Monthly Archives: November 2013

Isolina gets an oven and I get touched where I shouldn’t be

So much to do, so little time. It’s funny how life is sometimes. I feel like I had a few months of doing pretty much nothing productive here and now that I’m down to the last 3 weeks (which I still can’t believe), I feel like I have way too much to do and it’s never all going to get done.

I really have taken quite a liking to this project in Dueñas. I love that they are dreamers and they really have a vision for their place, whereas a lot of people I have met here don’t really have motivation for anything and don’t even dream anymore. It inspires me to actually help them. I am a bit discouraged by the resources they have. To be quite honest, a lot of the “recycles” is just garbage. Even me, with my supposed creativity, thinks a lot of it is unusable. But they continue to tell me that they use everything. Their dream is already under way. They are teaching kids with special needs for free because the families can’t afford to pay for them. But they are providing a facility where these kids can come learn and grow instead of be cast out by society.

Because of their lack of money, they are also extremely resourceful and want to start their own environmental program. I am no tree hugger, but Guatemala definitely needs to work on the way they treat the environment. The pollution is ridiculous. There are hardly any trash receptacles to be found. There’s trash in the streets an they don’t really have dumps. The “dumps” I have seen seem to just be huge collections of trash thrown over a beautiful mountainside, ruining a perfectly good view. There’s trash all over the streets, people pee in the streets all the time, dogs poop all over the streets, and there’s obviously no emissions tests for vehicles.

Their ultimate dream is to have a separate facility for the recycles and have a huge factory type thing where they can turn recycles into useful things like furniture. As of now, they rely on donations, but since they don’t live in a touristy area like Antigua, it is much more difficult to receive donations because there aren’t a lot of people around with money. To get their dreams going, they basically just lack money. The dream for their school program is basically under way, the problem is they just don’t have any money to pay their workers, and in hanging out with these guys a lot I have seen how much time they spend at the association and I have seen the house of one of the owners and it appears to be 2 rooms- a pretty empty bedroom and a door that’s always shut (I assume a kitchen of sorts), with a tin roof. Danny informed me that he is a millionaire in comparison to the homes of the kids that come to his school. That was a shocker.

It is an unfortunate situation, but I am drawn to their dreams because I like to see people that still dream in situations that seem impossible to fix. I, myself, had nearly given up on a dream to help turn Guatemala around until I met this group because when it seems like everything is “normal” and “just the way it is,” it’s hard to think how you could change people’s minds without showing them another world. There is so much potential here, it just needs to be dug up and demonstrated.

Anyways, I had a new girl in my Spanish class this past week. I was bummed at first because it was my last week of classes, but me and her ended up getting a long well and she seemed to be in the right class, so it wasn’t a drag to have her there. I think I may have actually been motivated again to start learning more, but I did not want to pay for more classes the rest of my trip (And I started volunteering in Dueñas yesterday, something I would not have time for if I had continued classes).

One of our friends from Dueñas, José, took Emilee Sari and I to the jade museum Tuesday to find out our Mayan animal. I think I have mentioned that I was a Tz’i before when I went to Atitlán, but I did not remember what animal that was. I am a coyote (or dog) and you can find the meaning of my animal below. Emilee got the same one! How crazy.

i had no idea there were this many shades of jade!

i had no idea there were this many shades of jade!

Here is my personality description based on Mayan astrology

Here is my personality description based on Mayan astrology

After the museum, we went out for tacos that were pretty awful and dropped Sari and Emilee off at the bus station. Then I just talked and walked with José the rest of the time before my class. When I headed to class, I had to stop at Máximo to pick up a paper for class (Yeah, I had to write a full-page, not double-spaced paper on terrorism in SPANISH. Kill me now!), and there was Danny and Oliver in the office! Galleta was out waiting in the car, so I got to see three of my friends from Dueñas that day and that was a great surprise!

Thursday was a pretty standard day, but I had a really interesting tandem hour with Willy that day. He told me how their culture handles deaths in the family. It is intense! I don’t think I could do it. Like pretty much everything else in Latin America, it is overly dramatic and emotional. When someone dies, they have a viewing that lasts all night and everyone stays up all night sitting around the body and sharing stories, having food and cigarettes. (Yes, cigarettes and beer are WAY too common in this culture. Beer makes sense to me now though, as it costs literally the same OR SOMETIMES LESS than drinkable water).

Then, they have 9 days of prayer where everyone (big family and close friends) comes and prays for hours on end at the house for the next 9 days. After that, there is a 40 day rest, and then they come back and share stories again and visit the grave and embellish it with flowers. When it gets close to the year anniversary of the death, they repeat the 9 days of prayer and the stay up all night tradition AGAIN.

The close family members wear black for an entire YEAR after the person dies and do not attend any parties or go dancing out of “respect” for the person that died. Is that not the craziest thing you’ve ever heard? I don’t think I could do it. I feel like that’s when you need to go out more so you can try to get your mind off of it and not be sad all the time! But this is the way it works in their culture!

Friday was a fun day. The majority was just a normal day, but the guys from Dueñas were having a fundraising party that night on the other side of town. I had my first encounter with a nasty street occurrence, but I am thankful that I did not get robbed. I am also very thankful I live on this side of town because on the side where the fundraising event was is where everything bad seems to happen. It was only 7:30 at night and Emilee and I were walking to find the fundraiser. The wrong address had been put on the event card so we walked up and down the same street (but not all of the street) a few times before I caved in and called someone. I hate to use my phone on the street, even during the day, but I figured since I’ve been fine for 5 months, it wouldn’t hurt this one time since we needed to figure out where we’re going. Well, we were walking along and the next thing I knew, Emilee screamed and something touched my lady parts. I thought Emilee tripped or something at first ’til I felt the hand where it shouldn’t have been and turned around and a guy took off running. She thought he was robbing us because she said his hand grabbed her ass but seemed to be coming around towards her purse, but my phone was in my hand in plain sight and he didn’t even grab for it. So I’m pretty sure it was just some idiot trying to cop a feel. It was shocking because, although it was dark, usually nothing bad happens before 10:00 pm. I was just happy my phone was still safe.

My only regrets are that I was too distracted on my telephone to turn around and pratice my malas palabras. ¡¿¡CERROTE QUE PUTAS ESTAS HACIENDO HIJO DE LA GRAN PUTA!?!

So we arrived to the party a bit flustered, but it quickly wore off as we danced and chatted the night away with all of our lovely friends from the unforgettable trip to Acatenango.

Saturday was OVEN DAY! For the most part, it was a big waste of a day waiting on people all day. I was in a bad mood and we went to eat with some people for lunch who we waited on forever and ended up eating at a place that had terrible food.

Then, we were waiting on Galleta to come in town and he didn’t end up coming ’til we needed to be at the house to wait on Maynor to help us go buy the oven for Isolina. So we began waiting on him, who was going to show up at 3:00 and pick Isolina up at 6:00 from the church. Then he changed it to 4:00. Then 5:00 rolled around and he said he was stuck at a job and was on his way. Then Galleta, Noah, and Marcos came over to wait at the house with us because we asked for their help since the oven would have to be lifted over a countertop to fit in the kitchen. Then 6:00 rollls around and I called Maynor saying we should do it another day because Isolina needed to be picked up.

installing the oven como locos!

installing the oven como locos!

