Category Archives: Guatemala

The Last Loco

I’m an American celebrating Australia Day in Guatemala…

With my teaching duties over and just a few days left in Antigua, I wanted to relax, get myself together for the next phase, and go nuts! Australia Day was coming and the Aussie volunteers and expats wanted to celebrate. “What exactly is Australia day?” I asked. “It’s the day when the Brits invaded Australia and told the Aboriginals to get the F out”, exclaimed Hanni. Whatever the reason, I was down to clown!

While Lincoln and Hayden had intentions of joining their student group for dinner that night, Nic decided to rebel and take part in Australia Day. It was his last full day in Antigua, so he wanted to go all out. He and I joined forces along with our local friend Evelyn, and went bar hopping in random places around the main center of town. We began rather early in the day.

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Around 6:30pm, the three of us headed to the main site for Australia Day, the Jungle Party Hostel, where our friend Carina was able to hook us up with special bracelets that gave us access to free Wombat Puss Punch (it’s as bad as it sounds). Other volunteers from my house and Shekina met us there.

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It was a giant sized Australia Day party that failed to live up to what Australia actually is (according to all the Aussie volunteers). I wouldn’t know yet.

We’ve been drinking all day long. You can tell by the fact that none of us could keep our eyes open whenever our pictures were taken.

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We should have stopped there but instead we went to Monoloco one last time afterwards. I have to say, the walk home back to Olga’s was the best walk I’ve had back to Olga’s. Nic and Alex were completely gone! Alex decided to take her flip-flops off walking down the street.

“Alex” I said, “Put your shoes back on. There’s broken glass all over the street!”

“But it’s so sparkly!” she responded with a childlike grin.

She never put her flip-flops back on and somehow made it back unscathed, except for a blood gushing cut that happened way above her foot. How did that get there?

Meanwhile, Nic was stumbling all over the place and somehow broke the locks on his keychain and probably left a dent into some guys truck he fell into. He said he wanted to get completely loco today and I’d say he accomplished that, for the mere fact that he didn’t remember anything the next morning! Me on the other hand? I’d say those multiple stops at Burger King throughout the night absorbed any amount of alcohol I had. I ate about four double cheeseburgers in total. Plus, drinking a gallon of water right before I went to bed was the smartest move of the day. I felt about a 90% the next morning. So good, that I was able to watch some of the parade in main Antigua.

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The next morning, I said goodbye to the Hoosiers (Though I have a strong feeling that I will see them again). They had to go to a nearby resort with the rest of their classmates before they headed back to freezing cold Indiana on Wednesday. Long after he had already left, I got a text from Nic saying he forgot his passport and his wallet. Fortunately, I was able to get them back to him before he left for the airport.

On my last full day in Antigua, I went back to my school and surprised my former students who had no idea I would pop up so soon. I took the middle class out for ice cream!

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I went back home to Olga’s and enjoyed my last dinner there: empanadas, refried beans, guacamole, and bread. There was plenty and it filled me up! I went to Monoloco one last time with some friends I had made there and called it an early night. I still had to pack my things for my departure early in the morning to El Salvador. At this point, I was mentally prepared to go. I’ve been here for almost seven straight weeks and am ready to start exploring new countries and meeting new people!

The next phase of this trip begins as I enter backpacker mode, backpacking my way down and up Central America for a few weeks! As for what happens there, your guess is as good as mine.

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Teacher from Outer Space

Sometimes strangers from strange places come into your life and change it forever. For this group of young Guatemalans, I was that stranger who came into their lives from out of nowhere.

When I arrived in Guatemala back in December, Roxy and I were the very first teachers of a new after-school English teaching program. We were thrown into the trenches of a mix of different locals, some with excellent English but most with little to none. Now, six weeks later, my very short stint was coming to an end and I’ve grown completely attached to all my youngin’s.

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The past couple of weeks at the school, new volunteer teachers have been introduced. I’ve had full reigns of every class prior but had to give up some classes to the new guys. Since then, I’ve become something like a principal of the school. I assigned each student to their permanent classes, observed the other teachers to make sure they were teaching properly, and handled any problems associated with attendance and classroom structure. Principal Sellers at his finest!

