Pacaya, the Active Volcano

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

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

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

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

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

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

One of many amazing views from the trail

One of many amazing views from the trail

Our cute little host parents stuck in a tiny crater!

Our cute little host parents stuck in a tiny crater!

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

Kershena and Madison attempting their marshmallow roasting

Kershena and Madison attempting their marshmallow roasting

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

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

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

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

Part of the trail up Pacaya

Part of the trail up Pacaya

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

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

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

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

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

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

3 thoughts on “Pacaya, the Active Volcano

  1. Kristin Rahenkamp says:

    You’re doing great Elizabeth. Give your body some time to adjust and maybe hunt for a vege or two at the food market. Just remember to wash any fruit thoroughly- your host mom can show you how. Indeed, you are blessed with such a fabulous living situation. It will be bring you new friends (the host family) for a life time. Also, I will be praying about your volunteer situation. My only comment is to look to where God would have you serve. Perhaps a long-time presence with these needy girls is worth the extra $1 per day and longer commute.

    Love, Kristin

    • willtravel4hugs says:

      Yes! I bought some apples the other day atthe market. That was definitely quite the experience. Will be posting about it in my next post. I know I sound like a crazy person complaining about the extra costs, but I think I’m just mad because I found out it cost me an extra $1000 + to do this volunteer program as opposed to just opting to find a homestay and study spanish. So I’m a little curious why I’m having to not only PAY to work for people, but also having to additionally cover my transportation costs. I would understand one or the other, but not both. Volunteering is already helping by offering your services to someone, but paying extra to volunteer in place of only studying Spanish? Seems kind of odd to me.. I’m going to have a talk with Maximo once I figure out what the exact cost difference is. $1000 would cover like 3 of my side trips! :/

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