I just want to point out that the spanish keyboards are pretty confusing. So if there are any weird accent marks anywhere, it’s because I haven’t figured this thing out yet! But anyways…
With pretty much all of my volunteer housemates gone, it’s just Carly and I now holding down the Olga fort. Usually every week we get a new volunteer or two but this week we came up completely short. I believe the reason is because Olga also rents out to people outside of Maximo Nivel and they’ve been taking up potential space for other Maximo volunteers who are more around my age. The others who have been staying here are generally a lot older and are here solely to study Spanish. They’re nice people but it’s just not the same hanging out with 50 and 60 year olds. Wondering at all if we’re going to get anyone half as awesome as the previous crew we just had, Carly and I still enjoyed the setup we had at Olga’s. From everything we learned the past few weeks, it sounded like our accommodation was the best in many regards. My bed is always made for me everyday. I have my own bathroom, fresh towels and linen every week, and the food Olga prepares for use every day always hits the spot. We’re pampered here. One day during dinner, in walked three guys who looked around my age. Olga said they were students studying abroad. They were actually a few years younger than me. Their names are Nic, Lincoln, and Hayden, all from Indiana, which is very close to where I live in Michigan. The three are here for about a month studying the history of Guatmela, fair trade, and Guatemalan coffee and chocolate. Interesante!
After dinner, Carly, the three new housemates, and I went out into the city to show em` the ropes of Antigua. We were planning to meet Hanni and her housemates at an Irish pub but weren’ sure which one. We found a pub with a green clover on it and when Carly walked in, she was applauded and cheered by all the women sitting at the rail. But when I walked in, I was booed and gestured to get the heck out! So out I went, a little baffled by what just happened. Why would they boo me out? Carly went back in with more applause and cheers and I went back in to more boos and sneers…just to make sure I was hearing correctly. I noticed everyone in the bar was a woman. “Is this a lesbian bar or something?” I asked them. One of the women pointed to a sign that was hanging by the door that depicted a picture of male genitalia with a huge red ¨x¨ on it. It made sense now. We immediately left and found the correct Irish pub just down the street where we met Hanni and the others. The next night, Nic, Hayden, Lincoln, and I went to Monoloco and sat at the bar. The bartender offered a challenge to the bar guests. Whoever can shoot the most plush basketballs into the hoop behind the bar would win a pot of money. The pot of money was ten quetzales that everyone who participated threw in. Nic and Lincoln easily, EASILY, whooped all the Guatemalan locals. But when it came down to just the two of them, Lincoln walked with the win and the pot of a little more than 100 quetzales. 100 quetzales is only about $13 USD so it wasn’t much, but here in Guatemala, $13 can stretch a lot further. Currently, they are considering coming back here often to hustle the locals each week, in which I think is a great idea!
Johnathan told me there were two new volunteer teachers joining me today. Ben (Australia) and Ron (NY, USA). Ben´s a swimming coach back home and Ron is retired and has just been doing some travelling. Johnathan asked that since they were new, that today in school they would be observing me and the structure of the classes. I told them that tomorrow, since the classes have been growing in size, we will split them up. I´d take three classes while they would split one. Even though Ben`s never taught English before, I was fully confident in his ability to do so based on his coaching experience. Ron´s a whole other story though. Nice guy, means well, but he´s a bit on the odd side. One day when I let Ron have a whole class for himself, I walked in to check on him and I heard him telling the younger class that his dog was dead. He then asked them if they had any dead dogs. What the heck are you teaching them man? Ben on the other hand was really great with his kids and didn`t need any help from me whatsoever. Ron told me he had difficulty because he wasn`t sure what to teach them or what to do with them at times. Poor kids would beg me to please comeback to them whenever I came near. As much as I wanted to, I needed Ron to get some experience because he was going to be doing this for eight weeks. It takes a few classes for a teacher to adjust and find their groove.
Cerro de la Cruz
The Hoosiers at my house are studying abroad so they´re
a bit really restricted as far as free time, especially over the weekends. Their professors plan everything for them, whether they like it or not. They also have to do homework assignments and report to classes everyday. I cringe every time I hear that. I´m a free bird here, besides the teaching thing. They came with a group of students with the three of them being the only males, so they were put into my house, on the opposite side of Antigua away from the other students and professors from their college. It´s probably the best thing that could have happened for them. We have the best homestay and Carly and I were here to made sure they had a great time outside of their normal school activites by introducing them to our group of volunteers spread across Antigua. But unfortunately, it was Carly´s last night in Antigua, so we all went out to a nice restaurant called Casa Blanca for dinner. Carina (Wisconsin, USA), another volunteer we met joined us. She’s also pretty awesome.
Normally, when I’m travelling, I always meet other travellers who we can all relate with, by sharing our stories and current plans with one another. I’ve never met a group of students from my country, a good chunk of them being their first time outside of the USA during my travels though. I do notice the difference. Everything they see here is weird, different and amazes them while I was mostly unphased. I’ve been spoiled. My tolerance for the ‘strange’ has grown tremendously over the years. The students, especially Nic, were baffled when I told them I’ve been travelling since July going to pretty much any random country I felt like at the time and have been doing it for a few years now. I got the same questions I usually get when I’m at home, most of them beginning with the word “How?”.
We went around town for a bit more that night in celebration of Carly who had just about enough. She passed out at one of the lounges we went to.
The next morning, Carly, Hayden, Nic, Lincoln, and I woke up at 5:30 in the morning to go hike Cerro de la Cruz. Hayden came up with the idea and we thought it would be great for everyone to go. I knew the way there and led the pack in the chilly midst of morning. It’s not a long hike at all. It took about a half hour total to walk to the north of Antigua and up the flight of steps to the viewpoint looking over the city.
We stayed up there for about a half hour while the sun rose and the city came alive. At the view point, we met up with a couple of other volunteers from the Shekina house who were already up there.
When we went back home, the guys went to school and Carly and I hung out a little before we said our
goodbyes “see you later’s”. That was the end of one really great group of volunteers. Jacob, Katie, Uma, Mark, Marco, Valerio, Ellie, Laura, and Carly. Thankfully now, the students were here and I wasn’t stuck in an elderly home by myself. I am also in the stages of planning a new expedition–my biggest one since Kilimanjaro. Up one of the largest, most active volcanoes in this region: Acatenango. It’s about a thousand meters or so smaller than my old pal Kili, but altitude sickness still happens there and I know all too well that altitude sickness is not my friend.
I’ll update about all this later!