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For my last day at the school, I wanted to take a break from teaching and put together a fun time for everyone. It was also Ben’s last day, so he and I took the chicken bus to Alotenango early and loaded up on sweets and treats. We bought two piñatas for the younger classes and filled them with an assortment of colorful candies.

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Soon the students began to arrive, knowing full well that it was my, Ben, and Luke’s last day with them. “No class today!”I told them much to their delight. We spent all afternoon with music, snacks, photos, and ultimately piñatas.

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The oldest class arrived later. I’ve kept them as my own class since the very beginning and got them used to a weekly structure of new material. Each of them improved quite a bit since. I didn’t have a piñata for them, but instead we played games involving lots of candy, cookies, and cans of cokes as rewards.

The older class. I kept them since the very beginning.
The older class. I kept them since the very beginning.

I laid down the foundation for future volunteers to follow. A couple of the newer teachers have been spending the past few classes observing me and my methods. Hopefully everything Roxy and I started on the first day will trickle through from here on out: to learn English, but to have fun doing it!

Just like every time I say goodbye to my students in whatever country I’m in, it’s mighty tough. I did what I needed to do here and once that goal was accomplished, it meant that it was time to me to move on and meet others who need a little inspiration from this stranger from a strange land.

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I only have a few more days left in Guatemala before I set my eyes on the next phase of this global journey. With me, I’m taking all the good memories that came from this school and adding it to my plethora of memories from my teaching experiences all around the world.

I’ll have some information to reveal later as far as to what the next phase of this worldwide adventure has from me.

And when I tell you, you’ll think that I’m absolutely insane!

Expediciòn Acatenango: The Ring of Fire

When I reached the summit of Kilimanjaro three years ago, I felt like I could accomplish anything. To this day, it is still the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life.

My friend Lionel, who I met in Monterrico during Christmas, had planned on climbing one of the many volcanoes in Guatemala called Volcan Acatenango. It’s one of the tallest volcanoes in the Ring of Fire standing tall at 13,045ft (3,976m) near its very active neighbor Volcan Fuego. Lionel invited me for the expedition in which I gladly accepted. I’ve never hiked anything like this before! Ben would also be coming along for the climb.

This is Fuego. The volcano (not pictured) to the right of it is higher and the one we would be climbing!
This is Fuego. The volcano (not pictured) to the right of it is higher and the one we would be climbing!

Acatenango can be hiked in one day. It takes the average person up to six hours to reach the summit. A few volunteers have gone to Acatenango over the weekend for a day trip and have come back saying “it was the most physically demanding thing they have every done in their life”. A lot of them have said that, but every one of them made it to the top. I was going to attempt it differently though. My group planned on hiking up with a bag full of supplies and equipment and camping out, and then hike some more to the very top. I was warned it was going to be very cold, very windy, and that we’d have to wake up early on the second day in order to reach the summit by sunrise. I wasn’t worried about any of those factors really; the only thing I feared was altitude sickness.

I already knew from past experiences that I am sensitive to high altitudes. It affects everyone differently and just like how I am extremely sensitive to motion, the altitude affects me in the same way, except much worse. Maybe there is a correlation between the two? Kilimanjaro almost killed me because it was so high. And every time I hike a mountain, I start to feel nauseous. Thankfully though, Acatenango is a lot smaller than my old frenemy Kili. I knew my limits and higher altitudes take me sometime to adjust to. Besides, I just recently spent the past several weeks living on a high mountain in Nepal, so that should help a bit!

The day before the hike, Ben and I went to the local mercado to shop for food and supplies. Everything we ate on the volcano would be on our own dime and we’d have to carry it all up! We stocked up on snickers, crackers, chips, fruit bars, bananas, and a few liters of water. Our main course were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that we premade the night before. Interestingly enough, Ben has never had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in his life. It’s not common at all in Australia like it is in the USA. Hopefully he’ll like ’em! We found two torches (flashlights) for 20Q each that we would use during the night hikes. I packed a few long sleeve shirts, a few pairs of socks for extra cushioning, and some long pants that were light and easy to manuever in. Lionel told me prior that he had a couple of sleeping bags, a tent, and a jacket for me later. My gut told me that I packed perfectly for this trip! Not too much and just enough to be comfortable. I didn’t want to bring too much up because I would have to carry it all.

