Monday, December 31, 2007

Gigantic Spiders

Ok, so I really haven't done much here. And that's good. After hauling around the backpack for a morning and into a bumpy boat, I could feel my back acting up again. If you don't know, I have a slipped disc in my back. Every so often, I feel like a hunched over 90 year old lady. But I insist on being a "backpacker", you know.. so I take that risk of throwing out my back now and then. It would actually be pretty impossible to come to a place like this with a bag on wheels, I don't even know how you would haul it over cobblestones and dirt roads. After I arrived at the Iguana, I thought some good old fashioned exercise, a walk up a steep hill in the hot afternoon to the little village, would loosen up my back. wrong, wrong, wrong. When I got back I couldn't even stand up straight so I found a masseuse. I know, I know. I get a LOT of massages on vacation. But for once I feel like I had a legitimate excuse. A hippieish 50 something year old expat guy pounded and loosened me up at the hotel next door for $40, which is a fortune here, but I was in pain. I told him to hurt me, and he did. And now I can walk again!! I do have a supply of advil and in a pinch there's always good old gallo. So I'll be OK.
I like it waaaay better than San Pedro here. Everyone eats dinner together at big tables and there isn't that annoying stoner crowd at this place. No dirty hair smell. And I was happy to see that I was not the oldest person here, there were plenty of people in their 30s and 40s, though mostly 20s. At dinner everyone talked about how much they've travelled, where they have been, comparing places, etc. I met some nice teachers from the USA that now teach in Honduras. And a free spirited English couple about my age that travel for months and months at a time. This may be the worst analogy I've ever made, but you know how the Roloff family goes to the LPA conventions, and they are happy because they can binge on hanging out with other Little People? That's how I am in places like this. Other people that are obsessed with travelling, even more so than I am, and that's a lot. Like how a geek goes to a Star Wars convention? You know what I'm talking about? They blah blah blah about Star Wars? I could talk about travel and cooking all day long, and I often do, to the chagrin of my coworkers. Well, maybe not to their CHAGRIN, but I am a little strange sometimes. And that's OK! Yeah, don't get me started on the food talk either..
So at dinner last night I noticed a couple of disturbingly large spiders on the wall. I thought of my dark wood/ straw room open to the air. A lady who was staying at the hotel next door found a scorpion IN HER BED last night and got stung. Say what? A SCOPRION? But everyone was OK with this, because scoprions here aren't deadly. Oh, that makes me feel so much better. The english couple showed me a photo of a tarantula they found outside their room at Tikal. EGH. So when I went to bed last night, I did a thorough 5/10 minute scorpion and spider check. They let you borrow oil lamps here, so I read in my straw room to the glow of an oil lamp and actually slept more than I have this entire trip. I thought the straw room might go up in flames from the oil lamp but apparently it's OK. Again, I wanted to go to Central America.... I cannot NOT expect to see some insects! It is so beautiful and lush here. There is a banana tree growing outside my treehouse/hotel/room/whatever you call it. Sorry again for the no photos. In an hour I have another 3 hour spanish lesson. They have them by the day here, and I want to get in all the practice I can. Elizabeth and Trisha, I might hit you up for some lessons when I get home. I'll feed you. Just teach me.
keep the comments coming, I enjoy every single one!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Big scary Gringa!

