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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!

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The English Entertainer

Out of all the countries I’ve taught English in, this one has been the most challenging.

The major difference here is that I’m not teaching at a school. I’m actually at an after school program teaching free classes for students who want to learn English. No grades or passes or fails. Students can come and go as they please which makes it quite difficult to keep structure. There aren’t any consequences if they are absent or don’t study. There are always a few new students every week, which means I have to backtrack a bit each time so they can catch up.

Roxy has never taught English before but has learned to hold her own the past two weeks. She has an advantage. She is completely fluent in Spanish. It helps when both your parents are from Honduras. The downside is, it’s tempting to speak to the students in Spanish when they don’t understand something. My Spanish is a little less than basic so not speaking any Spanish to them is easy. Roxy only applied to be here for two weeks and now her time was up. The students took a huge liking to her because they were able to communicate with her better than they could with me. But I warned the kids that once Roxy leaves, everything will be primarily in English!

On Roxy’s last day, she wanted to give each student cookies and cupcakes. We handed them out to each class and took pictures with them.

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She even donated supplies for the school to use. Spare books and writing utensils. Roxy was great at remembering all their names. I was not. It didn’t help that I was absent from class most of the week from being away in Monterrico and Semuc. I felt a little guilty leaving her on her own all week but I would pay the price the following week when I was all by myself, meaning I had to be there until new volunteers arrived. If I didn’t show up, it meant the kids wouldn’t have a teacher. I had no intentions on missing classes the next week though.

Roxy and I
Roxy and I
Our last chicken bus ride
Our last chicken bus ride

The next day, Roxy headed to Honduras to stay with her parents for a while before she headed back to the States. Roxy, I’ll catch up with ya sometime in the future! Also soon enough, Katie and the Italian guys, Mark, Valerio, and Marco would all be heading to El Salvador for the surf program over the week. Since it was a holiday week, there would be very few new volunteers arriving. None of them English teachers, which actually I preferred. I like having classes all to myself. I just had to figure out how to keep these students motivated. And I think I knew the way! I’ve gotta entertain these kids. Keep them coming back for more.

Since there aren’t any consequences for the students being absent and not studying, I began to implement fun English games with candy as bribery for the winners. Maximo prefers us not to give candy or gifts to the students because they will begin to expect it, but I will only give out candy as rewards and it won’t be everyday. I’ll be strict with it. I borrowed four small white erase boards from Maximo and broke up each class into small groups. I gave each group a board, a marker, and an eraser.

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To ensure the students remembered the new vocabulary we taught them such as colors and numbers, I would say a word or phrase in Spanish and they would have to write it down in English. Each team that got it correct would get a point. For the older classes, I would ask them a question in English and they would have to write a proper response for it. I told the groups that the winning teams would get a pile of candy by the end of the week. It became quite competitive which is always a good thing. Over the days, I introduced new games like relay races outside of the class and other fun games all with the basis of learning English. Every time a student asked me something in Spanish, I would say to them “Only English!” Whenever they asked me to use the bathroom, I told them they had to ask me in English otherwise they’d have to pee their pants! No Spanish!

I'd say "Perro Amarillo" and they'd have to write the English equivalent.
I’d say “Perro Amarillo” and they’d have to write the English equivalent.

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Some of the students were stumped! But these were the students who didn't show up everyday.
Some of the students were stumped! But these were the students who didn’t show up everyday.

Some of the students excelled at the games. Some did not. Those students who did not, didn’t get any rewards. Hopefully that will motivate them to study and do better. I’ll find out how each student progresses over the next few weeks. There would be days where we would review everything and I would tell the students to pay attention because the next day we will play a game with everything we learned with the prize being a pile of sweets and treats! It peaked their interest and in order to maintain seriousness, I had to be stern. No sweets whatsoever for the ones who lacked.

I really, really enjoyed my time with the classes. They’ve grown to really like me and would stick around after the day was over to ask me questions. I found out from Johnathan that the next week I would be joined by two new volunteers. I’ve already got a rhythm going with these students so we’ll see how that works out. I asked the students to not come on New Year’s Day, I’ll be out and about.

New Year’s Eve was approaching and it was going to be a fun one in the city of Antigua, Guatemala!

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas on Fire!

It’s Christmas Eve and it doesn’t even feel like it!

I looked everywhere in Antigua for a Santa Claus hat. Whenever I asked people where I could find one, I was always directed to the main outdoor market. The place was sprawling with holiday spirit!