Ben and I were picked up in the morning in the central park of Antigua around 9:20am along with another person who would be joining the hike with us. His name is Robin (Germany) and he is friends with Lionel. There were a few other locals in the van that would join our group making us a solid team of about eleven or twelve. We drove about an hour or so to the base of Acatenango, where it was a bit chilly. Still I wore shorts and a light jacket because I knew it would get hot soon enough.

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Robin, Me, Lionel, and Ben before the start of the hike!

And so we began! One of the hardest parts of a good hike is the very beginning. Going up the first slope I was already winded! It just takes your body s few minutes to adjust to what you’re about to do. I felt fine a little after once we had a steady pace going. The first 40 minutes we hiked through farmlands and crops before we entered a very muddy forest.

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I didn’t have a proper pair of boots with me. I’ve been sticking with my tried and true NikeREAX sneakers I’ve been using since I left home in July. I’ve used these bad boys when I hiked 22 miles in Germany, hiked up to the largest ice caves in the world, and everywhere else beyond and between. I just used extra socks for cushioning and padding which worked wonders.

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After the first hour, we took a twenty-minute break to wait for the others in our group to catch up. Afterwards, we continued on up through the muddy forest. At this point, I already started to feel a headache, which is the first symptom for oncoming altitude sickness. Crap…it’s too early in the hike to get a headache! I decided to re-adopt my “Pole Pole” method I used on Kilimanjaro. Pole means “slow” in Swahili. I went super slow on Kilimanjaro which prevented me from having a headache until the fifth day of hiking. And so, I began a slower pace here on Acatenango as well, which meant Lionel, Ben, and Robin would be way ahead of me. I was in the middle. While the rest of the group were still behind me, even after I was going mighty steady. It also allowed me to realize my surroundings and take some nice photos of everyone and the scenery.

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On our next break, I pulled out some of the food I had brought. I gave Ben his first Pb&J ever while I munched on that and some jalapeño flavored Cheetos, which were extremely good. I chugged on some water and we were on our way.

Ben and his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Ben and his first peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

I had the hiccups as soon as I began the hike and they stuck with me the whole way. Hiccups are an indicator that your body is trying to adjust to the altitude. I didn’t mind the hiccups. I’m just glad my body was trying to readjust itself back to how it was three years ago on Kili.

The scene turned from a muddy forest to a cloudy one. It was chilly whenever we stopped for a rest but we became warm as soon as we started moving again. The clouds covered any skyline we could have seen. The mist sponged the forest like a wet blanket. The footing on the ground was still a bit damp but the soil turned into pebbles of old volcanic ash. There were lots of groups of hikers around and about, most of them overdressed for the occasion and had too much in their backpacks.

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It’s been two and a half hours and we still had ways to go. We had two main guides with us: Biiron and Moses. Biiron is the one who organized this whole trip and Moses was his sidekick. Moses didn’t speak much but he was always going at a steady pace and always waited for everyone else to catch up before we continued. He’s a really short guy, literally about a third of my height. He never had any snacks whenever we stopped for a break so I made sure to share my food with him. Our group as a whole was great with sharing with one another, even with random hikers who looked like they could use a dose of energy. Even at the pace I was going, my headache grew. Thankfully, we reached a point where the path became more flat and less sloped.

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We were informed that instead of camping at the crater of the mountain, we would be camping much lower. There were just too many people there. We would find another place less crowded. At around 5pm, we all finally made it to our campsite. We were situated right in front of Fuego with a perfect closeup view of its constant eruptions. My head was pounding but an aspirin fixed that once I settled down. We setup our tent which was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be.

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It was a two person tent for four big guys. We didn’t think about it and began to help collect wood to build a fire. It wasn’t as chilly as I expected but maybe it was because we sat by the fire most of the night.

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As we sat there with my Nikon in hand, I patiently waited for Fuego to erupt so I could capture all its fiery glory on camera. The eruptions happened about every twenty minutes or so, but there was no warning of when it would happen. It was hard to capture a shot in the dark but I did manage to get something.

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The backdrops were perfect for some pretty amazing photos that night!