I'm really sorry that I can 't download pictures here, as I get farther and farther out the internet gets worse!
San Pedro was sort of trippy and psychedelic. The crazy painted chicken busses, arty handpainted signs, dreadlocked hippies everywhere, the strange combination of devotional phrases on the walls "solo jesus se cambiar su vida!" "Dios te amo!" with the swirly yellow design painted in my hotel room, guys in cowboy hats, the constant salsa music, the very evident drug culture... It was just a wierd place with a wierd vibe. The town is divided into two parts, the hippie part and the guatemalan part. I stayed up a steep hill in the guatemalan part but went down near the dock for internet, dinner and a movie,"old school", which was playing inn a restaurant, to my delight. The other places in town weren't really my scene. I didn't want to sit on a pillow and gets stoned out of my mind, call me crazy. And I like to shower regularly. I was in the internet place sitting next to a guy with that dirty hair smell. I really think I prefer b.o. to dirty hair, *though not to homeless guy on the red line smell*.
I am now at the Iguana Perdida in another town, which I liked immediately. It does remind me of Mayoka Village in Malawi. Everything on a tab system, rustic lodges and cottages, lovely lake view, lush beautiful plants, a thriving bar... and I've already met a few nice people. I have my own room with a straw floor and no electricity. It's open to the outside so I hope I have no spiders in there. A few other hotels are down the trail and I had lunch at another place that was playing Chicane, which made me happy. The town of santa cruz, however, is as rustic and Guatemalan as you can get. It's a grueling 20 minute walk up a steep hill. Absolutely no restaurants or stores for tourists. Just a few churches, stores and houses with dirt floors. As I walked around, some little kids saw me and screamed GRINGO! GRINGO!!, and ran away shrieking and laughing. It was actually really funny. The giant tall white girl scared children.
I wish I could upload some photos but it might be a few days. Also I don't plan on doing much here besides read, eat and drink so my writing might be a little lacking. If you go to my youtube videos though, You'll see a new one of a taxi ride in San Pedro.
OK, it's hora feliz and I'm going to get my Gallo on. Gallo is Guatemala's beer.

Saturday, December 29, 2007


I have the bad habit of comparing every place I´ve been to the last place I was the night before. I call it "comparatitis" in my mind. Will Isla Grande be as good as Salvador? Will place X be as good as place Y? Will San Pedro be as good as Antigua? This morning I got up at the crack - o - dawn for a bus that was an hour late, (which honestly isn´t too bad - compared to the bus that was 6 hours late, what´s an hour?) and took the most winding, hilly carsick ride to Panajcel, which is on Lake Atitlan. The Israeli girl sitting next to me threw up into a plastic bag. I immediately took a boat over to San Pedro, which I heard is one of the best little towns on the lake. San Pedro is definitely more ramshackle than Antigua. I knew all the time that Antigua was really touristy, but I so enjoyed it´s crumbly old architecture, clean streets, wonderful food and atmospheric little places to go for dinner and drinks. Antigua reminded me of Europe, and I told Antonella that it even kind of, in a small tiny way, reminded me of Italy.
San Pedro is a smaller town, on a couple of huge hills that are extremely difficult to walk up. But that´s good, since I´ve been eating and drinking beer every day. At first the town really didn´t impress me, and the lake - well, it was just a huge lake with some volcanoes around it. It´s loud and dusty. After getting lost, I checked into a hotel that I had read about on another blog that I was addicted to - She and her boyfriend travelled by bus from NYC to Argentina, and it´s some really great writing. (and that´s where I cyber-met funchilde as well, and found HER blog!) Yes, I´m a travel blog geek. Anyhow, I remember that she stayed at some psychedelic painted hotel, so I checked in and was happy to see that it was $3-4 dollars a night! After I finally had a chance to sit down at a cafe with a snack and my book to admire the view, I could see that it really is a beautiful place and I "get" it now. There is a hippie side of town, which reminded me of other places - ko chang, lake malawi... massages, fire shows, a faint smell of pot in the air... There is a place here showing a monty python movie tonight so I might have to check that out. Tomorrow I go to another village where I had a reservation for New Years. reminds me a lot (from the website anyway) of where Kathy and I stayed last year in Malawi for New Year´s. So I hope it´s good. All I really ask for is a hammock and no cockroaches.
I wandered around and got a fresh fruit shake from a woman with a stand outside her house. It came in a huge glass so I had to sit on the curb to drink it. Her funny little daughter came out to talk to me, and she admired my feet (which is funny because they are filthy), I guess she dug the nail polish. We talked as much as I could and we played with my camera. I let her take some pictures of herself, and of her mom, which turned out really cute. I also found a laundry place which really gave me some high expectations with their sign, above. But I like their confidence, and I´m sure my laundry will come back just awesome..

