Me Falta Palta

P1020850 Two weekends ago, we went on our first camping trip here in Chile. A teacher that I work with gave me directions that were spot on. We had to hike a few miles on a dirt road before arriving at Nido de Condres, which is a piece of land that is owned by the nearby town and is used by gauchos (cowboys) for grazing, but also has campsites and trails that follow a small stream up into the hills and canyon. Moving slowly, the stream has created several natural pools, which we swam in, jumped in and found many small waterfalls and inhabitants. We cooked dinner on our new stove and slept in our new tent. During the night pobre Andy awoke with a stinging sensation on his chest and then again on is arm. A wasp had been trapped inside the tent and as a last resort to survive stung him twice. Don’t worry I came out of the incident unP1020872harmed. In the morning we awoke to a huge steer mooing outside out tent. We packed up and  headed out. Along the way I stopped at a scenic spot that overlooked the stream and sprinkled a few of Matt’s ashes. As I was turning around, I realized a poem had been painted on the rock. After translating it we realized this place was a memorial for someone else as well. I thought Matt would like to experience this place… the view and the sound of the stream coming from below.

We returned to Vina to celebrate the Superbowl at our house. Sadly we didn’t get to see the commercials, but the game was an exciting one. The Chilenos that I spoke to were amazed that the Superbowl was the most watched event in the United States. I tried to say it’s because of the commercials and the half time show. It was nice to spend the evening surrounded by Gringos who have always enjoyed the Superbowl experience.

I am jealous of Andy, because he uses Spanish at work to talk to his coworker, Javier. I go to work and usually speak English. I am teaching three classes and gaining a lot of experience. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays are pretty crazy for me. I have two English classes in the morning, then our Spanish class, and right after that my night class begins. Andy continues to work in the mornings and then meets me for lunch before we go to our Spanish class. Christina is our Spanish teacher and has been reviewing many of the rules of the language and gives us homework most nights. Living with other North Americans we don’t speak much Spanish, except when we have been drinking. Working on my Spanish has been hot and cold. I feel like I can produce it sometimes, but other times I lose my confidence and will.

P1020914 Our living situation is so different from living with the host family. In general I like it. Besides the problems we have with the lack of hot water, the kitchen sink blasting water or nothing at all, or the broken refrigerator and its de-thawing freezer, it’s a decent place to live. The atmosphere is always lively. Morgan, Mara, and Nick are usually and other students have become regular visitors. Getting to know everyone has been great and now we seem like a crew. After a few nights of drinking, going to a club, playing Kings cup, and talking until 6 in the morning we have become close. We never go to bed at the same hour and always have the option of having one or two more drinks. The other night Andy and I decided to go to bed early which was about 2 am and the others went to a bar until 5am. One night we returned from a club at about 5, all hungry and craving palta (avocado). Palta is a staple food with every meal here, but this morning it was the main dish. We toasted bread and loaded on the palta while singing “me falta palta” which means “I’m missing avocado” It was quite the contradiction as we had plenty of palta.

Friday we experienced a tremor! I was laying in bed, awake, and all the sudden my room started violently shaking! It was strong at first and then it lessened. The tremor lasted 10 seconds! I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen screaming “Did you guys feel that! That was amazing!” Morgan was in the shower at the time and Andy brushing his teeth. That was the first real tremor I have ever felt and a reminder that the earth beneath us is constantly moving.

P1020905 This past weekend was very chill. We spent Saturday at the beach in ConCon and walked the beach in Renaca as well. The beaches in these two cities are very different. In ConCon there are more families and there are fabulous seafood restaurants just off the beach. Renaca is a different world. Andy compared it to South Beach, with younger people, showers and massages on the beach and swimsuit contests happening. ConCon was more my speed. After the beach we took a bus to the market to stock up on fresh produce and we decided to get a fresh salmon filet for Valentine’s Day which was very relaxed. We caught up on sleep, studied Spanish, and prepared the salmon. Peter our friend from Michigan set the mood of our romantic dinner by playing love songs and our roommates made us take a sappy prom picture. We ended the night with a game of Kings cup.

