Monday, August 14, 2006

adventures in atitlan

One of the places I really wanted to see in Guatemala was Lake Atitlan, which is a crater filled lake outlined by volcanoes. Very pretty, there will be pictures soon I promise. The only problem was...I didn't want to go alone, and I was having trouble finding travel companions. Eventually I found Steve from my school...he had a couple of friends coming in this weekend, and they wanted to go too. I met up with Steve around 11:30 on Saturday morning, and we sat around waiting for his friends for about an hour. We got some food, then headed to a travel agency to find a shuttle. They said they had one that left at 4, but they ended up calling about 12 places before they actually found something. Then they asked for our address so they could pick us up, and they said Steve's street did not exist. Right. Somehow Steve convinced them that it did, so we headed back to his house.

We started waiting around 4...and waiting, and waiting. We called the agency, gave better directions, and finally at 4:45 the shuttle came. Only we still had to pick up 8 more people at about 5 more stops, and our driver had only been to Antigua twice. Steve helped navigate through the heavy Saturday afternoon traffic, but we ended up driving around the cobble-stoned streets of Antigua for 45 minutes or so, which gave me a major headache. FINALLY we were on our way to Panajachel, always following cars and buses with noxious fumes.

We got to Pana around 8, and the streets were full of people. It was fun to see, since it's way different than Antigua. We found a place to stay, ate dinner, wandered around some more and then went to sleep.

The next morning we headed on a boat to San Pedro, which is across the lake from Pana (about a half hour ride). Steve and I were planning to take the 4pm shuttle back, which gave us about 4-5 hours in San Pedro. Steve and his friends were set on doing a hike, and the travel agency we stopped at said the shortest one (up to a peak called Big Nose) was 5 hours, which was cutting it close. But somehow they managed to find a kid on the street who said we could do it in 4 hours. I was skeptical but somehow willing to take a chance (oh, how trusting one becomes when they travel). We walked to the kid's dad's house, where his dad came out with a machete. No worries! He's got a machete! (A lot of the hikes around the area are considered unsafe because of robberies, etc.) So we set off. I immediately thought I wouldn't be able to make it, since I knew there wouldn't be a lunch stop and I had eaten a plaintain and half a baguette for breakfast. But we kept going and it got much better, and as we got higher and higher I really appreciated the views of the lake from above. At one point I stopped to change into my boxer shorts because I was so fricking hot and sweaty.

It got progressively harder along the way, and Steve needed to stop to get some air here and there. We finally made it to the top, took in the views for a few minutes, and then started to book it back down the hill. I almost fell about 7 times, but always managed to stay up. By the time we started getting back to town, it was nearing 3pm and I was starting to freak out since I wasn't keen on spending the night in San Pedro or Pana. We kept walking, and I tried to go faster, but Steve was struggling. At one point we split up so I could find a bathroom to change in (I was feeling a little ridiculous walking around town in my pajamas) and also a place to buy some water. We thought Steve would catch up but he wasn't coming. Eventually his friend showed up, saying he couldn't make it and was going to stay the night. I knew I needed to go fast if I wanted to make it home (which I did), so I got on the boat straight away. It left about a minute later at 3:30. The water was really rocky and every bump in the ride made my head pound. We got to shore a few minutes before 4. I knew we weren't near the main street where most of the travel agencies were, so I started to run but really couldn't get the energy together to do that. I walked briskly and was about the head towards the center of town when I saw it - a travel agency! With shuttles! The man immediately said, Antigua? Si. He only had one space left. At that point I was about ready to collapse, since I was so grateful to have a way home for the night. I grabbed some snacks from a bodega and got on the shuttle.

Today my muscles are very sore and my shoulders are sunburned but all is good. I haven't heard back from Steve, but I trust he's in good care with his med school friends and I should see him tomorrow. Less than 2 days left in Antigua! Ay....

Friday, August 11, 2006

a normal day in antigua

I've realized after talking to friends and family that hardly anyone has any idea what I'm actually doing in Guatemala. So, let's fix that, shall we? Here's a timeline of an average weekday.

