Another week over! Another week of adventures!
Before we dropped Madison at the airport last Sunday, I got to watch her dance Salsa with the guy across the street (Remember we live across from a salsa school? Chyeah. Mi vida es mejor que tuya.) and she was awesome! She only had taken 3 classes with him and was already getting flipped upside down. I can’t wait to start.
I had a bit of a cough last weekend and was hoping to go straight home to rest up for this week, but Isolina and Maynor had things to do while we were in Guate dropping off Madison and we didn’t get home until at least 10:30. I keep trying to establish catch up days to fix my blog gallery and plan my trips, but it has yet to happen. I don’t think I’ll be joining them to go to Guate again for a little while because it is unfortunately a bit boring when you don’t understand enough Spanish to participate in rapid conversation.
I most definitely did not get enough sleep that night, but I forced myself to go to work Monday because I knew how much they were excited to learn English and I did not want to let them down. My cough was rather off and on so I figured I would be fine to go to work and come home and rest and go to Spanish class. I was able to finish teaching my class, but I ended up going home early due to something ELSE. I’m just a mess, aren’t I? My stomach had a horrible pain about 15 minutes before the class ended and I felt a little woosy. I was able to finish the class, but I thought for sure I’d barf on the walk or chicken bus ride home. I had no idea what was going on. I made it home; I never threw up; I never had diarrhea like the first two weeks here, just horrible pain in my stomach. I couldn’t lay on my side. I skipped my class. It dyed down but would come back off and on throughout the day.
Because of this, I finally made the decision to just volunteer 3 days a week. I keep getting sick and feel obligated to help them, but then I miss out on the things I wanted to do in coming here (like learning Spanish). Also, since I’m mostly teaching the adults, they often have things to do in the morning so this way they have break days to get those things done and I have more time to study my Spanish. What a change this has been from my original plans to shower children with balloon animals. Go with the flow, my aunts always say.
Oh, by the way, Tuesday in the wee hours of the morning, I got to experience my first earthquake. Well, tremors. Whatever. THAT was interesting. I heard a truck tumbling down the street, but I knew from being here a month that the trucks never make anything happen to the house except maybe vibrate a little. It also lasted longer than when the truck passed and our whole house (except for obviously the locals) felt it. Put your house on top of a giant washing machine and you’ll pretty much get the same affect. I’m thankful we don’t have those in Georgia! Such a strange feeling to wake up to!
My stomach ache went away Tuesday and I never figured out what it was. I imagine it’s because I am eating so unhealthy here, but I don’t have much of a choice without buying my own groceries and cooking my own food. So, the fight to stay well continues. I could tell that I made a great decision to switch to 3 days a week when I got to sleep in on Tuesday. I just relaxed and studied my Spanish and sat up on the rooftop. Got a nice sunburn. Woops. First one yet! I’ve been on the roof before too. Not sure why I got burned this time instead of all the other times I’ve been out in the sun here. Not a bad one though. Now I’ll have a nice base to get toasty tan!
When I got to class Tuesday, I was bummed that I had been sick the day before because I was the only person in the class! WOOHOO! Private class for group class price! Yes please. When there’s no other volunteers at your level, you get your own class. I learn SO much more this way, but it’s twice as expensive if I were to pay to always have private classes.
One of the new girls that just arrived Sunday or so already left Wednesday! Chickened out! She came all the way from Australia too and was only going to be here for 2 weeks. I felt bad for her. I wish she had read my blog before deciding to go home, but no one even knew she had been thinking about it. I know how awful it can be to let your worries take over your mind. You miss out on so many great things when that happens. She was a mess when she arrived, crying over missing her boyfriend, but we chalked it up to being on 3 hours of sleep, considering she was 28 years old. But with the tremors on Tuesday and her low self-esteem in her ability to learn Spanish, along with finding out that she’d have to take 2 chicken buses to her job by herself, along with the warnings not to walk around alone at night by yourself, her fears swallowed her up and off she went. The new group is definitely much different than the first group. They’re all really sweet, but we almost rarely see each other or eat together or hang out as a whole. We’re down to just 3 other people besides me now, but the 40-something year old is usually too tired to do much after working or is more independent, and the others have a lot more friends in the volunteer house.
