Monday, June 26, 2006

Babies, etc. (told mostly by Cory)

We have settled into the hotel, and are now just piddling about Antigua. Just so everyone knows our plans, we fly out from here at 9:20 on Wednesday morning and get to Dallas at around 12:30. Please pray for our travelling, as the rainy weather has picked back up again. I´m not sure when we will get home exactly. We are planning to hang out with Dad and co. for a few days, and I figure we´ll make it back home on either Saturday or Sunday.
Sunday we were eating brunch at this cafe, and the most interesting thing happened. These three American women come in with two Guatemalan babies. Then several more come in, and a few more. Eventually there were about 12-15 adults and about 8 little adopted guatemalan babies sitting at the table next to us. We kept thinking, "Could this be a sign?" Jessica gets in a conversation with one of the new moms about adopting in Guatemala and receives lots of good information. The mom was very nice and insisted I hold Baby Sedona because " I need the practice". On top of that, at school we visited with 2 sisters from Iowa who come from a family of 14 children, some adopted, some not. Needless to say, we´ve received lots of adoption information in the last few days.

SMALL WORLD

So last Friday I was wandering around Antigua exploring while Jessica was in class. I happened to turn down one street in search of this one restaurant decorated with the Beatles and other British odds and ends, that we had walked by one night. Who did I run into but Chris Rickwartz. Chris was at McMurry my freshmen year and was a youth minister in Levelland for a while, before moving away. He was in Guatemala with a group of students working on a water system in a little village. How about that.
We´ll see you guys in a few days!

Friday, June 23, 2006

School´s out Forever...

Today we celebrated the last day of class with an intriguing game of Scrabble and a free cuba libre. Scrabble in Spanish is extremely difficult, but we played in pairs. Really, I should say that the teachers played against each other while we students watched and cheered. I really wasn´t much help. Towards the end of the week, especially in the afternoon, everyone gets tired of studying and tries to find ways to avoid it. Yesterday several students and teachers gathered around a plant in the garden to watch a flower bloom. Seriously. These flowers are, apparently, like the morning glory in that they only last one day. They are all twisted up in a bundle and all of a sudden they spring forth into a full flower. It was actually pretty interesting, but I sat there leerily, wondering if the teachers were trying to play a trick on us.
So what now, you ask. Well, Cory and I are going to say our goodbyes to the house family on Sunday and spend our last few days in a hotel. Our travelling plans fell through, but we thought we´d enjoy a place with some consistant hot water for a few days. We´re going to see the remaining sights of Antigua, and eat in all the restaurants that we have been passing by and gazing in longingly. I´m pretty sad that the trip is almost over, but we are getting excited about coming home. So please post your party plans in the comments section, and Cory and I will be attending whichever party seems the most appealing.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tour de Antigua

We just got done with a bike tour with the school. It was interesting we actually had an escort, a s-10 pickup with a siren on top led the way. We had fun. But none of us inquired about the specifics on this tour. We assumed (I know what happens when you assume things) that it was around (in) Antigua, but in fact was around (surrounding pueblos) Antigua and took about 2 hrs. We saw some amazing views and interesting sites. One unexpected event while we were in one of these pueblos was a funeral procession coming at us, forcing us to pull over and wait. The procession reminded me of the Godfather, it even had a little band following along. It had been along time since I´d felt that out of place, standing there in my shorts and T-shirt while all of these mourners were walking by. It was pretty fun all in all. But after 2 hours on a bike we are a little saddle sore.

Cory

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Monterrico

More pictures! Monterrico was a lovely little paradise away from all the rain. It wasn´t without a few adventures, though:

(I don´t know how to turn the picture the other way. If anyone has any suggestions let me know.) Our room was without airconditioning, but it was semi open-air. It had a thatched roof, but the walls didn´t go all the way up to the ceiling. I think that was so air could circulate better, but we had to sleep under this mosquito net to keep from being eaten alive. It was worth it though, to be able to hear the waves singing us to sleep.


This is the ferry that drove us across the river. I had been on a drive-up ferry before, but never one this small. The guys were very efficient, though, and we were across in just 5 minutes!