P1020908 Right now we are taking it easy in a coffee shop near our house. Andy ordered a hot chocolate and the waiter asked, “espeso o liquido” meaning thick or liquid. Not quite understanding, he went with the espeso and ended up with a cup of hot, rich, chocolate pudding in front of him. Andy liked it, but won’t likely order it again.

Taking a look at the calendar we have less than two weeks left in Vina. After February we leave for the South and then to Argentina. We are in the process of planning our trip and hope to cover some ground. Time has flown by and I realize that I have enjoyed living in Chile and learning about the culture and the people that live here.

Bring Back that Love and Feeling

P1020514 Oye! Our last week was jam packed with an array of experiences I don’t know where to begin. On Friday we celebrated our 5 year anniversary. Andy Collins and I have been together for 5 years…. and a day. Hard to believe it has been that much time. I remember when we met I was 19 almost 20, unsure, and reluctant to get into another relationship. The ongoing joke between us is we have been together for too long, but actually I won’t be giving up on a good thing any time soon, especially since we can travel together. To celebrate our big day we hit the town and went to a Mexican restaurant where I had a chirimoya (chirimoya is a tropical fruit that is popular here) margarita and Andy had a burrito stuffed with beef, chicken, and pork (He probably won’t order the mixed meat again… he was overloaded). Then we went to the Municipal Theatre to see a production called Tango. We listened to a piano, accordion, bass and violin play wonderful tangos and watched professional dancers. There was also a singer and master of ceremonies that sang along with some of the melodies. Before catching a micro (the local buses are called micros) home we found a bench under the stars. It is a local custom to make out in public areas… for hours! When in Rome… against Andy’s wishes we only stayed for a few minutes. J

P1020482 As the saying goes time flies when you are having fun and with three weeks under our belts we are ready to start week four. Last week seemed like a normal working week. We both got used to our own schedules. Andy continued to work on projects in Valparaiso and I attended three different English classes as a visiting Gringa. This gives all the morning classes the opportunity to listen to and interact with a native English speaker. The students in the morning classes are all teenagers and in the evening I have been co-teaching a class of beginning level adults. There are only three students and in February I will become the full time teacher. I am excited for the chance to teach a class on my own, but realize there are challenges. The teacher now uses a lot of Spanish to explain the meanings of words. I prefer and am not able to use Spanish when I teach. I am anxious to see how they adjust and how well I can teach a beginner adult class.

On the downside we both have been battling bad colds. I think it is a combination of the change in climate and adjusting to the city air and all the crap that is in it. Including tons of cigarette smoke; almost everyone here smokes and most restaurants and bars allow it. I had to stay home sick one day, but we are both on the mend and don’t cough nearly as much as before.

P1020573 On Friday we went to a botanical garden to do a high ropes course with the classmates from our Spanish class. We did a few zip lines from the treetops and walked across several types of hanging bridges. It was fun hanging out with our American classmates, who we have gotten to know during the past few weeks of class.

On Saturday we took it easy and then ventured out to Valparaiso to experience the cultural carnival, which presents several types of art from music to theatre, spread among the cities plazas. We walked through the streets and took a funicular, which is like an elevator that goes diagonally up a steep slope. Once above the city streets we found silence. Wanting to take advantage of the peace and quiet I found a corner table at a café. We spent at least a couple hours there journaling, sipping on helados, and listening to the street musicians passing by. The festival activities picked up in the evening and Valparaiso came alive. We roamed the city until 1am, drinking super bitter cheap beer, which is sold on the streets for a buck, and watching popular bands play on a stage at the heart of the city.