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Biiron informed us that we will be waking up at 4:30am to begin a hike up to the summit, in order to see the sunrise. Close to 9pm, the four of us squeezed into the small tent and tried to go to sleep. It was uncomfortable but at least it was warm. I could barely move or readjust. Every so often we heard a loud boom. We sprang up and looked out the screen to see Fuego erupting. To see a volcano explode and spit lava everywhere is truly a sight to behold! The next morning, we woke up and I bundled up in layers. It wasn’t as cold as everyone has been telling me it will be, but it was still chilly enough for me to wear the big jacket Lionel lent me. I barely ate a banana and a fruit bar. I didn’t have an appetite whatsoever. I stuck a bottle of water and my pocket and off we went. I wasn’t in any mood to hike at all though. I could have stayed asleep a few more hours. My heart was pounding and a headache approached not even fifteen minutes in. I had to slow my pace. Pole Pole. Ben, Lionel, and Robin led the pack. I was somewhere in the middle and the others were behind as we trudged up the path of loose gravel.

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My feet sunk into it with each step, it was like climbing a never-ending sand dune made of black ash. Two steps forward and slide one step back. This was the hard part of the volcano. I grew nauseous, like I wanted to vomit. Altitude sickness was looming! But at least the sun began to show, and that distracted me for a moment.

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The group that was behind me were nowhere in sight. The group that was in front of me were long gone. I was on my own now, which I was okay with. I found my own pace which was slow but steady. I reached for my water bottle out of my jacket pocket and found that it was gone. It must have fallen out as I was sliding all over the place. I could manage without though. The summit wasn’t too much farther!

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Eventually I saw groups of hikers in front of me near the top. I’m almost there! I passed up climbers who were on the struggle bus and continued on the demented slope to the peak. I saw the other guys and gave them a salute signaling I was fine. Actually, I felt like I was going to vomit any minute. Step by step, I made it to the summit and it was a sight to see. The best viewpoint in all of Guatemala!

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My urge to vomit began to cease. I just had a pounding headache. Still I took off my jacket and enjoyed the summit scape. It wasn’t nearly as cold or windy as I thought it was going to be. I was quite warm up there! We stayed up there for a little more than an hour. We had views of the Pacific Ocean, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala City, and the best views of Fuego itself.

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Fuego erupting.
Fuego erupting.

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Man, I’m no good with high altitudes. My muscles were in great shape; no aches or pains, but it was just difficult for my system to adjust in such a short amount of time. I was glad I didn’t have to go up any further though. It’s all downhill from here and going down the steep ash was a ride in itself. We practically slid the whole way down back to camp!

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We packed up our gear and supplies and continued down the volcano. Once we approached the muddy jungle, it was a slip slide ride all the way down while dodging trees and large rocks scattered across. We slid so much that my toes began to dig into the front of my shoe. As we ran down the volcano with our large backpacks in tow, I felt like we were in boot camp training. My desire to get to the base of the volcano was strong and the lower I descended in altitude, the more strength ensued within. But by the time we reached the bottom, after about two hours, my toes were scrunched and my legs and feet were covered in ash. All worth it!

My group and our guide Moses.
My group and our guide Moses.

When we got back home, I had so much ash and rocks in my shoes and clothes that I left a trail all the way through Olga’s house to my room. Sorry Olga!

One of the best hikes I’ve ever done!

Jaguary January

I’ve been having a really, really fantastic time here in Guatemala. The places I’ve been and the people I’ve met are some of the coolest. From Semuc Champey to Lake Atitlan, the locations have been top-notch. My fellow volunteers and housemates are amongst the broadest range of personalities I’ve come across in one place. I’ve been receiving lots of positive feedback from kind strangers all over the world, especially from Nic’s family.

Two new volunteers entered my house. Their names are Alex (Toronto, Canada) and Luke (Perth, Australia). Alex is here doing childcare and Luke will be teaching alongside me. As a matter of fact, there is now a total of seven teachers! Too many if you ask me but we had to make it work. Which meant I gave up my younger classes to the newbies while I kept the older class. The younger classes initially didn’t like me leaving them, but they quickly warmed up to the newer teachers.

I reluctantly let the new teachers take over my original group of younger students, but I would still be around to see them all the time!

We all went out the next night to Monoloco for ladies night. Since Carly was gone, we now had Alex to sneak us cheap drinks! As usual whenever we go to Monoloco, we have a great time!