But he insisted that Saturday was the day, so we waited some more and he finally showed up at 6:30 and said he told Isolina a friend wanted to see her so he dropped her off at her friend’s house and came to get us. It took us ’til 8:30 to get the oven bought and installed so we were all hungry and I was overly frustrated because all these people had been waiting on me all day and Galleta and Marcos missed the last bus back to Dueñas.

But, as Isolina walked into a house full of strangers, it all became worth it. I calmly explained that we were all about to go out, but I broke something in the kitchen so they were just all waiting on me because I wanted to tell Isolina face to face before she walked into it. So she walks into the kitchen and I pointed to where the oven was and said what I broke was over there. And then she walks around the corner, shocked, and says “AY LIZZIE NOO” and began to cry and laugh. Maynor said she cried a lot more when we all left to go get dinner and she feels so bad because it’s such a big gift but she is so very happy to have it. I told her, I now expect more desserts. 😉

after seeing the oven! i was told that many more tears followed after we left to go eat dinner

after seeing the oven! i was told that many more tears followed after we left to go eat dinner. I love you Isolina!!

Thank you to everyone who was a part of donating to the oven fund. It makes me happy to be able to provide someone with something they need to follow their dreams and I know Isolina could be a cook as long as she has the right facilities. For me, this is just the beginning of something I think I’d like to do the rest of my life. Nothing gives me greater joy than traveling and giving and to be able to give someone a gift like that and watch the reaction clears up all of the feelings of anger that the rest of the day had given me.

I treated my friends to Pizza afterwards (It’s so much easier to treat people to dinner here since everything is cheaper!) for all their waiting and helping and we all were in better spirits after seeing Isolina’s reaction and getting some food in our bellies and all decided it was totally worth it after we saw her face. And then, Maynor kindly took Galleta and Marcos home since there were no more buses the rest of the night.

Sunday, Galleta invited me to Dueñas again so I went to spend another night in the association. This time, we didn’t feel like working so we hung out and watched movies (The Notebook being one of them. And he loved it. I love how romantic the guys are here! Hahaha) and listened to music and I introduced him to the amazing combination of oreos and peanut butter. Some of the other guys stopped by for a while and hung out too and we had a great time, but again had another night of unrest because it’s not terribly comfortable to sleep there and the trees whacking the tin roof in the wind make some terrifying noises. But it doesn’t make sense to come back to Antigua sometimes.

mi galletita. tan lindoo

mi galletita. tan lindoo

Monday we got up and started working. We got the recycling area back to a manageable state, but I decided I wouldn’t have the time to organize it in the way that I would like to with the time that I have left with my trip. I have too many other things that are more important to do for the association and it is not SO unmanageable that we can’t find things to make art with. So I will have to save organizing it for my return trip to Guatemala. 😉

look how disorganized this place was! i don't have any after pictures though

look how disorganized this place was! i don’t have any after pictures though

oh, the horror. an ocd person's worst nightmare

oh, the horror. an ocd person’s worst nightmare

We also started another project, but ran out of glue so it’s not quite finished yet. After leaving Dueñas, I came back and had my tandem time with Willy and we mostly just talked because he didn’t have time for two hours yesterday. But while we were in the park, we ran into Miguel and Orlando taking a walk and I haven’t seen them in forever so that was a pleasure to see them. We decided we needed to catch up so we agreed to get coffee today in Cafe Barista.

So that’s what I did this morning. I met with them and caught up and didn’t get caught up enough. They came late so by the time they got there, I only had 45 minutes before lunch and Dueñas. But we got to talking about a lot of things and the project in Dueñas for me and what’s going on in their work lives and ended up coming up with a really great idea to raise money for Dueñas, whilst helping their publicity as well. And it’s a damn good idea. I just hope I can execute it in 3 weeks. I have realized that these last 3 weeks are going to be insanely busy if I can do what we are thinking about. But it’s going to be totally worth it if it happens!

After seeing them, I was pumped to go work in Dueñas, started another lamp and started collecting the information I need to execute my idea. I met some of the kids today and I’ll never remember their names but I’ll remember that half of them came up running to hug me like they already knew me and loved me forever. I can’t understand a lot of them well because it’s spanish + kids + special needs, but I will always understand a hug. It is kind of beautiful. This project deserves to be funded!

I wish I had more time to spend there, but between lunch and my tandem time with Willy, it ends up being 3 hours. I was on a roll with my new lamp today and easily could have stayed and finished it, but I unfortunately had to leave, but will simply continue tomorrow and be sure to post a picture when it is completed!

My tandem time with Willy today went great and we had 2 hours this time so we got to practice quite a bit and discussed a little about our views on religion, which ironically we once again have a very similar viewpoint! I am going to miss him so much!

So that completes my (little over a) week of things accomplished. Time is running out so quickly! Forgive me if I get a little lazy with my blog. I have so many things to do now that, as much as I want to update you on all the things I’m doing and learning, I may have to put it on the back burner! But I will try to keep you all updated!

Regresaré, Te Lo Juro

Oh how fast the time goes. I swear that each week is passing faster and faster, just as I’m coming up with more ideas about things I’d like to see or do. But the good thing is, I’ve learned that I don’t need to stop coming up with these ideas because I can still come back and do them on another trip. How blessed am I to have the opportunity to do such things?

I am almost certain I have found my volunteer project of choice, now that I only have one month left to be here. I spent my entire weekend there, even though there’s not really a project going on during the weekends. This project is called Asociación Vida and is run by the fellows who took us to Acatenango.

“Asociación de Desarrollo “Vida”, known short as Vida, was founded in July of 2012. It functions as both a community center and school for disabled children through their program Syndrome de Amor (Love Syndrome). Since the Guatemalan educational system does not support children that have special needs, friends Oliver and Daniel saw the need to help these children in their community. These children come from families who are not able to or not always willing to care for them because of their disabilities. They suffer from learning disabilities, autism, muscular dystrophy, Downs’ syndrome, hearing and vision deficits and sensory integration difficulties. Yet, the philosophy at Vida is that these children have special capabilities that the volunteer staff at Vida seek out and help to improve.”

You can check out their facebook page here (And no, you do not need a facebook to check it out, but to message them, you probably do):
https://www.facebook.com/pages/ASOCIACIÓN-VIDA/256223494488837 (sorry, you have to copy and paste. wordpress was not allowing me to insert a clickable link!)

What drew me in was not their goal to help children with special needs, as there are other volunteer projects with the same type of idea, but their goal to be as resourceful as possible. There is not really a concept of recycling in Guatemala and there is trash in the streets/creeks and it’s gross. Something that Vida also does is collect recycles and uses it to make art. My friend, Galleta, is the one who is in charge of this department, but they are lacking art at the moment. When they explained their concept to me, I was inspired to make art and take pictures of it to help them market it and sell it to help raise funds for their organization.

