Location: Costa Rica
Viva Costa Rica!! Last night we spent our last night in Guatemala in Antigua. We immediately loved it, ate great food but saw more gringos in the first 10 minutes than we saw the entire time up in Xela. There definitely is a tradeoff when gringos move in and start buying up all the restaurants, shops and hotels. Needless to say, it was nice and would recommend it to anyone traveling through the area. The old churches, etc. were beautiful.
Costa Rica is wet. We are staying at a Hostel in San Jose for the night before heading onward. We were planning on heading West to the Pacific coast but word of mouth is that it is super wet and not that much fun. So plans have changed and we are going to head Southeast to the Caribbean side to try our luck there. I guess they are in their dry season...weird. I hear we will be hanging with the rastas and getting back in touch with some reggae. But the beaches sound nice..we are just pumped to hit the water. At this point, any water is very welcome.
In the past 24 hours I don´t know how many times the two of us have looked at each other and gotten big smiles because our second and adventuring part of the trip is finally beginning. We also will be trying to get the camera out more...the rain has been kind of stopping any action in that category.
And I am especially antsy to get active in the ocean, in kayaks, etc. because I have just finished, probably, the most inactive month ever. My body is ready to go.
Cheers and enjoy that October weather.
Today is Monday and we leave Xela on Friday! We are more than ready to pack up the packs and hit the road. The weather has finally come around here but as the Costa Rica looms we can't help not too start counting the days before we hit the beaches and jungles. Friday morning we are busing east to Antigua to spend an afternoon walking around the city, spending the night and then heading to Guatemala City early Sat. to catch our flight south. Woohoo!!
Classes this week are once again great for me and Heidi finally has a teacher who teaches and doesn't want to play tic tac toe all day or flash her flashcards at her (a task she has mastered on her own). So she will be talking up a storm by Thursday and with both of our skills combined plus some sign language we should do great.
Take care. Hope all is well up North. I'm missing that gorgeous fall weather but hey, I'm in Guate!!
I jus added in some new pics from over the weekend and one from my bday (my mom likes to have a token picture on my birthday since I never seem to be around for it). A few of us hiked up a nearby inactive volcano called, La Muela, which was a blast. The elevation kicked our butts and for most of the hike we were scrambling up jagged rocks which made for some hilarious slips and falls. Michael and I tried to loosen up with a little yoga at the top and then proceeded to snack on chocolate muffins, yum. I still must say that pb and j´s are he best snack for the summit of any mountain. We had beautiful views, as you can see, and a beer at the end tasted fanastic.
My birthday was a rather soggy day so we decided to hunker down and watch a movie in a room that could have been any high school basement hangout from the 90´s. We treated ourselves to the classic, ´Weekend at Bernie´s´ which is apparently amazing if one only watches it every ten years or so. I had an ice cream with Kahlua and a mojito in place for a cake and enjoyed every minute of both.
I have also switched teachers this week and have found a new motivation for studying. I realize now that my first, very nice but very new teacher didn´t really know how to approach a total beginner. But now I am getting homework exercises, being forced to talk much more and I finally feel like I can convey my needs. Woohoo.
Heidi is here!!! I was lucky to have her arrive before my birthday so that she could grace us with her one-of-a-kind movie watching skills..... laughing very loudly and hysterically at any joke in an entire movie. I had forgotten.
My back is also feeling fantastic because we both love recieving massages...Heidi is the massage queen.
The rain started coming down in sheets just after lunch so I have deposited myself in an internet cafe for some cafe con leche and digging into a new book. I have found that 5 hours of Spanish in the morning is enough for an entire day, due to a large headache of information overload. I started working on the preterit (the past) thus bringing new challenges and longer sentences. I feel as if my english is getting worse. ha
Heidi is coming tomorrow which is very exciting. It will be nice to have a partner in crime.
My time in Guatemala is almost half over. I have learned from listening to fellow travelers and researching the wonders of this sometimes violent but beautiful country that I could stay for an extra month no problem. They say, ´eat your ticket home and keep wondering´. That is the motto of other gringos down here and of the ever rambling Kerouac who has recently enlightened me in ´Dharma Bums´. There is Tikal (mayan ruins), Semuc Champey (an underwater river with numerous caves) and the many volanoes that are waiting to be climbed. All are calling my name. I am in school 5 days a week and a weekend would never be enough to really explore these areas. I spent a week trying to finnagle a trip to Tikal over a long weekend but it´s so much traveling for so little time to really explore and enjoy the place. We would travel in armed night buses but in the past few weeks they have been targets..so, in all honeslty, that scares the hell out of me. I am currently undergoing a personal lesson of how much I will listen to my brain versus thrill of the adventure. And I´m not sure if I´m drawn a conclusion as to whether or not I need to return and navigate the wilds of Guatemala. They say these spots can´t be missed but what others are waiting in other places.
I guess the reality of the situation is that I do have a ticket out of here and I´m going to use it. I´m excited to hit the surf in Costa Rica and catch some sun.
