Saturday, October 30, 2010

My trip to Guatemala - Day 24

October 5, 2010

After spending nearly a month in Guatemala, I flew back to the United States today. I could write about my flight home, how after all of my painstaking cramming and packing, I was told my carry-on was too big, and I would need to check it after all (and pay the $35 checked-bag fee). Or I could talk about not being allowed to take water into the gate area and being thirsty during the entire flight home.

But, those are trivial details. Instead, I'd like to write about what I learned during my trip.

When I first booked my flight, I told my friends and family (and even some drunk strangers after shows) that I was going to Guatemala alone. Most of them immediately asked me why.

"Why not?" was usually my reply.

I then told them how I wanted to practice Spanish, and how I wanted to see another country. I might have even provided more reasons, but really, the answer always boiled down to my original one of why not.

We hear the phrase "life is for living," and I suppose it means different things to different folks. To me, it means taking advantage of every opportunity there is to expand your knowledge and worldview, and to grow as a person (provided these opportunities don't oppress or harm others, of course). Henry David Thoreau once described it as "sucking out all the marrow of life."

Traveling has always been that for me; it's been my way to suck the marrow from life's bones. Travel gives me an excitement like few things do, and it always teaches me something. Even my trips to middle-of-no-where North Dakota have given me some insight (specifically, that the Wal-Mart parking lot is one happening spot, and Taco Bell is about the only place open after 11 pm).

I admit that after I booked the ticket to Guatemala City, I was a bit frightened. The thought of going, by myself, to a place where a language other than my own is spoken was somewhat scary. But, I decided a long time ago that I would never let fear dictate my actions. So I diligently began researching, planning and preparing for my adventure.

I had no expectations when I arrived in Guatemala. And I was pleasantly surprised by how much Spanish I learned in three weeks, and how welcoming nearly everyone I came across was. I was also greatly inspired by all of the incredible work my classmates and new friends were doing (and continue to do).

I've found that when I usually "click" with people, it's on one of two levels: either they're activists or they're stand-up comedians. Okay, make that three as I usually connect with fellow Blockheads (people who love the New Kids on the Block as much as I do). I think the reason for these quick connections is because we immediately have something in common.

But, in Guatemala, I clicked with people on another level: our common sense of adventure. I met people who are students of the world, who travel the globe and explore their passions while making new friends and learning new languages. I've never wanted my life to follow the "beaten path," and it was incredible to meet a whole slew of other folks who are blazing their own trails.

I did so much reflecting while I was there, and I learned a lot about myself. Most of these revelations are somewhat personal and self-indulgent, so I'll omit them from this post. But, I will say that this trip renewed my faith in my own ability to be self-reliant. It also made me realize that I can do nearly anything by myself. In my former relationship (the one I was in for six years), we did an extensive amount of traveling together. And when we broke up, I found the thought of traveling alone scary and sad. But, this trip changed that. I don't need to wait for anyone to be able to go the places I want to go, and to see the parts of the world that I'd like to view.

As I boarded my plane back home, I definitely had mixed feelings about leaving. Part of me wanted to stay in Guatemala for months and live a casual life of sunning and learning. But, seeing as I wasn't able to work for the month I was in Antigua, my wallet had other plans for me. So I vowed to stay in touch with my teacher and new friends. And I sincerely plan to do that.

I also made a promise that I would go on another similar adventure very soon. And I sincerely plan to do that as well.

I'll close with a picture of one of the most famous sites in Antigua. Until next time...

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 23

October 4, 2010

Today was my last full day in Guatemala. Since I didn't have class, I had a lazy morning. I woke up, ate breakfast and took my last moments on the roof. I sat in the sun for a while, letting the rays warm my face.

After a while, my housemate, Nery, joined me and challenged me to a game of Speed. No, he didn't invite me to do drugs with him; Speed is a card game. Even though he beat me mercilessly, it was quite fun. If you haven't played before, it's rather easy to learn, and you can read the rules on Wikipedia.

In the afternoon, I completed the daunting task of stuffing a month's worth of clothes into a carry-on suitcase. I don't advise doing that, my friends, and frankly, listing the first 500 numbers of pi would have been easier and more fun. But, to quote Larry the Cable Guy, I got-r-done, and now, I just need to pack my shampoo and other bathroom items.

