’t wait to go out to eat and get some good AMERICAN food! After being sick, I miss American food so much. I want a #*$#%#($* waffle.

Me siento mal.

This has been one of the longest weeks of my life. I don’t think I mean that in necessarily a bad way because I’ve been having some fun experiences, but it’s amazing that it’s only Thursday! As you can see, I did not post anything yesterday. I will most likely not update this ALL the time, especially once I get more settled and into a routine (Otherwise, you would basically be reading the same thing every day), but I am going to at least try to update twice a week. It’s hard sometimes to update because it takes up a lot of my day to write everything out and then I have to walk to the school to upload anything with the internet.

I also did not update yesterday because I was un poco sick. Two people in my house were throwing up the night before last. We don’t know why. We thought one girl was because she went out drinking, but she said it wasn’t the alcohol. The boy doesn’t know what happened to him. My stomach was rather uneasy all day. I blamed mine more on lack of sleep and dehydration! It’s very hard to do either of these things here because the water has to be filtered and because the street is so noisy. Can’t sleep with all the noise, can’t drink anything but what I carry with me and it’s often easy to forget to drink with how busy we are. Lesson quickly learned. I will be trying to drink much more every day now. I was not able to eat my breakfast yesterday (I think that was also partly because it was a sandwich like we eat for lunch and that wasn’t settling well in my Americanized belly), but I downed a lot of water and managed to go to work (swept and mopped again -_-). I felt a bit better, but after lunch, I felt kind of uneasy again. I decided to take a nap before my class, but when I awoke, I felt a bit worse. So I skipped my Spanish class and went ahead and took my first charcoal tablet (proud I’ve lasted this long without them) and napped some more. I slept for 2 hours straight! I felt a bit better then and had promised to go to salsa dancing class with the girls (The thing I was most looking forward to this week!) so I went to meet them at Máximo Nivel. I stopped on the way and got some Pedialyte (recommended to me over Gatorade) and chugged more water while I was there. I just watched them since I hadn’t been feeling well, which was unfortunate, but it was still fun. I will get to dance next week hopefully. Our cute little host mom came with us last night and sat and watched with me so I still enjoyed just sitting. It was a good chance to practice my Spanish. She is so helpful.

Isolina treats us like family and worries about us just like our own moms. I was late to meet the girls tonight and found her waiting there for me. Haha. She also noticed one of the girls had a hickey on her neck after going out last night and explained that it’s “muy mal” (very bad) to have those here because it looks bad, but also brands you as belonging to that guy so other guys can’t talk to you. We have a huge inside joke now about this guy because Isolina calls him “Dracula” and we all (including her) think it’s hilarious. She jokes with us, but she also just wants the girl to be careful. She felt better when she found out the guy was from the program rather than a Guatamalan guy. But she said that Madison (the girl that had the hickey) deserves someone who is cuter and treats her better. I can’t believe how much I am able to understand. We talked for almost the whole time at Salsa. It is still easier to understand than to speak Spanish though.

I forget where I am on meals now that I didn’t update yesterday. I think I owe you dinner from 2 nights ago, as well as all the meals from yesterday. On the 9th for dinner, we had “Guisquiyito” which I’m guessing must be related to the “Guisquil” we had a few nights ago, but this was more like a squash-like vegetable. We also had mashed potatoes with cilantro.

Guisquiyito and Mashed Potatoes

Guisquiyito and Mashed Potatoes

For breakfast yesterday, we had (well, I only had like 2 bites since I wasn’t feeling well) a bologna sub basically. Weird right? Breakfast? No me gusta. It was a good sandwich, but not for breakfast. Oh and we had a red juice called “Jamaica” (Ha-Mike-Uh) which is made from some kind of flower. It was okay. I preferred the pineapple juice.

This is a breakfast sandwich??

This is a breakfast sandwich??

Lunch was “Chilaquiles” and rice. Chilaquiles are Guisquil fried(?) in egg and cheese. And of course, tortillas. Always tortillas or bread.

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Dinner last night was… I forgot to ask what they call them here, but basically flat tacos with one ingredient on each. Some kind of tomato sauce on one, avocado on another, and refried beans on another. We had these the first night we were here too except one with spaghetti on it (the spaghetti tacos night) and one with beans.