Ah, the black sand beaches. The surf was really rough, and we didn´t get in above our waists for fear of the current. I don´t think I´ve ever seen waves this big, and that´s saying something since I really am quite the body-surfer. I was missing Surfin Stumpy at this point.


The hotel and restaurant were owned by an Italian couple, which made it fun to talk about the World Cup. (Italy played the US on Saturday.) I kept wanting to talk to them about the Sopranos or how ¨Luca Brazzi sleeps with the fishes,¨but I didn´t think they´d be impressed, and I resisted.
Now for the adventures: Cory saved me from a scorpion that was hanging out on our bathroom wall waiting to pounce on me at the first possible second. I could tell he was a menace by the look in his beady little eyes...( the scorpion, not Cory.)
Also, we tried to book a boat tour around the marsh with a small man from a hotel just down the beach. He said the best time to leave was at 6 am, just before sunrise because that´s when all the animals are out. I set my alarm, and we stumbled out of bed and down the beach accordingly. We had to wear long sleeves and pants so that the mosquitos wouldn´t bother us on the marsh, and we were quite hot and sweaty by the time we arrived. When we got to the other hotel, it was still quite dark... too dark in fact. Cory looked at his watch and realized that it was actually only 5 instead of 6. I had inadvertently changed the time on my watch while setting the alarm. Probrecitos! We trudged back dejectedly to the hotel in the dark, and I started to get frightened that we were alone on the beach in the dark. (I know my parents are shaking their heads in fervent agreement.) Then I thought I heard something splash in the water, and I turned, startled, to look. Then I reasoned to myself, ¨That´s silly, everyone knows that Guatemalans are scared of the water...Oh wait, no, that´s hobbits.¨ (I am currently reading Lord of the Rings which Garrett so kindly left for me, and am obviously having trouble distinguishing fiction from reality.) We were so put out by the whole thing that we decided to skip the actual boat tour altogether and go back to bed. (Well, I went back to bed while my gallant and noble husband returned to the hotel to tell Elias, the small Guatemalteco, that we weren´t coming.)
The rest of the day we swam in the pool and walked down the beach. We enjoyed the Italian food, and we had almost the whole beach to ourselves. The huge waves were really amazing, and we often just sat staring into the ocean and watching the spray fly into the air. The shore, for the most part was clean, but bits of trash washed up during high tide. As we walked, Cory kept sort of a running commentary, ¨Oh look, there´s a toothbrush...there´s a coconut....there´s a shoe, I think it might fit you... oh wait, no, that´s a small life raft from a ship.¨ Lovely.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Irwinless

Today the lovely Irwins have left us to return to the grand and glorious Texas. I am lamenting that I no longer have someone to remind me, ¨Jess, what are you really going to remember in 10 years: going to a cafe to watch the World Cup with a bunch of crazy Europeans/Guatemalans, or staying here and studying?¨ But we had a grand time the last few day finding cafés after dinner for dessert or wine or sangria. For our final Irwin send-off we went to a fancy hotel and had dessert in the restaurant there, that was lit mostly by candle light. It was really lovely until we had to slaunch back in the rain. (The rain, if you couldn´t tell by Cory´s entry, is starting to get to us. Our towels never dry, and some of our clothes actually soured a bit. Luckily we noticed by the stench in our room that we should take the clothes to the lavanderia.)
We are almost to the end of our third week of classes, though, and I´m starting to have dreams about crazy Spanish gameshows. I haven´t even watched a bit of tv here (well, except for a few World Cup games), so the gameshows are completely the results of my imagination, and really wouldn´t be that exciting in real life. In the latest dream, I had to choose between 3 doors, each labeled with a section of Spanish grammar. I don´t think I even won anything exciting for answering the grammar question right. Man, I´m getting lame.
The weekend looks promising, though. Tomorrow we are having a big fiesta at the school for Día de los Padres, and we get free food and drinks. Then, if everything goes as planned, we are headed to the black-sand beaches of Monterrico on Saturday. We´re staying busy, but I can´t say that we aren´t a little homesick for all of you guys. However, we will perservere. Got...to...cram...more...Spanish!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Weekend in Antigua