Friday, December 28, 2007

Yeah, so my feet are turning black...

It´s been about a week now and I´m starting to look a little disheveled. Yesterday Rosie said to me, "your skin, it´s coming off. You are like a snake! haha" I ran into the bathroom to see what she was talking about. It is flaking off one side of my face. And my feet -yeah, well the constant flip flop wearing has caused them to look very San Francisco, circa 1969. The bottoms of them are covered with a little black layer that I can´t scrub off. I´m sorry. But you are going to read about it. Well, I only have one washcloth that´s for drying. My skin is saying "uh, what happened to the constant slathering of anti aging and exfoliation? Didn´t we have a deal? I´m pissed and I´m going to fall off your face. You´re in the sun all day, didn´t we have that little talk about wrinkles and burning? You dirty hippie."
So today I went to a spa to have the grime scrubbed off me. I laid down on the table and I started giggling because my feet are SO dirty, it´s just embarrasing. I tried to explain in my bad spanish "Mi Pies, son negro porque mis zapatos!" But the nice lady scrubbed me and I´ve never been so clean. Too bad I couldn´t just buy a washcloth and I spent a huge amount of money to have someone else clean me, but I feel lighter and smell good.


Travelling like this really cuts down on the decision making. If it´s cold, put on black hoodie. Because that´s my ONLY sweater. If it´s hot, wear one of the three old navy tank tops. I mean, I do wash them all the time.. Do I wear the brown cargo pants or the black ones or the cargo skirt? Not much of a choice, huh? Flip flops unless I´m climbing a volcano, in that case it´s the dirty jogging shoes. I have one tiny tube of moisturizer for all body parts, face included. It´s fun and liberating to strip your life down to what you can carry on your back, but it doesn not do much for the appearance. I brought more variities of books and music than clothes.


I talked to my English neighbors (travelling around the world for a year, and guess what - they each have only one sweater too - so I don´t feel so bad) about Nicaragua. They gave me some good advice and I´m really intrigued. I still haven´t made any decisions yet though. Tomorrow I go up to the Lake area. I might stay in San Pedro or I might stay in Panachel, after that Santa Cruz.


Today was my last spanish class. I´m not sure how much progress I actually made, other than realize how much I DON´T know. I´m sure I picked up some useful things. The classes had an extra benefit - I learned from Rosie more about Guatemalan life in general. She really is an amazing person. She was not encouraged by anyone to go to school, but to be a housewife. She rebelled against her family a little bit and is putting herself through school while working and is often tired. Her father finally said "I was wrong about you and I´m proud". Women here don´t go to college like they do at home, it´s more rare. Her favorite book is the Alchemist and she is very smart. She tried to visit a friend in America last year but had to pay a bunch of money, have several intimidating interviews, then was not granted a visa to visit. I have never had an interview to visit ANY place. I remember talking to South Africans about this too. It is very hard to visit the United States. Very sad that she can´t go. Now her attitude is "United States, I don´t need you -I´m going to visit other places instead." On top of that, she has a lot of funny stories. I really lucked out and I´m positive she will be very sucessful one day at whatever she does.


After doing my homework of writing a children´s story - about Paco el Pato, a duck that travels the world, but in the end, realizes that there is no place like home (no I didn´t make him a drunk or a loser like Juan.. it´s a children´s book afterall..) I met up with Antonella for her last night in town. We had a good time even though we met a crazy old man who invited her up to his house.. haha. She was fun to hang out with in Antigua, we have a lot of similar thoughts on things, and she has a great free spirited attitude. She told me more about life in Italy and her life now in Phoenix.