Flat tacos?

Flat tacos?

I’m beginning to love the Chicken buses. I think they are so funny. Aside from the noxious gas they emit (which also doesn’t help in fighting queasiness down here), they are super funny. Emissions is definitely an issue down here. That’s EXTREMELY hard to get used to. I can hardly breath at the bus station and even around town sometimes because it smells so awful. But the rides are fun and the little bus helpers just crack me up. “¡¡¡¡GUATE GUATE GUATE!!!!” they yell for my bus because it goes to Guatemala City, which isn’t really funny, but with their cute little Spanish accents, it’s so fun for me to listen to. They’re also LOCO. They ride at the door of the bus with the door open, jump off while it’s still moving, and herd people inside as fast as possible. The more people that ride, the more money is profit for them. This is why they pack them so full. Yesterday, I was about to miss my bus, but you can literally just wave at them and they’ll stop real quick for you to hop on. It was SO packed on the way to work. I got a seat, but it continued to fill up- 3 people across each seat, with people packed through the isles all the way to the point where some people were riding on the stairs by the door and hanging out the door! The bus helper disappeared at one stop and was replaced by all the people standing in the doorway, but I suppose he grabbed the back of the bus like a garbage man because all of the sudden here he came walking up the isle from the back of the bus, collecting the bus fare. What is this?! This is Guatemala. Apparently these busses have been getting mugged lately ending with the driver getting shot because one girl said at some random stop, police got on and paraded the bus to make sure everything was okay and she was told that last week these muggings happened. CRAZY. But not to worry, I think that that is mostly happening at night and also when it arrives in Guatemala City. I ride in the mornings and I get off at a place called “San Lucas.” I also found out that Isolina’s friend was in an accident last night where one tumbled over. The whole bus was packed and they are all now in the hospital. NO BUENO. Traveling is so exciting, ¿verdad?

It’s definitely a lot to get used to. My body is still adjusting. I had diarrhea this morning so I guess whatever was bugging me yesterday finally hit. My housemate gave me immodium and I haven’t had any since, but I’ve felt like crap all day. I feel like I do when I get dehydrated (weak with a sort of uneasy stomach), but I actually don’t think I’m dehydrated now. Sorry for TMI (I told you I’d be honest on this blog so people can see everything you go through when traveling abroad) but my pee is clear and every time I down some more water or liquids, I have to pee in like 30 minutes to an hour. So I think it must just be from adjusting to the new food. In addition, we only get 3 meals a day and I haven’t really had much opportunity to get snacks yet and I am used to eating more often. My sweet host mom went out and bought me bananas and bread and yogurt to munch on, as I skipped breakfast again. I tried to sleep some more and I’ve been pretty weak all day, but my stomach fluctuates between feeling fine and feeling uneasy. I decided to go try lunch today because Isolina made chicken soup and says “es bueno para su estomago” (it’s good for your stomach) which I would agree. And I needed some protein.

Since I already signed up for that trip this weekend, I am thinking of skipping again tomorrow as well to make sure I have plenty of rest and recovery. We leave at 5:30 AM so I don’t need to be feeling the way I do now or I’ll be missing out. Prayers would be appreciated! I think I’ll be fine, as the guy that had thrown up and had diarrhea was feeling better later that day. He still isn’t feeling 100%, but I don’t think any of us have felt completely 100% since we got here. But I will tell you one thing- There is nothing that makes you want to go home more than stomach sickness. I’ve kind of been spoiled my whole life. I didn’t realize that growing up, but my mom has always had a little heart of gold. She always wanted to make sure we were okay, but sometimes her worries could take things a bit too far: we were always pampered and waited on even if we were just the slightest bit sick. Love you mom- Don’t start apologizing to me. I just think now that it would be better to have been toughened up more when growing up because now it would be easier to deal with being sick alone! But thank God I have a sweet little host mom who worries about me too. And thank God I didn’t throw up. Then I’d be a real baby.