6:30 - roll out of bed, take a shower, and get ready.
7:15ish - breakfast is served by Margarita...I eat with my housemates Jake and Beth, except now only Jake since Beth left yesterday. Breakfast is usually eggs or weird oatmeal and cornflakes. And sometimes bananas, which I take para llevar. After breakfast we go to the corner cafe, where the workers have memorized our order. It's kind of funny that the only place I've become a regular is in another country. Oh well.
8ish - We walk to school, and usually get there a little late since we're finally on Guatemalteco time.
8-12 - Spanish classes. The classes are one on one. My teacher is an old man who likes to tell jokes of varying hilarity (they're all funny to him, of course). We usually talk for a while about various subjects including his former alcoholism, movies, the news, health insurance, and drogas! ¡Hay muchas drogas en Antigua! I've been learning a lot, and I will obviously come home fluent and subsequently quit my teaching job to become a diplomat.
12-1 - This is changing now because Beth is gone, but usually Jake and I would wander around until lunch, around 1. We'd either check our email or run errands or whatever.
1ish - lunch. Sometimes good, sometimes...well, food.
Afterwards Beth and I would be free for the afternoon. Jake is taking 7 hours of classes of day because he's crazy. Some days we have excursions with school, and other days we would go to the gym, take naps, or just wander around.
7 - dinner. After dinner we usually go out so Jake can augment his dinner, and I can get my Gallo (cerveza) fix. For a while we would try to tell stories in Spanish but somehow that's fallen to the wayside. Oh well, I guess I can't be a diplomat after all.

Monday, August 07, 2006


This weekend was our trip to Tikal. I went with one of my housemates, Beth, who is only here for a few more days. Which basically means that even though our ride to the airport was coming to our house at 4am, it was absolutely imperitive that we go out on Friday. We went to a couple of dance had a contest to see who is the most sexy. Que sexy! Luckily for us, clubs close at 1 so we got a stellar 2 and a half hours of sleep. Our ride came around 4am, and it was a very bumpy trip to Guatemala city to catch our plane. More waiting in the airport, then an extremely short flight to Flores, which was a tiny airport. The minute we stepped off the plane we felt the oppressive humidty. Then another car ride to Tikal. So, although we tried, napping opportunities did not really exist. We took a tour of the temples, but our group was huge and I have trouble paying attention to tour guides as it is, so I didn't get a ton out of it. It was still fun, though. When we got back we ate lunch and took a really long nap. The hotels only have electricity from 6-10, so we felt gross and sticky pretty much all the time. (There's running water, but it's cold when the electricity isn't on. But actually, that's not so bad.) So anyway, there's not a lot to do in Tikal once the park is closed except eat lazily, so eat we did. And then much needed showers and sleep.

The next morning we woke up around 4:45 to go on a sunrise tour. We got to one of the temples about a half hour before the sunrise, and even though it was too cloudy to see anything it was still very tranquil and relaxing. Then we took another, better, tour. We got to see (and hear) more wildlife. There's the spider monkeys, which look like weird lanky aliens jumping from branch to branch. Then there's the howler monkeys, who can cause quite a commotion. For a while we were right in the middle of the noise...they really sound like monsters that are going to attack you soon.

So after the tour it was about 9:30 or so...we ate breakfast, then took a cold shower, and then wondered what we could do until we left at 2. Basically, not much (since we had to check out of our hotel room). At 2 we went back to Flores, but our flight wasn't until 7, so we decided to kill time in Flores instead of at the airport. Flores is a cute, small island town with tipico shops on every street. A little boring. But oh well, we didn't have the energy to things that might require energy. We finally flew home, got another ride back to Antigua, and rested. Hurrah!

Today I am getting laundry done which is probably the most exciting thing ever. I want to go buy some chocolates.

Oh, also, I decided to start reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because that's a little easier to explain to my teacher in Spanish than the formation of the U.S. government.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


It's hard to write an organized entry when you don't want to hang out in an internet cafe for hours. Yesterday we went on an excursion to an organic macadamia nut farm with our school. The tour was pretty short, and we learned about all the benefits of macadamia nuts. But the best part was the so yummy. I bought a small bag and almost ate them all yesterday.

Speaking of eating....I've been eating meat every day because I decided I don't care enough to turn down my host mother's food or go hungry. But, the meat hasn't been really good, so it doesn't really feel like I'm cheating. We'll see if this endeavor continues when I get back to the states.

I assumed that I was not going to be able to exercise at all, but my housemates and I joined a gym! So I've been using the treadmill, which is good since I won't get completely out of shape during this trip. I'm running the 10 mile race at the Twin Cities Marathon in October.

My classes have been good so far. In 3 days I think I have covered all the verb tenses that took 4 years to learn (and forget) in high school. My teacher is funny, he likes to tell me jokes that aren't always PC. It's all good though.

Okay, I think this is it for now, more later!