Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Last history class today :(

Max: "You know, like in the Peten there are part where the government can't reach and its just completely run by narcotraffickers." JT: "Yeah, you drove through those parts, we just didn't tell you."

Last history class today :(
I seriously don't remember ever enjoying a class more and learning so much at the same time. There is nothing better than learning about Central American history in Central America - and not old, revolutionary history like America, history that's only a couple years old. As much as this class killed me, it was worth every second.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Guatemala, I'm leaving you another piece of my heart.

I don't really feel like doing much of anything right now. I don't want to do homework, I don't really want to travel, and most of all I don't want to leave. I have fallen head over heels in love and time is just waiting to rip me away. In a country filled with so much violence, I feel so safe. There's so much for me here (and not that there's not at home, it just a feeling of belonging I cannot explain). It's nowhere near perfect and the same problems have found me here that I wanted to leave in the states, but being here makes it better. I'm nowhere ready to leave and my heart is going to break when I do.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mayan lovin'

I HAVE SO MUCH TO UPDATE ON. I'm so not going to do these last two weekends justice there's just too much to tell.

I'll start with last weekend - the Peten trip. MAYAN FREAKING RUINS ALL OVER THE PLACE. I was in heaven. It was absolutely the coolest thing ever just to see all this history but get to almost be a part of it was beyond incredible. A picture's worth a thousand words right? Good, well I'm uploading like 200 pictures from that weekend so they should say enough. It almost makes me forget about to 30+ hours I spent on a bus over the course of the weekend (yeah almostttt makes me forget). Ugh, that was not pleasant, but it was more than worth it. Highlight of the trip so far - I think so. We visited three different sites over the course of the weekend and it amazed me how different each one was from the other. And then to top it all off, Monday morning, I got to go on the most amazing horseback ride through the Guatemalan jungle. Ah, it felt so good to be back on a horse again even if it only amplified the amount of pain I was in all week from climbing various temples and then riding after not having gone for a year.

In true Guatemalan style, the ride home was nothing less than eventful. Our estimated arrival time: 10-11pm. Our actual arrival time: 2am. Let's see, we got stopped on the side of a dark road outside of Guatemala City for about an hour and a half because there was some sort of road construction. Thank goodness for police escorts which meant we were able to get in front of the kilometer-long line of cars that was waiting to pass. We missed dinner so we stopped at Taco Bell (yes apparently they have those in Guate) at 12:15 am and 30 of us ordered food. Then we finally arrived to Antigua around 1:30 and we helped unload the baggage and clean the bus. I went straight to my room and passed out.

I keep getting super distracted so I'll post more later about the rest of the week, this past weekend and other various things.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A poem and some reflections

Come with me and we'll sail away on a ship with butterfly sails
Or maybe we will slowly disappear on a train without any rails
We can hitch a ride on an albatross beyond life's tattered clouds
Leave far behind the hullabaloo of the ever growing crowds

We'll take a trip on a rubber raft on the river that runs uphill
Drink kickapoo joy juice and cocoanut milk until we've had our fill
I hear there's a spot on a hilltop where the trees grow upside down
Where no watches can be found, their springs have come unwound

On a ship with butterfly sails
On a train without any rails
Beyond life's tattered clouds
Away from growing crowds

We will go there with a devil may care attitude, unaware of woes
We may decide to wear something there, or maybe go without clothes
Now the Devil may care that we are bare but that's how we were born
He can stare with a 'me too' glare, all envious, sad and forlorn

Where the river runs uphill
Where we will drink our fill
The trees grow upside down
Watches have come unwound

We'll be unaware of any woes
Maybe going without any clothes
But that's how we were born
And we will promise nevermore
To live like we did before
When we awoke each frosty morn
To be sick, sad or forlorn

We can dance on starlight steps that lead to a shimmering moon
When the time arrives for us to leave, it will be way too soon
Pack up your troubles in an old kit bag and go with me awhile
We will run away, laugh and play, and smile smile smile

I found this poem on a link one of my roommates posted on my facebook wall last week (she posted it cause it has some sweet butterfly pictures on it and I of course have already informed my roomies how much I love butterflies). It's a little cheesy, but I just thinks it encompasses this trip so well. To promise nevermore to live like we have before just spoke to me in the way I always feel at the end of any of my trips. Having the opportunity to see so many different parts of the world like I have has shaped the person I am today because I never return from any trip the same. Especially in the past four years or so everywhere I have traveled has been considered the 'third world' and I am increasingly grateful for the life I live back in the states. But there is also so much about the way of life in these countries which I want to bring back to my life because these people possess something which is rare to find in the states - pure and complete joy in life. How can you have a bad start to your day when the moment you walk out the door mother earth says good morning with the smile of the sun shining over the majesty of an active volcano. Or how can you be miserable staying up til 3 am writing a paper when at 1:30 you are interrupted by a little 'trembler' (aka earthquake caused by the active volcanoes around here) which, although breaks your concentration and leaves your heart pounding a few times faster, reminds you of the amazing power of the natural world surrounding you.