At night, I headed to Monoloco, where my friends here hosted a little going away party for me. It's amazing how quickly I've gotten to know my roommates and other people here. It feels like I've known them for much longer than a month. I was really touched that everyone came out to drink beer (read: get crunk) on my behalf.

Here's us, a few beers in, spelling out "cool" with our hands and mouths (which, in reality, is probably anything but).

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 22

October 3, 2010

Since I have to leave Antigua in two days, I wanted to devote today to going to see Cerro de la Cruz, which is a giant cross on the outskirts of town that promises the best views of the city. Nery, one of my roommates, offered to escort me as he's seen the cross several times and knows a shortcut there.

Unfortunately, it wasn't terribly sunny, but we still had a nice time. Once we made it up there, we mostly people-watched the took pictures of the landscape around us.

When we returned, Linda and I decided to go to the Rainbow Cafe for some food and happy hour drinks. We arrived at around 3:30 pm. Since happy hour didn't start until 4 pm, and we were starving, we decided to order some food and wait to order beverages until after 4. Bad move. Do you know how thirsty hummus and guacamole can make you? Parched is the correct answer. But, since my wallet often times overrules my mouth/stomach, we decided to wait it out.

After Rainbow Cafe, we headed to the movie theatre to see Prince of Persia (before you judge me, please note that it was the only film playing as there is only one screen in all of Antigua). It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. Post-Prince of Persia (how's that for alliteration?), we went to Nokiate for some sushi. Holy mother, was it ever good! I haven't eaten sushi since August, and my mouth was definitely craving some cucumber avocado rolls. Mmm.

A lovely day indeed.

Some views from Antigua on the way to the cross:

On our climb up to Cerro de la Cruz:

A view of Antigua from Cerro de la Cruz:

The cross itself:

And some views on the way down:

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 21

October 2, 2010

As I mentioned yesterday, I have no idea what the heck the pharmacist gave me to cure my illness, but whatever it was, it was like a miracle drug because I feel pretty much cured. Not only was today a victory for my nasal passages, but it also marks the day that I finally learned to use the shower!

Gracias a Dios de la Ducha!

Most showers in Guatemala do not have hot water. Instead, they have an electrical device on the shower head that supposedly heats the water. Well, I just assumed they were shoddy and didn't work as I could never get the water in my shower to go above lukewarm. Well, today, I experimented with the amount of water I let pass through the faucet by only turning it on a little bit.

Hot damn (literally) if warm water didn't come out! I completely reveled in the glorious heat, and I must have taken at least a fifteen minute shower. It only took me three weeks to figure out how to use it, but gone are the days of soaping up outside of the shower, bracing myself and then rinsing off in the cold, numbing trickle.

After my amazing shower, I went up to the roof to listen to some music and meditate. While I was up there, Linda stopped by and nearly scared the crap out of me as I had my headphones on and didn't hear her approach. Once I got over my initial shock, we chatted for a bit before deciding to head to the market.

Other than the time I went to the t-shirt store, I haven't been to the market. So, since it's my last weekend here, we decided to go. Holy crap - I had no idea how big it was! Beyond the t-shirt and souvenir shops is the food area. Beyond that is what seems like an endless warehouse of used clothes (most of them are from the US, which explains why a lot of people here wear shirts with English writing on them).

I snapped a few shots of all of the seemingly delicious produce before we headed to the clothing area.

After the roof, we headed to our regular spot, Monoloco. There, we attempted to have a conversation about Twilight in Spanish. I'm not particularly proud of having a conversation about Twilight, but I am quite pleased that I can now say "vampire" and "wolf" in a different language. I still need to look up how to say "Twilight is unrealistic bullshiz," but I suppose I'll save that for a different day.

When I got home, I saw our roommate, Calvin, and his new "friend" sitting at the kitchen table. They were listening to electronic music and making small talk. Calvin called me out of my room and told me he wanted me to meet his friend. I did, but his name escapes me now. After some brief conversation, they asked me to go on the roof with them.