I´ve finally got some pictures up for you guys. The first two are from Volcán de Pacaya, and the last one is from our trip to the Women´s Coop that we wrote about earlier where they dressed us up in typical Mayan Wedding dress.
Our trip to the volcano was exceptional, one of the top five most amazing things I´ve ever done. Let me start with how this whole trip began. Cory and I had been wanting to climb a volcano, and I thought we might get a better price from the travel agency if we booked a whole group to do it. So, I talked to some other students at our school to see if they wanted to go, and before I knew it, I was in charge of planning a trip for 9 of us. I´m not sure how I was elected leader/event coordinator, but I was bustling about trying to collect money and find a good travel agency. It was really pretty stressful, and people started thinking they could ask me to book the rest of their trips in Guatemala. Oy! The travel agencies should start hiring me out.
We payed $12 per person for transportation, a guide, and security. The guide was a small Guatemalan man with a gold tooth and the security was the machete on his hip. Samuel, the guide, was very helpful and nice, and he answered all our questions about eruptions, lava, and poisonous sulfuric gases. (Plus he had a Texas A&M hat. Pretty good, eh Bub?) The hike to the top was about an hour and a half, and it was so nice to be away from the city. The trees, foliage, and view were all beautiful. We didn´t go to the very top, as we might have been boiled into a bubbly human stew if we had. We got plenty close to flowing lava (like 20 ft.!) and climbed atop igneous rock formations. One girl from Australia commented, ¨This is so Middle Earth!¨
We´ve been enjoying the rest of weekend in Antigua with Garrett and Lori, since this is their last weekend here. We got to go to this super swanky restaurant the other night that had a live Cuban jazz band. We ate fancy dishes like duck and bananas flambé. Other than that, we´ve just been plotting ways to get rich by selling t-shirts to tourists. All in all, a good weekend.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Rain

We knew that June was the start of the rainy season here in Guatemala, but I guess knowing and experiencing are two very different things. It has been crazy this week. At some point between 2-4 it starts to rain and usually continues well into the night. I don´t know but this might be what it´s like to live in Seattle, except without all the Starbucks and a few other small differences I´m sure. So we have not done much this week with all the rain, we played a little cards with the Irwins (who have saved our lives because they are so prepared and have rainjackets and umbrellas, so they have loaned us one of their umbrellas so we each have one). We went to a really cool restaurante last night, but I´ll let Jessica talk about that. I played soccer again this week (in the rain of course), I´m fairly sore but scored my first two international goals. I know what your thinking and yes there was a goalie, sure she was only around 5 ft. tall but let´s not get caught up on details here. And world cup began today, so school was stopped to watch the game. Oh and to answer the moms´volcano questions there are three right around Antigua, one is active. But it´s not a big deal apparently (of course that´s what they probably said in Pompeii) it last erupted in 2002 I think. Well that´s about it we have an exciting Saturday ahead but I won´t tell you about it so you´ll be eagerly awaiting the next post.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Lago Atitlan