It is difficult to earn a lot of money in Guatemala as it is, but this association is run by Guatemalans and, although they are working towards some way to earn money, it is strictly volunteer. How can these Guatemalans have the time to dedicate into this business that doesn’t earn them a dime? So for me, this place has a dream and it’s a good dream that I feel drawn to participate in and help out with. Although it does help that I like all the people that work there too. 😉

So I start next week. Yep, that’s right. I finish my Spanish classes this Friday and don’t feel like paying for more (Plus Willy and I are going to continue doing our tandem thing so I will still be kind of having a class) so with only a month left to go, I will be finally going back to a volunteer project. I will be able to use my balloon animals there, FINALLY, and I will be able to use my photography skills to help someone at last.

I am bummed that I just now met this group of guys. They are all very sweet and respectful, unlike a good load of Guatemalans that I have crossed paths with (The guys that whistle at you in Dueñas, where Vida is located, are ten times worse than Antigua!) and I look forward to spending a lot of my final days in Guatemala with them.

Saturday, José (not the one I dated, but one of the 2 José’s that work in Asociación Vida) invited me to come hang out with them, as they sometimes just hang out at the project just as a place to come together. Of course I accepted. Emilee had been gone since Thursday to El Salvador and I didn’t do anything special or out of the ordinary the rest of the week so I’d been pretty bored and lonely in the house. I decided to make my famous Guacamole and we headed off to Dueñas at around 11 Saturday morning.

Danny gave me a tour of the place when I got there and I quickly saw how unorganized the recycling area was. It is basically piles of trash that are impossible to sort through. I immediately knew that I was going to be of help to them because not only do they need marketing of their recycled art, they need to organize it terribly so that they can actually make good use of the area and make more art. Two things of which I have come to learn that I am very good at. So after the tour, I was even more excited to be a part of their association.

As it’s not too safe to take a Chicken bus after dark, I would have needed to leave at 5 that day, but after making the guacamole and having to step out for a phone conversation with another friend that was desperate to talk to me, I felt like I hadn’t spent much time with them. We watched part of a movie and they played a little guitar and then they were all getting ready to leave, except Galleta, around 3:00. They said I was more than welcome to stay, so I did, but 5:00 came around too quickly as well.

Figuring that I’d already been camping with them, I figured it couldn’t hurt to camp again, so we spontaneously made the decision to stay overnight at the project and sleep on a pile of donated clothes. I didn’t want to wait until next week to get started, because after showing me the pile of recycles, I was too excited. So Galleta and I stayed overnight so we could work on a lamp that I was inspired to make. And it was so much fun.

The beginning. I promise we didn't drink all those beers! ;)

The beginning. I promise we didn’t drink all those beers! ;)

die beer cans!

die beer cans!

halfway done with the lampshade

halfway done with the lampshade

I missed out on sleep again, staying up late working on art, talking to Galleta, and listening to rats crawling around, so after we finished the lamp on Sunday, the rest of the day we pretty much lazed around and dozed off on the floor mats of the play room haha, but we at least finished what we started the night before!

He's in charge of the electrical parts haha

He’s in charge of the electrical parts haha

encendida!

encendida!

Granted, the lamp wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, but they didn’t have all the things I needed in order to make it the way I had thought up. But with 24 hours, some beer cans, bottle caps, a plastic bottle, and a few electrical things, I’d say we did a pretty good job!

and the end results! Ta Da! Everything is recycled.

and the end results! Ta Da! Everything is recycled.

So this is going to be what I get to participate in for the rest of my trip and I’m really excited to get started and finally feel like I’m helping someone out. Hopefully these things will raise them some money. But what’s amazed me the most is how excited I am to get started. Pieces of my life are finally falling together. And that’s why I love traveling.

You learn so much more about the world traveling than you ever learn in school. You learn more social skills. You learn more about yourself. I can’t believe how much has changed in less than 6 months time here. I’ve learned so many things.

I learned that coke tabs are called “veintiunos” in Guatemala (something I learned while constructing our lamp out of beer cans) because it makes 2 bars and a dot, which is the mayan symbol for 21. You also trade them in for kisses! (UY QUE RICO!) Which I think is way cooler than our coke cans in the states. Granted, this isn’t something that I’ve learned that is going to help me grow in life, but since we were on the subject of learning things, I thought I’d share that sweet little tidbit with you all.

it only counts if you break off the coke tab to where it has that extra little dot on the bottom!

it only counts if you break off the coke tab to where it has that extra little dot on the bottom!

But today, I had a smoothie with my friend Mihail and was reflecting on all these things that I had learned when it hit me that there is a possibility to follow my dreams and there is a possibility to combine all the little things that I’m good at that don’t really earn money into something BIG that does earn money and I was floored by the thought that traveling is really starting to make me make sense of my life.

I’m still not sure how to start, but pieces are finally forming in my mind and inspiring ideas on how to be able to do what I want with my life, while still earning money to support myself. I don’t know that I want to share them yet, but rather surprise everyone in the future once I have figured out how to get started. All I know is, that feeling of not being finished in Guatemala is truth. I’m not finished. I’m coming back. I can almost guarantee it.

Acate…nogracias

Acatenango. One of the highest and hardest hikes in Central America. 13,000+ feet above sea level, it sits the second tallest volcano in all of Guatemala. Gringos have gotten lost, robbed, and died there. Definitely not somewhere to go without the proper equipment and probably not the smartest idea to hike it out of shape, unaccustomed to hiking long distances and carrying camping equipment. And most definitely not for the weak of heart.

Something that I thought I was. But I did it. I DID IT.

I had been up and down for two weeks considering if I would go or not because of what I’d read. The chances of getting altitude sickness, especially with my usually weak immune system, and the sound of 6+ hours of hiking at 40+ degree angle slopes was discouraging, but after seeing pictures of the summit during sunset and sunrise, I thought I would regret it forever if I didn’t give it a try. I wondered how on earth it would be possible without having winter clothes nor a backpacking backpack, but the guys that Emilee work with are the ones who organized it and they offered a grand deal of $40 to take us (instead of the usual $85), while saying that all we needed to worry about carrying were our clothes. They would provide lunch dinner and breakfast, water, and sleeping bags and carry them for us. It sounded like a deal that couldn’t be beat. All I would have to fit in my school-size backpack were winter clothes that I found in the flea market for $15.

It started off as a normal Guatemalan trip (And yes, this is Saturday we are talking about. I skipped writing about the rest of the week this post because it was rather routine and I didn’t do much new.), in the back of an old pick up truck with some bars to hold on to, packed full of too many people. The adventures that I grow to love more each day in Guatemala.

Before picking up 5 more people...