My phone apparently has to be unlocked in Guatemala City. I just found out when I came to talk to Carlos today about why the internet won’t work, even though I’ve purchased the data. Verizon said it was already unlocked. No surprise that Verizon fails at life as usual. If I am feeling too bad tomorrow, I may not update. And if I end up going on the planned trip for the weekend, it may be Monday before you hear from me again since my data is not up and running yet, but hopefully I’ll feel better soon. It’d be nice to have my data running while I’m at Lake Atítlan.

¡Que tengas un buen día!

I need a siesta.

Phew. I didn’t think I’d be this tired so soon into my trip. Lots of walking, lots of brain exercise, and it’s hard to sleep. Last night, I forced myself to go to bed early instead of talk to my housemates because I was tired. I was in bed by 10:00 and I’m not sure when I fell asleep, but I awoke around 11:15 and our whole house was already asleep! (Or maybe it was actually 1:15 and I was too groggy to see straight). We are all exhausted. (I’m sorry if you find grammar errors or etc. in my posts. I’ve barely had any time to catch up on emails and everything, let alone re-read what I’ve written since I have to walk to the school every time I want internet. Hopefully I will have more time once I get my SIM card and can use data on my phone).

Last night for dinner we had “acelga” which is some kind of green. We couldn’t tell if it was kale or chard or what. It had some tomatoes and onions in it as well. It’s a little too dark to see in the picture; I’m sorry. We also had “pan frances” (french bread, but they were just bread rolls) and “pan tostado” and “champurrada.” Pan tostado and champurrada were more like some sort of cookie. I LOVED those, no surprise. We also had “Sopa de Asparragos” and if you can’t figure out what that is, then please don’t ever try to learn Spanish 😛 (It’s Asparagus soup). Just kidding. Even people that don’t think think they could learn Spanish can learn. One of our housemates, Audria, isn’t taking classes and doesn’t know any Spanish but she is even learning a few words and we hear her get better every day. She’s hilarious.

I forgot to take a picture of the cookie-like things and the bread

I forgot to take a picture of the cookie-like things and the bread

At dinner, Audria was telling us this awful story about a friend of hers that didn’t listen to the seatbelt sign on the airplane. He got up to use the restroom anyways and the plane hit a big bump and caused him to hit his head in get a concussion. This was all while he was using the restroom so he ended up with poop all over him knocked out on the plane. Well, the funny part is, the family is trying to get us more involved in speaking with them so they told Audria to tell them the story in Spanish. Watching someone who knows practically NO Spanish act out a story about someone pooping is probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. The homestay mom and dad almost fell of their chairs with laughter, which caused the rest of us to fall into a riot of laughing. We haven’t seen them laugh that hard yet. They think Audria is so funny.

It is a lot of fun trying to communicate with the host family. They are very smart and are very helpful in correcting our grammar and figuring out what we are trying to say. It is much more difficult at the projects. At breakfast, we had eggs and refried black beans, as well as some leftover bread and champurrada from last night. I had coffee today, no cream. I always ask my host mom to tell me what something is in Spanish if I don’t know it, but I knew breakfast today. It’s a lot harder to communicate at the projects.

Eggs, Beans, Bread, and Coffee

Eggs, Beans, Bread, and Coffee

Rosa, the lady in charge at the place where I went today, is okay at getting things across, but the other ladies and the girls don’t usually get what I’m trying to say and don’t help me correct myself. Rosa doesn’t really correct either, but at least we can somewhat communicate what needs to be done. This place is located in San Lucas. It’s supposed to be 20 minutes away, but I think it takes about 45 minutes with all the bus stops and with walking to and from the bus. That guy was late today so he didn’t show up to meet me so I found and rode the Chicken bus alone for my first day! I also went to get Quetzales (the currency) alone last night and managed. I still need someone who knows more Spanish to help me with buying a SIM card.

For lunch today, which I just finished before going to my room to write this post in Microsoft Word (I upload when I go to Máximo’s office, where the internet is), we had salad with lime juice and salt and we had fried fish and tortillas. We also had AMAZING pineapple juice (I don’t even like fish or pineapple juice. Ella cocina muy bien.) Our host family is really fantastic. They are always making sure we are as comfortable as possible. She asks if we like things before she makes them and says if we don’t like it she will fix something else. So far, I have had no problems though. She catches on quickly to what everyone likes and dislikes and how much we like to eat. She also will fix us food at any time if we need a meal earlier or later than it’s usually served. Muy simpática.