The market in Antigua was sprawling with festive life!
The market in Antigua was sprawling with festive life!

I found plenty of Santa hats but none that could fit my big noggin. Finding a big fluffy red one required going into Guatemala City, which I didn’t have time for.


Christmas in Monterrico!

For me, Christmas without the cold weather and snow is like having Oreos without the milk. It’s like a hamburger without any fries. The Australians always tell me the opposite, they can’t imagine having a cold Christmas. This particular Christmas was gonna be a hot one and I couldn’t wait! Laura, Ellie, Carly, Mark, Valerio, Marco, Katie, and I organized a private shuttle about two hours drive to the Pacific Coast. Our destination: Playa Monterrico! Monterrico is a beachside village with slate black sand made of volcanic ash. The shores are torrential with consistently strong waves. The dark color of the sand heats as the sun rises over. During midday, the sand is scorching hot; too hot to stand on. The heat from it rises and boils Monterrico like a giant sauna. We arrived to Monterrico just before sunset on Christmas Eve.

T'was the night before Christmas...
T’was the night before Christmas…

The eight of us checked into a hostel resort called Johnny’s Place, one of the higher rated spots in the area. We walked around the villa and it really is the place to be! Tons of huts, pools, hammocks, and chairs to lounge on. We put away our bags and went to the outdoor restaurant near the beach. The mosquitos were biting! Thankfully, Johnny’s Place was smart enough to sell mosquito repellent to their guests. We sprayed it up as we began to drink and feast! It was only 7pm, so we still had ways to go before midnight officially struck.

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What’s great about this particular group of volunteers is that they’re easy people. We evenly split the costs of everything between the eight of us: drinks, foods, and even our rooms. Although majority of us shared a dorm, the Italians were stuck in a private room in which we just split everything evenly. It made life easier that way. Plus, still it was fairly cheap. We went up on the drinks and casually moved over to a hangout hut just a few meters away. There we met a separate group of volunteers, all from Germany including one named  Lionel. We merged our groups and played a massive game of “Werewolf”. Afterwards, Lionel joined my group over to another bar next door. Carly spotted a silly excuse for a Christmas tree there but thought it was festive enough to have a holiday group photo!

Top Row: Marco, Mark, Lionel, Valerio, Ellie, Me Bottm Row: Laura, Katie, Carly
Top Row: Marco, Mark, Lionel, Valerio, Ellie, Me
Bottm Row: Laura, Katie, Carly

The bar we went to was situated on a rooftop which was perfect for the night. It was too dark to see the ocean but you could hear the sounds of crashing waves booming in the background of the salsa music that was playing. Still it didn’t feel like Christmas Eve at all. I’m not used to all this heat during the holidays yet!

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As the hours went by, we began to realize that even though it wasn’t officially Christmas here in Monterrico, Guatemala, that it was Christmas in our respective countries. The Australians were first, followed by the Italians, and at 11pm in Guatemalan time, it was Christmas back home in Michigan. Everytime we announced it was Christmas in our home countries, we toasted and cheered! Soon enough, midnight hit and fireworks went off along the beach. Everything that night was more than amazing!

The next morning, I was feeling it. I had a little headache but it was the good kind of headache knowing it came from a really great night. Katie and I woke up a little after dusk and walked along the beach. The sun was in the beginnings of its intensifying rays as our feet sunk into the thick gravels of dark ash. Sizeable pelicans flew by across the shore scoping for their morning breakfast. During the morning, the ashy sand is cool enough to walk on. The waves left blankets of thick white foam among the crests. It was Christmas day and it was going to be a good one.

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Even though some of us weren’t feeling well from the night before, we still had an appetite, albeit a small one, for breakfast. I heard a vanilla banana smoothie does wonders for hangovers, so I ordered one of those. But it wasn’t until we decided to go into the water that my small hangover went away. I discovered the cure to hangovers! Those waves in Monterrico knocked the hangover right out of me! Those waves were freakishly strong!

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The tide was so brutal that it literally swept you off your feet and pulled your whole body into the currents. It was advised to not go out too far into the ocean or else you could get trapped out there. At times I felt like I was stuck, but in these kind of currents it’s best to just relax and not fight it. Flow with it!