I just thought they wanted to look at the stars (how naive am I?), but I'm pretty sure getting stoned was their main objective. And I'm also pretty sure the "friend" was a drug dealer.

Here's an excerpt from the conversation that happened on the roof:

Sketchtacular "friend": So, do you speak Spanish better than your buddy here?

Me: Well, he's just learning, so I hope so. Yes.

Sketchtacular "friend": Haha. Cool.

Me: How'd you two meet anyway?

Sketchtacular "friend": Um, outside of a bar.

Me: You met outside of a bar?

Sketchtacular "friend": Yeah...

Me: How did that happen? You just started talking, even though he speaks virtually no Spanish and you don't speak much English?

Sketchtacular "friend": Something like that, yeah.

Me: Hmm. That's interesting.

Pause, followed by Calvin repeatedly proclaiming that he can't believe he's getting high in Guatemala.

Me: So...where do you live?

Sketchtacular "friend": About three hours away.

Me: What brings you to Antigua?

Sketchtacular "friend": (Grinning) The tourists.

Me: (Not understanding that he means he likes to sell drugs to the tourists) Yeah?

Sketchtacular "friend": Uh-huh.

Me: So what do you do where you live?

Sketchtacular "friend": (Pauses) I'm a farmer.

Me: A farmer?

Sketchtacular "friend": Yep.

Me: What do you grow?

Sketchtacular "friend": Oh, you know, a little of this, a little of that. Apples. (Long pause) Marijuana.

Me: (Finally cluing in): Oh!

He must have thought I was either some sort of narc with all of my questioning, or just the biggest idiot on the face of the planet when it comes to drugs. The latter is probably true.

Sketchtacular "friend" then offered me some pot, but I declined. Instead, I just sat on the roof, gazed at the stars, and giggled to myself at my own naïveté.

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 20

October 1, 2010

I was sick again today. Barf. Well, I didn't actually barf (praise everything holy!), but that was my reaction to feeling like crap-o-la upon waking up. If there's one thing I hate being, it's sick on vacation. I didn't go to class again today, so instead, my teacher came to me. I was surprised to see her, and felt really special that she came over to check on me. We conversed for about an hour, and we even attempted to talk about 9/11 conspiracy theory in Spanish. Wow, was that ever difficult. I'm still not sure she knew exactly was I was saying, but she nodded a lot, so I suppose that was good.

Before she departed, she told me that I should pick up some medication at the pharmacy. She even recommended penicillin. I questioned her and protested that I hadn't been to a doctor, and since I have no health insurance, I couldn't afford to go. She looked at me like I was the silly one, and quickly informed me that one doesn't need a prescription to get medicine in Guatemala. She instructed me to go to the pharmacy, tell them my symptoms and then purchase whatever they say to buy.

As she began to leave, it dawned on me that today was my last Spanish lesson. So I thanked her repeatedly and gave her a hug goodbye. She really did feel more like a friend than a teacher, and she taught me more in three weeks than I ever thought possible.

After Yaneth left, I slept a bit more and waited for Miranda to come home. When she did, she walked me to her favorite pharmacy in town. I walked in and told the pharmacist that my head, throat and entire body were in pain. He brought out two tiny boxes of bills. I asked which ones were more expensive. He pointed to the box on the left. I then asked which ones were more effective. He pointed to the other box. I ended up going with the more expensive, more effective option. When he rang me up, I think the pills were the equivalent of less than US $2.

Wow. You mean, I can just walk to a pharmacy, tell them what my symptoms are or what kind of drugs I want, and they just give them to me? For really cheap? That's, like, magic. Or heaven.

I have no idea what he gave me, but I popped one in my mouth and started to feel better quickly thereafter. Because it was my last weekend in town, I wanted to go out. I had originally planned to travel somewhere over the weekend (outside of Antigua), but due to my illness, I decided that sticking around and sleeping in a familiar bed was probably my best option.

So instead, we went out to the Rainbow Cafe and then headed to Cafe No Se with Linda. There, we met John, an older, American ex-pat who had been living in Guatemala for quite some time. He was a gregarious fellow, and he looked like he spent a good deal of his time telling stories about his time in Vietnam. Whether he actually served in Vietnam, I don't know, but for some reason, I could see him telling tales with the likes of Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump. I do recall that he had been in the military at some point.

