My Home in Guatemala

Hola!!  I’m back in the USA and it’s so weird.  Good, but weird.  And I missed this guy SO MUCH!

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I still have a few posts I want to write about my time in Guatemala, but I thought I’d share a bit about the living arrangements first.  There are some schools in Antigua that offer dorm style housing, but I thought it would be a better experience to live with a family.  And I was right.  I lived with Ana and Manuel (my Antigua parents) and I couldn’t have asked for a better family.  They speak very good English (yay!), but they were also so helpful (and patient) when I wanted to speak Spanish.  As part of the home stay, they provide 3 meals, 6 days a week.  And the food was so good.  They even made vegan meals for me.  I know, it was so nice.  And their home was perfect.  I met their four children, ages 29-39, and they really made me feel like part of the family.

Okay, so back to the house.  I requested to stay in a home with fewer students and I also wanted my own private bathroom.  Some homes have 8-10 students, but this one normally hosts only 2-4.  I think it really helped me get to know the family better.  Anyway, welcome to my Antigua home:

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Most of the homes in Antigua are built like this, with a front door right on the sidewalk.  The front door opens all the way so you can pull a car (or three) inside.  It’s very difficult to tell what a home looks like from the outside.

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This one has a courtyard in the middle.  The kitchen is on the left side of the picture above.

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And my room was across from the kitchen…the door toward the back in  the picture above.

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Twin beds, just like the 1950s.  Perfect for G and me!  The bathroom was right next door so that worked out really well.  There are two other bedrooms in the house, but they are in another part of the house down this hallway.

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The courtyard is on the right by that plant and the other two bedrooms are on the left side of the hallway.  Here’s a picture from the other end of the hall:

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Across from the bedrooms, there’s a door to the living/dining room.

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And that’s where I had 3 meals/day, 6 days/week for a month.

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Oatmeal, papaya, cantaloupe, plantains, orange juice, and rolls.  For breakfast.  I didn’t take enough pictures of the food, but this was a typical breakfast for us.  It felt like summer.

The kitchen is off of the dining room:

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And I was surprised it was so big.  A lot of good food came out of that kitchen.  Wow.  There’s also a rooftop deck above the courtyard:

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G spent a lot of time up there getting his tan on.  The view wasn’t too bad either.

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So that’s a little tour of the house.  I loved it.  Great location, an amazing family, and terrific food.  I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

And tonight…

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I’m hanging with these kids (my nephews, Kai and Kaz), while their parents get a much needed night out.  And I already had to explain to Kai that he can’t say @sshole at school…he asked what it meant.  Umm yeah, I’m a horrible aunt.

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Pacaya Volcano Hike

We are now at Lake Atitlán.  We arrived last night and spent the day touring three cities by boat.  It was an incredible day, but I thought I’d go back to Thursday when we climbed the Pacaya Volcano.  We went to the volcano in the afternoon (after my Spanish lesson and after lunch).  The shuttle picked us up at around 2:00 pm that day.  We picked up other people in Antigua (I think there were 11 or 12 of us in total) and drove approximately 2 hours.  Then we began to hike.

Straight up.

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For an hour and a half.  OMFG, it was difficult.  They have horses to rent and one person in our group rented one.  The rest of us suffered tremendously and climbed by foot.  The trail was very steep and the elevation is pretty high.  Basically, your legs ache like a motherf*cker and you can’t breathe.  Fun, right?!

BUT, by about 5:15 pm or so, we made it to the top!  And it was beautiful.

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Yes, the volcano is smoking.  It’s still active today.  After getting to this spot,  we hiked down to be near the lava from the 2014 eruption.  The lava on top has cooled, but underneath, the coals are still very hot.  And there are vents of hot air in the lava that are so hot you can roast marshmallows!

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Unfortunately, it was pretty cloudy that night so there wasn’t a great sunset…but that didn’t stop G from posing for pictures.

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And it was still an amazing view.