Today I went out for some typical Guatemalan food, because I´ve been eating Thai, mexican, nothing really Guatemalan except the pupusa. (There is a thai place here that is better than any of the thai places in my neighborhood at home!) Rosie said her favorite food was sopa pipian, a thick soup made with chicken, potatoes and pulverized pumpkin seeds, so I went out to have some. It was bueno with a tamale. Actually I did have a Christmas tamale the other day. On Christmas they make special, giant tamales and I tried one. You know my trips are all about food!

I see posters all over town of Carlos Peña, the pride and joy of Guatemala and winner of Latin American idol. I bought the CD today. Carlos and I are going to the lake tomorrow. Carlos thinks I look much better after the spa.
Here´s a few bonus videos for you:
photos above: Carlos, my dirty hippie feet, the fountain in the central park (look closely at where the water is coming from), me and Rosie

Thursday, December 27, 2007

My night with the Buena Vista social club

I really think I could retire here someday. I met an older American couple today that did just that. They brought their dog and live down here cheaply. They get together with other ex pats for Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas, the lifestyle is so enviable. And this couple didn´t even speak spanish! Acutally, that bothers me a little bit - at least learn how to order in a restaurant - that´s how I met them. You are never too old to learn. Here´s a side story. Even my dad tries to speak spanish sometimes. When I arrived to visit him in New Mexico and got off the plane, he said proudly, ENTRADA!! ¨how did you learn that word?¨ I said. ¨From Wal Mart!¨ A few days later when I was dropped off he said ¨SALIDA!¨ I bought him a translation book and he looks words up sometimes. So I don´t know why this couple would move here and not even TRY, but still - they were the two most content people. Perhaps I´ll follow their lead one day.
I had another morning of lessons and funny stories from Rosie. I really lucked out with her. I won´t write down the things she told me, because that´s her personal business and all, but her family is funny! My homework assignment tonight is to write a children´s story. She had me make up another story today in class that stems from a series of pictures of Juan, an architect. Juan woke up. Juan had breakfast of huevos aY frijoles. Juan went to work. Juan watches Latin American Idol in his easy chair with a beer. Then I made Juan a bad barracho and had him pass out in his bed at 2AM. Rosie thought it was really funny what I did to poor Juan with my story. Sometimes I can be so immature..
I met Antonella out with some other girls from her school. They picked a place that had live music that night, I had never heard of it. Yoras from the other night was there, and everyone was excited because one of the guys from the Buena Vista social club was playing. I was amazed, I thought most of them were dead. BVSC are from cuba, and they have a CD (which I have, and I love) and there was a documentary about them made into a movie. This guy was amazing!!! I recognized some of the songs and people were dancing. I am always amazed at how people dance here. They dance like they have been doing it since childhood, because they have. Guys a head shorter than you will give you little lessons - and it´s really fun. I am terrible and teva flip flops aren´t the best for salsa dancing anyway. When Kathy and I were in Costa Rica we danced with the locals and enjoyed it so much that we took lessons at home. I am completely envious of the way those people move, look in their clothes and dance. I keep hearing girl tourists complain that ¨guys at home don´t dance like that!¨ It´s true. But then again, me dancing salsa compared to the Guatemalans is like a bull in a china shop, with a limp. And mild epilepsy. So who am I to judge. I also talked to some Guatmalan guy who had been to Chicago and ate at the Guatemala aroma restaurant, which is one block from my house. When I get home I´m going to talk to the guy who runs it and show him the photo of us. It was a great night out.
If you don´t have sound on your computer these will be worthless but give them a try-
The other day I bought the funniest thing for my apartment. It´s a metal painting of two lecherous looking mariachi singers chasing two women in traditional clothes. And an angel up in the corner. The sign has a whole little story painted on it, and I can´t really translate (Trisha, your job when I come home) but I can get a few words out of it (molesters with bad intentions... something about learning a lesson) . It makes me laugh and seems like another completely inappropriate thing to hang in my house. They had a bunch of those signs, all of them had pictures of people getting in trouble and getting saved by some angel or the vigin of guadeloupe. Like a spanish Aesop´s fables.
I keep hearing the same two songs. This always happens to me. I want to buy the CD and nobody knows what I am talking about.
enjoy the photos now because in a few days I´m going up to Lake Atitlan and I get the feeling the internet will be less rapido and you will have to imagine the pictures.
above - chicken bus, me with Buena Vista guy, two dancers who I couldn´t stop watching