We chatted him up for a while before I noticed that he had a handgun tucked into his belt. It wasn't even in a holder. It was just in his pants, for all the world to see, like he was some mobster. Upon viewing the gun, I think my eyes must have popped out of my head as he caught my stare and he shifted his position so he could move his jacket over the gun. I tried not to say anything. After all, I generally try not to piss off people who are well-armed.

After several bowls of popcorn (it's free at Cafe No Se), I headed home for some more rest. Fingers crossed that I feel better tomorrow!

To view some pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 19

September 30, 2010

Today was a big, fat doozie. I came down with some serious cold/flu/yuckiness. I'm not sure what illness I have, but it's wicked and I hurt everywhere. My throat was so bad that I even skipped class today.

Instead, I hibernated inside and watched episodes of Intervention (my favorite show) in Spanish. What better way to learn a language than to watch a subtitled show that features drug addicts selling their bodies for crack? Like, for instance, I learned that the word for heroin in Spanish is heroína. And the word for cocaine in Spanish is cocaína.

So now, if I'm ever at a party with Spanish-speaking drug addicts, I will be able to communicate. It's good to know these things.

Fingers crossed that I get better tomorrow. Even though it's raining like nobody's business, I still hate being cooped up in the house.

To view some pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 18

September 29, 2010

The ol' guesthouse got a new roommate today. His name is Calvin, he's 18 years old, and I don't know that he could make me laugh more. He's originally from California, but after a semester of college in Indiana, he came here to do volunteer work.

He's endlessly optimistic, smiley and animated, and he sounds like a surfer. After everything you say, he looks directly at you and says, "yo, that's real talk" or "that's what's up." Without fail. I still half-expect him to finger snap and add an Ali G-style "boo-ya-ca-sha" every once in a while for good measure.

I ate dinner with him, and we bonded over our mutual love of electronic music. I then retreated to my room and quietly laughed to myself as he rapped along with Notorious B.I.G.'s "Juicy." Had I not been so tired, I might have even joined him.

To view some pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 17

September 28, 2010

More of the same today: class and drinking. God, I could get used to this. If only I had an endless cash flow (P.S. Any potential sugar parents out there want to help me in that department?).

I stuck around after class to watch Voces Inocentes. The film tells the story of a little boy in El Salvador who tries to escape life as a child soldier. While there were no subtitles, so I didn't understand what exactly was being said half the time, the acting was superb and I was blown away by the injustice suffered by so many child soldiers. What's even sadder is that the film points out that many of the forces training child soldiers were from the United States. It never ceases to sadden or amaze me what a government that's supposedly based on freedom is capable of doing.

After watching the film, I called Spirit Airlines to book another free flight (How awesome is Spirit? Seriously, if Jesus had an airline, I think it would be Spirit). I received an email two days ago saying that if I didn't use some of my miles by the end of the month, I was going to lose them. So I looked at where Spirit flies, and decided that Costa Rica will be my next vacation destination. Bring on the zip-lining! On a very strained Skype call that took way longer than it should have, I booked my trip for May. As I hung up the phone after receiving my confirmation number, I grinned from ear to ear. Yay traveling! I know relatively nothing about Costa Rica, so if you have any tips/advice for what to do, I would love to hear from you.

In the evening, I headed out to Ladies Night at Monoloco. On ladies night, women drink for virtually nothing. Anyone who knows me knows that I'm against sexism and gender division. However, when it costs less than fifty cents (US) to get a mixed drink, I sometimes (shamefully) make exceptions. And that's exactly what I did tonight. Annie, Linda and I parked ourselves at one of the upstairs picnic tables and partook in the cheap, sexist beverages.

At one point, a man walked up to our table. He could barely speak English or Spanish, but somehow we managed to find out that he's from Korea and, like us, he's here taking Spanish lessons. He explained that he had two friends with him, and then asked us if we would like to buy him and his friends some drinks.

Holy presumption, Batman! Uh, thanks, but no thanks.

