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!

No me hagas salir. :(

Every week is a moment closer to coming home. And I can’t get over how fast the time is flying still. I feel like I will be opening every blog post with the same phrase because I’m just so shocked, I feel like I’m going to blink and it’s all going to be over. It’s bumming me out so much, as I feel like trip just began when I went to Belize and came back. I was sick so much in the beginning and then got in so many habits and things that just became learning moments that I feel like now I’ve just settled and really begun to enjoy my trip, but it’s almost over! TRISTE! (Sorry I have like no pics again this week…)

Monday I met my new housemate, Emilee. I was worried about meeting her because she is going to be here for 6 months and so I have to live with her the rest of the time I am here. I knew she was 18 years old and with people much younger than me, it can be hit or miss with whether we get along well or not. She turned out to be “hit” because she’s super sweet and we have been getting along great so far so I am really enjoying having a new person here and am excited to have someone here the rest of the time. Now I have Guatemalan friends, but I also have someone in the house to keep me company so I don’t always have to leave to go find it.

Willy, now that his BAR exam is over, now has a lot more time to hang out so we started a tandem program after our usual class time and now talk for an hour, 1/2 in English for him and 1/2 in Spanish for me. He’s so precious when he speaks English! His voice sounds so different than his Spanish voice, it’s hard to get used to haha.

Tuesday I went for a good walk around the city in search for a yoga mat that I could buy to do some exercises on. Half of my pants that I brought no longer fit well thanks to all the carbohydrates we eat here. It’s driving me crazy! I was successful in finding a place that sells them, but unsuccessful because they’re out of stock til either a week from now or 2 weeks from now. Goodness.

In class, I had another funny “we know each other too well” moment with Willy. I was going on and on about some guy I met (Don’t make fun of me until you come get seduced by this language! Hahaha) that I was fussing about wanting to see again and blah blah and Willy changed the subject and turned the topic to the “pregunta del dia!” I smirked sarcastically and was like “Oh boy. Here we go.” And he asked me what my problem was and I said “Now you’re going to ask me a question about this guy.” It was honestly just an educated guess, but Willy’s mouth dropped and he was like “Wow.” And then I after a few “Wow what? I’m right, right?”‘s from me, we just cracked up for about 10 minutes straight and I said “I’ve been here how long now? I think I know you by now.” Oh fun times with Willy. How I will miss these classes.

We had more tandem time after again and got into big topics like divorce and relationships. An hour really just isn’t enough time to talk to him. I haven’t met anyone who shares a similar interest in me in analyzing deep subjects and trying to figure out the cause of them and having really complex opinions about them. It makes you go home and think and it’s really nice to have someone to share that with. Through a lot of the not so nice people I’ve made here, I do believe I have met SOME people that will be friends with me for life. And that’s my favorite kind of friendship. :)

After dinner, Emilee, Megan and I went to watch Kenny and Edgar play at Cafe No Sé otra vez. Definitely becoming a habit to go watch them play all the time now that we hang out afterwards. That was an interesting night for sure. Poor Emilee has just gotten here and she’s already getting awkwardly hit on and not even by a Guatemalteco! We were sitting down and some old guy with a cowboy hat on told us we need to learn how to relax (Um, we’re sitting down.. Since when is that not relaxing?) and tried to drag us to dance. We finally gave in when there were lots of people dancing around in a circle and we all danced, but afterwards he continued small chatting “Where you from? How long you here?” Yadayada.

Well…. He finds out that Emilee has 6 months here and just goes “WOW! We should like have an affair or something.” WHAT?! Who says that? So Emilee and I just stare at each other with our eyes big with surprise when he asks where she’s from again and she answers “Maine” and he says “Aw. Nevermind. You’re much too Victorian for me” (whatever that means) and proceeds to say “Well, you oughtta at least F*CK somebody while you’re here or get a vibrator or something. You guys just gotta loosen up and have some fun!” WHAT? I just. I just have no words. I will never get tired of traveling because you meet someone interesting almost every day. I’m not even sure interesting is a good enough word to describe it anymore.

So poor Emilee has already been scarred for life by the crazies; and Kenny, for that matter, has been teasing her to make fun of the other Guatemalans here by saying “Do you want to marry me?” and high-fiving her and claiming that they’re now husband and wife because apparently high-fiving is the “new way” to get married (I better be careful for I who start high fiving!). But she at least knows he’s just joking. She seems to enjoy them and think they are fun. I feel cool for introducing her haha. Having Emilee here has made me feel like I would have been a good big sister. I’m enjoying translating for her (She came knowing zero, and I mean ZERO Spanish) and introducing her to who she should and should not hang out with and helping her with her Spanish. It’s been fun so far. I only hate talking about future things that are happening after I leave Guatemala because it makes me sad and want to stay. Everyone wants me to stay for Christmas and New Years now. My heart be torn in halfffff! Arrrrrrr.

Wednesday I hiked up Cerro de la Cruz to get some exercise because half of my pants don’t fit and it’s driving me crazy. It’s definitely more fun to hike with someone, but a girls gotta do what a girls gotta do. I saw José a little later that day since I had not hung out with him in over 3 weeks. That poor child hasn’t changed a bit. Thank God I have! It rained so we just sat and talked under a terrace in the park for about an hour before my Spanish class. After Spanish, I went back to Salsa class again (I’m returning to this habit to get in some practice outside of my private classes even though I know the basic steps fairly well). Then I just had a night in of reading and talking my friend, Virgilio, from Semuc Champey on facebook.

Thursday, I had my regular routine, but I ran into Miguel that morning before my Salsa class and I hadn’t seen him in quite a few weeks so that was nice to catch up with him. My private classes are going pretty well, but I’m afraid I still don’t have a video for you guys. Orlando says we’ll do it one of these days. I won’t be buying more classes if it’s not before these next 6 finish! HA. So expect one soon, but I don’t know if I will be able to put it on the blog.

I meant to go to Cerro de la Cruz again that day, but it rained and I fell asleep in my room after lunch. Emilee invited me out that night with a couple of her volunteer friends so we went out after dinner and I happened to run into my friend, Rodrigo, from the city outside of a place called Vibras. They have their Open Mic Night on Thursday nights so we decided to stay to watch them. I haven’t seen Rodrigo in forever. That was a treat to see him. He was going to have me sing with him after he sang, but unfortunately there was some confusion at the bar and they kicked him off and moved onto the next person before I got to come up and sing.

I also ran into Juan Andres who I tried to hang out with one day wayyyyyyy back in the beginning, but we never did. And he invited me to start practicing with him so I can sing more often. Hopefully I will be starting that soon. Kenny has invited me too, but we still never have practiced, so maybe I’ll take my chances with Juan Andres now. It has been a lot of fun singing; I just feel like I still don’t do a great job so some practice with someone that can play guitar would be quite lovely!

Friday my salsa class got cancelled in the morning so I spent some time talking to Virgilio again. He would like to be a photographer so I am hoping he has a chance to come to Antigua and hang out with me before I leave so I can give him some photography tips and let him use my camera (and I NEVER like to let people touch my camera so he better feel some kind of special! hahaha). I then went caminandoing (Edgar and Kenny are going to ruin my Spanish with all their Spanglish joking) around to check if the yoga mats came in yet at that store and ended up finding a healthy food store!!! (Well kind of. It’s more like an imports store, but they do have a few healthier snack-type things there. For a price, of course).

Then of course, Friday is movie day in Spanish class so Willy and I watched P.S. I Love You (P.S. Did I mention I love my teacher?!) and then that provoked our after class discussion about family and who you can trust in life and I learned some other disheartening stories of Guatemala. It kills me to see the lack of trust among people here. It’s hard to find.

Anyways, Saturday was awesome. I was planning to go to a Halloween Party in Jocotenango, but I ended up changing my mind because I wasn’t finding enough people to go with. I had my salsa class in the morning and saw my friend KEVIN for the first time in a MONTH who I’d been pestering to come visit me. He’s apparently taking some exam to work in a bank in the city so he’s been rather busy, but he said he’d come back at 3ish that day to hang out with me (never did) so that also made me decide to stick around Antigua instead of leave for the party.

After lunch, I took Emilee and Theresa (another lady who will just be in our house ’til Thursday) to Cerro de la Cruz so they could get to see it and so that I could get my exercise in. This was a day that reminded me, again, why I love to travel. You never know what’s going to happen or who you’re going to meet one day. Some older guy started talking to us for apparently no reason and he happened to be traveling with some guy that looked to be around 30 or so who joined after a minute. We were all talking about travel type stuff when the younger guy, Jesse, started to mention to Emilee “You have not been to Guatemala if you haven’t been to…” and in the same moment we both said “SEMUC CHAMPEY!” and we got really excited that we’d both been there and started talking about all the amazing things there and how beautiful it is and had a huge bonding moment over our mutual love for Semuc. (I STILL SWEAR I’M GOING BACK ONE DAY FOR LONGER!)

We ended up hiking back down with those guys so Jesse and I talked longer and I found out he has been to Guatemala several times and we bonded over our mutual distaste for the misogynistic culture that exists here, but also the fact that the girls cheat on people just as much as the guys do. He apparently had a girlfriend from here at some point who cheated on him and a week later married her “ex”-boyfriend. So we had the heartbreak from a not-so-faithful-Guatemalan experience to share as well. He was really interesting to talk to and it was a bummer he was just on his way out of Antigua, but I got his information because I also found out that he runs a mission project here to help the kids (like the 7 year olds that work 12 hours a day shining shoes in the park!) and that he pretty much travels for his full time job (Of COURSE I had to make friends with him. I always want to know peoples trick to traveling full time). So hopefully I’ll stay in touch with him because it’s hard to find mission opportunities without attending church and everybody knows I’d jump on an opportunity to come back to my second home! 😛

On top of running into my amiguito and meeting a really cool new friend, I also ran into Francisco! (I don’t know if you’ll remember him because I haven’t seen him since literally my first month or so here. He was the guy that helped me chase the girl that ran away from my volunteer project one day. I’m not sure why we’ve never hung out.) So that was a treat to see him and catch up for a second.

Poor Emilee lost her phone that day (thank God it wasn’t a smartphone) so we went BACK up to Cerro de la Cruz to look for it (Yay for more exercise?) but with no luck. So she will have to buy a new phone already. Pobresita :(

My Irish friends from Belize came into town this week, but decided not to stay at our house, so we had dinner together Saturday night finally. It was really cool getting to see them again, but I had forgotten I told Meggan to meet us at Kafka to watch Kenny and Edgar again so I had to bolt at the end of dinner to get over there with Emilee and Theresa. After they finished, Theresa, Meggan and all of her friends decided to go home, but Emilee and I were ready to go out some more. Deciding against Cafe No Sé because we don’t like the smoke there, we went to hang out and play cards at Whiskey Den. Cards, guys. Who plays cards anymore? And has a great time for that matter? (Aside from my family in New York). I think I found my soul mates. I love board games. I hate sitting around in a circle and playing on our phones. Kenny & Edgar…. I don’t know why we all didn’t hang out more sooner. They are a fun group of kids. Like I said, I feel like my trip has just begun. NO QUIERO SALIR PARA NUNCA! NO PUEDES HACERME SALIR! NO. NO GRACIAS. ME VOY A QUEDAR. HMPH.

Ok, just kidding guys that are going to freak out that I’m actually thinking about staying. It’s a mentira. I already booked my plane ticket and signed up for the Dominican Republic in January so I really can’t stay. But I am very sad about this (not that I don’t miss and love you all so very dearly) and I hope to return again and continue where I left off. I am not done with Guatemala yet, that’s all I know.

Sunday was a good day as well. I pretty much slept in until 1:00 because after I woke up for breakfast, I went back to read in bed and ended up falling asleep for 4 more hours. Guess 5 hours the night before wasn’t enough ahhaha. Anyways, I woke up to a text from Edgar so I ended up hanging out with him after lunch. We ran into Mihail (one of their friends we played cards with the night before) in the park and all sat around talking for a bit. Headed to take a picture with a human statue, and then talked over coffee in Cafe Portal. More good conversation. I love the feeling that I feel like I’ve finally made some real true friends here.

My new boyfriend guys. I like him a lot. Pretty low-maintenance. No drama... Actually doesn't do much of anything come to think of it...

My new boyfriend guys. I like him a lot. Pretty low-maintenance. No drama… Actually doesn’t do much of anything come to think of it…

After coffee, Edgar and I returned his camera to his house (he brought it so I could give him some tips but the battery died) and we found out we literally live directly in front of each other, except with one block (and unfortunately, a patch of trees) in between us. How ironic! I knew he lived close, but that’s crazy. We’ve never run into each other in the street either, but he lives right there close to Máximo Nivel. We headed to Rainbow after that because he had to play again that night with Kenny. Emilee and her friends joined a bit later and I sang again at the end of the night! I’d put up the video, but I don’t know how right now and it’s not that great anyways. Maybe after we actually practice first haha. I also dragged Emilee to come sing (Again, feeling like a big sister. Because I learned that I should have started singing here a lot sooner, but I was too afraid to, so I recognized her shyness and dragged her up to sing a song with me and she loved it. She loves musicals and musical theater just like I did in high school so it’s really funny getting to know her).