When the time arrives for us to leave, I am certain it will be too soon. It always is when I leave a place I've fallen in love with, even more a place which my heart has come to call home. I'm sure I will return, but home is not created only by the place, but by the people. At the end of the month, I will never be able to return to this place in the way I've experienced it now. Now, that in a way is exciting because when I return I will get to experience something totally new and exciting, but of course it also jaded by great sadness this piece of my home will be gone forever.

On a more practical note, this weekend is finally TIKAL!!!! We leave at about 3am Saturday morning and drive for a total of like 9 hour. First, we'll stop at another site for the day and then we'll arrive in Peten Saturday night and then Sunday is Tikal time! It is going to be so fantastic and so much fun. I mean seriously could you get any better than a whole weekend of ancient Mayan ruins? This week has been so long (although it has gone by so fast) so tonight is roommate de-stress night and tomorrow we're going to go adventuring somewhere! Let the weekend begin!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

La Fin de Semana de El Cuatro de Julio

“And then we enter into the new Guatemala brought to you by the United States of America”

What an ironic way to come back to class after Fourth of July weekend. Coming from someone who doesn’t regularly harbor extreme patriotism, I had one of the best weekends in a long time (which of course is another irony in and of itself because I’m nowhere near EE.UU.)

My weekend technically started Friday with the absence of classes. Knowing I would want the rest of my weekend free, I went over to CIRMA with Abbey in the morning to get work done (which turned into an hour long digression of Andrew McMahon obsessing, but I qualify that a much better use of our time). However, I did end up getting enough work done to satisfy the motivated part of me for basically the rest of the weekend. After lunch we were going to climb up to La Cerra de Cruz (our second attempt) but we were once again thwarted by a rainy afternoon brought to us by the Guatemalan rainy season. Before the seemingly perfect blue sky opened up on Antigua, I ventured to the tattoo place again with Brad to get his tragus checked out and was disappointed to find out that my tongue webbing is not suitable for piercing (yes because I figure I’m only in a third-world country for so long, so why not get something pierced. But for reassurance measures, I still only have 5 man-made holes in my body). Once the skies decided to open up, I had made my way home and was safely perched on the roofed balcony on my house with my roommates Staci and Jennie. We enjoyed our afternoon monsoon accompanied with cheesy Pringles and cookies while waiting for our other roomies to return because yes they still decided to attempt the climb to the cross. Nonetheless, they returned later completely soaked. And us being the perfectly matched six of us which we are decided what better way to dry off than to have a massive dance party up on the balcony. So Friday night started off with a massive gringo aka white girl dance party which Thelma was thoroughly amused by. After dinner we went to Riley’s bar to go see Brad’s cousin who was DJ-ing that night. We briefly met his family who was there – his aunt, uncle, cousins, and grandma. The night didn’t turn into quite the rave that was expected, but it was still a great night just hanging out with Jennie, Brad, and his cousin Rodrigo (who was 17 and totally chatting it up with Jennie all night haha).