So we declined, and he went back to the picnic table where his friends were waiting.

After about five minutes, he came back again! This time, it seems like he had rehearsed what he was about to say (much like an Oscar-acceptance speech). He once again communicated that he had two friends. And since there were three of us and three in his group, we should all sit together. He then corrected himself and said that it would be him who would buy the drinks.

What I'm making sound like easy conversation was anything but. We easily said, "what?" at least 20 times, and our communication was a mix of broken English and Spanish. Finally, after shaking our heads "no" repeatedly for quite some time, he wandered back to his table. I couldn't help but laugh as I pondered how he, with his little English or Spanish abilities, was nominated to be the representative from the group to approach us.

After several drinks, we headed home. On our way home, we stopped at the equivalent of a party store, and got approached by a woman named Casey. It's not uncommon for strangers to approach in Antigua, but this just seemed odd. She kept asking if we wanted to hang out, and told us stories of how she had immigrated to the United States without papers and had to work as a stripper as that was her only option for money. She told us she was from El Salvador and that she was just in Guatemala for an extended vacation. I thought that sounded somewhat strange, and I recalled the time when my teacher told me that a lot of people from El Salvador come to Guatemala (seeking under-the-table jobs) without documentation as El Salvador is even poorer than Guatemala.

While we were talking, a large, older man called her name. She looked in his direction, and appeared to be fearful. She quickly told us she had to go, and walked in the other direction. He then pursued her as he repeatedly called her name. As not to cause a scene, she slowed down and he grabbed her arm and walked her back in our direction. I'm sure he knew that we were catching onto the situation (that he was her pimp), and casually tried to make conversation with us. He told us that he had been a teacher at one point, and that Casey was just his friend. He even went so far as to ask us how our vacations were going before they left. After quickly slipping around a street corner, they were out of eyeshot.

I don't remember how we parted ways, but I couldn't help but feeling this awful sinking in my stomach. My heart went out to her as I imagined what her life must be like. I envisioned how bad or destitute her home-life must have been to make her think that escaping to other countries to work as a sex worker was a better life. I then began to think that perhaps she didn't even make that choice. Perhaps she was kidnapped and trafficked and had no idea how to return home even if she wanted to. Perhaps her "wanting to hang out" was a way of reaching out, a way of plotting her potential escape. I just hate the way our society can make people so expendable. Just the way child soldiers were used and thrown away (and continue to be today in certain parts of the world) in the film I watched, so are sex workers. I felt so helpless as I saw Casey and the large man (who was still clutching her arm) escape into the darkness. I'm not sure what life will bring her, but I certainly hope she finds a safe way out.

To view some pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 16

September 27, 2010

Today was a pretty typical day: I went to class in the morning, ate lunch and dinner with my roommates and then retired to bed. We've officially entered the rainy season, so I think my days or aimlessly walking around and sitting in the park might be over. While I wish I could get outside more, there's something very peaceful about hearing the pitter patter of raindrops on our house's tin roof.

One of my favorite parts about traveling is pondering the subtleties in cultural differences of where I am versus where I am from. One of the differences I've noticed is greetings. In Guatemala, it's considered rude if you don't greet someone as soon as they walk into the room. Like, you actually have to interrupt what you're doing in order to shake their hand/hug them and ask about their day. This is true even if the person stumbled late into a meeting or event.

In the US, if you're late to a meeting, I find that we appreciate it if you quietly find a seat, settle in and perhaps quickly apologize for not being prompt. However, in Guatemala, if you come in late, it's like a party. Everyone breaks from the meeting's agenda to take turns greeting you.

I first noticed this in my classes. When someone would walk by our table, my teacher would always invite them over and say hello. They would shake my hand, ask how we both were doing and briefly detail how their morning had been going.

I kind of like the way they do things here. It makes you feel special, acknowledged. I feel like we're so quick to rush things in the US, and even when we are exchanging pleasantries, I feel like people don't really care. They say things like, "hi" or "how are you?" because it's customary, but I don't know that they really want the answer. Here, it seems that people actually do.