Before picking up 5 more people…

When we arrived in Dueñas, at the project where Emilee works, we met up with the 5 guatemalans who would be coming with us on the hike. Strike 1. They weren’t taking care of the sleeping bags, our lunch, or some of the water. So with a backpack STUFFED full of winter clothes and extra snacks (a short sleeve shirt, a long sleeve shirt, a sweatshirt, a winter jacket, a scarf, a hat, gloves, 2 extra pairs of socks, leggings, jeans, yoga pants, 2 bottles of water, 2 bottles of gatorade, 2 peanut butter sandwiches, 2 granola bars, 2 apples, a few first aid items, and a professional camera), I wondered how on earth I was going to add a sleeping bag, a lunch of 2 sandwiches, 2 apples, and an orange, and a 2 liter bottle of water. But somehow, with some string, we made it happen.

There were 11 of us, 6 gringos and 5 guatemaltecos packed into one pick-up truck, along with all our backpacks and followed by a truck with two police officers to accompany our journey. Yes, two police officers. It is rather unadvised to hike Acatenango without police accompaniment because people are more likely to rob you if you don’t have a police escort. (I have also heard rumors that sometimes it doesn’t matter. If the robbers have guns, they will simply kill the police officers first and then rob you.) After part of the journey, the 2 police had to leave their truck and jump in ours.

And then our truck broke down. Welcome to Guatemala, take 2. Fortunately, we were all in good spirits and had a good laugh about it as we waited on another ride to come take us the rest of the way. It was close to 9 am at this point and I wondered if it takes an hour to get to the trail, how on earth we would get to the top in time to see the sunset. I heard it is a 5-6 hour hike if you go fast and 8 if you go slow and I knew for sure we would be slow because the 3 girls (including me) that were in the group were not in shape for such a feat. But worrying about getting to the top in time for sunset became the least of my worries as the day went on.

se descompuesto :(

se descompuesto :(

Shortly after, a long came our horse and carriage (er.. I mean truck that looked like a cow-hauling truck. Hey, at least that meant more space!) and off we went again. We passed somewhat of a semi-truck along the way and everyone wondered how we would pass each other on the narrow unpaved road, but with my experience in Semuc Champey, I knew these guatemaltecos would make it happen. And it backed it’s way up the mountain a bit and we squeezed on past to continue our journey. Upon arrival, an old local told us that a trail was closed.

I was wondering if we’d be continuing on, but apparently there is more than one trail in the beginning of the hike. So we took a different one and off we went.

We started out on a narrow path that didn’t seem like much of a path at all. It looked like one of those skinny, little, mostly-overgrown paths that you see off a main trail in the States where you wonder where it leads but think you’ll get lost or be committing a crime if you take it.

do you see a trail? i don't see a trail

do you see a trail? i don’t see a trail

Next, a barbed wire fence. We have to cross a barbed wire fence? Okay…

the policia climbing through the barbed wire... meanwhile Galleta holds their MACHINE GUN.

the policia climbing through the barbed wire… meanwhile Galleta holds their MACHINE GUN.

So they held the fence for us and we climbed on through, a few of our backpacks getting snagged along the way. We finally reached a wider path, but still.. not really a path. just an area of tall grass in between the trees. It still didn’t really look like a path. It was like being in a Lord of the Rings adventure. Some elves who knew what they were doing, some dwarfs who hadn’t done it before but were strong of mind and body, and some little hobbits (us 6 gringos) who had no idea what they were getting themselves into, but came to find were strong of heart.

walking the grassy trail. my favorite part of the trail haha

walking the grassy trail. my favorite part of the trail haha

I had been reading that the first part of the hike is the worst part because your mind isn’t prepared and you wonder what in the world you’ve gotten yourself into, but as we reached the first look out point (the mirador), we wondered what on earth those blogs were talking about. We’d only hiked 2 hours and although it didn’t feel like much of a trail, it hadn’t been too terrible. We made it guys!

No. I was wrong. we had only just begun. I would have been content staying at the mirador. It was a beautiful view and it was dry and there was tons of fluffy grass to lay on. We took a nice break there, munched on a few snacks, and listened to Noah (one of the gringos) play his harmonica. A great vibe to a camping trip. Add a campfire and marshmallows and we’d be good to go.

i made it to the top!! No just kidding... we're only 2 hours into the hike.

i made it to the top!! No just kidding… we’re only 2 hours into the hike.

some flowers and part of the view

some flowers and part of the view

a little harmonica.... a little interpretive dancing..

a little harmonica…. a little interpretive dancing..

Oh, my bad. We’re not done yet. This was just the beginning. After the mirador, we entered Mordor. Hell. Whatever you want to call it. The blogs were wrong. The first part was the easiest. After the mirador, then settled in the “What have I got myself into?” thoughts. Fortunately, we had a very high spirited group that made a good laugh out about how ridiculous we are to have made a decision to come on this trip and how hard it was. The hike was mostly 40+ degree angles all the way up and I was so glad I had brought my extra food because I was eating like a machine. We also fortunately took plenty of breaks.

steep

steep.. I swear I didn’t do any tricks with my camera

I thought for sure we would not make the sunset because it was around noon when we reached the mirador and since we were taking so many breaks, I thought we were definitely going too slow.

But after mentioning it, one of the Guatemalans said we were making great time. We were going at a fast rate? High five yourself. This was an encouraging thought. The longest hike I’ve ever done, I believe, is Buck Mountain, about 3.5 hours up, with only one steep part. But here I was on one of the most difficult climbs in Central America and I was making a good pace. We usually walked in groups. Some people farther ahead and some behind and in the beginning I was behind, but further on in the day, I was one of the 3 people in the front.

The song of the day for the slow pokes became “Tortugita llega tarde otra vez” (Turtle arriving slow again) to the tune of “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands” which always spread a smile across all of our faces, despite the crazyness of the hike. And crazy it was. It only grew colder and colder. I was hot in a tank top and yoga capris, but every time we stopped for a break, I would need my sweatshirt after a few minutes. Hot, cold. Hot, cold. I thought for sure this was a recipe for a cold.

But along we trudged. And trudged. Hike a little. Slide a little. Take a little break. The backpack certainly didn’t help. Me and Emily ran off behind everyone on the trail to use the restroom during one of the breaks and it was a piece of cake climbing back up sin backpack, after having climbed it all day with one.

It did finally get easier as the day went along. Our legs were so sore and tired that we couldn’t feel the pain anymore. And I was ready to get out of the clouds. The further we climbed, the thicker the fog. We were climbing in the clouds. It drizzled at some points and we freaked out wondering if we’d get stuck in the rain. But just as my heart was completely in it and excited to continue on, one of them said “we missed our camp. Let’s turn back.” Camp? already? No way we’re done yet.

So the deal is with Acatenango.. You hike to camp. Set up camp. Climb another hour and a half (You can’t camp at the top most likely due to the windchill) to the summit to watch the sunset if you hiked fast enough to get there in time. But we were already at camp and it was 3:30 pm! And we were still surrounded by fog, mist, and clouds. And were quickly informed that sunset would not be happening. The clouds were too thick and we would waste our energy because we wouldn’t be able to see anything.

the fog growing denser along the hike

the fog growing denser along the hike

and denser..

and denser..

AND denser..

AND denser..