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Later on, a group of volunteers from Antigua joined us on the beach. Roxy and Hanni among others. The sand started to become too hot to walk on. Our plans to play soccer and volleyball during the afternoon were put on hold. It was so hot that the sand made the air and everything around it sweltering. I’m known for doing dumb things, so I challenged Hanni to see who can withstand the sand the longest between us. We weren’t even out there for 20 seconds before we caved. We felt our feet burning for a long time afterwards. Don’t do what we did!

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It was so hot out that all of us stayed under the huts, lounging on the cushions and hammocks. What a relaxing holiday!

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Lionel volunteered here in Monterrico with the sea turtle rescue project. He knew of a place, about five minutes walking distance into the village that served cheap but tasty food. We followed his lead and went on. There we spotted a litter of puppies, barely a couple of weeks old scattered among the village. I’m a sucker for cute animals.

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It was midday and the suns heat began to lessen a bit. The sand was still burning, but now it was bearable as long as you didn’t stand in one place for too long. It was perfect for volleyball because it forced everyone to move around. It was team Mark vs team Valerio. I was on Valerio’s side and we ended up losing by two points. It made for a great game though.

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My group I came with only planned on staying one and night and headed back to Antigua at 4pm on Christmas day and what a Christmas it was. Pure relaxation and fun under the Pacific sun. Thanks for hanging out with us Lionel!

This was the best Christmas gift I’ve gotten this year and I’m glad I got to spend it with such a great group of people.

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Piñata Party Especial

It’s not just the places that make a trip unforgettable, but more so the people you meet along the way.

I’ve met a wealth of interesting characters over my years of wandering Earth and there are a few of them who I’ve become really good friends with. Most of the time I travel alone but never am I really alone. I always meet individuals who are just like me in one particular aspect: a strong will to experience a totally different world. Here in Antigua, Guatemala, I was fortunate to meet a whole crew of new characters who are nothing but kind and are here for all the right reasons.

The night I arrived home from Semuc Champey, I met Uma, reunited with Katie, and met three other new volunteers who would live with me at Olga’s house: Carly (Australia) and sisters Ellie and Laura, both from Australia as well. I met them and the three were quite receptive and happy to meet me. I felt a good vibe off of them almost instantly. They mentioned going out to dinner and said we had to meet a few more new volunteers underneath the famous yellow arch near the park.

At the arch I met another new housemate of mine. His name is Jacob (Canada). Before getting something to eat, we all went to a wine house near the arch. We sat in the squared center, in the spotlight of hoards of aging wine and toasted to new memories in Guatemala. A few minutes later, three more new volunteers came to join us. Three Italian dudes Mark, Marco, and Valerio. The three of them live in a separate homestay but planned on joining us that evening.

From L to R: Laura, Valerio, Carly, Uma, Mark, Ellie, Katie, Jacob, Marco is hiding behind my big head, Me.
From L to R: Laura, Valerio, Carly, Uma, Mark, Ellie, Katie, Jacob, Marco is hiding behind my big head, Me.

The ten of us enjoyed dinner at a nearby restaurant and introduced ourselves and what we did back home. Afterwards, we went to another spot called Monoloco where Mark suggested that we play “Werewolf” in which I played many times in many countries much to his liking. By the end of the night, I was glad that a great, easy going group came in while I was away for the weekend. I went to sleep in my monks room ready for a new week of teaching!

The next morning during breakfast, I received a text message from Hanni:

“Did Jonathan call you about the party? We’re meeting at Maximo at 7:45 :).”

I didn’t get a call, but since it was only a few minutes to, I briefly made my way to Maximo to find out what was going on. I was told of a holiday party before, but the details were unknown to me. When I arrived, I met up with Hanni, Roxy, and a couple others from their house who had their bags and looked like they were ready to go somewhere.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“We’re just waiting on Johnathan to take us to the school,” replied Hanni.

“We’re going now???”

“Yeah, for the Christmas party.”

I can’t go now! I had too much stuff to take care of in the morning. I had to book a bus to Monterrico Beach for Christmas, I had to do my laundry, I had to respond to loads of emails; questions about my blog and questions on why haven’t I posted anything new in over a week. I had to blog because at that point, I was dragging behind. I would be missing out on the party for the children with special needs…and instantly I felt guilt flowing through my veins. So I put everything on hold and joined them for the party.

There were two vans picking us up. I saw all the volunteers from my house and the three Italians come up to Maximo. They mentioned they had a Christmas party this morning but I didn’t think it was the same one that I was told about. Regardless, I was glad they were able to join us. I heard there were going to be up to 55 children there! So we needed all the help we could get to keep them occupied. I sat next to Frosty and we were on our way!