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Siento Lazy

Above - my hotel entrance (I´m in the back yard), street fare on Christmas, the numero tres
I thought only tourists would be out for Christmas but no, the streets were filled with Guatemalans out having a good time. I liked that. Even the stores were open! I bought a painting and some textiles for my apartment. Everything here is so,so easy after Africa-Brazil - the post office is easy, everything makes sense, there are 56,987 travel agencies to book anything you want, the town is civilized, everyone is in a good mood, things are cheap, nobody heckles on the street - nobody. If it weren´t for the classes, I would be restless for a challenge. It´s almost too easy here. I did get very confused today in class but Rosie told me some more funny family stories, which I enjoy.
Last night I went to a hookah bar to write in my journal and it made me think of the hookah bar in NYC that I go to with Jaime. I had dinner at Frida´s again for some mole enchiladas and met a fun girl also travelling by herself, Antonella from Sicily and Arizona. I might have a new drinking buddy! We also sat by a nice guy from Ethiopia, Yoras. They were much more normal than the crew from the other night.
I´m feeling lazy so I´ll just leave you with a few pictures. Let me know how everyone´s holidays went. Yesterday I thought to myself - this is where you are supposed to be for Christmas. It was nice.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Navidad! Navidad! do do da da da...

I like Christmas here. It's wonderful to be walking around in the warm weather, sitting in the park, sitting on my roof... They have a Christmas song here that I enjoy. Yes, I said I actually enjoy a Christmas song. I'm in a good mood and the Christmas songs here are to a latin beat. There's a funny one that just says 'nav i dad, nav i dad!' to the beat of jingle bells. But it also sounds like it is about to break into a salsa song.

I have been kind of lazy in the last day, I went to an awesome Mexican place last night that is named after Frida Kahlo. Best enchilada verde sauce.. I could have licked my plate and thought about it. I sat and people watched, enjoyed the music, talked to some more canadians, talked a little bit to a Guatemalan family, baby Felix pictured above. Yes, I'm proud that I haven't gone back to burger king yet for the numero tres. But don't think I haven't thought about it. The coffee here is really good too. There is no starbucks and even the two fast food places in town are disguised to look like colonial buildings, which I appreciate.
Last night people let off firecrackers for hours, increasing every hour until midnight. I had a beer at my corner bar and talked to a hippie, drunk guy from Austin who was on his honeymoon. His new wife was asleep and he was out getting drunk by himself. I wonder how long that will last... But he had some good stories about living in Alaska and we travel talked. There was also an extremely sour and annoying Egyptian guy with a huge chip on his shoulder who was trying to pick verbal fights with me. Ugh. Then I went up to my roof and met my English neighbors, who are very nice. They are going to tell me more about Nicaragua.
I decided to let the last 10 days or so of this trip be left up in the air. Originally I swore I would go to Honduras but it's just not grabbing me. I keep hearing Nicaragua hissing 'pssss! yo, come down here!' A lot of people are talking up Rio dulce/Livingston and I keep hearing good things about the corn islands in Nicaragua. The Maize islands. Then I can have an entry titled 'Maize hoy, Maize manana!' haha. Ok, that might have been funny to about three people.