I think this is for the better though because now it is encouraging me to go make friends with locals, which I wanted to do from the beginning. I just loved my first group so much that it was hard not to hang out with them. We did almost everything together. I miss them, but now I will be able to better my Spanish quicker. As I thought, I have become the house translator. I obviously can’t translate as well as Madison at my level of Spanish, but it is helping me practice more and I can already tell I’m learning at a faster pace than before.
Wednesday, my cough still hovered over me. I wasn’t coughing up a storm all day, but it would come and go. Of course, did I let that stop me from having my traditional Wednesday? No way dude. My cough actually suppressed all day besides when I woke up, so I figured it would be fine to continue on to salsa night and Rainbow Cafe. Salsa was a little boring this week because we had a lot of new people and AJ and I were the only repeat offenders. AJ was a friend of Madison’s we’ve hung out with a few times now. Me and him practiced a little on the side while the others learned the basic basics, but we joined in once the line started moving. (We line up and every once in a while the girls move down the line to switch partners and make it fair). I was rather bored and I think the teacher could tell. For some reason though, everyone left like 15 minutes early. I finally made my way back around to the teacher (the fun one, Orlando, finally came back by the way) and got to dance with him for 30 minutes! We were mostly doing Bachatta at that point though. But I did get to do a flipty-flip salsa move. Definitely need more practice on that one.
Orlando cracks me the hell up. He is always goofing off and doing a bunch of different moves with the biggest smile on his face. Since I knew a little more Salsa this week than the others, I sometimes made a fool of myself back at him like a dance off and had a blast. When I got around to him in the line, he was calling me “mi vida” (this literally means my life, but they use it as an endearing term like my love or my sweetheart) and telling me (in Spanish- yes I can understand a bit now) “Oh, I’ve been waiting for you all night. Where have you been all my life?” hahaha. He’s such a drama queen and I love every minute of it. I really enjoyed getting 30 minutes of straight teacher time, even though most of it was just goofing off. We took a picture on his phone too and I should have had him send it to me, but maybe I’ll get it next week. He invited me to a bar he works at where he sometimes teaches more Salsa, but unfortunately I’ve been too sick to go out since Wednesday. Today I am taking a vow of silence to heal my cough and voice.
At Rainbow, since the girls in my house brought a big group of people, I didn’t feel obligated to entertain and was able to talk to my acquaintances that work there. José is the guy that takes down names for people who want to participate in open mic night. I got a chance to talk to him for quite a while (all in Spanish. So proud of myselfff) and we exchanged numbers by the end of the night. He seems so sweet. My cough came back with a vengeance after I ate and I went to the front to ask where the nearest pharmacy was for cough drops because I knew I couldn’t stay at Rainbow without them. José gave me some strong mint candies they hand out after dinner so I didn’t have to leave or walk somewhere alone. And he brought them to me the rest of the night. So precious! I gave Kenny my number too, but haven’t heard from him yet. I just got to meet Juan Andrés, the other guitarist, so no numbers with him yet, but he invited me to come to a cafe Thursday afternoon where he was playing and then back to Rainbow Thursday night because he plays there again too.
I’m loving how quickly people pick up on my personality though. I barely know these guys and Kenny was laughing at me because I was wearing my shirt that has a sunshine smiley face with heart sunglasses that says “Hello Sunshine” and he was saying how perfect that shirt is for me. What? How does he know this already? Am I that transparent? I mean I’ve been a little goofy sometimes at Rainbow, but still. Either way, I like it when people see the happy side of me.
I lost my voice by the end of the night with all the chatting and coughing and it was still gone the next day. Since I had the day off besides class and tandem, I thought I would get to rest it, but nope. I got to skype with my Becki Lorraine and then I had a tandem meeting and then class (private again so lots of talking!) so no resting my voice for me. My tandem partner and I stopped by the cafe where Juan said he was playing that afternoon, but he was not there yet and the barista said he never even told him if he was coming or not! Haha. Oh well. I tried. I didn’t get to go to Rainbow because I knew I needed to rest my voice this time. Next week, maybe I’ll be finally hanging out with people outside of at Rainbow Cafe Wednesday nights.