I've also noticed that there are a lot of young, single moms here. Birth control is very frowned upon (and I believe abortion is illegal) since it's a predominately Catholic country. In fact, birth control is so hush-hush that some clinics have a scar-free way of performing tubal ligation surgeries so women who undergo the procedure don't have to tell their husbands/partners. Since it's Catholic, I would assume that people would get married when they're relatively young (since, the last time I checked, sex before marriage was still a no-no in the Catholic church). But, they don't seem to. Instead, they seem to have relationships which result in pregnancies, and then it seems like a lot of the women are left to take care of the babies. The same is probably true in the US, but perhaps I've been noticing it more here.

To view some pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 15

September 26, 2010

Today was a low-key day. I think I needed the rest after a night of bar-hopping.

Linda, Annie, Miranda and I joined Leidy (one of the women who works in the office of La Union) and her two-year-old son for a late breakfast at the Bagel Barn. The Bagel Barn is a great little coffee shop that you might see in an American college town. It's very cozy, and filled with people writing in journals or using their laptops as they sip various hot beverages. The Bagel Barn even plays Spanish films for free in the evenings.

Plus, they have cool breakfasts that come with your choice of multivitamins or cigarettes. Tough call on which to choose: an immune system booster or cancer.

That's Linda with Leidy's adorable son.

He kept wanting to toast, and kept repeating the Spanish word for "cheers" as he brought his glass up to mine. Precious! For a brief moment, it kind of made me want one.

After we left Bagel Barn, we headed to another coffee shop where Linda, Miranda and I chatted for a long time, and I attempted to study (although I actually just got sucked into facebook-browsing and people-watching).

In the evening, I went to the movie theatre for the first time. There's only one cinema in Antigua, and it only has one screen. The films are free to view if you buy a drink. And, trust me, they have drinks a plenty as the theater features a full bar and restaurant menu. While you're at the mercy of the staff's movie selection (romantic comedies like "Love Happens" aren't generally my first choice), the atmosphere is really quiet and provides a nice opportunity to get lost in a film.

So after some beer and cinematic romance ("Love Happens" wasn't nearly as awful as I thought it would be), I headed home and fell asleep quickly.

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 14

September 25, 2010

Today marked some very important firsts. It was the first time I ate sushi in Guatemala, the first time I visited one of Antigua's hostels, and the first time I got hit on by someone young enough to be my son.

The evening started when Aki and Natsko (who both are staying at the same youth hostel) invited a bunch of folks over for a sushi-making party. Um, yes, please! I don't know if there's anything I love more on this earth than sushi (okay, okay, fine, world peace and NKOTB, but sushi would probably be a close third), so I was quite excited to attend. They were so nice and even bought a bunch of avocados, carrots, cucumbers and peppers for vegan sushi.

As soon as everyone arrived, we all became ravenous sushi-making machines. My rolls looked more like burritos as I never quite got the hang of tightly rolling them, but they were still quite delicious!

After we were nearly in a food coma, we cleaned up and decided to head out to the bars.

Wait, let me back up.

At the sushi party, we met three guys who were also staying at the hostel. None of them spoke much English, and from what I gathered in Spanish, they were there doing internships in Antigua as they were studying tourism at school and Antigua is a really big tourist town. They spoke quickly and used a lot of slang (and their accents seemed to be different as they were from the southern part of Guatemala), but they were nice and seemed to laugh a lot. So when they asked if they could join us (Miranda, Annie, Linda and me) at the bar, we obliged.

We bar-hopped and went to the usual suspects: Rum Bar, Cafe No Se and Monoloco. During our stop to Cafe No Se, one of the interns started chatting me up. Orlando (as I mistakenly called him all night when his real name was Rolando) started asking questions like where I was from, how old I was, what I did for a living, etc. I asked him the same questions and busted his chops a little bit when he told me he was 23.

"I don't believe you," I said in Spanish.

"It's true," was his reply.

We went back and forth a little bit more before I finally decided to believe him. After all, there was really no point in arguing with a random stranger over something that had no bearing on our mutual affinity for beer.

After a brief conversation, he asked me if I had a boyfriend. As I previously learned, if you're not currently in the market for a new boyfriend, it's best to say "yes," whether you have one or not. Otherwise the next question usually involves getting asked out on a date. But, if you say yes, you can generally just move on with friendly conversation.