Saturday was probably the most epic day of the weekend. Don’t mess with three gringo girls on a mission for bombas – that’s all I have to say. If anything was going to occur on Saturday, Michelle, Jennie and I were determined it was going to be to find those damn bombas. At breakfast, we asked Thelma the best way to find them because on our last excursion earlier last week to find them, we were only met with puzzled looks and assertions that the people had no idea what we were talking about (aka they didn’t want to tell the gringos where to buy fireworks). These are the directions Thelma gave to us: go to the paca section of the market (the thrift store equivalent of the market), then you should find the bombaros (firemen) and ask them for “lights.” If it even sounds a little crazy, you have no idea. First off, it was a Saturday so the market was at peak numbers. Second, there is no way one could really describe such an experience of a third-world market accurately – it is filled with anyone from live chickens for $2 apiece to bootleg DVDS to women openly suckling their children in the fresh fruit section to high-end American clothing brands, just to give some examples. Finding the paca section itself was quite the adventure after passing by all the aforementioned things. Upon finding the paca, we immediately gave into our natural feminine instincts to shop wherever thrifting is present (and I got an amazing skirt for 30 Q that is very latina). We were finally able to pull ourselves away from slightly-used, cheap clothing to continue our search for the bombaros. After exiting the paca we found ourselves in a large parking-lot type structure covered in more fruit sellers. Apparently these bombaros we were looking for were just a couple men sitting in the back of a truck which resembled a U-Haul. But before we could even make our way over there, we stopped a lady to make sure we were correct in our assumption about who these bombaros were. She informed us (just like everyone else) that it wasn’t the right season for bombas, but we might try the piƱata section of the market for some (if you think it’s strange that the market has a pinata section, it gets better). We were then pointed in another direction and set off in search of the pinatas. We had to stop a couple more times and be pointed in a few more directions (why did they always seem like completely different directions every time) we stumbled across the pinatas! However, it was no surprise that each stand was devoid of bombas. One lady, with the cutest little sleeping nino in her lap, told us to try the other pinata section (oh yes – there are two pinata sections in the mercado) so we set off AGAIN in our search for bombas. Hang in there if you’re beginning to wonder if we’re ever going to catch this goose – there is a happy ending in sight. With the rustling of pinatas behind us and now in front of us again we were hoping we had finally settled upon the promise land. I never imagined I would meet an angel in a Guatemalan market, but there she was, a young latina girl standing underneath the shelter of a myriad of pinatas. She originally told us she didn’t have what we were looking for, but pulled out a string of firecrackers saying this was all she had. Immediately our eyes light up in unison as we were unable to hold back the delight that after 2 hours we had finally found something which would make a noise to rival the ones which unceasingly wake us up many mornings before dawn. Ok, so we weren’t going to enter any fireworks contests anytime soon and we certainly weren’t going recreate anything close to what I would see sitting on the docks in Annapolis, but we were going to be able to light something on fire and have it make obnoxious noises to annoy the neighbors (because isn’t that really what the 4th is all about – lighting shit on fire and make a big fuss about it). We purchased numerous packs of firecrackers, these volcano fireworks, sparklers and after 2 trips to the pinata sections, a pinata of course. We made our way out of the market, our loot clutched tightly in hand and continued finally go home, walking across Antigua, quite the sight of course carrying a large red and blue fuzzy ball pinata.

I do not think I have ever wanted a siesta so bad in my life after our morning adventure. I don’t know how those Guatemalan women do all their shopping at the market – Thelma came back later that day with numerous bags from shopping there and we commended her greatly for her strength and bravery. I was so tired that afternoon I took a solid 2 1/2 hour nap without waking up to another raging monsoon that was going on outside. About the only other exciting thing that happened was finding a totally banging panaria down the street which we have thus visited every day since (I mean can you beat the best loaf of bread I’ve ever had for only 5Q??) After all that resting all afternoon, we were reading for some more dancingggg Saturday night, especially because the fiesta de bailar didn’t really occur Friday night. Michelle, Jennie and I went over to another group’s casa to hang out before hand then we were going to try a couple places to go dancing. The first place had a 50Q. cover so that definitely wasn’t going to happen so we decided to try our default, Sin Ventura, peroooo it was too late and they were already closed. Being the gringos we are, we just went next door to Mono Loco and got the most amazing nachos I’ve ever eaten in my life. Coincidentially enough, Brad ended up texting me saying him and his cousin ended up going out and they were at Mono Loco so I met up with him and met his cousin (whose name is also Ali and her boyfriend is from Edgewater, MD – which for those of you who don’t know is right by where I live – so strange, right?) We stayed at Mono Loco for a while just talking and then she drove Brad and I home.

Now the day we had all been waiting for – EL CUATRO DE JULIO (is it un-American to say the 4th of July in another language… or does that just make it even the more American)!!!! We all woke up that morning with the anxiety of our party to ensure later that day. I went to the paneria in the morning for breakfast and got to talk to my parents for a while. Then I went with Brad to meet his family who were still in town and we hung out with them the rest of the day. I was pretty nervous about the language barrier at first, but I had the best time. When we got there, they were all headed off for the park because it was such a gorgeous morning. Back at the house, Brad and I just sat up on the rooftop patio while lunch was being made. If I thought CIRMA’s rooftop was gorgeous, I was pleasantly surprised there was a view more beautiful. Even after 2 1/2 weeks, I still can’t get over how perfectly beautiful Antigua is. If I could find anywhere half as beautiful in the states, I would move there immediately. Just sitting up there and talking I couldn’t help feeling like this was a scene right out of a movie. Like I said Antigua was everything and more than I imagined. Lunch was amazing (as it always is here) and I felt very comfortable even (or maybe especially) among the eclectic mix of Spanish and English although every so often I’d have to turn to Brad with a totally puzzled look on my face hoping he’d translate for me. After lunch there was some fantastic karaoking that ensued and I reluctantly had to pull myself away in order to help my roommates get ready for our fiesta that night.