Yesterday I also got a massage from a woman named Olga. I was pretty excited to hear that her name was Olga, because with that name, you can be assured a nice rough, painful massage. And that was exactly what I got from Olga. There were a few 'are you kidding me' moments during the massage, like when she smacked me and pounded me around with oil and saw more of me that most people have..or should... but you know by now that I get massages in each country I visit, and they are all different and interesting! I felt like Olga was stripping paint off a building or tenderizing some meat. But for less than 20 dollars an hour, I got the Paramount and Lincoln Mercury buys pounded right out of me. Nice.
here's some bonus video footage for you, consider it my christmas present.
check out the kid in the giant black hat in the first video. He makes me laugh!!
I'm off to the park because I feel like I should study. I don't have a text book or anything, so I use the spanish Glamour magazine, haha. I've also been making a huge effort to talk to the locals. Sometimes I feel like a total poser idiot, but it's fun. I can buy things in the store, ask for what I want, order off the menu, ask someone to help me get something off a high shelf, tell my teacher that I only have one sweater so she will see it a lot ...yeah it's mas frio here than I ever thought... at night and in the shade I really need hoodie negro. She laughed when I told her that but the important thing is that I can get my thoughts across. Even if they are always in the present tense.

Monday, December 24, 2007

I can hear the firecrackers starting...