Whew, what a trip! It definitely had it´s ups and downs (and if you saw the roads, you´d know what I mean.) We took a shuttle for about 2.5 hours and arrived at Pana in the rain. We booked our hotel based on the information we had in the travel book(*which has been dead on to this point): it was a mid-range hotel with a balcony and lake view, a fire place, and room for four. And it was true, the room had all of these things, but it also had a leaky ceiling, scraggley towels (that I´m pretty sure had been used and not washed) and a shower that spewed brown, sulfur-smelling water. Needless to say, we were a bit disappointed, but managed to spend the night there and find another hotel for a bit more money the next day(* the room was clean though and the mayan man who worked there was quite nice).
The lake was gorgeous and we took a private boat across it to two other pueblos called Santiago and San Pedro. We shopped and walked about the streets and enjoyed the scenery. (The lake is surrounded by about 4 volcanos.) The boat dropped us off at Hotel Atitlan where we ate a lovely lunch of hamburgers and chicken sandwiches and we strolled in the absolutely fabulous garden. There were fountains and flowers and those bush things carved into animals. (I took lots of pictures for you, Swigs.)
And now the best part: dinner at a Tex-Mex restaurant called Al Chisme(* the book told us about this place) (which roughly means the gossip or through the grapevine). We were all talking about how we missed Rosas and flour tortillas and cheese. The owner was a woman from Houston, extremely nice, and willing to make us anything we could think of. And just when I thought it couldn´t get any better, Lyle Lovett came on the speakers and I saw the $2 margaritas on the menu. *All the furniture was texasish oak and there was a picture of willie on the wall. We were all giddy with the memory of Texas. Is it possible to miss it after only one week. Yes. Yes, it is.
We spent the rest of the trip shopping and avoiding the rain. The trip home was fairly frightening because the driver wasn´t from our travel agency but insisted he had been sent to pick us up and then he was talking to another passenger about stopping in Chichicastenago, which is in the opposite direction from Antigua. However, we did actually make it to our correct bus and also the correct stop after lots of turns, fog, and nausea. I was trying to think of how to say ¨I think I might vomit,¨ in Spanish but I could only come up with, ¨I think I might toss my cookies.¨ I´m not sure if that´s the same phrase in Spanish. But we got ¨home¨ successfully and soothed our weary stomachs by eating at a cafe called Queso y Vino.
Just for future notice, try not to mention Rosa´s in your emails or comments because Cory and Garrett might cry. :)
All * denote additions made by Cory. The travel book is great and we are much obliged to Cody for sending it our way.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The Wedding

I was going to wait and post again when we got back from Atitlan, but a few things of interest have happened since then. Yesterday we went on our first excursion with the school to a nearby town called San Antonio. We visited a women´s cooperative there, where the women of Mayan origins get together to sell their handmade purses, blankets, table clothes, etc. When we arrived, we learned about the history of the cooperative, how women´s rights were beginning to expand and how it was a priviledge to be able to work and earn money for themselves. They also talked about the dresses they wear, and what each color symbolizes. (You´ve probably seen these type of dresses before, they are very colorful and they look very heavy. The indigineous people wear them.)
When the lecture was over, they asked Cory and me to come to the front and model the typical dress of a Mayan. They wrapped me up in this heavy skirt and blouse, and put a veil and beaded tiara on my head. They clued me in, ¨We´re going to have a wedding.¨ They dressed Cory in a black cloth suit and put a staw hat on him. Another girl was asked to be the ¨mother in law¨and she threw flower petals at us while we knelt on the floor. Everyone was laughing at us and taking our picture, and we just kinda stood there like the trained models that we are. They asked the ¨mother in law¨to say a blessing, and she said, ¨May you live long lives together and have 20 children!¨ Oy! I´m not sure if that was a blessing or a curse. We have pictures of the whole event, and I´m going to try to find a place where I can download them soon. I guess since our anniversary is Sunday, we got to renew our vows!

La Manifestacion
There has been a buzz all over Antigua about this ¨manifestacion.¨We were a bit confused at the terminology, but we eventually figured out that there was going to be a protest in Antigua this morning. All the stores, banks, restaurants, etc. closed and the employees met in the central park to demonstrate. Cory´s been all excited about it- he couldn´t wait to go and take pictures. They were protesting violence (everyone can protest violence!) and demanding a better police force. We convinced our teachers to take us to the beginning of it, and Cory got ready to take some pictures of the signs people were holding. However, to his grave disappointment, he had taken the batteries out to charge and left them at home. Que lastima!
Another interesting thing is that we are so much taller than the Guatemalans. The sidewalks here are pretty narrow, so it can be a humorous affair when we are trying to walk altogether with the Irwins south. On the way to the protest, Cory and I were walking on the street, and our teachers were on the sidewalk, which is several inches higher. We were still taller than them! Last night we were on our way back home around 10, and it was dark outside. We get a little paranoid in the dark, but apparently we aren´t the only ones. There was a Guatemalan guy walking in front of us, who kept looking back at us in terror. We felt bad because he lived on the same street that we did, so we followed him, inadvertantly, for several blocks. We could tell he was getting really nervous that the giant Americans were going to beat him to a pulp and take all his quetzales!