And so ends another oh-so-fabulous week in Guatemala, mi segundo hogar. Looking forward to the weeks to come! But not to the final day I’m here! :(

Un Olor a Tabaco Y Chanel

Wow, I can already tell that my last bit of time here is going to go by so fast. It’s already been a week since I’ve returned from Paradise. I already feel a little ache in my heart because I know this great adventure will soon come to an end and I will have to say goodbye to everyone here. I hate goodbyes. I will keep on hoping and praying that one day I can have all of my friends together in one place so I don’t have to miss anyone or leave anyone out anymore.

I have certainly been blessed this entire trip. I worried back in the beginning what I was going to do when all the volunteers left, and in walked some amigos guatemaltecos into my life. And then I got sick of being treated poorly by some people and wanted to change some habits I made here so during my vacation to Belize, I tried to prepare myself to be more independent (but deep down, I always know I’d prefer to have a friend) when I returned to Antigua. But once again, I had nothing to worry about because I met Maika along my journeys and she came back with me Monday.

Tuesday I had so much to catch up on that I didn’t even have time to see anybody and Maika and I didn’t go out because we were so tired from our traveling. Then Wednesday, Madison came back for her short 5 day visit so here I had friends again with nothing to worry about.

It’s funny because so much has changed since the first time Madison was here, but when she came back it was like nothing had changed. I returned to my habits of the first month I was here. I went back to the Wednesday night salsa class which I haven’t gone to in like a month. And then we all went to Rainbow Cafe for dinner.

Rainbow, however, is just not the same without Kenny at open mic night. I no longer want to participate and I get rather bored sticking around and listening to everybody. But, after a while, Kenny’s friend Edgar came to pick us up at Rainbow and bring us to a place called Whiskey Den where we all hung out the rest of the night. They are a lot of fun to hang out with.

Thursday, I started up my private salsa classes again and Thursday night, we went to watch Kenny and Edgar play in Kafka. Madison got to play the drums again for them so I’m sure she was happy. It was really just like the first month that she was here. How funny life is. I also found out that Kevin didn’t move away like I thought. I must have been mistaken when I read one of his messages, but he still doesn’t work in Antigua so I won’t see him much anymore, but at least I will get to see him again before I head back to the States.

Friday was casi el mismo. Got up and went to my salsa class, had my usual Spanish class, and we went to watch Kenny and Edgar play AGAIN. Going to get sick of these guys, I swear. Hahaha. In Spanish class though, we had a double celebration. I missed Willy’s birthday while I was on my trip so I told him I wanted to celebrate that. Then, he had just taken the BAR exam the day before and passed so we celebrated that he is well on his way to becoming a lawyer! Go Willy! We watched a movie and had cheesecake and I bought him a book. How I missed having class with him!

We watched Kenny and Edgar in two places that night. One called Los Encuentros and once in Cafe No Sé. I got pretty bored because I like to do more than just sit and listen to music so I’m usually on my phone or something, but neither place had internet. Madison got to play her drums again, but I decided I can’t follow them around all the time if I don’t have something else to be doing while I listen to the music.

mis amigos rockin it out

Saturday, after my salsa class, we all went shopping and then to Cafe Portal to read and get some coffee and desserts. I’m totally failing at eating healthy here. Everything just looks so good! I bought some food for the little boys that were trying to sell me bubble gum and that felt good to help someone out. Maybe I should hang around the park with my balloon animals that still haven’t gone to use.

That night, Maika and Madison had some other plans and I was tired so I just had a night in my room. I ended up getting really frustrated about my internet because I was trying to talk to a friend I made in Semuc and it was not functioning well. I ended up drawing! When do I ever draw? It was kind of weird. I just had so much frustration built up that I needed to scribble or do something. Go me for drawing! At least art school made me better enough to where I don’t hate and throw out my drawings afterwards haha.

Sunday, I finally started to fall asleep after 8:30 AM (I keep waking up at this time every day ever since my vacation where I get pretty used to getting up earlier) but then Madison woke me up because Isolina wanted us all to eat together for their last meal here. At breakfast, we found out that Maika had never been to cerra de la cruz and I had been wanting to go the day before actually to get some exercise, but it had rained. We decided we had just enough time before we left to go and so Maika and I went up. Madison went off to see a friend she had made here last time she was here and I just barely made it back in time to say goodbye as she got into her Taxi.

I forgot what a nice view this was!

It was nice having her here, but it was sad too. Five days is just like a tease when you want to be in somewhere a long time. There’s no worse feeling than feeling like you have just arrived at a place you want to be when you already have to leave. It was like saying goodbye back in July all over again. Everybody was sad.

After she left, I had my salsa class again and Orlando informed me that there was a guy that he was going to be teaching in the afternoon and he could use a girl assistant. Me? I’m good enough at salsa now to help someone else out?? EEK! He wanted a girl because it’s hard to teach a guy his steps without a girl being there to lead. Because everyone knows how guys get when they have to dance with another guy. So I decided to go help out (and he was giving me an extra opportunity to practice which I don’t get much anymore these days).

I ended up getting there early and Orlando and a bunch of rowdy folks were hanging out and started singing karaoke. My shy self kept to myself on the side reading, when Byron broke out into a song that I actually knew part of. I joined in and they all looked at me and realized I knew a song and dragged me to the microphone and made me sing it with Orlando. Un olor a tabaco y chanel… me recuerda el olor de su piel.. una mezcla de miel y cafe, me recuerda el sabor de sus besos. Orlando left me hanging halfway through, but from the looks everyone gave me and the cheering, I was given enough confidence to keep going and finish out the song! I had so much fun. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I keep forgetting I’m trying to be more confident here and usually I think I do a good job, but I still get uncomfortable a lot because I can’t understand the Spanish in large groups. But either way, I loved singing Karaoke and I got a huge round of applause from all his friends.

The Salsa class went well as well! I got to be dipped all the way to the floor and it was crazy. Man, dancers have to be strong as hell to do some of this stuff! The class ended up being two hours instead of one, but I was really grateful for the extra practice time. My knees and feet hurt by the end, but for dancing, it is always worth it.

Well, never would I know that Karaoke prepared me to sing later that night. Meggan, one of the girls I met in Utopia came into town yesterday and I brought her to Rainbow Cafe to listen to Kenny and Edgar play. It was rather empty, as is pretty usual on a Sunday night, so that may have helped my confidence, but Kenny and Edgar also found out I knew Tobaco y Chanel by Los Bacilos and convinced me come up and sing it. And unlike the time at Open Mic Night, I didn’t shake this time. Conquering fears feels AWESOME. I hope you start soon! Hahaha. I loved it! I hope we start practicing so I can do it more often with different songs.

Cantando-ing! hahaha

Afterwards, Meggan went home, but I was energetic and wanted to hang out more with Kenny and Edgar so they brought me to Cafe No Sé where they were playing for a fundraiser for someone who had been in a bad accident. I still don’t think I’m a fan of Cafe No Sé, but I was glad I came by the end of the night, despite wreaking of smoke and being dead tired, because I won a prize in the raffle!!

I won 400Q to go to a place called Panza Verde, which is apparently a REALLY nice restaurant in Antigua. I don’t think I’ve ever won anything in my life! I was so excited! So now, thanks to my friends who brought me to the fundraising party, the 3 of us are all going to go have a fancy schmancy dining experience together sometime this week! Can’t wait!

Just Do It

I said I’d come back and rant about the things I’d learned in another post. Here I am! It’s a shame that sometimes my thoughts are such a mess that I can’t get them down on paper. I started this blog, as you remember, to encourage an alternate perspective of the world and encourage others to get out of their comfort zones and start changing their lives and I don’t feel that I’ve been living up to my word. It’s not because I haven’t tried; it’s that I have such a hard time explaining my thoughts to other people. I feel like I jump around or go in circles or don’t always get my point across or possibly don’t even write exactly what I meant to say because I just kind of jump off from my ever-running thought process. But I hope that I have at least inspired one person or surprised one person or opened the door to a new perspective for somebody reading.

If one could climb inside my head and know my whole life story and how I’ve always been rather negative (even though in comparison to many people, I’ve had quite a blessed life), you wouldn’t recognize my thought process that has developed through traveling the last few years, especially what has developed in the past few months in Guatemala.

As I sat by myself in Belize one day by the water a little over a week ago, reflecting on my entire trip out of the U.S. and all the things that have happened, I couldn’t help but shed a tear. Oh, how the stubborn and strong side of me hates to admit that to the public, but it’s true. I felt so incredibly thankful for my life in that moment and knew that I was blessed beyond comparison to be able to take a trip like this. To make it even more cheesy, I stared into the sky and all I could see in the clouds were hearts and flowers. How much God loves me. I’ve had a lot more moments like this recently since I’ve started traveling where I just feel so overwhelmingly blessed in my life and happy for the first time ever that I can’t help but cry tears of joy. Make fun of me if you wish.

And then I began to think of everything that I’ve done that I never would have expected to happen to me.

I’m in a foreign country learning a beautiful foreign language and after 3 months, I can already communicate rather well. I can at least understand one-on-one conversations and if I can’t understand or am looking for a word, I can usually explain it in other words and get my point across. And I am even slowly beginning to pick out words in group conversations.

I’ve been away from home for the longest I’ve ever been away from my home in my life. Sure, for some people, you moved away for college. Something held me back from jumping that rope when I went off to school. I chalk it up to the fear of the uncertainty of change. But here I am, in a foreign country where EVERYTHING changes constantly. And I’m okay.

I’ve ridden a motorcycle without a helmet, climbed a volcano, stayed out in “dangerous” streets til 3:00 in the morning, ridden in a Chicken bus through the supposed “most dangerous route” in Guatemala, sang in front of strangers in a cafe, fallen in love with a Guatemalteco and had my heart broken, road-tripped through a foreign country alone, met a drug dealer and made friends with an ex-drug dealer, ridden a yacht in the caribbean, slept in the same building as a tarantula, ridden on the edge of a pick-up truck over steep and windy unpaved roads, battled endless different sicknesses for over half of my trip, met a famous singer, met some pretty cool people and some pretty awful ones, climbed through a cave with only a candle to light the way, jumped off cliffs in a cave, jumped off a huge rope swing where I knocked the wind out of myself, and been hit on so many times that I don’t think I could ever be able to think poorly about my appearance ever again.

And what I have learned in all of this trip and all of these experiences is something that Nike likes to remind us every day: “Just do it.”

Just do it, you say? Oh how these words grate on the ears of a perfectionist who needs to plan out all the details. How can I just do it? I’ve got to find out where I’m going to stay and what I’m going to do and how much it’s all going to cost and make sure I have enough money in my account and make sure it’s safe and well, what if this happens? What if that happens? If this happens, I would do this…. If that happens, well I could do this or that.

Hey guess what? You just started to make yourself worry about something that you have probably no control over. Why do I say just do it? Because you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen in the future no matter how much you plan it out. (Well, obviously if you don’t WANT to do it, don’t just do it. I’m not saying you need to get out there and try some drugs or go sleep with everyone that asks you or attempt things that could leave you dead. But if you got a little spark in you about something and you can recognize that only fear is holding you back, just do it and kick those fears in the ass!) Just do it is the best way to get over your fears. I would know from experience. I worry constantly because I am a perfectionist planner that loves to be in control and I don’t know how to handle things that aren’t in my control. But this trip has taught me something that Belize likes to blast from it’s music players 10 times a day “Don’t you worry ’bout a thing. Every little thing’s gonna be alright.”

In fact, after meeting many fellow travelers along the way who don’t really have much of a plan and are just deciding “where to go next” along the way, I have come to discover that not planning a trip may make it a better experience. I planned out my Belize trip as far as I could (if I could have planned all my shuttles and bought them in advance too, I probably would have). I had everything booked up through Flores. Well guess what? When I got to Belize, I wanted to stay longer and had to make a ton of phone calls to push my tickets back one day and then wanted to stay longer again but decided against it because I didn’t want to keep making more phone calls and bothering people. Had I not planned it out and booked my next location, I could have stayed as long as I wanted (and could afford, that is).