P1020565 Today we took a bus to the small town of Isla Negra to see one of Pablo Neruda’s houses. Neruda, who is famous for his poetry, has three houses, but this was his favorite. He loved the sea, but could not leave land and so he built his house like a ship. The inside has very low curved ceilings and small doors. The view of the waves hitting the coast was spectacular. Heading home we missed the bus and began to wait at the bus stop. I asked Andy if he was hungry and an older gentleman turned to me and said in English, “you know what happens when men get hungry don’t you?” Not sure how to react I played along and said asked what happens. He said, “They get aggressive.” Then he explained his story and before long the three of us were standing there having a diverse conversation for at least 45 minutes! He was a local and had some very interesting opinions and used to get grumpy when he came home from work. His wife figured this out and would leave food or a beverage for him at the front door so that he would not be so “aggressive” when he had some food in his stomach. His interesting viewpoints and his willingness to share with a couple of young extranjeros was refreshing and a nice touch to our day.

We have enjoyed reading all your comments so please keep writing! We miss you all and hope all is well in the states.



From the Bottom of the World

P1020242 The flight down was uneventful and long. I slept or tried to sleep for most of it. In Toronto we had to go through security again and spent seven hours anxiously waiting for our flight to leave. From Toronto to Chile it was nine hours and we had an open seat next to us. Even though we had the extra room we both got off the plane feeling grumpy and groggy, but in Chile! Customs was a cinch; we found our bags, and then our driver. I remember my first step out of the airport… the sun was high and it was hot!! We had to shed our winter layers quickly.

Our driver talked to us in Spanish the entire trip to Vina del Mar (2 hours). He was easy to understand and told us many things about the country of Chile like the famous vineyards, the copper mines, the climate, the government, food and what drink you should have with which food… he went on and on. It was very nice to have him as our guide, but it took energy to keep up with him. After our first view of the city of Valparaiso, which was very similar to San Francisco with narrow, steep streets, we went to Viña del Mar with our driver and our Adelante contact Jennifer. Both were giving us points of reference so we could remember how to get from place to place. We arrived at our host family’s house around 4pm, but the maid had already left and our parents were still on vacation so they put us up in a hotel for two nights.

P1020241 Being in a hotel we were able to catch up on sleep and explore the city of Viña del Mar. The city has many high rises and new buildings going up everywhere. There are many people here on vacation from other parts of the country so the restaurants, shops, hotels, and the beach are all very busy. It is nice to once again be in a place where everything is accessible by foot. There is a metro, buses and taxis, but we have walked everywhere so far. On Sunday we went to the beach, but it was too cloudy to swim. We walked along a path where the waves hit rocks along the and then splash onto the sidewalk. Several unlucky passersby were drenched with water! It almost happened to us once. I told Andy on a hot day we should come back and dodge the waves.

Monday was our first day of Spanish class. We both didn’t know what to expect. There are 7 students total. Most are from the states and most of them are men. For the first class two teachers asked all of us questions and we had to go around and answer in Spanish with everyone listening to our answers. I think everyone was really nervous, but Andy and I made it into the advanced class with 3 other students. After class we met our host family Susana and Denis. They own a big house 15 minutes away from our school. They are very nice and are used to sharing their home with students. Denis loves soccer and also plays basketball. He even invited us to play with him at a local gym! Susana has been a midwife for years and now is a professor at a college teaching others how to be midwives. She also paints and has many paintings hanging in the house. Their Chilean Spanish is very difficult to understand at times, but it is getting easier.

P1020226 The food has been great. We have had so many avocados and empanadas. My favorite is an empanada made with spinach, cheese, and queso! But Denis told me if I eat too many I will get fat J Our host parents had some guests over last night and we tried a beverage called “cola de mono” which is milk and tequila mixed together. It was surprisingly good. I am also looking forward to trying the ever famous Chilean drink pisco sour but poco a poco (bit by bit).

Overall we are adjusting to our surroundings, learning Chilean Spanish, walking everywhere, loving the nice weather, and soaking up the Chilean culture.