No sunset? That was discouraging. We were cold and tired and it was beginning to drizzle enough to where we needed to cover our backpacks and sleeping bags and we weren’t even going to get to see the sunset. One of the main things I came for. Oh well, we were tired of hiking anyways and there was still sunrise to wake up for in the morning. But 5.5 hours. We made it to camp in 5.5 hours. We hiked it fast! And we’re not a group of hikers. And I didn’t get altitude sickness!

I would have been rejoicing inside, but standing around was freezing. All we could think about is get the camp up so we can get out of the cold rain and get the fire going. I was thankful I brought my poncho to cover my stuff.

This was my first experience camping, and ironically, it was extreme camping. They made a camp from a tarp and string. Originally I think they were making one for the girls and one for the boys, but because everything was wet, it became a roof and a floor instead so we’d cover the wet ground. It took forever to get it up and we couldn’t wait to change into our dry clothes. The problem was, I was so cold, I couldn’t tell what was wet and what wasn’t, aside from my sweatshirt. So I simply took off my sweatshirt, the one thing I knew was wet, and put on the rest of my clothes overtop of everything else. Unfortunately, I came to find that my shoes or something must have been wet because it soaked through my 3 layers of socks to my poor little feet. “4 pm and I’m already wearing all the clothes I brought?” I thought. But I wasn’t fully discouraged because a fire was coming and one of the strings for our tent allowed me to hang up my sweatshirt to dry.

setting up the "tent"

setting up the “tent”

spreading around some grass before putting down the other tarp

spreading around some grass before putting down the other tarp

Mommy, save me! I so colddd! :(

Mommy, save me! I so colddd! :(

The fire took way too long, due to the wet trees around us. I thought at one point that it was never going to happen and maybe we should just turn back and try again another day (the thought of having to do that hike again was killer, but what is the point if there’s no view to see?) when there was less clouds, because there was no end in sight to the dense white sky. But I tried to not complain or suggest such a disaster. So I waited in desperation for the fire and it took so long. Probably a good hour, I would say. But we were more than happy when it finally began to burn. We all surrounded it and warmed ourselves up while dinner cooked away. Beans, bread, shishkabobs, and tortillas never tasted so good. The fire and food put us all back in good spirits, but stepping away from the fire would quickly make you frozen again. Warm hands, cold backs.

sneakers roasting on an open fire...

sneakers roasting on an open fire…

enjoying the fuego

enjoying the fuego

Galleta and Julio cookin up some grub

Galleta and Julio cookin up some grub

pinchos!

pinchos!

Then came the disaster. I went back to grab my camera to snap some shots of the fire and realized my backpack was wet. The tarp was wet. The sleeping bag was wet. EVERYTHING was wet. And I had covered mine when it was drizzling, no one else had. And I had dried my sweatshirt by the fire to near dry-ness. And it was soaking wet. HOW CAN IT ALL BE WET? I came back to alert the others who didn’t believe me and told me it’s probably just damp from the mist. But, nope. I was right. When we headed in around 8 pm to set up the camp for the night, they realized I wasn’t crazy. It was wet. So we all spent some time holding our sleeping bags around the fire to dry them up. It never quite reached perfection, but with the exhaustion of the hike, a slightly damp sleeping bag scrunched up with other people sounded like a nice chance to rest.

Wrong again. I set up my bag next to Emilee under the tarp and we started to line up like sardines (the Guatemalans let us 6 gringos have the “tent” while they were going to sleep in the drizzling rain. We never would have all fit.) when I soon came to the realization that sleep was not happening this night. We were on the slightest of slopes and between a slippery sleeping bag and a slippery tarp, I was sliding down into the dirt every time I moved. And I was cold. And wet. And a wet backpack stuffed with water bottles and a camera doesn’t exactly make a comfortable pillow.

So I faced the facts. Suffer in the cold and toss and turn and wrestle the sliding sleeping bag all night or sit warmer by the fire? I knew we needed sleep after a day like that and before the hike the next day, but I also knew I didn’t need to die of hypothermia. So I got up and saw all the guatemalans trying to sleep by the fire and I thought a little drizzle but a warm fire would be the best option. I looked for a spot to bring my sleeping bag, but felt guilty putting it on the mud, when Galleta and Walter saw me shivering and told me to come lay down between them. Can’t complain about snuggling two cuties when you’re this cold. They told me to bring my sleeping bag because they had been laying on the bare ground with a cover and said don’t worry about it getting dirty. So my sleeping back became our mat and the cover stayed our cover and we sat there all trying to sleep.

But again, it was not comfortable. A log doesn’t make a good pillow and despite the fire, it was still cold. Emilee ended up joining us, but after a while of all of us tossing and turning and laying close trying to stay warm, she got up to try again elsewhere. Walter got up too and so I was left with Galleta.

And thank God for Galleta. Most everyone ended up snuggling that whole night, aside from the guys who remained under the tent (the three gringo guys) and the police officers who stayed under their tent. The rest of us found places around the fire and tried to make the best of it. And I’m certain I had the best snuggle buddy.

I wish I had pictures of our suffering, but I’m afraid after taking pics of the campfire at dinner that night, it never occurred to me to take another picture. I even had my camera at one point because I returned much later and found my backpack soaking through to the inside so I removed it to save it and keep it with me, but I was so cold and tired, the only thought that crossed my mind was survive and get home to my warm bed.

I’m most certain no one slept that night (if they did, it was for just a little while), but I am certain Galleta and I made the best of it. We both decided it was impossible to get comfortable and we laughed about it the whole night. We had no good place to sleep. First we started with our heads on a log that was too high up and it strained our necks. We then stuffed my comforter (the sleeping bags we had were childrens sleeping bags so a comforter was also packed for me) to try to make a pillow, but it was still too cold and it was still drizzling rain from the trees. We’d sit up and warm up by the fire, then lay back down again.

If we covered ourselves with the blanket, it was hard to breath. If we uncovered it, we got drizzled on like the chinese water treatment. It became a night of “Uy” “AHH!” “MIERDA!” “EEEEEEEEEEEEE” every time the raindrops fell in our eyes or ears. We began talking to the tree and telling it it was stupid and that the raindrops were melting us and the raindrops were rude. We joked about the cold and the rain and not sleeping all night and laughed through the misery. I suppose it’s possible that we were just on the verge of crazy from the cold and wetness. The ground soaked through our comforter and the rain drops dampened our blanket over top. I was soaked through to my clothes, but didn’t even realize it ’til I sat up and looked at our comforter at one point to get closer to the fire. My feet were numb by around 3 am and I had to warm them somehow. I stripped off my shoes and put them by the fire to warm up.

I stripped off my 3 layers of socks and laid them gracefully near the fire to dry off. And I stuck my feet as close as I possibly could to warm them up. They were warm by the fire but would quickly get too hot, but if I took them away, they’d be cold again. So it was a game of trying to get warm. Trying to dry my hat, figuring out that my hair was soaking wet. Trying to dry my gloves. Everything.

Soon after, I discovered that I burned two pairs of socks somehow and scalded a chunk of my shoes. Again, things I’d love to show you a picture of, but it never crossed my mind. So I was down to one pair of socks and some shoes, but it was fortunately almost time to hike again. Galleta and I wore ourselves out talking all night and I was thinking how much I’d rather sleep than hike to see the sunrise in wet clothes, a sunrise that I was pretty sure wasn’t going to happen.