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Luke, Alex, Tim, Sarah
Luke, Hanni, Me, Lucinda, Deirdre
Luke, Hanni, Me, Lucinda, Deirdre

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Maximo was hosting a fundraiser at a restaurant called Kafka for one of the organizations they support. I bought ten raffle tickets for 100 quetzales to help benefit the proceeds. Some of the prizes were decent: free spanish classes, a gift card to Monoloco, bottles of wine, stuff like that. I won the prize that I definitely didn’t need nor want: a haircut and a shampoo massage. I just got a haircut yesterday! Bad timing on my part. Nic has been saying how much he needed a haircut here so I passed him my voucher to use. I would never have used that thing.


Auto Safari

The weekends are opportunities for me to take trips somewhere in Guatemala. Hanni has been my partner in crime when it comes to weekend excursions so we thought of some places. She suggested hot springs or nearby ruins. I wasn’t too keen on either. She then suggested an auto safari. A safari here in Guatemala? I was skeptical, but thats what we decided on. I checked on the internet and apparently there was a zoo about an hour away we could check out. Ever since I’ve been to the Serengeti three years ago, anything else afterwards related to zoos or animals have been ruined for me. I kept my expectations low. So did Hanni. We rode with a family to the zoo in Somewhere Land and were dropped off but were told to be back at the gate by five. It was only 1:30 so we had plenty of time. We began our walk and saw big elephant rat things.

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I don’t know what they were called but they were weird looking. We entered the main complex and began to roam around. We saw a cage full of capuchin monkeys where I decided I wanted to play with them. Hanni and I went around the wooden fence and I found a stick. I used that stick to sweep chunks of fruit from underneath the cage to give to the monkeys. I just wanted to touch the monkeys hand. Thankfully there wasn’t any security around watching us.

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I was actually surprised with all the animals the zoo had. There were peacocks free-ranging about when all of a sudden we saw a couple with its iconic feathers fluttered about.

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We saw snake cats and rabbit rats. To be honest, I had no idea what these animals were and their descriptions were in Spanish. There were these creepy owls who stared at me as their heads lightly swayed back and forth.

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Then there was this basilisk lizard, native to Central America, that could run across the water! It´s also called the ¨Jesus Christ¨ lizard for that reason!

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For me, the jewel of the whole zoo was the jaguar, my most favorite animal! I know everything about them!

The jaguar is my favorite animal of the world!
The jaguar is my favorite animal of the world!

They’re the third biggest natural cat in the world with the strongest jaw of any big cat. One of the primary differences between a leopard and a jaguar is that the jaguar has a rosette pattern instead of solid spots. The jaguars here were constantly pacing back and forth in their enclosure which meant they were uneasy.

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The highlight of the day came from a curious little monkey swinging above Hanni and I.

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At first we paid no attention to it, as it swung branch to branch above us. All of a sudden Hanni let out a loud shriek!

“Whats wrong??” I asked.

“That monkey just squirted juice out of it’s butt!” she said with a disgusted look on her face.

It nearly got on her. I busted out laughing! There was another baby monkey following us on trees nearby. We stopped to watch it as it climbed closer and closer to us.

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We stood there as it bared its tiny teeth at us. Suddenly the little monkey swung to the ground and landed just a couple feet in front of us, staring straight at us. Hanni and I froze. We didn’t expect the monkey to come up to us so close. We slowly inched backwards when the monkey briefly looked away. We then sped walked in the opposite direction. I looked back to see if it was following us and it wasn’t. That was the most nerve wrecking moment of the day. The moment Hanni and I thought we were going to be attacked by a itty bitty baby monkey! We saw on our map that there was a larger area harboring larger animals. This was the ‘auto safari’ part. We hopped in a van with a driver and drove around the outskirts of the park. The animals were much bigger here: giraffes, hippos, zebras, and even lions.

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The auto safari was good enough to keep our interests but I wouldn’t recommend it to people traveling to Guatemala. There are far more unique things to see and do in this country…like hiking up Volcan Acatenango, which I am doing next!

Sellers Abroad Meets Students Abroad

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…

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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!

Lincoln with the winning shot.
Lincoln with the winning shot.

School Days

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.

New volunteer Ben teaching body parts.
New volunteer Ben teaching body parts.

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.

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Left side: Nic, Carina, Carly. Right side: Me, Lincoln, Hayden.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Acatenango is the big one in the backdrop.
Acatenango is the big one in the backdrop.

I’ll update about all this later!