Salad, Fried Fish, Tortillas, and Pineapple Juice

Salad, Fried Fish, Tortillas, and Pineapple Juice

And now, I am going to try to take a siesta before I go to my class at 4:00. I’m so exhausted STILL! Woke up at 6:30 AM. My back is sore. My wrists are sore. I had to sweep and mop the facility today (Damn it, more housekeeping?! Nooooo.) and then I helped them cut vegetables for lunch and their knives are missing the wooden pieces to the handle, so you are grabbing this thin metal and trying to cut with it at a table that’s too short! It hurts rather quickly. I was told by the other volunteer to try to switch out of there if possible because it’s too far for me to travel every day for this long (It would end up costing me over $40 a month for transportation to and from). I feel bad though because the girls are nice and Rosa seems to already love me. But I didn’t exactly quit cleaning to come clean more! Oh well. Esta bien. Esta bien. No me importa. Estoy aquí para ayudarlen. (It’s okay. It’s not important. I’m here to help them).

I thought if I didn’t catch up on rest, I have the weekend to do it, but my housemates convinced me to join them on an adventure since all of them are going. Carlos warned that I will get caught up in doing a lot with the short term volunteers and do too much and then be bored later when I can’t spend more money, but since my WHOLE house is going and I like them a lot, I thought I’d just go for it. This weekend is a trip to Lake Atitlan. 4 villages on a boat tour, followed by a stay in Panajachel on Saturday. Sunday is a trip to the Chichicastenango Market (The biggest market in Guatemala). Bye bye dinero. :( Hello FUN! All these places have been recommended by family or friends so I guess I’m going to go ahead and go for it. I’ll settle in more later when these girls aren’t here anymore. Can’t wait to see Atitlan. It looks AWESOME.

Hasta manana. ¡Feliz sueños!

Gun Shots

Hola amigos.

I can already tell what a challenge this trip is going to be. I hope that by keeping up with my blog, the rest of you are encouraged to do something like this, despite the times it sounds hard. I am wanting to write about the difficult times as well as the good times so that you can get a real life feel for what it would be like. The truth is that life is always going to throw us curveballs. It’s how we handle them is what’s in question. I feel like any trip such as this is a great way to learn how to overcome curveballs with positivism. You have no choice here but to live with the things that are given to you.

Yesterday I mentioned that I have a cute little house to stay in. It is a middle class Guatemalan family home. Middle class here, in my opinion, probably equates to upper lower class in the US (although I am not sure what defines upper lower class there, so I can’t say for sure). There are no glass windows in the house that I have seen. At least… not the glass I’m used to. It almost seems like plexi-glass to me. In my room, you can swing this little wooden/plexi-glass thing open to get fresh air, but it doesn’t really fit it’s frame properly so it is kind of open all the time anyways. And it most definitely does not block out noise. And we are right on the street. Suffice to say, being a light sleeper, I did not get a good night’s rest last night. Cars and wobbly trucks tumbling over the uneven cobblestone right past my window. People talking and walking around as late as 1 AM and getting up talking as early as 5 AM. Neighbors talking. Dogs barking forever. Roosters that crow at every moment of the day and night. And church bells that ring at ungodly hours of the morning. It’s a noisy place. Additionally, it’s an adjustment to get used to no A/C. It wasn’t terribly bad, perhaps like a hot night in GA when the A/C just can’t beat the heat, so I think I will adjust quickly to that problem. The beds are rather hard, as well as the pillows. So the house is very interesting. I will try to get pictures up as soon as I have a chance to do some photography around here. It will be hard to get used to the noise and lack of comforts with my sleeping issues, but as I said- There’s no choice. I WILL get used to it. Earlier, I actually was having trouble finding an outlet in my room and had to charge my phone in the bathroom last night. When my laptop died today, I finally found one behind one of the beds in my room. Outlets are definitely something we take for granted. I was rather shocked when I was under the impression that my room didn’t have one!