But I collected myself once again and we began the trudge up the next part of the mountain, in the cold foggy darkness. 9 out of the 13 people on the trip even attempted to go. My stomach was killing me. From hiking all day, eating a lot, shivering all night, and wearing 4 pairs of tight pants, I was bloated to the point of bursting. I had no idea what I was doing. Every step was suffering. And it only got colder and windier.

About an hour in to what would be a 2 hour hike, Sari, one of the girls, could no longer breath well and we told her she needed to stop before getting altitude sickness. I quickly volunteered to take her back because even though the only thing that convinced me to come on the hike was to see the sunset and sunrise, I was pretty discouraged that we wouldn’t be seeing a sunrise either, whether we hiked to the top or not. And my stomach was killer. All I could think was get back and rest or I would get sick too. Julio was on the point of throwing up and after I leaned on Galleta for a minute out of exhaustion, he was discouraged to continue as well.

So the 4 of us turned back, just an hour from the summit, but thank God that I did. Emilee, Noah, Danny, Walter, and the two swiss guys continued on, but one of the swiss guys ended up catching up to us after changing his mind a bit later.

And how glad I was that I turned back to camp. I looked for a dry place to crash and found a semi dry (but still cold) blanket under the tarp away from the fire. I laid down trying to relieve my stomach pain and tried to pull my coat above my head and my sleeves over my hands (Thank God I had purchased a mens large jacket) trying to warm myself (My gloves were soaked at this point so they were hanging to (never) dry and my hat kept falling off so it never fit well, but I only shivered and tossed and turned. So a while later, I was up again and turning miserable. My stomach only hurt worse and my head spiraled with worry. I could not stop shivering. I hugged on Galleta and Oliver, but I could not get warm. Everything I had was wet. I could not relieve my stomach ache and my head and eyes were burning with lack of sleep. When people looked at me, I looked back at them like a zombie.

I wondered how I was ever going to make it down the volcano. Let alone, wait for the summit-hikers to come back and then wait on breakfast to be cooked on the slow fire, and then still have the energy to make it down. It’d be a good three hours before we could head down. The police headed down when I came back to camp and I wondered why they got to leave so early. I guess we assumed we wouldn’t be running into any robbers due to the weather. I thought I’d be the one sending for an emergency helicopter, made a joke of it, and heard that helicopters can’t find us there. I had no idea how I’d be getting back, but I thought for sure it would be some sort of emergency vehicle or I’d be left to die.

Finally, I finally had relief when I found that Julio somehow had a sliver of dryness near the fire and I could lay there with my head on Galleta’s lap. As I dozed off to a half-sleep, my head kept falling off his lap and my arm towards the fire ’til he turned his body so my head would stay put against his stomach and grabbed my hand so I wouldn’t burn it off in my sleep. And it was the comfiest lap I’ve ever laid on. I finally dozed for a little while. Maybe a half-sleep, but enough to pass the time quickly waiting on the summit-hikers. I was awoken asking if I wanted bread because the fire was too small to make breakfast by the time they returned to camp and no one had the energy or time to wait to make wet wood burn again.

I heard the sunrise hikers telling of their adventure. Emilee didn’t make it much further than I did and couldn’t go on because of the cold wind. So she had to sit by herself for an hour waiting on the 4 guys to go see the top and come back. She thought she was going to die as well because she was shivering to death and couldn’t feel her fingers and was left alone in the fog. I finally woke up for good when they said we had to get going, although I could have probably slept there forever. I grudgingly dragged myself up and still felt not so great, but better enough to trudge on. A little drier, a little less pain in the stomach, and a little less crazy in the head.

With a few lies of encouragement that it only takes an hour and a half to get down (I’d say more like 2.5 hours), we cleaned up the camp, strapped up our soaking wet sleeping bags, and headed out. I ended up walking all the way back with Galleta, partly because one group went ahead of us and we stayed to help clean up the rest of the camp unknowing that the last 2 guys would be running back down the volcano, and partly because apparently snuggling over night trying to survive hell can make you click rather well with a person. I spent most of the rest of my trip near him and felt like we’d been buddies for a while haha. I was so thankful for him that awful awful night.

It was true that it didn’t take too long to descend. We slowly peeled off layers as we warmed up and after about an hour or so of hiking, we were already at the good ol’ mirador, bathing in the much needed sun. How thankful I was to see the sun again. And dry off. And lay down. We took quite a long break there because it’s a good place to rest and we’d have to wait ’til 11:30 for our truck to come and we had only roughly an hour more to go. And oh what a break it was. I don’t think I’ve ever been so thankful to rest and take in the sun.

the mirador on the way back. much prettier without all the dense clouds

the mirador on the way back. much prettier without all the dense clouds

happy that i actually made it back down to the sunshine.

happy that i actually made it back down to the sunshine.

We planned to take a picture of how dead we were when we got to the bottom, but I think we were actually more dead that morning when we left the camp. All the girls hair was crazy from being wet and sweaty as we slept on it and wore hats and we all looked like zombies. Cold, wet, unhappy zombies. But the sun on the way down cheered us up and the exhaustion made us not even want to pose for another photo.

We reached the bottom at around 11:30. Or I should say most of us reached the bottom. We went off in groups as usual and Noah and Danny (one of the Guatemalans who we thought knew his way) were the last two to come. The first group waited on us gringa girls because they knew we didn’t know the way, but when we arrived to one of the turns in the trail where they sat, we all went the rest of the way assuming Danny knew his way back. But as the truck pulled up at noon and they still weren’t there, we wondered what happened because they weren’t too far behind. And everyone that had Noah’s phone number’s phone was dead.

Fortunately with the SIM cards in Guatemala, the numbers are saved to the SIM card so we were able to put the card in another phone and call him. And what happened? They had gotten lost and returned by accident to the mirador once again. So they would be another hour.

Another hour? We all died. We were so close to freedom and getting home to our warm beds and there we had to wait another hour.

When the two finally arrived, they were warmly welcomed with a “Que PUTAS, cerrotes?!” which I won’t translate for the conservative of minds. And also, of course, the traditional song of the trip “Tortugitas llegan tarde otra vez!” and we finally, FINALLY, were able to head home after our near-death experience of climbing Acatedon’tgo.

I nearly fell asleep in the truck on the way back leaning against the backpacks. On a bumpy windy unpaved road. Sleeping in the back of a moving pick up truck. I’m pretty sure, if nothing else on this trip has, that makes me a true Guatemalan.

Coming back was like heaven. I don’t think I’ve ever been so thankful for anything in my life. Coming back, Emilee and I were so thankful for our beds. For being alive. For not being sick. For having a store across the street to buy snacks. For sleep. For everything.