I know this has all been really random. I am putting up a few new pictures so enjoy. I saw the oldest church in Central America (1524) built by the Spaniards and my friends of my family´s weaving.
A few important lessons that I learned this weekend are as follows:
1: Traveling hungover in a chicken bus is hell.
2: Guatemalan water parks are seriously amazing.
3: Beer by the liter is brilliant.
4. Riding in Juan Pablo´s (son of Xela´s mayor) car is like a video game.
5. Tamales con pollo and pupusas are delicious.
A bunch of us checked out a few of the local watering holes that attracted a lot of gringos and locals alike. Walking around here after dark is kind of sketchy so a few of my friends: Will (from England), Jeff (from Canada) and Hzhojor?? (from Croatia) were my personal escorts. So yes, Mom and Dad, I am making good decisions. haha But we hit up some good Cuban music and then went to the disco, Kokolocos. You can order beer here by the liter, similar to by the pitcher in Burlington, which makes for a great deal and better conversation somehow. Kokoloco played some classic hiphop from back in the day so we had a good laugh over all of those.
Saturday I went to a market about an hour out of town, Totonicopan, where we walked by stall after stall of crap. I was hoping for more of an artisan market but saw only cheap plastic items and a lot of raw food that smelled. It makes one wonder where it comes from and who buys it all, because I saw very few purchases. Michael, a fellow student who has traveled all over Asia and South America, said that in every culture he has experienced there are markets similar to this one. It´s really quite depressing.
Sunday we went to a water park. Yes, it´s true. I was a skeptic at first but was blown away by how sick this place was. They had more slides than we could get to in a day and they were all awesome. It was built to look like the Mayan ruins in Tikal with lots of great landscaping and structures. I wore surf shorts so that I didn´t ruin the bottom of my suit which caused major uproar so we had to get permission by a park administrator for me to go on the slides. I guess they only want to see women with as little on as possible.
Heidi gets here in less than a week!!! I posted a few pictures so check those out.
I just stumbled into what is turning out to be the internet/cafe hangout for the school after the most amazing hike up to saunas that are headed from moutain vapors. They basically carved out rooms around the vents and voila...saunas. But the hike up there was what blew my mind. The sky was full of dark thunderheads with rays of sun shining through and lighting up different fields and craggy mountains. I have pictures but there isn´t an place to upload here so that will have to wait till Monday.
Yesterday my teaher and I hung out in the Parque Central most of the morning and experieced the Festejos en hone a la virgin del Rosario. All the Catholic schools in town (probably up to 20) were represented by bands who encirlced the square and played all morning.
In the afternoon we went to a hot spring, about 30 minutes by chicken bus and pickups from Xela, that was like entering Jurassic Park.. I know that sounds cheesy but it´s really the most accurate way to describe it. We soaked for probably an hour. It started to pour towards the end which kicked up a lot of steam, creating a very intimate and surreal environment. I loved it. We all had a bonding moment. haha
I did do some volunteering the other day. I hiked up to a tiny school house above the city and played some futbal with the kids. They were tiny, spoke great English, kicked my ass in futbal and lived in what barely passes for a shelter. Pretty incredible.
So that is all for now. I need to head home for some dinner and then I´m headed out to enjoy some Cuban music and drink the local cerveza, Gallo. I hear it´s similar to miller light.
I´m learning the language but slowly. I retain weird stuff but I guess a little is something.
And to finish it off...Carlos Pena won the first Latin American Idol last night which was terribly exciting in my household and we ran outside into the street to lite fireworks. Carlos is from Guatemala and beat out some Mexican.
I experienced my first drive-by-ass-grab today so I can say that I have offically arrived in Guatemala. I hear that it happens once or so every 2 weeks and you just deal with it and walk away. Very interesting. I guess it´s sketchy but from what I´ve heard that is the worst you will find during the day.
This afternoon I was supposed to go Volunteer in an after school program just out of town but it was cancelled so a few of us walked around and enjoyed delicious cafe con leche. Coffee is consumed here like water. My family drinks it constantly.
The parque central is beautiful with amazing old, massive cathedrals and buildings. I took pictures but haven´t found a good computer with a USB dock yet.
School is going so fast. I worked on conjugating verbs today so now I can finally form some sentences and I don´t communicate in Spanglish or sign language anymore (well to a certain extent).
There is a lot of...I go. I walk. I drink. I guess you could say that I have mastered the two word sentences. ha
Location: Xela, Guatemala
Viva Xela! I made it via LA, where I sat in a bar for 3 hours with 4 guys headed to Nicaragua who were searching for some wave they had heard of. I guess in search of the Endless Summer and from what I could gather they are kind of a big deal in the surfing world. Then onto Guatemala city for a 4 hour bus ride to Xela (Qeutzaltenango) which was beautiful and all I could deduce was that they must have a competitive advantage in corrigated metal and corn. There are corn fields growing on every incline possible.
School today was a brain overload of Spanish vocabulary but I guess that is the best way to learn. The fellow students seem fun and I can´t wait to start wandering and discovering this place. Tomorrow we are all volunteering with kids up in the mountains and of course, more Spanish.