Going Home

May 1, 2007

To finish out our trip, we moved south to the little roadside town of Uvita. We stayed at the Hotel Toucan for 4 nights. Being one of few hotels in Uvita, this chill hostel was a great place to stay. I especially liked the hammock movie theatre. From Uvita we kept ourselves mostly busy. The rain came in the afternoons so we hiked to waterfalls and the beach in the mornings. Both of us got sunburns, but our time here was relaxing. The day before we left we went to Cano Island to snorkel. This being my first real snorkeling experience I was pumped. Then the tour agency forgot us! The shuttle was supposed to pick us up at 6:30am, but went to the wrong hotel and left without us. Luckily we were able to catch a taxi to the dock where the tour boat was leaving. For snorkeling the visibility was only 50%, but I thought it was great. We saw different types of colorful fish, eels, and we got to hold two puffer fish! After lunch on the beach we headed out for another snorkel trip and saw a school of fish. After a long day in the sun we arrived back at the Toucan and prepared for our trip back to San Jose.

Now we are sitting on the plane en route for home. It has been a trip of a lifetime, but both of us are ready for the familiarity of home. We return home with a little more knowledge about other countries of the world, the fundamentals of a new language, and thousands of memorable journeys.

Fila Cementario de las Maquinas

April 24, 2007

After hiking 8 miles on the beach every night for a week, I thought it would be a good idea to escape to the mountains and climb the tallest peak of Costa Rica. The trailhead is located in the rural town of San Gerardo de Rivas. The bus ride out there was a bumpy one on a steep, dirt road. As soon as we got off in the small town of San Gerardo Andy said, “Rach, what have you gotten us into.” That was just the beginning of a big adventure. We stayed at The Descanso hotel that is run by a very nice Tico and his family. The day before we rested and did some hiking in the Cloud Bridge Reserve before the hike up Chirripo. The next day we left at 5am for the initial 14 kilometers to the hostel located 5.5 kilometers from the summit. The hike was steep and muddy and winded through a luscious rainforest. Above tree line the scenery changed to more of a desert with small plants and tons of lizards. We made it to the hostel around 1. We were tired from the climb with our packs full of ramen and our heavy, but extremely important Nutella and snickers. The hostel sits at about 11,000 feet, can sleep up to 60 people, has running water and is nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. Awaking at 3am, we left the camp and headed to the summit to catch the sunrise. Walking in the cold and darkness with one headl amp was a challenge and maybe the low point of the hike. The signs were not well marked and both of us had the feeling that we were lost. We climbed a ridge and looked into a valley and saw some lakes and then Chirripo looming in the background. Daybreak was upon us as we started the ascent. Not wanting to miss the sunrise I tried to push it only to become severely out of breath and therefore almost crawling up the mountain. We made it though and saw both the Atlantic and Pacific shorelines and the sun came up. The view was phenomenal…this was the high point and made the whole trip worth it. 5.5 kilometers back to the hostel, we packed the rest of our stuff and started back down the mountain. Every kilometer is marked with a sign that has given that section of trail a name. One  odd name is Fila Cementario de las Maquinas, translation: The Machines Cemetery Ridge. There were no machines to be seen. Other names were Ba rbas Viejo: Old Man’s Beard that was a very calm section of trail with plenty of singing birds. While hiking we calculated that by the end of the two days we will have hiked 25 miles! Once we hit Kilometer 0, we were tired and limping from the downhill grind. Our trip wasn’t over. We had to walk another mile to our hotel, stopping along the way for ice cream and juice. To sooth our aching legs and feet we ventured out that afternoon to some nearby hot springs. It was also a steep hike to the springs, but was well worth it. The next morning we left for the Pacific coast where we are now. We had the idea to head to the beach to take it easy, but we will see how long that lasts.

Our Last Week In the Old City

April 11, 2007

We had the chance to witness many strong traditions during Semana Santa in Antigua (Easter Week). During this Holiday the people of Guatemala flock to Antigua to participate in processions that recreate the sentencing, death, and resurrection of Christ. The main religion of Guatemala is Catholicism and many Guatemaltecos have participated in this holy week for generations. The processions involve many people. Both women and men carry a float or “Andaria” throughout the streets of Antigua. The Andas are massive with flowers, angels, and statues of Jesus or Mary on top. With 40 people on each side of the Anda it sways down the street with a band playing a slow sad march. These processions last all day and into the night. The men wear purple robes; some carry incense, and carry Jesus. The women wear black and white with veils, and carry Mary. There is also a children’s procession, with a smaller float. The significance of the procession is to carry the pain that Jesus Christ carried on his way to his crucifixion. Some carry the Anda for penance, others for tradition. Every few blocks new carriers switch with the others and the procession continues at a steady crawl. Andy and I witnessed many of these processions. It was quite an amazing experience. The biggest ones were on Thursday and Friday. The recreation of the sentencing was a group of men dressed as Romans on horseback that went to several corners of the city and read out loud the sentencing of Christ. At 5am the procession of the death of Christ began. Smoke from the incense filled the street along with people. The next few days there were several other processions that represented the mourning for the death of Christ and then his Resurrection on Easter Sunday. The most important day was Friday. Guatemaltecos are not supposed to work for it is a day of rest and mourning for Christ.