I paid for all of my time in Antigua in advance because I didn’t want to chicken out and go home early. I booked a round trip ticket so I couldn’t back out and go home if something came up that made me uncomfortable. But now I wish I hadn’t because I found out how incredibly much I paid for housing, when the family doesn’t even receive half of what I pay. I also found out that I would have liked to travel a little more instead of stay this whole time in Antigua, but because I worried and planned it out, I’ve lost more money than I needed to and I’ve made myself obligated to stay in one place. I’ve booked my flight home and I do want to go home for Christmas and do have another trip to go on in January, but were it not for Christmas, I would not want to go home (but since I planned it out, I would still have to go home or else waste all that money from the plane ticket).

So you see… Just do it. The one thing that I did “just do” was decide to come here, book it all, and pay for it within a week or two’s time. I had no idea what in the world I was thinking, but it just felt right. And I just did it. And it has been 100% the best decision I have ever made in my entire life.

What else have I learned? Forget what you don’t have and be thankful for what you do. What a spoiled brat I was in my country (Ok, not as bratty as some people that I’ve met in my life) but very much more spoiled than anyone here. I wasn’t happy with my life. I was always wanting this or that “Oh, if I just had this, I would be happy.” But if you keep thinking like that, you will never be happy. If I just got a raise, if I just made this much money per year, if I just had a boyfriend, if I just, if if if if if. What I’ve found with the change of perspective is if you find time to sit and think about what you have to be thankful for and remember to think about it every day, you will be happy. Whether you believe in God or just want to whisper thank you to the air, whatever. Just be thankful. Because I guarantee if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got a way better life than a lot of people in this world.

The people I’ve met here may never in their lives have the opportunity to leave their country. Some of them don’t even have the opportunity to visit somewhere different IN their country. I’m here traveling and having a blast. Some of them have to work their whole lives just to survive. I’ve never been too hard of a worker and I’m still getting to travel and take off 6+ months from work! I’ve got a laptop, a nice phone, a savings account, a good amount of clothes and shoes; things that some people will never see in their entire life. I can essentially decide where I want to go and what I want to do, as long as my budget allows and if my budget doesn’t allow, I have the opportunity to live in a country that has pretty good working opportunities (even aside from the fact that unemployment is rampant, we definitely have WAY more work opportunities and better paying jobs than the people do here).

Material things aside, I have some of the most amazing friends and family in the whole world. They’ve always been there for me. I’ve never had to worry that one of my other friends or family members might sleep with my boyfriend. I’ve never had to worry that my friend might hire me to work for him and then fire me without paying what he owes me. I know I could call some of my friends at any hour of the night and they would jump up and be by my side. I have known some of my friends for 10 years now and no matter how long we go without talking because our busy lives separate us, I know that they are still my brothers and sisters and that whenever I need them or they need me, we’ll be there for each other. I’ve never known what it’s like to have a bad friend because I’ve always been blessed with good ones.

Here, I’ve become even more thankful for that. Someone told me when I got here that when I leave, people are just going to forget me. I didn’t believe him, but now I see why he’s said that. A lot of people here are on survival mode. Every man for himself. Not ALL the people are this way so don’t get me wrong, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people just take advantage of someone who is actually giving and helpful and then move on when that person can’t help them anymore. I’ve met a lot of people that seem to have a good amount of fake friends. They kind of appear as friends, but don’t really seem to care deep down about how you are doing or what’s really going on in your life. In fact, a lot of people make fun of others when they’re suffering and tell them to stop acting stupid when they probably really just need a good hug. I’ve made friends with quite a few people that I don’t feel are ACTUALLY my friend. I’ve felt like a lot of people don’t even know what it means to be a true friend. Maybe I’m wrong and am completely misreading this place, but I swear some people have never had a good friend in their life. I never knew such a tragedy existed. I couldn’t imagine a life without my real friends. I couldn’t imagine a life where I have to worry if someone’s playing with me or if someone really has feelings for me in every relationship I go into. Or if someone’s using me or is my real friend.

So be thankful. Because somewhere, someone has a worse life than you. And if you go all your life wishing for something more to make you happy, I guarantee that you will live a miserable life and never figure out what that one thing is that really could make you happy. The one thing that can make you happy is the same one thing that I said about living your life: “Just do it.” Just be happy.

Now onto other issues… I’ve tried to keep a fairly neutral religious perspective on my blog, as I’m not a fan of starting debates, but I’m sure you’ve seen a mention of God here and there so perhaps it’s obvious that I believe in God. I’m not sure what I consider myself, however. I don’t like labels and if I were to choose a label, I don’t know what I would pick. I don’t like to associate myself with the “Christian” label because of the bad rep that it carries. I am no one perfect, but I am most certainly not a fan of the way many Christians act these days. You go to church? Woofreakinghoo. What do you do the rest of your week? In fact, I don’t even like church. Nothing against all churches, but in my experience, they’re pretty judgmental and hypocritical. God is good, all the time. Amen Amen Amen. TO HELL HE IS! You know the people that repeat those words at church don’t actually feel that in their heart. I know a lot of people are just repeating out of habit, but are really thinking “Yeah? Well if He’s so great, why’d he let my mother die? Or why’d he let me lose my job? Or why why why?” Ergo… Hypocrites. Anyways.. I’m getting on a rampant and my beliefs in God vs. church are a whole ‘nother ballgame. I just want to get my point across that I don’t think people that go to church are any better than people who have been awful to me here. The people in church have a whole different set of problems. We all have problems. We’re all people, all created differently, and not a SINGLE one of us is perfect.

If you don’t believe in God, you can choose to ignore whatever I have to say. But even people that don’t believe in a higher power usually tend to agree that religions do have something good to say morally speaking. But I can’t continue on to the next part of this post without mentioning some good ol’ Jesus!

So as you’ve read in my blog, I’ve encountered some pretty nasty and selfish people here. I haven’t mentioned EVERYTHING that’s happened because my blog posts to facebook and I don’t want to publically humiliate anyone. But from their actions, it’s rather obvious that they don’t give much of a flip for me and seemingly think that I’m just a toy to be played with. The culture doesn’t really respect the voice of women too much as a whole. Sure the fact that they think I’m precious and adorable and sexy all at once is flattering, but I’m more than just a hot body and a pretty face. I like when people listen to my perspective and look up to it or at least let me have an opinion that’s different than what they think is right.

So chalk it up to culture, or chalk it up to other things but a lot of the “good” people that I have met have told me I need to stop talking to some of the “not so good” people. But in my little softie of a heart, I just can’t. In fact, it kinda makes me sad when people tell me things like that. I realize for the most part people are just looking out for me and don’t want me to get hurt, but it also makes me think about how much we judge people (me included!). We have no idea what another person has been through. It is one of the hardest things in the world to not judge people and to love unconditionally.

As many times as some people here have hurt me or disappointed me and how many times some people have said I shouldn’t spend time with them, I just don’t feel good about cutting them off from my life. Maybe they will never be my friend, but I feel that I would hate myself more for not trying to be a good friend to them. Maybe those are the people that need a friend the most. Maybe the reason they treat others so awfully is because they’ve been treated awfully their entire life. Maybe the reason they shower people with flattery but don’t actually follow through as a true friend when it really counts is because no one’s ever been there for them either. Maybe they’ve been lied to their whole lives. Should we kick them to the curb and forget about them? Well, I don’t think so. If everybody’s done that to them their whole life and then I do it too, they’re just going to keep on believing the same thing and doing mean things to others. Tenemos que ser la diferencia, verdad?

Jesus hung out with prostitutes and lepers and liars and all the kinds of folks all the “good peoples” said to avoid. I don’t think I’m supposed to give up on loving these people. I got hurt here a lot, but when I went to Belize and got time to think and got to make friends with a(n) (ex) drug dealer (who I would normally judge as a horrible person, but whom I never would have guessed was a drug dealer because he was perfectly nice and sweet as a pancake), I thought about the fact that we’re all just people and we’ve all got a different story and I laughed a little at my friends that just don’t seem to be my friends and forgave everything that happened. More than I think I’ve ever forgiven anything in my life. I usually have to fight to forgive someone, but I just laughed. How amazing of a mind traveling can give you. My head felt so clear and I felt ready to come back to a fresh start here. A fresh start that still includes my not-so-great friends, but that doesn’t allow them to get to me anymore. Now I can just shake my head.

But I feel the main lesson to get out of the Bible is to love other people. The more I learn about life, the more I feel that this is the most important thing we can get from the Bible. Forgive and love. It’s not the rules. It’s not the “Well God says to do this or else.” He even broke his own rules and helped people on the Sabbath day, which he says to respect and not do anything on that day. The Pharisees are the ones who “follow” God’s rules to a point (but guess what? They don’t because they’re breaking the “judge not” verses by judging people who don’t follow God’s laws). So stop with the judgment and start with the love. Because that’s what most of us need and seek the most is love. Acceptance for who we are no matter how many times we’ve messed up. I think some people have probably messed up so much that it’s hard for them to accept love and so they push away something that might be good for them, but should that mean that we push them away as well?

So now I begin the last half (probably already less than half) of my trip. I have a fresh mind. I’m ready to start again and try to continue to be the example that I set out to be when I left. I’m going to try to just love these people ’til they gag. And not just because the Bible says to love, but because I want to. Because in reality if we’re listening to what the Bible says but it’s not in our heart to do so, we’re not really listening to it- we’re just living fake life that we loathe. But I feel it in my heart to love these people; they are my friends no matter how lame they are. And I’m going to continue to try to be positive because I love this new side of me. And I hope that I’ve encouraged some of you through reading my blog to try something new. I hope I’ve encouraged some of you to just drop your job (if you hate it) and start over happier.

Don’t worry about the money. Don’t worry about when you’ll find a new job. Don’t worry if you don’t know what you should do with the rest of your life in this moment because it’s probably going to change anyways. So stop worrying and start doing and go live your life! Get away! Clear your head! Figure things out all over. I don’t care how old you are. There is nothing more valuable than happiness. So if you’re not happy, get out of your comfort zone and start living. Because I know from experience, it’s muy rico ser viva!!!!!!!!!!!!

Flores, Tikal & Paradise (Semuc Champey)

Um…….. Get ready for another long post that has nothing to teach you and is only updating you on all the awesome things I got to do. I will have to do a double post week so I can go back and talk about all the things I’ve learned through my awesome experiences! All I can say is I AM SO BLESSED TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO THIS AND I NEVER EVER EVER WANT TO STOP!

So the rest of Monday after I updated my last post, I went out and got some more sun and ate lunch at a cute little cafe. Again, I was not impressed with the food. I wasn’t impressed with almost any of the food in Belize except for what Moms homemade for us and the food we ate on the yacht. I got in a good amount of reading that day and Smooth invited me to get dinner with him my last night there. We still hadn’t climbed to the top of the building that was under construction to watch the sunset, which he had told me about the first night so we ate up on the roof and did just that that night. You really could see everything from up there! And then the stars were amazing again. Moments that make you never want to stop traveling are RAMPANT when you travel. I’ve never in my life woken up every day full of reason to be alive.

Sunset from the roof!

Sunset from the roof!

Tuesday was pretty much a traveling day. I got up early early and Smooth took me to the boat dock around 8:30. Hopped on my water taxi, waited for my shuttle, and off I went to Flores. I think we got to Flores around I don’t even remember what time. Mid afternoon. But I was so tired from being up really late and getting up really early so I ate and went to bed really early. I was chatting with the only other traveler that was staying there at the moment, Matt, and we had decided to do the Tikal sunrise tour together the next day. So I decided to go to bed around 7pm.

the view from the hostel in Flores

the view from the hostel in Flores 

Well when I woke up at 2:30 am, I found out he had trouble at the ATM that night so he couldn’t pull out money for the trip. I then had to decide to go alone or wait and the hostel owner said he had a group of 3 going later for the Sunset tour (I was afraid of doing this tour because of how hot it would be in the jungle midday) but I decided to go back to bed and go with the other group.

I was not a fan of the dogs and roosters that woke me up that day. My second hostel had such a nice view and a secluded feeling, but there were so many houses nearby with dogs and roosters, it was impossible to sleep. I did get my own room since there were so few people there, which was so nice, but the rooms only had screens for the windows and a tarp for a roof, so it was rather difficult to block out any noises, even with my earplugs!

At breakfast, I met the other group (Or maybe I’d met them for a brief moment the night before? I don’t remember) and joined them to go into Flores and buy some groceries. I couldn’t afford to eat everything at this hostel. Since it was secluded, you didn’t have much choice but to only eat at their restaurant. And how lucky did I get on this trip again? Lucky in Belize because I got to participate in so many things that normally cost money because Smooth invited me.

Lucky in Flores because Pavel was a sweetheart and helped me out with a lot of things as well. He carried over half my groceries and paid for my tuc-tuc and boatride that day. How nice! It’s like my couch surfing experience all over again. I got so blessed with amazing hosts so I fell for couch surfing from the start and in every hostel I’ve stayed at, I’ve been blessed with sweet new friends that treated me like a princess!