Of course, skipping Rainbow Thursday night didn’t do much because I ended up talking to Isolina a lot at dinner. I just love talking. Losing my voice and having a cough sucks. I’ve been so sick this trip. About as often as my first year in college. I’ve had diarrhea, constipation, zero energy, a fever, strange stomach aches, a cough, and I’ve lost my voice all in a month’s time and have probably had maybe one week of being normal-ish. Still the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m thankful I haven’t thrown up. I’m thankful that I can usually talk. I’m thankful I can walk and hear and see. For the first time in my life, being sick hasn’t gotten the best of me. Yeah, it has sucked because there is a lot I’d like to do that it is crippling me from doing, but in general I am still so happy here.
José invited me to go Salsa dancing with him last night at Las Palmas. That was my first text from a local! My first new friend. Yay new friends! I couldn’t go, obviously, and I was super bummed out about that, but I am so excited to be making some local friends. I hope I heal up soon so I can actually go do these things, but for the first time in my life, I am still at least happy in spite of being sick. I pray I finally heal up in every form soon so I can begin planning my trips to other countries, because time is absolutely flying by and I’m starting to wonder when I’ll have time to go. I thought I would be glad if time flew by when I was afraid of coming here, but now I really don’t want time to fly because it makes me sad to think about leaving. I’m getting ready to plan some trips to other countries soon, but I almost don’t want to even go because I’m falling in love with the people here. Travel is always about the people. I’m learning this the more places I see and the more things I do and the more people I meet. The thing that lasts the longest and makes the strongest impression is always the people. Like my travel journal says:
“Though I have seen the oceans and mountains, though I have read great books and seen great works of art… there is nothing greater or more beautiful than those people I love.” -Christopher De Vinck
I’ve already fallen for so many people here. I love my family. I loved my first group of volunteers. I love my Spanish teacher and my salsa teacher. I just want to put everyone in my pocket and take them home. Everyone is so precious here! Maybe it’s because they’re so little, but I just love them and want to eat them up. I decided to ask my Spanish teacher yesterday if there was a phrase in Spanish that equals our “Ohhh he’s so cute, I just want to put him in my pocket.” After long explanation of what this phrase means, my teacher came to the conclusion that it’s roughly the same as “Te quiero robar” (That thing that the guy said to me at the bus station last week). Except it’s more common here if a guy says it about a girl or someone says it about a child vs. a girl saying it about a guy like our “pockets” phrase. But now that I’ve heard a third local explanation of “te quiero robar,” I know for sure that guy at the bus station just thought I was cute and wasn’t being rude or sexual at all. That’s good to know.
In conclusion, I come bearing great news. Jesus has risen! Okay just kidding. Not THAT good of news. But, I had been waiting and waiting to hear from another department of Máximo about being able to receive money back for the times I will be traveling to other countries here if I chose to do that. I had been angry all week because I heard I can’t get money back, but maybe could get credit. I finally heard I could get credit, but only use it towards volunteering or housing in Guatemala which upset me because that’s basically the same as not getting anything back since my plane ticket home is already booked. I decided to email back an upset, but polite, email and yesterday found out that they changed their mind. I can now can get credit for the time I am not here and use it towards any Máximo program (TEFL, Spanish, Salsa, Housing, Volunteering) in any of their countries (Peru, Costa Rica, Guatemala). I couldn’t be happier. Now I don’t have to worry about wasting money on rent and things in Antigua while I’m visiting other places. Although like I said, it’s getting hard to think about even leaving Antigua for a week!
This has been an amazing experience. I have been sick so much, but I still feel overwhelmingly blessed. I essentially have no friends here at the moment (meaning friends I get to see regularly enough to call them friends), but yet I’m not depressed. That’s odd for me. I’ve been sick and I will admit I’ve been sad that I’ve had to miss some things, but overall am not regretting the trip at all.
Yesterday, my bus stop in San Lucas was oddly crowded and none of the buses were coming. Four buses to Antigua passed by, but turned a different way (Apparently they were going back to Guate City). I almost got on them since they said Antigua, but hesitated because they weren’t going the usual way. I had to wait at least 30 minutes for a bus (vs. the usual 2 minutes) and had no idea what was going on. I found out in my class later that there had been protests in San Lucas or Su Pongo and any volunteers that had projects there in the afternoons were not to go to their projects because people were throwing rocks at buses or something! But I came back unscathed and never saw a sign of any of this happening.
All that comes to my mind right now is “I’m blessed beyond the curse, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” It’s true. I’m well on my way to becoming a Spanish-speaking, positive-thinking, world-traveling chica. Join me!