Another tradition that is very unique to Antigua is the making of Alfombras. Alfombras are carpets that people make in the streets as an offering to Christ. These pieces of art are made out of flowers, fruit, and colored sawdust. Andy and I had the chance to help make 2 out of flowers. Even families that don’t have much money still partake in the alfombras. My host mom told me it is a sacrifice that people are willing to make for Dios (God). People start making alfombras in almost every street in Antigua where the procession is going to pass. This all began on Thursday night and continued through the night until the procession passed by in the morning on Friday. Families worked for hours on these beautiful, detailed carpets. When the procession came the alfombras were destroyed as the Anda was carried past. People would follow and pick up the flowers and then men with shovels, a backhoe and a truck close behind to pick up what was left of the mangled alfombras. It was amazing the amount of time and work the people poured into these works of art only to see they destroyed the next day. To many that fact didn’t matter because it was an offering to Christ. After staying up all night making alfombras, visiting churches, walking around the city to see other alfombras, we saw the procession and went to bed. I have to admire this tradition and the people who believe so strongly in what they stand for.

Once the last procession was over on Sunday Antigua returned to normal. We spent our last days studying, walking, and saying goodbye to the friends we met, spent time with, and worked with during our journey in Guatemala. I was happy to find out that my work is being and will be continued at the library in Pedro Molina. Andy and I received an Intermediate Advanced score on our Spanish exam! Que Bueno! Now we are waiting in the Airport in Guatemala City for our flight to Costa Rica where more adventures are waiting. It was sad to say goodbye to the old city and everything that is familiar about it, but I have the feeling that someday I will see her again.

Sweet River

March 22, 2007

We continued on our travels by making a 9 hour trip to Rio Dulce. After the most uncomfortable bus ride we’ve had yet, we were thankful to get off the bus and get on a motor boat headed to a hotel tucked away in the jungle right on the river. We slept in the loft that had a thatched roof where bats lived. The next day we wanted to explore the town of Rio Dulce and find a place that was closer to the town. We found Tortugal where we have been for three nights. This is a very unique place that caters to yachties that bring their boats from places like Sweden, Canada, and Texas. This means the food is more expensive, but there are hot showers and our dorm room is above a dock and has a great breeze that battles the humidity. We climb a ladder to reach our beds and can feel the structure sway with the breaking waves.

From here we took a great boat trip up to the coast to the town of Livingston.  Even though the boat was late, cutting our time in Livingston very short, the ride was beautiful. We passed by little villages on the shores of the river, hot springs, and saw plenty of birds. Livingston is very small, but it has its own culture being populated by ‘Afro Caribbean’ people. We enjoyed fresh fish for lunch and then got back on the boat to Rio Dulce.

The next day we hopped on a bus towards the ruins of Quirigua, one of three national heritage spots in Guatemala. The bus dropped us off on the side of the road and we had to walk 4 kilometers to the entrance of the ruins. We were not quite sure if we were going the right way until a big tourist bus full of gringos passed by, an d near the end a nice Guatemalan man with his wife and baby gave us a ride about a quarter of mile from the entrance. In addition to the ruins there were large sandstone structures that were intricately carved with Mayan symbols and calendars. My favorite part was the grassy palace floor, surrounded on all sides by big stone stairs that helped create an acoustic sound system for the Mayan king to speak. Even though these ruins were a tourist hot spot (the entrance fee was Internationals: 25Q Locals: 2Q) we were glad we made the trip to see the remnants of what used to be an impressive Mayan city.