Anyways, after we got back, we got ready to head to our Tikal tour. And what luck we had again! It didn’t rain and it wasn’t horrendously hot like we were expecting either. I’m not sure what to tell you about the tour. I think after going on a few tours in my life and after experiencing this one, this is not my thing. It was so detailed that I couldn’t tell you a thing I learned about Tikal because my brain couldn’t retain all the information that our guide told us. In places, he rushed us along when I wanted to take pictures of animals or things and in other places he gave us way too much time to explore.

some ruins

some ruins

view from the top

view from the top

more ruins. can you find my friend, Pavel?

more ruins. can you find my friend, Pavel?

I do remember that he said Star Wars has a scene that was filmed from the top of the tallest tower. But that’s honestly about. The ruins were huge which was pretty cool, but I think I’ve discovered that this type of tour just isn’t my thing. I’m more interested in adventures. I much enjoyed my tour of Semuc Champey, but that will come later in my post.

the apparent Star Wars view

the apparent Star Wars view

me at the top (or bottom? MUAHAHHA) of the tallest tower

me at the top (or bottom? MUAHAHHA) of the tallest tower

Our tour guide did point out some animals along the way, including some termites that he let people eat. Um….. No thanks. I realize I’m here to try new things and conquer fears, but I really don’t feel that my life benefits from trying a termite so I had to pass on that new thing. Pavel went to town though. Says they taste like wood. Are we surprised?

gross.

gross.

We were there til sunset, but unfortunately it was a cloudy day so we didn’t get much of a sunset view from the last tower, but oh well. Wow those stairs are killer. This place is not for the weak of knees.

Pavel took me out for dinner and icecream that night. Princess moment again!! How nice are the people I’ve met on my travels? I’m too blessed. Special treatment in 2 of 3 places! We were supposed to go with the rest of the group, but they all got too tired and went back to the hostel. I shouldn’t be eating burgers in a foreign country, but it’s a touristy area and we ended up at a place with only tourist food. But I have to say, it was about the best burger I think I’ve EVER had.

Surprisingly, we didn’t head to bed upon returning. I suppose the food provided another leg of energy, but since Pavel was leaving the next day, we ended up staying late and talking til about 3 AM. At 3 we decided we should try to make it til sunrise, but I couldn’t make it past 4:30. But it was still enjoyable to get to know another person. One of my favorite parts of traveling is being free to do whatever I want and stay up as late as I want or get up as early as I want knowing it wont affect the rest of my day and getting to know other cool people. Pavel has been to quite a lot of places! And may later be on his way to Antigua, just like the 3 I met in Belize! How cool is that?

The next day I was going to go Kayaking, but I was exhausted so I just lazed at the pool all day with Matt. He was fun to get to know as well. We exchanged our reasons for traveling and I found out he is a control freak and planner like I am and that he’s learning to let go of that and learning that things still go rather well even if you don’t plan them out to the last detail.

After it started raining, I spent the rest of my day like a good ol’ American on my phone. I just couldn’t get myself to read my Spanish books like a good little student. Too tired and brain dead. Matt left on the night bus that night to go to Antigua and I left the next morning to head to Paradise.

I suppose that would be Friday. Yep. Left Flores around 8 am and got to my hostel by 6 pm. Definitely a full day of traveling there. But I met a girl named Maika the night before who was traveling the same route as me so we were travel buddies all day and had quite a blast getting to our hostel. Utopia it was called and it’s the farthest out and most secluded of all the hostels in Lanquin. Utopia is a good hour back-of-a-pick-up ride from Lanquin and that was a blast.

The ride from Flores was absolutely gorgeous. I always wish my camera could do it justice, but it never does. The last leg of our trip was over unpaved windy and hilly roads. We passed a guy on the side who we thought was dead, but apparently was just drunk and decided to pass out in the road. Classy!

part of the view from the ride from Flores

part of the view from the ride from Flores

When we got to Lanquin, we transferred into the back of a pick-up truck and began our adventure down to our hostel. It was so much fun riding back there, despite the ridiculous bumps but since there were only 2 of us, we got to sit down in the back instead of being packed like sardines. At some point, some random guy just ran up and jumped on the back after dark and scared me. I was glad we were in the back with our stuff. But he was just hitchin a ride. I don’t blame him. To have to walk there would be a pain in the butt!

This hostel was similar to my second one on Flores, Chaltunhah. There was no choice if you didn’t bring snacks with you but to eat their food. I felt that it was better priced here and definitely well worth the money. The portions for dinner were huge! And the food was AMAZING. I ended up eating more meals there than I planned on (I had brought snacks) because it was just so dang good. The first night upon arrival, we had some kind of stir fry and spring rolls and a brownie of sorts for dessert. I couldn’t finish it all and I tried so hard because it was YUMMY! I loved the way it was set up too. Dinner is served at one time so we all sit together kind of like a family. It definitely helped for making friends quickly there. I already had Maica with me and then we met some other awesome people as well. Two couples and Megan.

Utopia’s set up was really interesting. We did have bunk beds like any other hostel might, but they were in the open air. We didn’t have a room anywhere, just upstairs with a roof over our head. It was pretty cool. I was thankful for there not being too many roosters nearby for sure. But the sounds of the river and birds didn’t keep me awake here. It was so peaceful. And NO BUGS! (err.. biting bugs anyways..we did see some butterflys and moths and a TARANTULA) It was like luxury camping!

the dorm bunks

the dorm bunks

view from the bunk bed area

view from the bunk bed area

And I got hit on by the guy that took us in on the truck. I think his name was Carlos. Something about getting married. Or a foot massage after my hike the next day. Whatever. These Guatemalans and their baboshebas (bullshits). Why do they like me so much?? I can’t escape them anywhere! Well.. I mean.. I suppose I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the attention (Ok, I wouldn’t be lying about the attention when it’s from a gross guy, but Carlos was cute) but still.. I don’t get it. It’s so different from the states. Or maybe it’s the same and I just accept it more here because Spanish makes things sound 150% more interesting. I thought he was going to be our tour guide the next day and I was thinking “oh boy. here goes another day of a guy flirting with me all day (my life is so difficult right?)” but it ended up being a different guy. That also hit on me. Go figure.

The next day was the best day of my whole trip. Saturday. We took the big tour, which starts in the caves and then lets us do a rope swing or jump off a bridge and then takes up an infinite amount of stairs (I think this definitely topped the stairs at Tikal) to view the pools at Semuc Champey. Then takes us down to swim in the pools. Then we added a tubing trip onto the end. We were gone from probably 8 am to 6 pm again like my travel day!

We started out in the back of a truck to take us to Semuc. Packed like Sardines. I’m not complaining! It’s an adventure. I loved riding in the back of the trucks.

this is what we do in Guatemala (ours wasn't QUITE this full, but close)

this is what we do in Guatemala (ours wasn’t QUITE this full, but close)

Then we walked to welcome center and dropped off our stuff before heading to the caves with our candles. Oh how I wish I had pictures of this. But my not waterproof camera had to be left behind. I then realized that a Go Pro is DEFINITELY going on my Christmas list this year haha. A friend in our group had a Go Pro so hopefully I’ll be able to grab some pictures from her when she uploads them to facebook.

The caves were AMAZING. We were all given a candle and had to walk, wade, swim, climb, and jump with our candles. Our tour guide was awesome actually. I like this kind of tour. There’s not much to say, just lots to do and he is just there to guide us so we don’t hurt ourselves. The water was so cold, but it was so worth it. We had spots where it was only ankle deep and spots where it was deep enough to swim and we had to do it all. We climbed slippery ladders and knotted ropes that were behind waterfalls. (Well, we had a choice at one point to try the rope or climb the side of the waterfall with the safer option. I of course, after some encouraging “Tu puedes, mi amor” words from our guide, opted for the rope!)

We also had a chance to jump off cliffs in the cave. Probably a 15 foot jump I’d say, but had to climb the rocks with no equipment to help us. I was one of 3 people to do it. I felt pretty awesome. Surprisingly, a lot more people did the rope swing and bridge jumps! I guess they were afraid of hitting the rocks in the cave because it’s not very light in there with just some candles!

We also had a place where we had to climb through a hole where water was pouring down and jump into a pool below. It was a little worrisome to everyone because we couldn’t see where we’d end up due to the waterfall! But it was a piece of cake. It was only like a 2 foot drop.

I was ready to get out of the cave when we did. I was shivering at that point from how cold it was. Next, we headed to the rope swing. A giant rope swing. One you sit on. One that probably gives you a good 20 foot drop. I didn’t really want to do it because I remembered my trip in NY where I jumped off of 40 feet and hit the water poorly and hurt my arm and butt which was very unpleasant. But I figured, it should be done again so I can learn to land better. My guide told me how to land right and encouraged me once again, but I failed my landing once again.

And I failed good. Belly flopping from that high up is not a fun experience. I knocked the wind out of me good and hard and couldn’t speak for a good 45 seconds after I came up. I whacked my face as well and had a nice headache and stomachache for the rest of the day. I ended up being grateful that I messed up on the rope swing because the jumps as we walked along the rest of the day ended up being higher and higher. The rope swing failure stopped me from attempting any more jumps the rest of the day. Could you imagine if I had jumped from 40 feet and belly flopped? I’d probably be dead. One day I’ll learn to keep my eyes open and stop landing improperly.

After the rope swing, we had the opportunity to jump off a 40 foot bridge. I passed. Then we headed up the infinite stairs to the look out point of semuc champey. These stairs were worse than Tikal. I never thought it would end!! But again, I got the princess treatment and my guide took my backpack from me early on in the hike when I was struggling to take out my camera lenses and carried it for me the whole rest of the day. What luck I had in EVER place on this trip! The hike was still rough, even backpackless. But, it was so worth the view though. Semuc really is paradise. I’m amazed it’s not swarming with tourism. I hope it stays that way. Tourism would ruin it.

Some of the many.... many stairs.

Some of the many…. many stairs.

me at the top of the look-out! Semuc Pools below!

me at the top of the look-out! Semuc Pools below!

Then we climbed down to the ever-so-gorgeous pools and got to go for a swim, and a slide and had more jumping opportunities from trees. I only have a picture from the beginning where my “private photographer” (or so he called himself.. and actually my tour guide does want to be a photographer one day, how presh!) took a few snaps of me, but then we had to put up the camera to go for the swimming from pool to pool.

one of the pools up close

one of the pools up close

who's that bathing beauty? ;)

who’s that bathing beauty? ;)

At a few pools, we got to slide down the rocks. It hurts your bum a bit, but it’s so much fun! We ended in the last pool overlooking a crazy waterfall that ended at some rocks. This is when I overheard someone talking about jumping and our tourguide said yeah we could jump over there and pointed. I laughed because I thought it was a joke. The current below looked rather fast and the height was over 60 feet. But nope. It was not a joke. I watched in aww as the few brave men made the jump and swam out of sight. Wow. That one I don’t think I would have braved even if I had landed my rope swing perfectly! Apparently the climb back up is pretty insane as well (no ropes or ladders, just rock climbing, gear-free!). Things that would probably not be legal in the States. And things that make me fall more in love with Guatemala. There’s too many rules in the States.

In Guatemala, in most places, if you can pay for it or build it, you can do whatever you want basically. Utopia didn’t need a permit to be built or anything. It’s crazy! And that waterfall would have been so illegal in the states, I think. If the 40 foot jump where I jumped in NY last summer wasn’t supposed to be allowed, I definitely think Semuc would be illegal as well.

After that, we signed up for “extreme tubing”  (still no pictures, due to the water. I NEED A GO PRO!) and tubed our way back to the hostel instead of riding in a truck. I wouldn’t say it was as extreme as I thought it would be, but a few of the rapids were definitely bigger than any I’ve ever been tubing on (but I think I’ve white-water rafted on rapids bigger than that).

For dinner that night we had a potato bake, salad, quiche, lentil bread, a bread stick, and carrot cake. AMAZING and didn’t finish once again.

The next day I had planned to do one of the hiking tours, but I was way too sore from our full-day the day before and from smacking the water wrong. So I just relaxed in the river for a while, came back for lunch, and then went for a swim later in the river. It is too cold to enjoy out of the sun, though so that didn’t last too long. I had lots of fun conversations with the owners and Megan and enjoyed getting to know them better. Dinner was a pasta bake and salad and breadsticks with pineapple upside down cake. That was the first night I could finish everything, but I think it’s because I only had bread and honey for lunch. Or maybe it’s cuz I’m Italian. 😉

We went to bed pretty early that night because the whole group of us who did the hike together was leaving the next morning to go to our next spots. THAT was an adventure in itself. Yesterday morning we woke up and packed into a truck like usual.. But this time we had no bar to hang on to and no room to sit in the bed because there wasn’t enough space with us and all our stuff. So we sat on the SIDE of the truck bed for an hour drive up hilly, windy, bumpy, rocky, unpaved, MUDDY (it rained the night before) roads. It was hard to hang on at times, but such a blast! The worst part is that there’s not really always room for two cars and we came face to face with a few other trucks sometimes and got stuck on hills and spun out a little bit from the slippery rocks and mud. I thought we were going to make a 360 at one point, but our driver handled it and got us back on track. He also had a thing for going down hills very fast. But we all survived and all dreamed of the tshirts that Semuc should sell just for surviving the truck rides! HAHA

up early enough to catch the foggy sunrise at the top of the hill by our hostel.. like a painting!

up early enough to catch the foggy sunrise at the top of the hill by our hostel.. like a painting!