Pizza, beer, a ghetto fab pinata, things to light on fire, a slightly tipsy host mom and her random friend, and a bunch of college-aged Americans in another country turns out to be the perfect combination for the best 4th of July party ever. The brothel decidedly throws the best party ever! The firecrackers were a success, even if we had to set them off in the rain, using Michelle’s broken umbrella to hold over the cardboard box we used to light them on. I can only imagine the sight we were, about 15 gringos standing out in the street, in the rain, setting off firecrackers and screaming ‘AMERRRRRRRICA’ at the top of our lungs. Overall the weekend was such a success and I can only hope our trip to Peten this weekend can rival it.

Friday, July 2, 2010

I can't seem to catch my breath...

IT'S SUNNY AGAIN TODAY. The sun, and combination of various other things, have made me very smiley lately. With all the beauty going on around me in the landscape, weather, people, and just all together new-ness of life I feel like my brain is screaming MAXIMUM CAPACITY REACHED while my heart just wants to continue to grow (and guess what - my heart is winning this one).

Yesterday I went to the Ninos de Guatemala office in Antigua to see about getting my volunteer on. It was a little upsetting when I realized it wasn't going to work out with them because at most I would only be able to volunteer 3 days a week in the mornings and you have to be able to commit to five days a week. Part of me was relieved, however, because I already feel so overloaded with two classes and having my Tuesday and Thursday mornings free is so nice. Claudia said she knew of an English School in Antigua I might be able to volunteer at so maybe I'll see about that. If not the only thing that'll bug me is not getting my beloved time with the ninos while I'm here. It does kinds totally screw up my plans for my senior thesis, but I really can't do everything while I'm down here. Even if I could find a place to work at, I have hardly done any reading for teaching methodology to base research off of because I'm so busy with my other classes. Not to worry though (because mom, I know you're probably freaking out right now) I will still be earning 7 credits for history and spanish which will keep me graduating in time. I would really love to keep with what I had originally proposed for my thesis, but I just don't see it possible. My final project for history however is to take a current issue in Guate and contextualize it regarding Guate's history. Because I will be doing a good portion of the work here this summer, I'm actually thinking of turning that into my senior thesis; maybe not as much fun as my original plan, but I'm working with what I've got. I have total faith that if this teaching thing doesn't work out a) it wasn't supposed to be this summer and b) I have so much time to come back, teach, and focus primarily on that.

I'm not letting that bug me though because everything else is still better than I could have ever imagined. Last night we were all so drained from the week, we just crawled in Monica's bed and watched Alice in Wonderland (which, by the way, you can buy movies at the market for like 10Q aka a little more than $1. and yes, it is so totally illegal but it's just another example of how apparently copyright laws don't exist here). My Tim Burton obsession was fed and I was happy.

Speaking of obsessions, I have finally found another Andrew McMahon fanatic. Not like, oh yes I love SoCo and Jack's Mannequin - it goes beyond love, which is an emotion hard to find shared with someone else. But my one roommate Abbey and I spent half our morning just swooning and sharing our intense love. It's like our souls were destined to be together. It's weird how I feel that way about so many people here though, especially my roommates. I truly believe we were all meant to find each other in our lives because we share a connection that I've never experienced in such a way before. The overwhelming notion that I am supposed to be exactly here at this moment of my life has not left me once on this trip. I feel more whole, more of my true self because of this country and these people.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

the time of rain is finally over.

Accccctually, it's probably going to rain again like tomorrow, but it is super sunny today - just one of the many things which I'm sure is going to make today fantastic. Despite the rain, this has been a pretty good week - it's Thursday already which blows my mind because two weeks is almost over!! I prefer noooot to think about that, however. Classes have been running my life, but Tuesday night we all had a chance to go out to Cafe No Se for a few drinks mainly because the brothel was so freaking wound up that night (I swear our new maid put something in our dinners because we were all kinds of hyped up). Our bartender was English and we pretty much just hung out with him all night and offended him with our extremely vulgar conversations, as per usual.

I really really hope this weekend stays as sunny as it is now. If not, we're definitely stuck in Antigua and while I adore this city, I want to travel!! I actually have about a million more things I want to write about from this week, but I have to go fill out some paperwork for my internship so I can start teaching the little ninos next week :)