Firecrackers are a big Christmas tradition here. I can feel a buzz of excitement around the town, and have already witnessed a couple of interesting little parades. (see photo 3 above!)
Who knew that climing a volcano would be so hard? I joined my group yesterday afternoon, for our all-day trip up. I love these excusions, because you get so many different people thrown together. In our group was - me, a canadian couple Elena & Gary, a funny duo of girls from Holland, Berry and Sandra, a hard core surfer girl from Oregon, another couple of Dutch people and an extremely loud man from Texas, his quiet as a mouse wife and a couple of pre-teen daughters. We got to know eachother in the van - where have you been, what do you do... Surfer girl was talking and the Texan would intercept with "HOW LONG WERE YEW IN MEXICO?" "AH LIKE PUERTA VA-LLARTA MAHSELF!!". I was throwing mental text messages to my seat mates and I think they were getting them. Holy Jesus is that man loud.
We bought walking sticks for less than a dollar from some extremely pushy little boys. They were not going to get out of your face until you bought a stick. 5 or 6 of them would crowd around you and fight for your stick money. And let me tell you that stick was worth its weight in gold. The hill was steep, dusty and we breathed in a dust that consisted of dirt and dried horse poo. I could even taste it in my mouth. About 45 minutes later we were at the top, and the views were gorgeous - mistly mountains with steam coming out of the volcanic cracks. We started on the black, crunchy lava. It was almost impossible to walk on. 3-4-6 foot sharp, jagged crunchy black pouorous rocks that had your feet landing at all angles. If not for the stick, I would still be on the volcano. As we neared the top, the rocks got warm, then hot, then my shoes started to stick to the rock. You could see glowing red lava in the cracks of rock. It was a miriacle that I didn´t drop my camera or flashlight in there. As if walking on this during the daylight wasn't hard enough, we had to return in the dark. Thank god for the full moon to shine our way. It was really cool to see the molten lava and feel the heat. I've never been to a volcano, but some people were saying it was much better than Arenal in Costa Rica. I was completely enchanted by the views and the novelty of walking over glowing red stuff that was seeping out of the earth.
During the hike, I got talking to Elana, a counsellor from Vancover - who travelled by herself to Egypt and Turkey a few years ago - we talked about friends, single hood, being married, travelling, travelling solo, our lives st home, compared and contrasted Costa Rica and Guatemala... her and Gary were great. The dutch girls Berry and Sandra were really entertaining as well. They told us a story of how they went salsa dancing with their waiter the night before, and eventually made up a story about being lesbians so that they could bow out at the end of the night. I told them how I tell guys I have diahhrhea when I want to get rid of them. These are good things for single girls to know.
On the way back I sat behind the Texan and the surfer girl, who were squished together. He was talking her ear off about Dallas, real estate and the water situation down there. "PEOPLE SAY X COUNTY HAS THE BEST WATER BUT I REALLY CAIN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE: She was pretending to be interested. We finally got back into town where I took my shoes off and cleaned off my black volcanic feet, then went out for little dinner. I took a 20 minute walk and marvelled at how completely beautiful the town is - alll the churches and town squares lit up at night, happy people out walking, I was not heckled once. I really do feel pretty safe (although I did end up moving closer to the center of things today).
I stopped in a cute Thai place that also had a piano bar where I saw Berry and Sandra, so I sat down and ate while they ordered another drink. Best friends for years, they travel together and had funny stories. Sandra is an account exec at an ad agency and Berry has a job that kind of sounded like Kathy's. I told them that they were the bizarro Sara and Kathy - because the similarities were really amazing. We talked about everyone on the volcano tour. We mostly laughed about Mr Texas and did imitations of him. We talked about how Americans are so loud, and I apologized for my countrymen. They said that surfer girl had said the same thing earlier. I guess we were both mortified at the thought of being lumped in his league. B & S saw an american lady in an airport who was saying "WHERE`S MY BAYYYYGS?!" and they both do imitations of her loud, nasally voice. It was hillarious. I loved hanging out with them.
This morning I woke up at 7AM, just like I do at home, and tried to find the school. I stopped at Burger King for breakfast. Wow, the burger king here is outstanding. I know I shouldn't be eating at burger king when I`m here, but I saw it, and had to wake up with the king. I had the numero tres which consisted of two tortillas, eggs, a pile of black refried beans, salsa and a ham and bacon sandwich. It was the best fast food restaurant I've ever had, maybe even better than when I was craving Mc Donalds in Africa after eating curry for 2 weeks. Let me assure you, that will not be my last numero tres. maybe the volcano made me hungry! People on the volcano were telling me that the restaurants here are great. I`ve been too busy to eat too much but tonight I have some high hopes.
When I arrived at the spanish school, as I registered I heard a familiar voice behind me. "HOW LONG HAVE YEW BEEN IN ANTIGUA?!". Oh jesus, the Texan and clan. His girls were registered at my school. "TEW-MORROW WE`RE GOING UP TO THAT LAYKE. HOW DEW YEW PRONOUNCE THAT LAYKE AGAIN?!"
I do give the Texan credit for coming HERE and taking the whole family. There really aren't too many people like that here - everyone seems like a real traveller and there aren't too many obnoxious people that I've seen. This isn't a spring break place.
I really like my teacher, Rosie. She's a young, maybe mid twenties, very smart woman. I didnt know what to expect at the school but it seems to be very free form and conversational. She tells stories and I listen, then I (try to) tell her stories about my life. We only speak in spanish, unless I get stuck. When I don't understand a word, she writes it down or draws a picture. I have to concentrate very hard and think, but I was entertained at the same time. I tried to put together sentences and thoughts in spanish and I think I did pretty well! We go for 4 hours in the morning with a half hour break. She had some funny stories about her mother, her nephew who won a joke telling contest, how her dog was mauled to death by her brother`s dog, then her dad took a shotgun to the brother`s dog. She is mayan by heritige and studies in a university in Guatemala city. I have a lot of questions about the mayans and ladinos, but I'm afraid of being controversial so I'll just have to read up on that later. When I look at people I think, what were their lives like 20, 25 years ago when Guatemala was in turmoil? It's all pretty interesting to me. Last month I read a book about the life of Rigoberta Menchu, a mayan rights activist who ran for president in September. I`ve also seen more than a few white women here who must have just adopted a Guatemalan baby, because they carry them around in one of those woven slings.
Well, I´m off for a beer on my roof to watch the sunset and maybe read some more of eat, pray, love. Then I'm going to see what fun this town has going on. I wish the canadians and dutch girls were still in town - but they all went off to Lake Atitlan. I hope they see the Texan! hee hee!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Amigos que viven en el baño!