The rest of the day was all traveling, but I had Meggan and Maika in my van. And now, lucky me, I’ve brought a friend with me back to Antigua! Maika was on her way to Antigua next as well and wanted to stay with a family to practice her Spanish, so I recruited her to Isolina’s. She will be here a week. Meggan went off to Atitlan but I believe she’s coming back to Antigua in a week. Madison arrives for a week tomorrow! And my friends from Ireland that I met in Belize and Pavel may be coming later on as well! Virgilio (my tour guide from Semuc) may also be coming for a visit. So I have friends to look forward to! I’m so excited. I planned to change all my old traditions/habits from the last 3 months upon coming back and a lot has changed (My friend Kevin moved far away from Antigua! I wonder if I’ll even see him again! :( ) so we’ll see what this new chapter brings!

The pictures are also up from the Belize post and I’ve posted new photo albums, but am still having trouble with this website and albums so forgive me if it’s hard to navigate or they’re crooked! Good luck. There’s a lot! :)

I’m a Belizean Princess

Oh, Belize. You better belize I’ll remember Belize! Haven’t I always been a sucker for the beach? Belize has been absolutely gorgeous. It was the perfect break that I needed away from Antigua. I met some awesome people, saw some gorgeous water, and just chilled the heck out; stress-free living right here.

Monday was the day I left for Belize. I spent most of that day getting ready and then headed to Guatemala City with my Antigua family to figure out what’s been wrong with my phone all this time and why the internet would never work. Well, we ended up spending 3 hours in Tigo waiting to be waited on to find out that whoever sold me my SIM card in Antigua LIED to me and told me it would work with internet, but it was the wrong type of SIM card and was cut to fit my phone instead of being a proper fit. Well, what do you know? Another liar from Antigua. What a shame. I hate to talk so poorly of Antigua because it’s come to be like my home, but I can’t get over how many sad things I’ve witnessed there. Props to the people that can still live a positive life there. I think I’ll be better when I return now that I’ve had a lovely Belizian break, but to live there forever? I don’t think I could do it. But it is kind of my home now and I still love it through all it’s flaws. I actually came to miss it and all my friends a little when I came to Belize.

Anyways, my bus ride was Monday night. I took a night bus because I wanted to sleep instead of be bored out of my mind for the 8 hour ride to Flores. Well, the bus station was definitely interesting. Not anything like the states. I thought we were in the wrong place for sure because it looked so little and I didn’t see a fleet of buses lined up, just 2. But, it was right. So there I sat until they loaded us onto the bus. The bus was fairly luxurious and I was fortunate enough to get placed next to a nice man. We talked for a good bit of the bus ride and he helped me practice my Spanish. He also informed me that my old Chicken Bus route to my volunteer job (Antigua to San Lucas) is the most dangerous route in Guatemala!! HAHAHA. That’s good to know AFTER the fact. Someone upstairs is definitely watching out for me!

We arrived to Flores around 6:00 AM Tuesday and bid our farewells and there I waited for my connecting shuttle to Belize City. That was even sketchier feeling than the place in Guate City. It wasn’t sketchy, but it felt sketchy because it’s not what I’m used to. What happened was one guy came in and asked if I was for Belize and I said yes so they guy at my desk took my whole ticket (Whereas in Guate, they gave me back a stub) and another guy stuck me in a shuttle that took me to another travel agency instead of the bus station and I was the only person waiting there. I thought for sure that something was wrong, but I decided to ask instead and they kept assuring that I was in the right place. It’s amazing the difference in solo travel. You have to be brave enough to ask a lot more questions or well… you’ll get stuck somewhere wrong or you’ll at least feel like you’re in the wrong place. My shuttle was over a half an hour late as well so as the time crept on I felt more and more like I was missing my bus somewhere.

The ride from Flores to Belize was pretty. Who knows, maybe the ride to Flores was pretty as well, but I wouldn’t know since it was dark. We had to get out about halfway at the border to do the whole passport shindig and then we finally arrived in Belize City around 12:30 where I had to wait for a water taxi to take me out to Caye Caulker.  An hour boat ride on the Caribbean? Yes please. It’s so beautiful!

view from my boat ride to caye caulker

view from my boat ride to caye caulker

I finally arrived in Caye Caulker around 2:30 where someone was offering a taxi ride. How much has Antigua ruined my trust? I almost refused the ride, but since he said he was with Dirty McNasty’s (my hostel), I decided to go for it. But I refused to let them help with my bags and refused to sit in the front of the golf cart. But they took me where I needed to go and upon arrival, I became blessed with endless blessings from the start.

My 3 roommates at the moment were from Ireland and were as outgoing as I decided to be. We’ve had some others since then that haven’t been so friendly, but from the minute I got there, I already felt a part of their group. We all went swimming a few hours after I arrived and biked out to a pier together. That night, they let me join their dinner that they cooked at the hostel. I heard them talking about couch surfing which lit me up like a candle because Lord knows I’ve fallen for couch surfing and love it when I hear there’s another surfer in the room. I came to find out that they had only been looking into it but were having trouble since they don’t have reviews yet and I said that I could review them after spending some more time together on the island. Yay! I get to be someone’s first review. It’s great to turn around a favor after getting so nicely treated from my first host. James Banicar and John McCarron, I will never forget you guys. Ya’ll are the best and I’m so thankful I have you in my life and I’m so thankful I came back to Charleston 6 more times and can’t wait to move there!

I met a guy from Israel that night who joined us to go sit by the beach that night and look at the stars. I can’t forget how incredibly clear it was. I’d do anything to have a photo of it. I’ve gotten to enjoy a lot of beautiful skies while I’ve been here. The perfect remedy for a stressed out mind.  On top of that, what a treat it was to be able to walk home by myself at 11:00 at night! I’ve been in Antigua for so long that I’m in the habit of not walking home alone after 8:00 and it’s so exhausting having to wait on someone, sometimes til 2:00 AM to take me home.

Wednesday, my roommates and I went out to the pier again to swim for about 3 hours. They weren’t kidding when they said that Caribbean sun was HOT HOT HOT! I was actually good about putting on my sunscreen for once, but still got a bit pink on my back and chest. I headed back in after this because I didn’t want to make it worse and I was rather pooped from the heat. I ended up meeting the guy from Israel’s friend in the hammocks that day and we all went out for dinner that night. I enjoyed the conversation I had with him and thought we’d become friends (and I thought they were staying longer than my Irish roommates) but actually after that night, we never really spoke much again and the two of them left without even saying goodbye! Whatever. You win some, you lose some I suppose! I still had a great bunch of people to hang out with as you will come to read.

view from the dock we swam off of

view from the dock we swam off of

That night, I met Pops. The guy that runs the fishing/camping trips for Dirty McNasty’s. He invited me out to his private island to take a boat ride to drop a few things off and come back. Well of course, my initial thought was no way after being corrupted by Antigua (and maybe a little bit of common sense as a solo woman traveler), but he assured me that all would be safe and well as the whole work crew was coming (including some women) and well duh, if he works there and did something to me he’d lose his job. So off I went. How crazy that was! His boat didn’t have a light and he perfectly maneuvered it at 11:00 at night from one island to another! I was impressed.  I was rather a shy one that night and didn’t do much talking to the other guys that came along (Partly because I have the hardest time understanding Creole. They’re speaking English but it sure ain’t any English I’ve ever heard before. I can’t understand them just as if they were speaking some kind of foreign language!), but I got to know them real well later on.

The stars that night were even better than the night before! God I love a good sky. Also, the water  that was coming off the boat seemed to be glowing and for the longest time, I thought there was a light under the boat. But Pops informed me that it was something called “Phosphoricites” (I honestly don’t remember and couldn’t find it on google later!) that absorbs the sun during the day and when the water is disturbed at night, they emit the energy they absorbed and appear to make the water glow! How cool is that?

Thursday, I woke up to a rainstorm and thought it was going to rain all day. I was bummed at first, but then I thought it was for the better since I was still a bit burnt. It actually did clear up, but I still decided I should avoid the sun that day. I ended up going shopping with Laura (one of the Irish roommates) to look for a cake for Dek’s birthday (another of the Irish roommates- 3 came together). We made a cake in the microwave because there’s no oven! How cool is that? Kind of gross sounding, but super awesome because otherwise he would have been birthday-cake-less.

We went out for dinner that night for his birthday and had the restaurant bring us the cake. That was too fun. Laura enjoyed using me as a covert operation because if she had brought the cake in her bag, Dek would have questioned her, but since it was me and I’m the new girl, he didn’t even notice that I carried it as we walked to the restaurant or that the waiter pulled me aside to ask a question about it or anything ahhaha. Surprise, Dek!

The manager for the hostel is the guy that gave us the idea for the cake. We had to give him credit later. It’s funny to read my journal now because now I know him a lot better after this week but the night of Dek’s birthday, all I wrote was “Smooth (they go by funny names here) is the guy that manages the hostel and is sweet and funny. He’s the guy that gave us the idea for the cake.” I love reading stuff like this when someone like that ends up being my friend because now I could go on and on about him as I know him better. But we’ll get there.

That night, I walked home alone again by myself at 11:30 at night. No problems here!

I found out that night that my 3 roommates are interested in Antigua! They haven’t done Guatemala yet (They all quit their jobs and have been road tripping their way from Mexico down through Central and South America. Belize was country #2).  I was so excited to find this out! Now I may get to see them again and be a “couch host” in Antigua (not literally since it’s not my house, but a couch surfing host in the sense that I get to show someone around instead of the other way around!)

my new friends from Ireland

my new friends from Ireland

Friday I just kind of took it easy as well. I suppose I took it easy pretty much every day in Caye Caulker. It was a perfect break for my mind. Just hanging out in hammocks meeting other travelers and meeting the hostel staff or chilling by myself by the beach or walking around or looking at the stars…. All of this just gives your mind the freedom to think and think and think and process everything that’s happened and is happening and get over things and let things go. Perfect.

Smooth had started bugging me at some point (I don’t remember what day this all began) but we got to know each other better each day because he’d always pull up a chair to my hammock. Friday, he invited me to join in on the staff lunch that Moms cooked for everybody. For reals? I got a free trip out to Pops Island (Where most people have to pay because this is where he takes them to camp and fish) and then I got invited to a free lunch? How sweet are these guys? And how special am I? No other tourist was getting the pleasure of their company that I’ve seen! Just me! J

And was I ever grateful for a good meal. Most everything I’ve had on the island in restaurants or from the grocery store has been not-so-good. Everything is imported here so I chalk it up to the fact that they can’t have much of anything fresh here (aside from fish, which I don’t like). On top of that, it’s INSANELY expensive. The guys in Antigua warned me, but I thought they just thought that because Antigua is so cheap. I thought for sure if a Belizean dollar was only worth 50 cents US that there’s no way things could be a rip off here. But I paid $7 US for a pair of Old Navy flip flops when mine broke ($2.50 in the states) and $3 for a can of Pringles. It’s rough. I spent close to $300 US in the week that I’ve been in Belize and have only eaten out 4-5 times (one of which, I was paid for!). Some of my money unfortunately had to go to medical things as I’ve been bitten to death by sand flies (I lost count at 80) that itch to hell. They’re worse than mosquitos!

So thank God for Smooth. He saved my butt this trip. I would have spent a lot more money if it wasn’t for him and I’m very grateful to have met him. He seems to have rather the crush on me. It’s kind of precious. He’s been cracking me up this whole trip with all this mumbo jumbo about how different I am and how he likes me and he’s going to make me his girl and I’m going to come back for him in Belize and marr y him and then we’re going to travel the world together. Haha. The great thing about him is he’s been treating me right this whole trip instead of just groping for me like a lot of men have in Antigua. I suppose it’s partially the culture and language barrier that doesn’t translate well for me there, but it’s just partly the rude men as well (NOT ALL OF THEM!).