We wanted to explore a nearby fort called San Felipe de Castillo, which was built to protect Rio Dulce from pirates. The fort is accessible by kayak or by foot. Wanting some adventure we decided to head out on in a two person kayak from where we were staying. After an exchange of frustrations, we figured out a system and managed to get to the fort. The structure was pretty amazing with plenty of hidden rooms and doorways. The ride back was a work out, but less frustrating. Andy and I agreed that we need to work as a team more often, especially if we are going to someday be on the Amazing Race. The rest of the day we spent waiting on the side of a road for a bus to take us to the ‘hot waterfall hike’ that never came. Not phased by this we made a trip to the Mercado to buy snacks for our ride back to Antigua tomorrow. Kathy and Randy, Andy’s parents, arrive in Guatemala tomorrow night for a 10 day visit! We’ve got a great trip planned and we will tell you all about it.

Adventure to Tecpan

March 5, 2007 (Raquel)

Last Friday Andy had the opportunity to see the fruits of his labor. In the mornings Andy works at the school setting up computers to send to various schools and libraries. In a pickup loaded with computers, books, and five people he made the 7 hour roundtrip to a Pueblo called Totonicapan. I stayed in bed all day with a sick stomach. Andy said the trip was long but worth it because he was able to see how grateful the community was for the computers. Rigoberto, leader of Probigua, mentioned Andy’s work in the speech that he gave at a small ceremony at the community center. The ceremony was traditionally Mayan being held in front of a small, replicated temple with a fire made from brush, flowers, and candles. Many people bathed in the smoke of the fire to capture its energy and spirit.

During the weekend we stayed close to Antigua. On Sunday we took a trip to the ruins of Iximche near Tecpan. We  thought it would be easy to take the chicken bus since it wasn’t terribly far away and we feel comfortable with our public transportation skills. As usual the chicken bus was an adventure. Let me just say it was a good thing that Andy grabbed some extra money before we left.

We took off on my usual bus headed for Chimal. Once there we had to transfer to another bus where the ayudante was trying to overcharge us. While waiting for the bus to gas up, I remember thinking: Here we are two of 4 gringos on this hot, humid, very crowded, smelly bus in Guatemala with the spanglish rendition of Lady in Red (Bum I totally thought of you) blasting over the speakers. Andy and I also enjoyed Total Eclipse of the  Heart and I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight? These buses are a part of Guatemala that can’t be replicated. Not knowing where exactly to get off for the ruins Andy and I had to practice our Spanish with the locals. Somehow we made it to our stop, but had to take a taxi to the ruins. Once at the ruins we paid the driver 25Q and another 50Q to enter the park. At this point Andy turned to me and said, “We aren’t going to have enough to get back Rach!” Rethinking our plan we decided that we could bet by as long as there weren’t any other surprises.

We spent a couple hours walking, climbing, and taking photos of the ruins. We had the chance to witness a Mayan ritual. A group of people were circled around an offering of flowers, candles, and various other items that were eventually lit on fire. Most men and some women were puffing on big cigars while listening to speeches given by a number of different people. As usual there were lots of firew orks, one that went of right by us making us jump. The Marimba and other native instruments filled the air as the people prayed and performed various rituals. This was another special experience to add to our list. Preparing ourselves for the trip home we jumped on a tuk-tuk and made it back to the highway to catch another chicken bus. I have never been on a bus with so many people! Andy and I couldn’t move let alone sit down! We stepped off the bus with  some change to spare and were more than happy to be back in Antigua. Our trip to Tecpan was truly a memorable one.

Nuestros Viaje a la Playa!