I don`t know why I was surprised to see a giant spider in the bathroom. I should have been more surprised if I did not see one. At first I had that "Oh, god giant spider!!!" reaction, then I said to it "OK, I will leave you alone and you will leave me alone. As long as you are not a tarantula I will not squash you and in return you will not crawl into my room." I keep making so many dumb personal observations - to myself. When you go to a tropical place, you are asking for and practiacally guaranteeing bugs in the bathroom! And of course people don`t speak english - why should they¿ This is a town known for spanish schools. I should be speaking spanish, no matter how hard I butcher it. And oh, I´ve been butchering it.
I knew things were going too smoothly in Miami. I toasted to my new vacation (and for surviving the last week at work) at the mojito bar, leafing through my Lonely planet and planning all the places I would try out when I got into town. Antigua is just a quick 45 minute taxi ride from Guatemala City. I got in the spirit by buying a "Glamour latin america" magazine. I`ll get a jump start on my spanish! I started reading about sexo and pelo styles, and makeup for navidad parties. There was even an article about Carlos Peña, who is Guatemalan and won Latin America Idol. He appears to be a sexo symobol of some sort. I was pretty excited to get the main idea of most articles and recognize words I know. I must have been concentrating really hard because I caught myself holding the magazine 6 inches from my eyes and mouthing out the words... very..slowy... then I realized how "special" I must look. haha. It`s not as cute as when little kids learn to read. They do the same thing, right¿ And they usually have an adult right there to sound out the words for them. Well I don't have that, do I¿ I only have my latin american glamour magazine. Which I wisely put away.
My flight was delayed 3 and a half hours. I was wondering, are the spanish school people even going to wait that long at the airport or am I going to have to find something in Guat City¿
OK, time out. I can´t find a regular question mark on this keyboard. But you like the upside down question mark, no¿ Si¿ Me too!
Sergio, of 28 años, was indeed waiting. We made small talk in spanglish in the car. He spoke about as much english as I do spanish so it wasn`t a very complex conversation. How old are you¿ Te gusta vive in Antigua¿ Hace frio in Chicago. lots of snow. I am on vacation for 3 semanas. Spanish school in Antigua. Me gusta el reggaeton. Y salsa. It was a pleasant ride and nothing welcomes you to Central America like the sounds of reggaeton and some latin ballads. He aplogized for stopping at a gas station but I needed some things anyhow so I went in. It was sparkling new, but no women, just about 15 guys in various stages of drunkenness buying gasoline, smokes and beer. I did get some stares. This station was outside of town and most tourists don`t drive so tall white girls usually don`t come in there. But I enjoyed the novelty of the gas station, and I had Sergio with me so all was good and I could just stare at everyone in return with no fear of anyone following me out of there.
My guesthouse is pretty ghetto. But there is a skylight in my room. Even if it´s made of plywood and plexiglass, I appreciate the thought. The bed is more comfortable than my bed at home and I have a big cheetah bedspread. I´ll try to remember to take a picture of it. We arrived at 1AM so I just went to bed. Today I`ve been wandering around, getting my bearings. I decided that I want to stay on the other side of town, where the restaurants and bars are. My street is a little deserted. Safe, but quiet and let's face it, I`m going to go out every single night for at least awhile so why not move to where those places are. I found a place on the north side of town (It's a small town - it takes maybe 20 minutes to walk from one end to another). The new place is a whopping $12 a night and the old place is $8. I stay there again tonight, then I move.
Antigua pretty much shuts down at 8PM on Sundays so I decided it was a good night to take a volcano tour. It goes from 2 to 9:30P and you have to bring your own food and flashlight. My only fear is hot molten sprays of lava. I hope that I don´t come home horribly burned or disfigured by the volcano lava. I`ll be with several other gringos so I`m looking forward to it! Tomorrow morning school starts. oh boy.
Antigua could not be more charming if it tried. multi colored buildings and every street is cobblestone. This morning I actually saw a man in his 70s, jogging on a crooked slope of cobblestones. It´s easily one of the prettiest towns I`ve ever seen - If Cuzco, Peru and Salvador, Brazil had a shy, clean baby and raised it next to a volcano, it would be Antigua. Just lovely.