I was actually told Belizean’s were worse than Guatemalans when it comes to men being inappropriate. That sent me for a scare before I left, but whoever told me that was quite wrong. At least on the island of Caye Caulker, no one’s been as creepy as some Guatemalans are. Yes, I’ve gotten hit on right and left, but not a single person has tried to touch me inappropriately or follow me. Smooth informed me that if that happens here and I don’t like it, whoever bothered me will get beaten up by all the other guys. It took me a few days to stop ignoring people here because in Guatemala, we’re taught to ignore cat calls and the like, but here it’s nice to say hi back and just keep walking. I still am not very friendly. It’s been hard to change back in just a short time. Even speaking English here upon arrival was very weird for me hahaha.

That night I got to know Smooth even better. He told me a lot about his past and he had a really rough childhood and ended up being kicked out at 16 where he built himself a house out of palm tree leaves and such like that. He became a drug dealer at some point in his life as well and was one of the biggest ones in Belize. He’s resigned that title now but I still met someone else here who is still a drug dealer and wow will that teach you something about judging people. When the hell in my life did I ever think I’d be friends with a drug dealer or ex-drug dealer? Both of these guys are so nice!

I’ve learned that people are just people ya know? We have to learn to stop judging people and just love. Just love others! Because we really can’t know anything about a person without having lived every moment of their life. And just cuz someone’s been into illegal activity doesn’t mean they are an awful person either. This guy took care of me the most out of anyone in my entire trip to Belize! God I’ve learned so much traveling, I don’t even feel like I can explain it well (Especially when my mind is rushed to get this finished and posted before I wrack up a hefty internet-usage fee!). Maybe I’ll go into greater detail later, as this post is already a book-long and I haven’t even finished catching up on my what-i-did-in-belize part.

Saturday we got 2 new girls in our room from Canada. They were not as friendly. But I suppose you’ll run into that when you travel. In all honesty, I didn’t expect to be friends with any of my roommates- just thought we’d be sharing a room. So how blessed was I to get landed with great roommates and a welcoming staff? I never had to feel alone my whole trip and this is usually one of the biggest travel fears that anyone has. But the fact is, you’re never going to be alone. Just gotta be a friend to make a friend.  Again, more on that another day.

I’d been missing my Spanish a lot this trip and was dying to practice with somebody, but I hadn’t met anyone yet that spoke in Spanish long enough to really practice. One of the guys in the hostel office speaks Spanish, but we couldn’t get too far in a conversation. But as I was walking home that day from somewhere, someone said “Good morning!” (It was 5:00 in the afternoon). I, lost in my thinking, naturally just said “Good morning!” back and kept walking as I was still a bit stuck in the half-ignore people that call out to me mindset. I got about 10 feet before I corrected them and said “Afternoon” when they started laughing and saying “we were waiting to see how long it’d take you to realize!” and I turned around and saw a Guatemalan. I don’t remember how he figured out I speak some Spanish but we started talking in Spanish and I talked to him for a good hour plus. That was a treat. I needed a refresher. When I was talking to the guy in the office, I could already tell my Spanish speaking had slowed down. I’m not okay with that. This guy’s name was Javier and it’s likely I won’t see him again, but it was a pleasure to meet and practice with him for the time that we did.

After dinner that night, I chilled in the hammocks with Smooth again. I ended up telling him how I started traveling and in great detail starting all the way back at my Savannah, GA stories. I haven’t given that much detail in quite some time and it sent me into thinking about all the blessings I’ve had in the last 2 years. It made me think of so many things that I desperately need to talk about here, but again my post is getting too long so I’ll have to make another post one day to talk about all these deeper things. Dang it, I should have just brought my computer!

Sunday, I got invited to a yacht. More points for my friend, Smooth! A yacht in the Caribbean, people? When did I ever think this would happen to me? I have been so blessed this whole trip by Smooth and the staff at Dirty McNasty’s. I’ve been treated like a princess! For no reason! I did nothing special that I know of, but they all say that I’m different and special so here I’ve been included on all the local activities. I can’t imagine how much it would cost to pay to be on a yacht here for tourism. We also went out to the area where all the tour companies take people snorkeling and I got to go for free AGAIN! And got fed AGAIN! Actually, there’s a guy that patrols the water and if there’s an American in this boat that we took to take out to the yacht, they charge because they are tourists. But they told him I was Belizean hahaha. I’m a Belezean princess!! Smooth was going to take me snorkeling too, but  we couldn’t because all the kids took the masks, but heck if I care! I saw sharks and stingrays right by our boat! (I’m afraid I don’t have pictures since the water kind of ruins the focus)

The yacht. Chyeah.

The yacht. Chyeah.

my new Belizean friends :)

my new Belizean friends :)

Crazy. I never thought I’d be meeting locals in Belize nor riding on a yacht in the middle of the Caribbean. Smooth told me he was going to be the reason I come back to Belize and made sure to try to prove that to me. He definitely did a good job and I definitely won’t forget him for all the sweet things he did for me to make my trip awesome.  I may not remember him in the romantic way that I think he’s hoping for, but I definitely made me a good friend and definitely would love to come back and visit this beautiful place again.

Today I got to do more thinking because I made myself get up for the sunrise so I could go explore the island in good lighting to take some photos. I walked alone for a good 2 hours starting at 6AM and got some good shots and great alone time. Unfortunately, it’s been a bit cloudy today so I don’t know if I’ll get in my final tan or not, but I sure am hoping for it.

I will try to make a deeper post later on that goes into more of my thoughts and discoveries, but I know this post is already exhaustingly long and I’m throwing away my money using this computer so I’ll have to get back to you guys later!

Time to go enjoy my last day with my new friends and this beautiful Island!! Tomorrow- back to Flores to stay and visit Tikal!

one of many beautiful sunsets i got to witness

one of many beautiful sunsets i got to witness

Feliz cumpleaños a mi, me voy a belize

Tomorrow is October. What? I can’t believe how fast time has flown by. There are a lot of days and weeks here that I just can’t wait to end and seem like they are taking forever, but in general, time is flying. It’s almost pumpkin carving time in the States! Que rico! It’s hard to remember what seasons are like here. Everything pretty much stays the seem. Eat some pumpkin pie and go visit the apple farms for me!

It’s hard to write on my blog now because a lot of people from Antigua read it too and I don’t want to talk about particular things and expose anybody for anything nor insult anyone, but I can say that I am so glad I am taking this trip. I can’t begin to explain how many times people here have hurt my feelings or surprised me in the wrong kind of way. I don’t mean to sound negative; I’ve had some amazing experiences and met some great people here as well, but this is just what is currently on my mind. But I am still glad I am on this trip because the negative experiences I’ve had here are making me appreciate so many things that I have at home. And part of my reason to come was to find myself and build myself into a more positive person. A lot of the things that have happened here have made that a huge challenge, but I now feel like it should be easier to be more positive when I come back to the States because to have to be positive in a place like this is a hell of a lot harder than it will be at home where I am blessed with abundant blessings.

For example, I’ve always slightly despised our country for different reasons, but I am learning to be so appreciative here because I am really more blessed than I can imagine in my life at home.

There are so many things I have taken for granted in my lifetime that I have learned aren’t available in all parts of the world. I’ve seen how hard it is to just make a living here in Antigua, and although there are parts of the US where it is hard, I don’t think it is like anything here.

I’ve also always taken for granted my friends. Okay, I haven’t taken them for granted really because I’ve always been so grateful to have such beautiful people in my life but I’ve taken for granted the fact that I have such great friends. I didn’t realize how hard it is in some parts of the world to really have truly amazing friends. Growing up with such people has always made me love everybody in the world because I believe everyone is inherently good and that I should trust everyone and if I’m a friend to them, they’ll be a friend to me. Well, I’ve quickly learned that not everyone shares the same mindset as me. I still believe it’s better to love people and be a friend, even though they might not return the favor, but I have come to realize that there are quite a lot of people in the world that don’t understand the real meaning of friendship or love. Cheating on people here is rampant. Lying is rampant. Drama is rampant. I can’t get over how many stories I’ve heard or people I’ve know that have been cheated on or cheated on someone. It breaks my heart. And how many people don’t HONESTLY care for the feelings or opinions of others. And how many people lie. Or hate instead of forgive and love.

I’m not meaning to insult Antigua in any way; I am just analyzing what I’ve witnessed and am experiencing a huge culture shock. There’s so many things I would do for my friends in a heart beat and so many things I KNOW (not think) my friends in the states would do for me in a heart beat that is such a big pain for some people you would ask here. It makes me sad because I’m not even given an opportunity to be a good friend to someone because there’s such a lack of trust here. I can see why there’s such a lack of trust now that I’ve been here 3 months, but it breaks my heart to see such insincerity and insecurity.

On a good note, there are good people everywhere you go as well. My dear friend and Doctor, Mario, has been trying to demonstrate this to me as he has read some of my blog posts where I have mentioned some not-so-nice people. Monday, I had to go see him again because my headache and fever came back all kinds of fierce Sunday night.

I shouldn’t have gone back to A Lo Chapin that afternoon because I was tired, but I figured I’d go back and just sleep early that night. But I went home around dinner time to see if there was any food because I hadn’t heard from Isolina if she had returned home yet or not. But I was so tired and my head was hurting badly again so I decided to lay down when I got there. Then I couldn’t get back up. I ached and was cold again so I took my temperature again and my fever had come back. So I told Mario and he told me take some pills and come visit him the next day.

So that’s what I did. He ended up giving me an injection to boost my immune system and guess where injections go here? In your bum! So yay for first experiences getting a shot in the butt instead of in the arm. hahaha. Either way, he again didn’t make me pay for my appointment and I am incredibly grateful for how nice he is, especially when he lives in a place where in three months I’ve already grown tired of the lies and don’t really have much ganas de help anybody anymore. Good for him that he maintains a positive outlook and still loves to help people. What a blessing it’s been to have someone take care of me when I’m sick. That’s when I need it most.

For the beginning of the week, I followed my usual routine. My headache went away and hasn’t come back all week. I actually had a lot of energy Monday and wanted to stay out, but Mondays are quiet in Antigua so I had to go home early and watch a movie (in Spanish, of course).

Tuesday, I went to the market with Isolina and finally got some heels for my Salsa classes. I also bought a duffle bag for my upcoming trip to Belize and I feel that I should mention I paid $30 for the two of them and they look like they’d cost about $70-$80 in the states. Just sayin.

Wednesday, I happened to run into José on the street. We had been missing each other’s texts off on and since Sunday or Saturday night trying to hang out so I decided to hang out with him in Rainbow for a bit. I later went to A Lo Chapin and came back with Kevin because José wanted to hang out longer. I found out his girlfriend is not coming now until December, which is nice that I won’t have to see them together, but in all honesty, I’m quite over everything that’s happened here as I had to witness him kissing another girl that is not me NOR his girlfriend that night. Either way, Kevin proved to be a good friend to me when that happened, so that’s good to know at least.

Thursday was a pretty normal day, except I went to the Market with Isolina to start buying food for my birthday. I had decided that I wanted to cook for all my friends for my birthday because Lord knows I love nothing more than having all my friends in one place with me. So that’s what I began.

Friday was quite a frustrating day for me. I did more cooking (the guys at A Lo Chapin let me use their restaurant for my party and so I was cooking there) and I kept forgetting to bring an ingredient or I had bought the wrong thing and I had to leave twice that morning and come back, I believe. And two more times that night. I was stressed out with all the things that I needed to cook before the party and for no good reason because I finished it all in good time and no one really ended up coming on Saturday either.

I also was frustrated that night because a lot of drama happened and I wasn’t being treated very nicely by some of my friends. I finished cooking late and was hungry and the restaurant had run out of food and not a single person would walk me (since we’re not supposed to walk alone after 8:00 pm) to the store to buy a snack when the store is literally 2 minutes away. When I knew I had to wake up at 7 am the next day to go to the Market with Isolina to finish buying the food for my party, I wanted to go home rather early too and even though I live close to the restaurant, nobody wanted to take me home either and so there I had to stay until 2:00 in the morning. Five hours of sleep was not the way I wanted to start out my birthday.

But Saturday, I sucked it up. Saturday was my birthday and I was not about to let myself be a grump all day on my birthday. At that point, I no longer really wanted a party. I was rather tired of the way women are treated here and rather sick of being hurt by the insincerity of a lot of people here. I wanted to sleep, but I had already promised to cook for all these people and had already cooked quite a bit of it. So that I did. I made a huge salad that morning and then in the afternoon went to A Lo Chapin to heat everything up and make the garlic bread and guacamole for the snack.

In the end of all things, I had cooked for an army of people. Spaghetti and meatballs, garlic bread, salad, and 2 desserts. But a crap ton of everything. Aunt Mary would be proud of me. I am pretty sure I cooked enough for about 40 people.

FEAST!

FEAST!