Feb. 20, 2007

To relax and celebrate my 22nd birthday Andres and I took a weekend trip to the beach in Monterrico. We took a shuttle bus to southwestern Guatemala with a local agency. The ride was 2 and a half hours, but very scenic. At one point our shuttle was ferried across a river on a steel launch with five other cars. This launch was manned by four men and was powered by a small motor. Once in Monterrico we checked into the Hotel Delfin (Dol phin). Our room was very basic, but we had our own bathroo m, shower, mosquito net, and fan that didn’t work. Th e walls were made of cement and the ceiling was made of palm leaves. The walls were open on the top so we could easily hear the conversation in the next room. The town of Monterrico was full of restaurants and buildings with thatched palm-leaf rooftops. Everything was close to the black volcanic beach, including Tortugario Monterrico, an animal rescue and museum, and Reserva Natural Monterrico, a natural reserve of coastal mangroves that support an abundance of aquatic life. After a lunch of tortillas and fried fish we walked up to the animal rescue and saw some turtles, caimans, and iguanas. Andy seemed to especially enjoy hangin’ out with the turtles. The museum was very funky with tons of jars of specimens from the reserve. Everything from a giant grasshopper to an entire snake was crammed into a jar of chemicals.

We met a friendly American named Roger who ate dinner with us and we shared stories of home and Guatemala together. After a romantic birthday brownie on the beach we went back to our room. We awoke at 5:30 to go to the Reserva for a tour on a boat. Our guide, Edgar, had worked very hard to convince us (Andy) that he was a certified guide with the reserve and that he was not over charging us. Our trip was very interesting and beautiful. We got a glimpse at many birds, fish, plants, and a magnificent sunrise.

The rest of the time we spent on the beach, catching up on our journals. The beach was very clean and there weren’t many people. The ocean was very powerful and warm. In the states this beach would turn into the spring break capital, but in Guatemala it is still a small uncomercialized escape. We took the same shuttle back to Antigua, where it was a bit chilly. This week we continue our Spanish and volunteering. It has been great hearing from all of you so continue to keep in touch!

School and Volcano

Many things have happened since we last wrote including the improvement of our health!!!! We both are feeling much better. Our main event was starting Spanish lessons for four hours each morning. Classes are one on one, and there are about 15 other students in the us. My teacher patient teacher is Rebecca, a young woman that is going to college at night and teaching me during the day. Andy’s teacher is Rosa Maria, she has been teaching for 13 years. I have figured out that I hardly remember anything from high school Spanish class and have had to start over. Hopefully by the end of our trip I will be able to have a real conversation with the locals. After classes we have opportunities to attend Spanish movies, visit local places like a Macadamia Nut plantation, and we even have homework to do!

On Tuesday we met the volunteer coordinators, Kristen and Emily. While on a trip to a school, Pedro Molina, using the local bus transport called “chicken buses” – Old, loud, and brightly colored US school buses which drive super faster and crazy like – The school used to be a military base, but now is a school of 1000 students. The library needs a lot of help. It has many books, but many of them are very old and falling apart and many are just outdated. There is no record or inventory for the books so my job will be to create and inventory all the information about the book into a computer so that Probigua has some sort of record of what they have so they can see what the library needs. Emily and Kristen informed me that any work that I achieve in this library will help since there is so much that needs to be done. The computer center wasn’t up and running or else Andy would have checked it out. We are returning to Pedro Molina tomorrow so maybe he will get a chance then.

On Friday night we went out for a drink with Nadya to the only Irish bar in Antigua, Reillys. Andy ordered what looked like a wine cooler type drink, but ended up with a beer that tastes similar to bud light. The atmosphere at Reillys was pretty much the same as home with the rapper 50 cent playing loudly.

On Sunday we climbed our first active volcano!!!! After a morning of homework a shuttle picked us up at our favorite internet place and took us to the trailhead of Vulcan Pacaya. On the way we met other people our age from Arizona and Canada. Once we stepped out of the shuttle our guide put us in a group called Pacaya and we started our climb to the active lava of the volcano. The trail was steep at first and really dusty. Once we were out of the trees we started seeing and walking on lava rocks that had been there for 5 months. As we kept going we saw smoke and lava on the volcano and the lava rocks that we were walking on started getting warm. The wind was cold, but the heat from the rocks was keeping us warm. We stayed close to our guide until we saw flowing lava coming down the side of the volcano!!!!

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