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 It has many books, but many of them are very old and falling apart and many are just outdated.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!!!!

Days of Sickness

January 23, 2007 

Sunday morning I awoke with Rachel rapping on my bedroom room. She was very upset and had a lot of pain in the lower part of her abdomen. She had had this problem before in the past and thought the pain would subside and eventually go away, unfortunately it only grew stronger and we soon found ourselves at a private hospital with Rachel’s host mom and Nadya. After communicating with the doctor, through Nadya, and we had around an hour wait for the results. In the mean time Rachel got a nice shot in the ol’ behind to dull the pain. Once the doctor read over the results he determined Rachel had an infection and prescribed her to take Cipro (An antibiotic that we actually brought with us for such circumstances!).

Later in the night when Rachel was resting in bed I started to develop a fever and chills, not to mention other things that will be left in the bathroom. I always say, “what happens in the bathroom, stays in the bathroom!”. Wait….I never say that….anyway…The next day I felt a little better and decided to attend our first day of Spanish school, but left early in the morning. A while later I was back at the house and in the bathroom, next thing I knew I was in the shower and on my back. I have never fainted before and hope to never repeat it, let alone hit my head on the shower wall. Playing it safe, we ended up at the same private hospital. After a similar procedure I was diagnosed with intestinal bacterial infection, or a more exact name of E. Coli. Lucky me! And now I’m on Cipro as well since it seems to kill everything along with some medicine to keep my fever down.

Today we are both doing much better, aside from being a little tired.

Morelia School

January 20th, 2007 Yesterday, we took a trip out to a rural village school in Morelia located at the base of Vulcan Fuego (Fire Volcano). We found out a little more of what the organization we’ll be volunteering for is all about. For the trip a bunch of us crammed into the ‘bibliobus’ (library bus) full of books, reading, and other useful materials along with a ton of new desks strapped down to the roof. The desks were a finishing touch to a project Probigua, in conjunction with a Switzerland based sponsor, started over one year ago. They raised enough money to build a new school section in the small village, provide it with white boards, lights, and desks. There were prolly 150-200 kids going to school there that all greeted us with big smiles and giggles, and the boys quickly jumped in to help carry the new desks. After everything was unloaded an assembly took place to thank Rigoberto, the Probigua founder and visionary, and Max from the Switzerland sponsor. Then they fed us all food and played live music. The kids were somewhat timid and drawn to us who had cameras in our hand. They would all pose for a picture, someone would take it, and then they’d want to see it immediately, and then the process would repeat over and over if allowed. The village was very grateful and appreciative of the support. One father even took a day off work from the sugar cane fields to personally thank Probigua for all the help in front of the large crowd that had gathered.  At night Rachel and I met up with some other students from the school for some drinks. There is one lady from Oregon, others from Germany, Denmark, Canada, Switzerland, and Austria. Everyone seems nice, but we still feel on the ‘outside’ of things at this point. This will probably change though once we begin class on Monday and volunteering shortly thereafter.

Our First Day In Antigua

January 18th, 2007

Andy and I made it safely to Guatemala! Our flight was delayed out of Houston but once we took off it was a quick trip with an interesting landing with an applause ending :/ When we were on the ground we retrieved our baggage, and were glad to see our driver holding a sign with our names on it. Antonio drove us from Guatemala City to Antigua. It was about a 45 min drive in a gold Toyota (just like ours at home Pops). Andy was the first to be dropped off. I was dropped off 30 ft down the street. We both said hello to our host moms and then went directly to bed.

I awoke at 7:00 for breakfast, and reintroduced myself to my host mom, Elsa. I am now Raquel. I also live with two other students. Betsy, a native Canadian, and a German lady named Nadya. Both of whom speak many languages including English. I’m the only one that doesn’t speak Spanish, but hopefully that will change soon! Andy’s or Andres as we call him now, is living with a family of five: host mom and dad, Oscar and Aida, and their kids Oscar, Aidas, and Diana. They also have a toy poodle that is slowly warming up to Andy.

We covered a lot of ground today… Mostly everything in Antigua is accessible by foot. After checking in at the school, exchanging money, getting on the internet, and eating lunch, we took a hike to Cerra del Cruz which is a cross on a hill that gave us a great view of the city and some time to get to know Betsy and Nadya who invited us in the first place. So far our trip is off to a great start! Tomorrow we are taking the biblioteca bus to a village with Probigua. This weekend we plan to climb the active volcano, Picaya… if it is not to hot! Spanish school starts on Monday then we will have some studying to do. Till next time, Raquel y Andres