Anddddd 8 people came. My family. My tandem partner. And 2 of the A Lo Chapin guys. And pretty much barely any of my food got touched. So that was a bummer and I ended up going home by 10:00 which was rather unexpected at a birthday party, but it actually didn’t bother me much aside from my hate of wasting food because I was just so tired of everything that I was glad to go home and sleep.

My sweet family- Geovana was crying because I didn't leave the party with them haha

My sweet family- Geovana was crying because I didn’t leave the party with them haha

My tandem partner, Lily, and I

My tandem partner, Lily, and I

Byron, Orlando, and I

Byron, Orlando, and I

My new friend from Costa Rica

My new friend from Costa Rica

Yesterday, I just packed everything up into individual containers to give away to some of my friends that couldn’t make it. I’m going to give a big batch of it to Willy today because I know he wanted to come but he’s just too busy and I saved a bunch for my family so they don’t have to cook one day and I gave some to a few other friends. I assumed I wouldn’t see everyone that didn’t make it so I unfortunately didn’t get to give my food to everyone, but at least to a lot of my sweet friends that have treated me right. Mario came and got some leftovers and brought me a present! Lily brought me a present Friday night too. How sweet of them! All I wanted was to see my friends, but I even got a few presents too! :) Happy Birthday to meeeee.

And a quick shout out to my Grammie because it was her birthday too (I will forever love sharing a birthday with her). I love you so much Grammie! May you live all the years of your life and be blessed with all the blessings God can give. You are the best grandmother a girl could ask for and I’m so lucky to get to share a birthday with you!

Anyways, yesterday afternoon, I finally got to talk to my family over skype which was so nice to hear from them. One of the things I’ve come to appreciate a lot is my family and friends in the States. It’s amazing how many people have been rude to me here or hurt me in some way and made me feel like it was my fault and it’s amazing how many people I’ve fought with that still act like we’re friends when I see them on the street or in some lugar. It feels so fake. Are we friends? I dont know. Not to say that I don’t fight with anyone at home, but for goodness sakes… I swear I’ve encountered more drama here in 3 months than in 10 years of my life at home. I shouldn’t need a vacation from somewhere after 3 months, but I am so looking forward to recollecting myself in Belize and starting afresh here when I return.

I’m anxious to return now because I got to see my friends from the city yesterday- Xavier, Pablo, and Ale (with whom I went to Monterrico a few weeks ago) and that was a treat. Xavier wants me to come live with him in the city for a week sometime after I get back so I get to have a taste of Guatemala outside of Antigua. That was nice of him to invite me. I am always bummed that they don’t live here because I would certainly enjoy spending more time with them. They have always treated me nicely any time I’ve encountered them. I got to give them some of my food from my party as well and am looking forward to hanging out again. Xavier has a really interesting background and outlook on life and I enjoy hearing more about that every time I see him. Like how money is stupid and we shouldn’t need to use it. I’m in 100% agreement with that one! If we could all just be selfless and help other people, we wouldn’t need money!

Oh, and Ale is the opening act for Justin Beiber when Justin Beiber comes to Guatemala in October. Sorry, I just thought it’d be nice to remind everyone that I’m friends with a famous person. :) And a famous person with a good heart too. That’s the best part.

left to right- Ale, Me, Xavier, and Pablo :) Love these kids!

left to right- Ale, Me, Xavier, and Pablo :) Love these kids!

When we went to pick up the food for them from the refrigerator at A Lo Chapin, I noticed Kenny was singing in Rainbow. I thought he had left his job there, but perhaps only Open Mic Night. So that was nice because I got to bring him his leftover food (he couldn’t make it because his grandpa had surgery. Pobresito :( I think that’s definitely a good enough excuse to miss my party!) and say bye to him before my trip. He says we’ll starting practicing singing when I get back. I’m counting on it because I think my life here is going to change it’s habits once again after I return (things change so quickly here), seeing as Kevin quit working at A Lo Chapin and he was the main reason I’d go visit there so often. The other guys aren’t there 100% of the time. So that tradition will probably be changing now too! How quickly I have to adapt to new things here. I can’t believe how much has happened in only 3 months. It’s borderline ridiculous.

Anyways, Ale sang part of a song, so that was a lot of fun to get to hear him sing since he’s famous and has a fabulous voice. I’m so lucky to be included in that group of friends! I hope to hang out with them more when I get back. I think I will definitely be trying out Guatemala city for a week with Xavier!

Tomorrow in the night, I leave for my visa run to go visit another country to renew my 90-day visit in Guatemala. And now have a break from the drama and a moment to see some beautiful places and catch up on studies andddddd have my good friends to look forward to when I get back with new memories to make! Belize, here I come!!!!!!

Feliz Cumpleaños, Mamasita!!

Ya no quiero escribir mi blog.

Just kidding, I do. But this is definitely much more of a chore than I thought it would be and it’s not that fun to update when I don’t have something new and interesting to say or pictures to post.

Today I’m going to talk about some more things I’ve learned while traveling. You will not escape your problems. If you vacation for long enough, you’re going to need a vacation from your vacation. I say this because this week has been quite a drag and I’ve had some other days such as this where I’ve learned that wherever I go, I come with myself. The only thing you have control over (and sometimes I really don’t think I believe we have control over it) is our your attitude.

Sunday I didn’t go back out to see my friends because I got a bad stomach ache. It wasn’t like the aches I got in the first week and I never had any other problems. It felt more like indigestion or what I would imagine heartburn would feel like. I blame it on the food I ate with José. It wasn’t street food, but it wasn’t really a restaurant either. A lady at my school said I could get sick from that. So I laid down the rest of Sunday. At least I could eat semi-street food without throwing up! :)

Monday was a great day. I received good news and that was that they switched that guy out of my class because they decided he wasn’t in the same level as me. I was so happy. Private classes once again with Willy for group class price! Yes, please!

Then I went out with Kevin that night for a while and enjoyed that as well. It’s nice to have honest friends finally! I can tell by the fact that he’s not trying to woo me and by some of the things he’s told me that he’s honest with me. But we won’t talk about those things here. Not my place.

Monday night began my rough week. Kevin dropped me off at home and I had a headache which I assumed was just a “I need to sleep” headache. But I couldn’t sleep and it only got worse. I took Advil. I tried Midol because that was the only other pain killer I had. Nothing helped. It lasted all night and all morning and it was the worst headache I’ve ever had. Isolina gave me Excedrin extra strength and that didn’t help. I finally caved and called Máximo to send me a doctor.

To my great surprise, a long came Mario! Mario is a guy I’ve met in the salsa classes at Máximo and is a friend of Orlando. How nice it was to have a familiar face as my doctor. And to my even greater surprise, he didn’t charge me for the appointment. I can’t express how grateful I was for that because not only did it save me some money (which I’ve been worried about lately) but it also proved that nice people still exist in the world. There’s nothing more I love than a sweet blessing such as this. Thank you Mario!

Anyways, he prescribed some stronger medicine that still didn’t help Tuesday night, but I woke up Wednesday feeling better. I still had a little headache, but it was more of annoyance than a I-can’t-function.

I also felt awful Tuesday because I was supposed to meet Orlando and Byron to go buy heels for my upcoming private salsa classes and I couldn’t climb out of bed nor could I get in contact with them no matter how much I tried. I felt bad because I’m always a good communicator with people and they were waiting on me and told me all of this the next day.

Wednesday I carried on with my regular activities and Willy was awesome as usual and took me to the park again because he didn’t want to teach me too much and hurt my head some more. The funny thing was I wanted to go to A Lo Chapin to introduce my friends, but we went to the park instead. But my friends ended up coming to the park that day too so I got to introduce them anyways!

Wednesday I, of course, hung out with my usual group and went to Rainbow and algunas otras lugares.

Thursday I just woke up in the most awful mood. And I couldn’t shake it. This is what I’m talking about when I think sometimes we can’t control it. It’s like, I was already in a bad mood before I had my first thought of the day and no matter how many times I tried to say “It’s going to be a great day!” to myself, I couldn’t shake it. I was frustrated because I still had a headache, frustrated because some friends have misinterpreted things I’ve said and I think have made the wrong impression of me, and frustrated because I’ve reached the hard point in learning Spanish.

Willy tried to encourage me in class and explain that when we start at the beginning of learning a language, it is like we’re at the bottom of a well. We can’t see the light at the top, but we start climbing and we’re excited because we’re climbing and climbing and we slowly see more and more light. Once we hit intermediate, we climb a little more and reach the top of the well. But the top of the well isn’t fluency. The top of the well means I can’t climb up anymore and now I have to grow horizontally and take in all the world around me (essentially meaning: I’ve climbed all I can and now I need to practice and practice and read and watch movies and read and read and read and memorize and memorize and memorize more vocabulary. And that’s hard. Especially when there’s 10 different verbs for one verb in English). As usual, Willy knew how I felt because he practically self-taught himself English. The only difference is he likes to read and I still can’t shake my dislike for reading.

After this motivation, I ended up going to A Lo Chapin that night and reading the whole time. For an example of how long it takes to understand what I’m reading (because if I can understand all of it, I’m not learning anything new)… I’ve read 12 pages of a book in about 8 hours (I read Friday morning too). I’m overwhelmed.

Friday I magically woke up really happy to start the day. This, I liked. I beat everybody to A Lo Chapin in the morning and read for an hour and a half before Kevin even showed up to work! Haha. Then I FINALLY had my first salsa class in the afternoon. It’s so much more intimidating in a private class! This is when it sucks to be a perfectionist because my mind doesn’t want to let me try because it knows I can’t dance and I hate embarrassing myself. Like I said, our problems come with us when we travel.
I got pretty tired towards the end of Friday and probably should have stayed home because at about 9:00 I was ready to go home from A Lo Chapin, but I have to wait for a ride and they ended up not closing til 12:00 am that night due to a group that came in and stayed. I’m sure I was a drag; my headache starting bothering me really bad again and I was so tired and I’m terrible at hiding my emotions haha.

Today I woke up once again in bad spirits. Perhaps the headache, perhaps the cloudy sky. But today I, so far, was able to kick it. I met with my tandem partner and was grumpy I couldn’t find heels for my salsa class, but I went to my salsa class and maybe sweated out my bad mood. I felt great after and went to buy a cake for Isolina and Mynor’s one year anniversary!

How ironic! It’s their anniversary today. And my cousin is getting married today. Best wishes, Mike!! May you two live happily ever after! AND it’s my mom’s birthday. She’s turning 30, of course. 😉 Happy birthday, mamasita! We sang happy birthday to you at lunch today before we ate the cake I bought for Isolina and Mynor. They sang in English. It was so cute. I have a video, but am having trouble uploading it. :( Hope your birthday is awesome and the wedding goes perfect!

Happy Birthday Mommy!! Shared a cake for you from afar!

Happy Birthday Mommy!! Shared a cake for you from afar!

Anyways… problems. They don’t go. So don’t run away from them. I wasn’t trying to run away from my problems when I came here, but I still have learned the come with me. I still have health problems (more than usual too!) and I still have negativity problems (harder than usual when you feel like crap 90% of the time!) and I still get bored with my life and I still have days where I hate myself. I still have not discovered the secret to changing my attitude. Oh wait, yes I have. Practice. Damn it.

Just like with my Spanish, practice. I fail one day. I have to get up and try again the next day. Just like Salsa class. I fail a step. I have to repeat the step again and again and again no matter what or I’m not going to learn it. If I fail with my attitude one day, tomorrow brings a new day to try again. Where we fail is when we let that failure day dictate that we’re never going to change and spiral into a depression. That’s okay. Climb back out. I’ve been pretty depressed for the most part this whole week and it sucks. And I don’t want to talk about it. And I want to give up on Spanish. And love. And salsa. And I’m worried about my money. And traveling alone in a little over a week. And money. And I miss the sun.

But I’m still here. And I’m going to enjoy today and if I don’t, I have tomorrow.

Darn the guy that said if at first you can’t succeed, try try again. It’s true.

And the greatest of these is love

I don’t ever want to stop traveling.

This whole trip has taught me so many things and given me so many new experiences. Especially this last week in dealing with my heartbreak and deciding what to do about the situation, I’ve learned so many things. Unfortunately, I’m learning too many other things and not enough Spanish!! Hahaha.

I was ignoring José when he was trying to contact me last weekend. I hurt too much to talk and say anything nice so I ignored him. He was trying to stay my friend, but I wasn’t sure yet what I wanted to do with the situation. I saw him Saturday night when I went out dancing with Kevin and he wasn’t with other girls, so a little part of me wondered if he was telling the truth about everything else he told me. Only God will know.

Sunday, I decided he must have gotten the picture because he stopped bothering me which gave me some space to think. I decided that I am going to try to forgive him and stay his friend. I’ve never given up a friend ever in my life (who’s wanted to stay my friend, that is), why should I start now? Everyone messes up. So I therefore began my usual “break-up” letter.