To my surprise, he pressed on.

"Where does your boyfriend live? The United States?"

"Yes," I replied.

He mulled it over for a moment, and then said, "You know, you could have two boyfriends. One here and one back home."

I laughed out loud and told him I appreciated the offer, but that's way too many.

He quietly laughed to himself and then dropped it.

After that, we returned to regular conversation. And by regular conversation, I mean, him repeatedly asking me if I was drunk yet. We also ate popcorn and took turns teaching each other the Spanish/English word for it (it's poporopo in case anyone is curious). By the way, poporopo might be my new favorite Spanish word, replacing sacapuntas (pencil sharpener).

As we were on our way to Monoloco, Annie all of a sudden turned to me and said, "Do you know we're hanging out with a bunch of high school students?" "Uh, what?" "Yeah, they're in high school. They're here doing their high school internships."

When Orlando/Rolando started talking to me again, he asked me if I wanted to go out dancing with him. I thanked him for the offer, but politely declined.

I then said, "How old are you really, anyway?"

"23," he insisted.

"Okay, show me your ID then. Prove it."

Without missing a beat, he pulled out a picture ID.

Upon looking at it, I cracked up for two reasons: 1. because it didn't have his birthday on it (which I quickly pointed out) and 2. because it said "colegio" on it, and it was from 2010. Colegio looks/sounds a lot like college, but in Guatemala it means private high school.

So basically he showed me his current high school ID to prove that he was 23.

When we finally headed to Monoloco, the interns couldn't even get in as they were underage. And I'm not talking underage as in under 21. I mean underage as in under 18.

So Orlando/Rolando could have been my child. Too bad he didn't ask if I had a son back in the United States, and if I wanted to add one of those to my collection.

The before:

Natsko demonstrating how to make sushi:

Possessed or just really excited to be making sushi? Perhaps a bit of both.

My first attempt at making sushi.


More yum!

The interns.

My second attempt. For those of you who are wondering, that's carrots, peppers, guacamole and cucumbers. Vegan sushi rules!

Sushi-making party group shot.

Post sushi-making/pre-food coma.

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 13

September 24, 2010

Class today was enjoyable as usual. I was excited to start conjugating verbs for the past tense. This might not be thrilling to others, but it is most helpful to be able to say "I went to the bathroom" vs. "I am currently going to the bathroom." And I was pleased when Miranda told she was impressed by how much Spanish I learned in two weeks. Honestly, I am surprised by how much I've learned as well, and I didn't expect to be so fearless in speaking it to strangers (especially when I'm alone in a bank or store).

Unfortunately, I learned that the school's trip to Panajachel and Chichicastenango was canceled due to the tropical storm that's supposed to come this weekend. I contemplated traveling there on my own, but decided against it when one of the women in the La Union office said there was a good chance that the roads back to Antigua might get rained out. So I just stuck around town instead.

In the evening, Miranda and I met Annie and Linda at Rainbow Cafe. We watched Sergio perform again before heading to Rum Bar. Upon walking in, I decided it was my favorite place in Antigua (I know, I know, this has happened before, but this time, I mean it). It's kind of like Cafe No Se with its tranquil atmosphere and lighting by candles, but it's smaller and features a loft with only pillows to sit on. We ran into Luis (from Juan's band) and Aki (from La Union) and met Mike (a super nice guy who just returned to Guatemala after living in the US for a long time). We plopped on the loft's pillows, giggled and tried to fight off sleep (or at least I did). I can't tell if it's the complete lack of iron in my diet here or my mind's ability to finally relax and let go, but I have been so sleepy since the beginning of my trip. Perhaps my body is just making up for all of the rest I failed to get during the past year.

Mike and Aki in the loft at Rum Bar.

More Rum Bar.

And even more Rum Bar.

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.

My trip to Guatemala - Day 12

September 23, 2010

Wow! What a full day this turned out to be. In the morning, I went to class for two hours before joining several classmates and teachers on a tour of the Gallo beer factory. Gallo is Guatemala's most famous beer, and the factory (which is located in Guatemala City) is flippin' huge! They're able to produce 40,000 bottles per hour, which translates to them being a frat boy's dream come true. I wish I was able to take more pictures in the factory, but photography was prohibited (Apparently, they were scared members of our group were going to give away their beer secrets. Little did they know the only secret I know about beer is that the free kind is the best!).

