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!


Kate C. said...

I love that the burning question I have, is what shoes did you wear to the volcano and did they get ruined at all?

Everything sounds wonderful! I am so jealous that you are going to be so fluent in spanish about dead dogs and jokes ;-)

Feliz Navidad! Enjoy the city. Keep taking pics and blogging!

I went to the Bengals game on Sunday - wait until you see some of the pics. Lots of hunting gear worn to the game....and they sell Coors Light everywhere, but the mountains don't turn colors on plastic bottles - fyi.

Trisha said...

Que maravilla! I'm so super excited for you! I want to see pictures of the volcano! I've ALWAYS wanted to go to a volcano - I'm so jealous!

I wouldn't worry about being controversial - most of the Central Americans I've met are very excited to talk about their country, history, etc. I'm sure they'd be excited that you are interested and wanting to learn! Take advantage of the opportunity to get first-hand accounts! Si se puede!

Feliz Navidad! Buena suerte en tus clases!

madden said...

Is that the Burger King 'king' in the background of that first photo?

I see the crown!

sara said...

Kate, I wore my jogging shoes. They pretty much turned black.
Trisha, I'm glad you taught me the word 'bolsa' a few weeks ago becase I always ask for a bolsa at the store.
Madden, i'm glad you're following along. I wish you guys were all here so we could poo talk and eat good meals!

Funchilde said...

your portrayal of the texan is HI-larious! Oh man, that is funny. I"m so jealous of you Sara, but glad you're sharing your tales with us. Stay safe and have fun. and yes, there's nothing like an american fast food chain juuuuuuuust when you need it in a foreign land.
one of these days i'll get down to guat/antigua!

elana said...

Sara! I love your description of the volcano hike...especially the Texan (which, I can attest, was not only hilarious, but scarily accurate). The hike up Pacaya was one of my favourite memories from our trip to Guatemala.

...>sigh< now we are home in a blustery Vancouver storm. Gary and I are sitting on the couch reading your blog and laughing our asses off. Beats doing post-travelling laundry.

I am bookmarking your blog so I can keep up with you. Happy travels!

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