Yes, I always write a letter to people I’ve gone out with. Future boyfriends, be warned. Haha. I have realized that I am quite a strange one recently, as everyone who I was talking to was suggesting that this was a horrendous idea, but I’ve always done it because it makes me feel better. It allows me to get my feelings out, but also allows me to thank them for the good times we had and end things in a way to where I can more easily forgive the person. It does not take away the pain, but it at least makes me feel like my hands are clean. So I wrote a long note to José and explained that we can try to still be friends, but if we stay friends there are rules now because of what happened. One of those being he has to be 100% honest with me about everything from here on out. Sure, I suppose I won’t know, but aren’t the people that do things like this the ones that need a real friend the most? I don’t know. Maybe I am blabbering on like a naive child, but this was my thought and so that’s what I decided to do.

I had my dear Willy read my letter to see if it all made sense and my Spanish was good and he didn’t correct much at all! What great news is this? He said there were some things wrong, but it made enough sense to understand it.

Sunday I had lunch at Isolina’s church and mostly studied. Orlando invited me to come to A Lo Chapin to hang out with the usual group so I did and we all went to the Sala for Salsa Night after Kevin and Byron closed the restaurant. ¡Que divertido! 7 guys asked me to dance! Where are all the guys that ask girls to dance in the U.S? Somebody please tell me because I would like to know. One of the guys, Marvin, works at Rainbow Café so I kind of knew him. He was really good at leading me in Bachata. I met another guy that was good at leading me in Salsa, so that was fun.

Monday I finally went back to my volunteer job. I was surprised that I could wake up after staying out til 1:00 AM. But everything went well. I supposed I was motivated because I could see the end in sight (Friday).

Spanish class was awful on Monday. I learned nothing new because for the first time in almost a month, we had a new person. Oh, how I need to work on my patience. I was horrible when I was new to the class, but since I’ve been spoiled with private classes this last month, it was really hard to be patient with his bad Spanish. It also made me realize how important it is to continue to practice Spanish after learning it. He learned Spanish for two months in South America, just like I have here, but he hasn’t used it in a year and it shows. I think I’m more frustrated by his attitude than his lack of speaking ability because he gets so insanely mad at himself and makes so many frustrated gestures and noises that it grinds on me. I’m trying to learn how to not let it affect me, but since I myself am trying to work on being a positive person, it’s hard to be around negativity. It is especially a huge challenge when I know that my time and money are being wasted waiting on him to stop being frustrated and just try!

Willy also wasn’t there Monday which didn’t help because I’d been dying all weekend for him to read my letter to José so he could help me correct it. And obviously, of course I always miss Willy over the weekend because he’s the greatest teacher and the only 110% trustworthy friend I have here so far haha. No, I trust my other friends, but Willy is definitely the only friend I have here that gets me.

Tuesday I didn’t do much. I was supposed to have my tandem partner meeting with Lily, but she cancelled again so I had a pretty slow day that day.

Wednesday I went back to my project again and had a traditional Wednesday (minus my Salsa class). I decided to hang out for a minute in A Lo Chapin and visit my friends before heading to Rainbow to give José his letter. Willy has been sort of my guidance counselor this whole trip as well and knows everything that’s happened with me, and he told me he thought I should send my letter to him, even though everyone else thinks I should have nothing to do with José. So that was the sign I needed to know I was doing the right thing and not being a stupid girl. Willy actually seemed rather impressed and touched by my letter and said he’s never done that or received one from an ex and it actually made him think he should write one now. I was so touched to hear that I touched someone’s heart like that because that made me feel like I’m doing something right with my life.

Wednesday was hard in Rainbow to be around José, but not be able to talk yet because he hadn’t yet read the letter. But God blessed me with a multitude of friends. I saw almost every single one of my friends, plus made some new ones, that night by staying for the whole Open Mic Night. And what else? I finally sucked it up and SANG! Only took me two months to get up there (although, if I may say, I have been sick for quite a lot of the Wednesdays). I was shaking like a leaf, as I hate to get up in front of people, but I got asked by 3 different guys to practice with them and sing later. How exciting! I hope they actually mean that because then maybe I could even conquer my fear of singing on front of people while I’m here.

I was planning to head back to A Lo Chapin, but on my way out, Kenny finally talked to me for more than 30 seconds and we hung out for the first time in 2 months of knowing him at Rainbow. ¡Por fin! Haha. Me and him and one of his friends, Edgar, went to the Sala to dance and we had a great time. Hopefully we’re finally friends now. I like making friends.

José started texting me again that night, after he had read my letter, and he wanted to talk. But since I finally made up my mind to be his friend, I said we could talk Thursday. So Thursday we went out to dinner and talked and tried to be friends again. I can’t believe I’m doing this. I’ve surprised myself with my strength in this issue. I just feel like I should try to stay his friend and I don’t know why. We’ve only known each other a month or two; why do I need his friendship? It’s especially hard too because so many people are judging me now when I hang out with him because they don’t think he deserves my friendship and they think I’m foolish. I don’t know. Maybe I am, but I gotta do what I feel is right, right? How blessed are we to have such a loving God that lets us come back no matter what. This whole situation has made me see what it means to love unconditionally. Not only do I have to fight the feelings I had for him and the pain from him lying to me, but I also have to fight the judgment of other people. It’s hard as balls! How the hell does God love such terrible creatures as us?

Glad to still have my best friend. Judge not lest you also be judged

Glad to still have my best friend. Judge not lest you also be judged

I went to A Lo Chapin after dinner to hang out with my usual crowd because I was supposed to go dancing with Kevin again, but I wasn’t feeling up to it that night. I had a stomach ache and was tired and I found out Orlando was mad at me for something I said at Rainbow the night before. Miguel explained it to me (I’ve mentioned Miguel before right? He’s another friend at A Lo Chapin who knows English and Spanish so he’s a huge help when I’m having trouble explaining something!) what I did and it sounded like the dumbest thing ever to me because our culture is so different, but after further explanation the next day, I understood and felt awful. I am learning so many things about this culture that are making me so thankful for mine. I had no idea I even said anything bad, but I did and he was hurt badly, but refused to talk about it until the next day. So I went home and slept because I was sad to have hurt a friend and because I needed to go to work the next day.

30 minutes after returning to my house, I heard a girl get robbed right in front of our house. She didn’t get hurt that I could hear, but someone definitely robbed her. Pobresita. I hated to hear that because I’ve felt safe here for the most part so far. I also found out the next day that someone about a block away from our house got stabbed 3 times in the stomach. ¡Que horror! I suppose I’m not in the safest of places after all, but I am glad I am being watched over by an all-powerful God. I am fortunate to have been safe this whole trip so far. That could have been me!

Friday was my last official day at my project. I decided to make it this way because I’ve missed so many days and I hate feeling bad about missing them so I thought since I have travels in the near future and am planning to start Salsa lessons that I am better off saying I can come when I can come instead of promising something I can’t commit to. It ended up working out anyways because a lot of the times the adults can’t attend my English class and the last girl that was in my class is leaving to go live with her Aunt and Uncle now, so I’m really not needed too often there anymore as it is.

I also went out to A Lo Chapin, as usual, and fixed things with Orlando. What an interesting night that was. I was really tired again for some reason, but had no desire to return to my house at 10:00 pm, so I stayed and just rested my head on the table for a lot of the time. But 11 older guys in total ended up coming to hang out and drink and I felt like I was in a cantina instead of a restaurant. Hahaha. I’m never quite sure why I hang out with guys, but I enjoyed laughing at their ridiculous behavior and horrendous singing voices. I got a chance to talk to Orlando about a lot of things and that was nice to have someone finally open up to me. I love when people trust me with things because it makes me feel they trust me as a good friend, which I most certainly try to be.

Yesterday, I woke up early around 8:00 am and noticed my phone blinking already and saw it was from José. I didn’t realize how early the music started in the streets. The 15th of September is like our 4th of July so for the 14th, the little kid bands were parading through the streets. He promised to take me to this before telling me he had a girlfriend and since I’m trying to stay his friend, I still wanted to go. So we went to that and it was fun. That’s also when I got to have a nice life lesson. He was letting me read a conversation he was having with a girl to prove that he doesn’t look for anything, it just “happens” to him.

He was right. This girl was blatantly throwing herself at him asking “What are you doing tonight? I want to see you before I go back to my country tomorrow. Do you want to see me?” with wink faces. At first I thought, poor girl has a crush on him like me and thinks he’s single so when he sent a message to show me how she would react that said “I want to see you and give you lots of kisses” (But kisses here can sometimes signify just those kisses on the cheek), I yelled at him and said this is what I mean by “playing” with someone and that’s not fair to her and this is when he should be honest and mention his girlfriend. So he ACTUALLY listened to me and said that he had a girlfriend…

To which the girl responded. “That’s okay. You know I have a boyfriend too right? WHAT HAPPENS IN GUATEMALA STAYS IN GUATEMALA!!!!! ;)”

Can I express in words without offending my family on this blog how boiling mad this made me? No. I can’t. I’m sorry, family, close your eyes… BUT WHAT THE FUCK?!!?! I was so upset by her response that I actually cried. (Don’t laugh at me!) I can’t believe people such as this exist. José made fun of me for tearing up, but I was completely in shock of how disgusting of a girl this was and it made me realize what everyone has been talking about with “extranjeras” coming down here to have a good time and why guys take advantage of them. José actually listened to everything I told him he needed to type to this girl like “I’m sorry. I’d like to see you and say goodbye, but nothing more. Because I have a girlfriend and I’m loyal.” So that was impressive. I suppose I don’t have control over whether he does anything with her later or not, but the fact that he actually typed those things was a good sign that he wants to stay my friend and means it.

World, why are you this way? How can people do such things? I understand a slip up, I think. But to blatantly say basically “Yeah I have a boyfriend, but who cares? What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him”? just killed my heart. I weep for this world. No wonder there is so much pain and heartbreak with people that do things like this. Stop being so selfish and respect other people, PLEASE! I know it’s hard. I KNOW. But for real people, if we are not the difference, who will be? No one’s perfect, me included. But for goodness sakes, we can at least try to respect people and love people and not do awful things like this.

I’m definitely having my eyes opened to the world, but I’m still refusing to let it change what I think. And what I think is love people that have hurt you and be an example no matter how many people try to make you change and no matter how many people try to bring you down to their level. Rise up and fight in the name of Love!

Anyways, off my soap box. Around lunch time, he dropped me back home and I ate lunch and headed off to my regular hang out place, as usual. I decided to do my homework there yesterday instead of Máximo so I could be surrounded by people instead of solo. I have now decided that if I actually want to study, this is not the best idea haha. After I finished my homework, Byron, Orlando, Miguel and I headed to the park again to listen to some more of the music that was going on for a bit and then back to A Lo Chapin where I spent the rest of the evening. I am thankful for my group of friends there because I always have a place to go when I’m feeling lonely. And they at least somewhat understand our cultural differences so I can somewhat be my normal self there without worrying about leading someone on because I hugged on them or smiled at them. Hahaha. Or at least if they don’t understand, Miguel can explain it to them better than I can.

left to right -Miguel, Me, Orlando, Byron. Love these kids :)

left to right -Miguel, Me, Orlando, Byron. Love these kids :)

Today I had to get up bright and early again because I thought José and I were going to the stadium to watch a band competition, but it was still just the parade in the park going on again. But oh well. It was still fun to watch. What was interesting to me was the drastic change in temperature. I was freezing in pants and long sleeves earlier this week and today I was frying in a skirt and t-shirt. While the fair was going on, it got cloudy and the temperature was perfect and as soon as the cloud move, que calor otra vez! So strange.

Recycled Dresses?

Recycled Dresses?

another shot of the parade

another shot of the parade

Not really sure what this was for. Definitely saw some strange things in the parade

Not really sure what this was for. Definitely saw some strange things in the parade

I got really hungry while we were watching so we decided to leave and go eat. And the oddest thing was, I had a huge craving to eat Guatemalan food! So we went to a place that served comida tipica and it was ricoooo. I must be becoming accustomed to the food here because I hated the tortillas when I got here and now I crave them haha. And what a great lunch that was. It was so stinking cheap!

$2.50 for all this food?? I need to stop eating at the tourist restaurants...

$2.50 for all this food?? I need to stop eating at the tourist restaurants…

So far for the most part, so good. We’ll see if I can continue to stay friends with José. As long as he behaves and continues to follow the rules I laid out and as long as I can continue to stay strong, I think all will be well. Perhaps it will change when his girlfriend actually gets here and I have to see them together, but for now I am managing to keep my head up and pass time with him without getting depressed. Me not getting depressed over a guy that broke my heart. Proof that miracles do happen.

And now off I go to visit my other friends!

Keepin it calidad. Peace out, peeps.

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