One of the most fun parts of the trip (other than getting to sample beer at the end of the tour) was listening to the two Australian guys at the school speak (one of whom bears a striking resemblance to Jack Sparrow from Pirates of the Caribbean). They use the word "fuck" constantly, and I think they're both in a constant state of hang-over. In fact, one of them was joking that he dreamt he had OD'ed on alcohol. "Not possible," the other one declared.

After they called each other bastards with various adjectives in front of the word, they then started comparing the way they tan to animals. For example, "I tan like a fucking zebra" one would say, to which the other would counter, "No, you tan like a fucking jaguar" (pronounced yag-yoo-wire), and so forth. Then, they declared that they were going to go to "fucking town tonight" at the bar. Jack Sparrow suggested that they invite someone else out who could keep up with their drinking. The other, a bearded guy with long-side bangs, argued that nobody could keep up with their drinking. Jack then concurred.

I tried a Monte Carlo beer at the factory, and it must've gotten to me as I fell asleep on the bus ride home. After the factory tour, I went to a workshop at the school on how to make tortillas. I thought we were going to learn the entire process, but we mostly just learned how to smash them like pancakes and throw them on the frying surface. Oh well, it was still fun, and I enjoyed loading them up with beans and guacamole (and eating them, too!).

I then headed home and met our new roommate at the guesthouse. Oh boy, where to begin about this man? He looks like an old, retired lawyer with unruly gray hair, gaps in his teeth and a slight East Coast accent. He joined me for dinner and spoke while his mouth was full of corn. He went on and on about himself as he nibbled a couple of ears in typewriter-fashion. He explained that he had a girlfriend of three years, just retired from the Balinese furniture importing/exporting business and lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. He immediately began asking personal questions, like if and who I was dating and how things were in the bedroom. I instantly got creeped out and tried to quickly change the subject. That same night, he asked Miranda if she wanted to sit on his lap while she showed him how to use her laptop. He later asked me if I wanted to conserve water by taking a shower with him.

I immediately became enraged. What gives him the right to sexually harass us in our own home? And for him to think that I would even entertain the idea of showering with someone my dad's age is downright disgusting. Plus, he chews with his mouth open to boot!

I then began thinking about some of the injustices being female brings with it here. Not only do men hit on you shamelessly and constantly, but it's unsafe to walk home alone. I totally took the right to walk to a convenience store in the States for granted. Here, in order just to return home, it's necessary to be accompanied by someone else. Not only does this add time to trips as Miranda, Linda, Annie and I usually walk each other and stop at multiple houses and places, but it's an unfair burden women must bear.

In order to escape our new roommate's weirdness, we headed to Monoloco to support a fundraiser for children who live in a literal garbage dump (read: we got crunk and gave the money to a worthy cause). We met several people from our school there, and tried to avoid eye contact with Mr. Sexual Harassment as he showed up as well. We all sat at a large table and exchanged humorous anecdotes, including one from Andrew (the guy with a Southern accent that makes Dolly Parton sound like a Yankee) about his cousin who worked as a server at Applebee's. When she approached a table of gentlemen (term is used loosely) after their main meal, she said, "What would y'all (because it was the South) like for dessert?" "I'll have a Southern delight," was the reply. She inquired what that was.

"You, nekkid on a piece of toast!"

Granted, it doesn't sound all that funny in writing, but hearing someone say "nekkid" for "naked," and actually be serious about it, is priceless in my book!

And now, onto the pictures!

Where they make Gallo beer. AKA Heaven.

Mi maestra, Yaneth a la fábrica Gallo.

Gallo beer factory tour.

The best part of the Gallo beer factory tour: free booze at the end.

Drinking up on a school-sponsored field trip. Too bad Dexter High School didn't organize such events.

Making tortillas.

The finished product with beans and guacamole. Mmm!

To view more pictures of my trip, go check out my album on facebook.