The “hot water” they told us that all middle-class Guatemalan families have is powered ELECTRICALLY right above you in the shower. We are NOT to touch the little white thing, as it supposedly gets really hot. Well… electrically powered things such as these CAN create hot water, but only with very low water pressure or gets hot by the time you’re done showering. So it’s a choice between warm showers with no water pressure and cold showers with better pressure. HA! Apparently ours is finicky though so we will get hot showers sometimes and not other times. They also said I did not bring too much luggage and that there is plenty of space for luggage, but I would beg to differ. I have one dresser in my room and it is poorly constructed. It hurts your hands to open it and makes a god-awful-lot of noise. So I am storing my things that I don’t need often in there. Even so, it would not fit much of my stuff and I don’t have a lot of space to put things conveniently. I forgot my fold-up shower caddy and that would definitely be something good to have, as there is no storage space in the shower for the amount of people staying here. So my suitcases are currently displayed on 2 of my 3 twin beds and I will be basically living right out of a suitcase for 6 months.

Last night I was in the bathroom when I heard “POW POW POW” and my first instinct was “OMG A GUN!” Since the toilet doesn’t have a window I had to wait to see what happened, but it stopped before I could see. While I was in there, it did it over and over and I eventually heard the familiar crackle of a firework following the POW. I learned today in orientation that “if you hear something that sounds like a gun, it’s fireworks.” They love fireworks here apparently and set them off for everything from Guatemalan holidays to US holidays to everybody’s holidays. They also set them outside your door on your birthday. SURPRISE! I hope to see some from my lovely rooftop.

Also with orientation, I had a Spanish placement test. To my surprise, I met the people I will be working for AND also had my first Spanish class. I thought those would be the day after orientation, but nope. More on those later. I found out I will be working at a shelter for abused girls around the teenage years, so I am no longer sure what I will do with all these balloon animals that I brought. Again, another lesson in going with the flow. Everything. EVERYTHING here is completely out of my control. I can at least use the balloons with the niños that live in the house with me. And since I have six months, I could always switch halfway through if I so choose. So I will go for it and give it a try. 8:00 am – 12pm. And Spanish classes (By the way- they won’t speak ANY English durante these classes) are 4-6pm. I had hoped I had spanish in the morning 8-10 and placement 11-2/3 so that I could have a few hours before the sun goes down at 6/7 pm each day, but I did not get what I wanted.

I was shocked to find out that my “pre-intermediate” level of Spanish is only a .5/1 out of 4 scoring level. I have so much to learn. They said Antigua had a lot of people that understand English, but I haven’t met any yet. It’s intimidating. And I started my classes today. I thought I would get a nap today, but nope. I had orientation followed by lunch followed by meeting the place where I will be working followed by Spanish classes followed by dinner. But, everything ends so early here that I think I should not have a problem catching up on sleep later. Once I get used to all the noise, that is.

Although in comparison to the US, I am living in an awful situation right now, I very much think I am quite well off for this trip. I have super fun housemates (although most of them will be gone despues de 2 weeks.) One member of our house is a Spanish major so she has been helpful in translating the host parents for the rest of us. The kids are impossible to understand though (I can’t even understand some English speaking kids). I get filtered water to drink for free at the house and all my meals provided. I get a bed and I get to live a block away from my Spanish classes and the internet. I have my own room and get to choose which one I want after all the other girls leave. I have a rooftop view of the surrounding volcanoes and I have my own 3-pronged outlet in my current room. And, at least it seems so far, the Guatemalans aren’t as bad about time as the Costa Ricans were. I’m not sure if I could ever get used to a 1:00 lunch being at 3:00. Our host mom is usually within 30 minutes of when she says.

So far, for food I have had 2 US-like meals and one Guatemalan meal. I had spaghetti tacos por la cena last night. I had FRUIT LOOPS and a banana for crying out loud por desayuno this morning. What is this? It’s okay. It’s nice to have some familiar things towards the beginning so that I don’t feel overwhelmed with all the things I have to get used to. Then for almuerzo this afternoon, I had “Pepian de Pollo.” It was very good. It had potatoes, grean beans, red peppers, and “Guisquil” which looked like a green potato (when cooked), but I’m not sure how to describe the flavor of it. Not too complex, but that’s good for my picky tastebuds. It was served with tortillas which they roll and dip in the sauce (just like a curry). We also had limonada. It was muy bien. Maybe we’ll have another típico Guatemalan meal tonight!