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This was at the top when we were winding our way back to the trail to go down the volcano.  By the time we got to the main trail, it was dark.  We knew it would be dark when we descended so we both used a flashlight app on our cellphones to light the path.  And we didn’t break our f*cking faces!  Going down was about 1000 times easier than going up.

George and I are still sore today.  But it was worth it.  And I’ll never do it again.

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Tikal and More!

We made it back from Tikal Monday morning at 5:40 am.  I had class that day at 8:00 am AND I MADE IT TO CLASS…but only for 2 hours.  Whoa.  I was exhausted.  But Tikal was SO worth it!

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And yes, we walked about 100 miles that day (in the jungle) and climbed so many f*cking stairs.  OMG.  But, we also saw monkeys, so many birds, and a ton of pizote (below).

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We also followed a pair of wild turkeys around for a while.  I think they were celebrating the fact that they were not in the US for Thanksgiving.

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It took me a day to recover from all the bus travel, but by Tuesday I felt much better.  We explored a bit of Antigua yesterday, but kept it pretty low-key.

Today, we went on an excursion with some other students (and teachers) to a coffee plantation!  We learned about how coffee is made and I realized that I know nothing about coffee.

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And we saw some of the most beautiful flowers!

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I can’t even believe those flowers are real.  The color is like nothing I’ve ever seen.

After the coffee plantation, we had lunch with my home stay family and then they took us on another excursion!

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We went to San Cristóbal del Alto, which overlooks Antigua and other towns in the area and it was beautiful.  While we were there, we saw some really incredible orchids, too.

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After that, we went San Juan del Obispo to buy more chocolate! And when we arrived this time, they were in the middle of making chocolate!  So cool.

This is cacao, sugar, and cinnamon.

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It’s put through a grinder again to make it very fine and then pressed into a bowl shape (by hand).

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And then the chocolate is formed into 4 ounce discs:

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The discs are set out to dry and then packaged for sale.  We got to taste every step of the process and it was perfecto!

Tomorrow afternoon, we are going to hike up the Pacaya Volcano!  We are hoping for clear skies and a lot of lava.  Our guide is bringing marshmallows.

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Time to Sightsee!

Because G made it to Guatemala!

We went on a walking tour of Antigua yesterday and just got off an 8.5 hour bus ride from Guatemala City to Flores. 

We got on the bus at 9:00 pm last night and it was actually very comfortable. We purchased “luxury” bus tickets and had huge seats that almost reclined flat. 

Unfortunately, our bus driver drove like a maniac so sometimes it felt like the bus was going to tip over. But, we survived. And we’re now waiting for our guide to take us to the Tikal Mayan ruins. We will spend the day there and take another night bus back to Antigua tonight so I will not miss a day of Spanish school! I may sleep through my lesson tomorrow, but I’ll be there.

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I won a prize!

First, my cat comes to see me every day now!

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He prefers to sleep right on top of my notebook so I can’t any notes.  I’m blaming my poor Spanish on him.  The other students (and teachers) are very jealous and almost everyone stops by to pet him.  Yes, I’m now the crazy cat lady in Antigua.  Awesome.

Yesterday, I went to an activity after school (from 2-4) where we learned how to weave bracelets.  (The same Mayan families from San Antonio came to the garden to show us how.)  They said that usually the children make them and it takes about an hour to make one f*cking bracelet.  The bracelets are sold for 1-2 quetzales, which is 13-26 cents (in USD).  Umm, yeah.  Guess I won’t be taking up weaving for my next part-time job.  Anyway, each student was set up with her own weaving “station” and most of us were attached to a tree.  It was a lot of fun!

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Fortunately, I excel at repetitive tasks (like knitting, stuffing envelopes, data entry, and collating) so this was a perfect craft for me.  And I finished first!  Also, mine looked the best.  Go me.

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Because I was the first to finish, I won a prize!

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Now I only need to make and sell 713,194 bracelets to pay off my student loans!  Perfect.  Would anyone like to give me the money to purchase all the string???

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