Daily Archives: July 15, 2013

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!

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