Pepian de Pollo

Pepian de Pollo

Guisquil

Guisquil

The place where I am working we call “Rosa’s” and it is a 45 minute ride by Chicken bus. That is, a painted school bus that they pack so much that there may be up to 6 people across, plus people standing going around curvy roads. Hold on!! No one speaks english at these projects except for other volunteers. At least for this week, there is only one other volunteer working with me and tomorrow he may still be laying out sick with his stomach issues. Which would mean I have to find my own way on my first day! EEK! (They showed us the way today and gave us directions, but I haven’t quite caught on yet to feel comfortable enough to do this! Too bad for me. It will happen anyways if he is still sick!) And apparently they need help teaching the girls to clean better. Just when I thought I was done housekeeping. Oi vay.

Estoy aquí.

¡Buenas Tardes!

Normally I will most likely not update my blog twice in one day, but since it is the day of arrival, I thought I would let everyone know that I am safe. I appreciate all prayers I received on the way down. My nerves left as quickly as they came. Once I got to my gate at the airport, I was distracted by writing my first blog. And then, of course, I love taking off in airplanes so that was fun. We were then given movies to watch. One of the best things, aside from prayer (if you believe in God, that is), is distractions when you are nervous. The end of the flight was beautiful. You could see the volcanoes!

The view flying in!

The view flying in!

I don’t really feel nervous anymore, like I said. It wore off and I impressed myself at the Guatemala City airport when I found out that barely any employees spoke English. I’ve been nervous about my VISA all day because I’ve been told and have read that Guatemala doesn’t require a VISA for 90 days (But I will be here longer than that- in which case I will have to leave the country or apply for an extended VISA), but last night when I checked in for my flight, it said I DID need a VISA. (I don’t, but this made me doubt myself). The lady asked me (in spanish) how long I would be here for. To me, although maybe it was just me assuming the worst again, I thought she was looking at me like I was suspicious. So I said “Estoy en Guatemala por seis meses, pero voy a viajar al Mexico despues de noventa dias.” And I didn’t stutter. After this, I was quickly in the hands of Máximo Nivel’s team members (who are super nice by the way) and got a lot of my questions answered (like if I brought too much luggage or not- He said I didn’t bring a lot for someone staying 6 months. Yay!) and then I felt as I do on any comfortable trip I take: Happy and excited.

Although, I quickly found out that my host family SPEAKS NO ENGLISH! Nada. They know “dinner” and that’s about it. This will be a lot harder than I thought! It’s a little intimidating to not be able to communicate at all, but at least they seem very nice. It’s definitely going to be challenging not being able to use English with them. However, the team members at Máximo Nivel speak English and I got placed at a house only a block away from there! How blessed am I? At the home stay there is a mom and dad, two kids and some other volunteers (They will only be there a few weeks though and I have my own room with 3 choices of twin beds. I also can choose to move rooms once the other volunteers leave if I like- How I understood all that, I don’t know! But that’s what I interpreted!). You have to put your toilet paper in the trashcan and not the toilet (Hey, it’s like a trip to Camp at Lake Sunset in NY!). The house is really cute, but no AC! AHHhhhh. At least I have 70’s weather and not 90’s. :) Oh, and you won’t believe the view I get from their roof. I wish I had a hammock hanger to put up there! Pics to come later.

I do also want to touch on more of what brought me to the decision to take this trip and write this blog, but I don’t want to do an overwhelming amount of posts in one day. I know everyone has their lives to attend to. So I will talk more about that in a later post.

In a nutshell, I’m safe. My evil “wait turn around now go home” nerves are gone. I am still going to miss people, but I feel comfortable enough to not worry for the moment. Besides, I’ve always had a thing for 7’s and I left on the 7th. I think that must mean it’s the start of an excellent adventure. Just have to get through the first few weeks of being uncomfortable! I am meeting a girl I rode in with hopefully soon, but since phones aren’t set up yet- I won’t know until she gets here.

¡Que tengas un buen dia!

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