And when we awoke this morning, 14+ hours later (I haven’t slept longer than 7 hours straight without a break to go to the bathroom in 6+ years, nor have I EVER in my life slept more than 13 hours in one night), we were so thankful for breakfast and a hot shower and being alive again. And very VERY thankful that we’ve never been homeless.

the aftermath of acatenango on Emily.. 14 hours later. I'm sure I looked the same before I woke up

the aftermath of acatenango on Emily.. 14 hours later. I’m sure I looked the same before I woke up

So it was decided that if you ever need a reason to be thankful for anything, ever need a challenge of mind, ever need to break yourself of insomnia, or ever want to test your faith in God (Yeah, I was chatting it up with Him quite a bit up there), Acatenango is the way to go. Otherwise, it’s Acatenogo.

Even though I’ll go again.

One day. Not anytime soon. Not on this trip. Only when I know the weather will be okay and maybe when I have more proper hiking gear. And hopefully with the same loving group that became instant friends through roughing it juntos. I may have to start going to Emilee’s project just to see them some more before I leave Guatemala. <3 I'm sore as hell. I want a massage. I don't ever want to think about hiking again. But I'm the happiest person ever for accomplishing such a feat and will forever look back on it in good memories and laughter. [caption id="attachment_1103" align="alignnone" width="580"]a group of kids i will likely never forget (missing sari, oliver, and walter!) a group of kids i will likely never forget (missing sari, oliver, and walter!)[/caption]

Judge Not

So, one thing I have learned on this trip is that if you really want to get the most out of a traveling experience and really get to know a culture is that you can’t just go for a short period of time. It has taken me this long to finally begin to understand the way things work around here and finally start to get accustomed to it. I have been here for 4 months now and am in the last month and a halfish stretch.

And I’m just now getting it, right before I have to go home.

Monday was a pretty routine day so I’m not going to ramble on about my routine anymore because I think we’ve pretty much figured out what that is by now.

Tuesday was also pretty routine, but I must say that I went to the market for the first time by myself (well, I brought Emilee, but it was the first time I bought things without Isolina’s help). And I think it is worth mentioning that I bought a DVD, 6 apples, 2 carrots, 2 kiwis, and 1/2 pound of strawberries for $4. Yeah. Pretty much don’t ever want to leave this place. We also bought a gym membership for the rest of the time I’ll be here. It’s time to get in shape and get rid of this belly that eating bread all the time has given me.

We also hiked Cerro de La Cruz again and went to the gym for the first time after dinner that night so Tuesday was a successful day in starting out getting as healthy as we can here. I’m glad I have someone to share these things with and help motivate me more. It’s been nice having another person in the house again.

Wednesday got kind of interesting. We were given news that we would be getting 2 more people in the house during the upcoming weekend. One was sent to stay in the room with me and one was sent to stay in the room with Emilee. So there was no more way of hiding that I’d been in a private room since the end of the first 3 weeks I was here. Emilee nor I were too fond of the idea of sharing with a new stranger. Emilee had just arrived and had my old room that I had in the beginning with all her stuff spread everywhere. And of course after 4 months of having my own room, sharing one sounds impossible.

Well, I ended up stressing all day and wondering how we could work our way around this because apparently the family doesn’t get paid any differently even if we pay for a private room (BS!) so it seemed silly that if there were only going to be 4 people in the house and there are 4 rooms that we can’t all have our own room, but this is the way the rules are.

And, I stressed for nothing. Instead of waiting for the weekend, it sounded like Máximo was going to come check up on us and it made us nervous that she would be in trouble soon for letting me have my own room this whole time so we quickly made the decision to move everything that night into Emilee’s room and that we’d be roommates. So lesson learned… Don’t worry over things you have no control over. Once I got moved in and settled, I forgot all about the problems of sharing a room. It is quite tight since we are now in my old room that I had in the beginning of the trip together (Remember me wondering how 2 people could possibly fit in there with all their stuff?), but we figured it out and now I will have a roomie the rest of my trip! I’m glad I got to switch in with Emilee over a new person however.

And I am thankful that I got to have that private room for as long as I did without paying an extra price for it. It was really nice to be able to have all that space that I needed for 3.5 months and it allowed me to learn what I needed and didn’t need so I could pack up stuff easier to fit in with Emilee. I got a little spoiled being in there, but I was over it within a day because it’s nothing worth fussing over. Better to be thankful that my roommate is awesome.

Thursday was Halloween. After me and Emilee had our gym trip in the morning, we met up with her friend Sari from the volunteer house and José (different José), a guy that works at their project. We went to a cafe on the other side of town that gave out free nummies for Halloween. That night I went out with Emilee and we walked around and checked out a few places waiting to hear from her friends.

Minnie Mouse and Athena

Minnie Mouse and Athena

We ended up at Fridas to wait on Kenny and ran into Francisco there, who quickly took an attraction to Emilee. Here we go again, I thought. Fortunately, she’s had enough warnings from enough people not to fall in love with anyone here like I naively did in the beginning! Flings, yes. Love, no. Or faithful love, anyways.

After Kenny arrived, we spent the rest of the time at Whiskey Den with him and Emilee’s volunteer friends. It was fun seeing all the different costumes that night, but it ended up not being as exciting as a night as I thought because we didn’t get to see as many people as I had hoped nor do much but sit around in our costumes.

I'm not really sure what Kenny was dressed as, but yeah..

I’m not really sure what Kenny was dressed as, but yeah..

Friday was the Día de Los Santos here and it’s a tradition for them to have a huge kite festival in celebration. There was one in Sumpango and one in Santiago and we heard that Sumpango had less crowds so we decided to go there. The kite festival is not quite what you think. Yes, they do fly some of the kites, but some of them are much too large to fly. It’s more like works of art to admire and a few kites to cheer on as they try to launch some of the “smaller” ones. They ranged from about 15-40 feet tall and appeared to be made of tissue paper and bamboo. It was absolutely incredible the talent that must go into making these. They are all made by the indigenous people and represent different areas of concern or something else (some it was hard to see what was the point, some were like “End Violence” etc.). It was beautiful.

One of the "smaller" kites. "No More Violence"

One of the “smaller” kites. “No More Violence”

One of my favorites, but it broke that day. It tore off from it's frame :(

One of my favorites, but it broke that day. It tore off from it’s frame :(

Can you see me? This was the biggest one there

Can you see me? This was the biggest one there

I also tried some street food for the first time there. I figured it couldn’t be bad to eat at a Festival since the food would be turning over quickly and they probably need to be a little more sanitary at a festival than they would be in the street anyways. I also only tried things that were hot or fried (of course, me and fried stuff). I tried grilled corn and some fried thing with honey and donut hole looking things. All of it was unfortunately not as tasty as presumed, but the environment and excitement of trying street food made up for the difference in flavor. I think their corn is different than ours in the states. I’ve never had corn on the cob here that is like corn in the states. It has less flavor and kernelier kernels, if you can understand what I mean.

grilled corn on the cob! Nom

grilled corn on the cob! Nom

That lasted most of the day, but we came home for dinner and got some things done before we got invited out dancing with Francisco and a friend of his. I’m not too much of a fan of being a third wheel, nor a wheel that has a fourth wheel that it doesn’t want anything to do with. Francisco was SO nice (hear my sarcasm?) to bring me a friend since I knew he just wanted to hang out (make out) with my friend, but I am not really into meeting someone and making out with them right away so that was an interesting night. It put me in somewhat of a bad mood, as I do love kissing and would have loved to kiss someone, but I just can’t get my mind to be okay with the idea of kissing someone I just met and was not attracted to. Sorry, Carlito.

Saturday, my new friend Mihail (I may have mentioned him in the post where we all went to play cards one night with Kenny and Edgar in Whiskey Den) invited me to come watch a movie at his place. We never ended up making it to the movie because we went to the market first and then got smoothies and then couldn’t stop talking long enough to begin the movie haha. This is the first time I’ve ever been invited to hang out in a house from someone who just wanted to hang out. Their culture doesn’t really have friends over like we do in the US. I can’t get used to it. So this day was exactly what I needed. I’ve missed group hang outs. I’ve missed hanging out with guys without people assuming something’s going on. I’ve missed hanging out at houses instead of spending money to go out. It was perfect.

Mihail helped me out a lot because I had had a stressful week and had a lot of things on my mind. I’ve been stressing over a guy I like and stressing over Emilee and hoping that she’s smart enough not to fall in love with Francisco (It’s hard! They’re charming as hell and when you’re as innocent as I am, it’s really hard until you do it and get hurt and realize what it really was) because I don’t want to see her hurt like I was. So Mihail and I had a long talk and he let me talk out all my problems and informed me on how the culture really works here and encouraged me to not worry about things and told me how I need to respond to this guy that I like if I want him to come see me and that if he doesn’t see me, it’s simply not meant to be. Lots of things, but whatever he did cleared my mind more than it’s ever been cleared on my entire trip.

We hung out the whole day and I only went home for dinner before I went back out to hang out with him and watch Kenny and Edgar play guitar at Kafka. We decided that this day helped me so much because lacking a really good friend and a shoulder to let out all your stress on can really make a person go crazy. I never have been a craver of kissing, as much as I love it when it happens. But being here in this culture where it’s so common and getting kissed so much and making so many mistakes in the beginning has literally made me crave them. In the States, I can go months on end, just enjoying my life and hanging with friends and not really thinking much about it. But I was going crazy after only 3 weeks of no kissing?? But after I had a day of just chilling (NOT KISSING!) with a really awesome friend, I felt like I could start again in my quest to conquer the world.

I felt so fresh in my mind that I actually agreed to spend a day with people that I never thought I’d be able to hang out with again. I’ve had so many people telling me to avoid such and such people because of what they did to me. I also never thought I would never hang out with José again because of all the people judging him and telling me not to and because he was inviting the girl that he made out with in front of me one night a month or so ago when I still wasn’t over him. But I agreed to go! Without the slightest doubt that I wouldn’t have fun!

And away we went. Saturday, I brought Emilee and Mihail and my guacamole to meet up with not only José and the girl that he made out with in front of me to piss me off one night, Grace, but Francisco who Emilee had been trying to avoid. AND the guy that Francisco brought for me the other night when we went out dancing (Carlito) and 2 swiss girls I hadn’t met. And it was absolutely one of the best days I’ve ever had in Guatemala. Just a group of kids having a cook out by some swimming pools, talking, joking around, laughing, and listening to music. With all the people I never thought I could see without having some bitter feelings. Not a single bitter feeling came up at all for me. The day was perfect. Normal. Without drama. What I had been waiting on my whole trip to have with people. Small group hang outs = yes, please. I even hung out with José afterwards because everyone else had to go home and we were bored so we went out to Punto Cero to watch TV without any emotional problems whatsoever (although I’m sure he was rather disappointed I still refuse to kiss him haha).

Mis amigos locos :)

Mi amigos locos :) I love them!

Let's play a game of catch the tortilla in your mouth!

Let’s play a game of catch the tortilla in your mouth!

But thank God so much for my day with Mihail the day before. I realized a true friend to count on was really what I was lacking here. Everyone kind of just comes and goes here and I have yet to encounter someone who seems to really care when you spill out your feelings and stresses. And I could see the grating that this culture has on your mind. It makes you kind of crazy in the head. Because there’s no trust. And it made me feel really bad for the culture.

I now 100% feel like I understand completely now. And now I can move on to loving people and being a true friend to people that make these mistakes constantly in their every day life. I’ve only been here 4 months, but the culture was already beginning to take over me. Craving kisses to the point where I actually had to sit there and consider if I wanted to kiss someone I just met that I wasn’t attracted to? That’s not like me at all. But I realized after my day with Mihail that it’s hard to live here. People don’t have the trust like the States. They don’t really have group hangouts and if you hang out with a guy (and you’re a girl), people automatically assume that you like them and that you’ve already kissed. They move everything too fast and don’t put in their real feelings to things because they close off their hearts to falling in real love.

Also, it seems to be well-known here that you can’t fall in love with someone here unless you have sex? I was actually made fun of for falling for José because we didn’t sleep together. How nuts is that? You’re supposed to fall in love THEN have sex. Not figure it out afterwards! Additionally, guys are allowed to have as many girls as they want and because the girls need the guys for support, a lot of times they can’t do much about it and stand up for themselves if their husband goes off with other women. It’s not a big deal if you kiss someone even if you have a girlfriend and this is just how the culture is. It’s “normal.” I’m not saying that the culture is in it’s right, but talking to Mihail made me think about it.. If you are used to something being a certain way your whole life and watched it with your parents and everyone around you, how hard is it to break out of the spell?

I deep down disagree with some things that I was raised with (although, I definitely was raised VERY well in comparison to some stories I’ve heard), but I still struggle fighting the ties of “what you’ve known your whole life.” So if this is what these people have known their whole life, especially when they don’t get much opportunities to travel and see that it’s NOT this way all over the world, imagine how hard it must be for them to even IMAGINE that there’s anything different. And that realization has somehow made it easier to accept them and be their friend. I don’t want anything to do with them relationship-wise because I would never be able to trust them, but that doesn’t mean I have to leave them and not be their friends. And I actually felt like Sunday I was actually able to love them without any awkward feelings of “fakeness” (I had been being kind of fake nice for a while with José because I was bitter but still felt I should be his friend, but all of this has dissipated and I literally feel like I love them as if they had treated me nicely this whole time. It is quite the strangest revelation I think I’ve ever experienced, but I kind of love it. Because I think everyone needs to be loved whether they “deserve” it or not!)

JUDGE NOT LEST YOU ALSO BE JUDGED! (not saying I don’t screw this one up pretty well sometimes, but I’m definitely learning the value of not judging and just loving people in spite of their errors and the beauty of forgiving people and ignoring the judgment of others) I’m learning this lesson very well on this trip and I’m also building confidence. In the fact that I am still here and still happy after everything and am happy to the point where I could hang out with people who treated my badly without any feelings of being upset and I’m beginning to adapt to the market and everything, I have learned that I think I could adapt to living almost anywhere, if given enough time. Something I never thought possible for me.

Travel, I cannot support the idea enough. Get off your couch, book your plane ticket, and figure yourself out already!

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