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Upon arriving at my school, Johnathan gave us a bag of balloons to blow up and hang around the main hall, but we just left most of them grazing along the floor. The kids liked that and we found ourselves in a balloon frenzy for the first part of the party. More and more children arrived and sat along the desks spread along the sides of the hall. I went around taking photos of everyone in action, as holiday tunes and classic Michael Jackson played in the background.

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I was impressed with my fellow volunteers. Every single one of them completely engaged themselves into entertaining the children. Each child had a certain disability and each required slightly different methods of care but all required the upmost patience. There was one boy who would have sat in a corner all by himself, only if Hanni wasn’t there to keep him company for the majority of her time.

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Carly, who has the voice of an angel, was very motherly towards the kids and always kept a smile on her face as she gave each child the attention they deserved.

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Mark, Valerio, and Marco put on a giant-sized show of “Ring-Around-The-Rosie” which the kids really loved.

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The other volunteers all spent time engaging other kids and especially the kids who sat by themselves.

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I’ve barely dealt with special needs, but no matter the disability EVERY kid loves gadgets, gizmos, and video games! I handed over my camera to a brother and sister duo and let them have at it.

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I also gave my phone to two girls sitting by their lonesome and helped them learn to play “Fruit Ninja” in which they were really amused. While we all played with the kids, the staff from Maximo Nivel were busy setting up a snowman piñata outside. Once they finally hung it up appropriately, we were all summoned there!

Gradually, we all brought the kids to the front. Some of them we helped along because it was difficult for them to walk. Some were in wheelchairs and some had to be carried. We left no child behind and made sure each had a proper place outside to view all of the action.

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Valerio manned the rope attached to the snowman while I sat on the opposite side of the yard to capture every moment. As I sat on the grass, looking through the view finder of my camera, all I captured were smiles upon smiles as eager kids came up in turns to swat at the piñata. They did some damage! In order to get as many kids to have a turn, Johnathan constantly had to tape up the piñata to add extra durability. Spurts of candy would pop out occasionally. Some of the kids would grab them.

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Eventually, one child who had the strength of a bulldozer bashed open the snowman’s abdomen and all sorts of sweets and treats came pouring out. As a chunk of the kids rushed out to grab all they could, the volunteers were on the lookout and grabbed candy for the ones who weren’t physically able to get the sweets for themselves. We made sure everyone got a little something.

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We cleaned up and went back inside the school. Maximo supplied lunch, cake, and juices for all the children.

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While they ate, we continued to play with them some more. Later on, Maximo passed out wrapped gifts to all the boys and girls. Some boys got monster trucks and race cars while some girls got dolls and ponies.

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Each child had a really great day, catered all just for them! It felt really great to be a part of that.

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I told Roxy, my fellow English teacher, that I wouldn’t be staying at the school today to teach with her. I had to take care of too many things that I meant to take care of this morning. Thankfully, Roxy is a trooper and willfully stayed behind while I went back with the others to Antigua.

Christmas was approaching and I had special plans. Months ago, I knew I wanted to spend Christmas on a nice beach. A first for me. I told Katie, Laura, Ellie, Carly, Mark, Valerio, and Marco of my idea and they were all in!

This was going to be one very hot Christmas! 🙂

 

 

Guata Goonies

Semuc Champey?

What the heck is that? A volunteer by the name of Hanni (Australia) invited me out to Semuc with a few of the volunteers from her house. I didn’t really ask her what or where Semuc Champey was, I just wanted to go somewhere for the weekend after spending the past few nights at home. The drive to Semuc would be a little more than nine hours! I got my motion pills ready. Thankfully the roads in this part of the country aren’t too shabby.

After inquiring, I found out that Semuc Champey is one of the most beautifully adventurous places in the country.

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It’s in an area called Lanquin. It’s there where you’ll find scenic mountains surrounding levels of aqua blue pools cascaded by waterfalls. Near these pools and waterfalls was an underground cave filled with black water deep enough to swim in. We were going there and I felt like this is exactly what I needed!

I was picked up in the morning from Maximo, along with Hanni and three other volunteers from her house. The ride to Lanquin was a long one but manageable. We were part of a tour group that made the journey in a minibus filled with close to twenty people from all parts of the globe. We arrived in Lanquin during the nightfall where my group transfered into the back of a Guata style pickup truck and transported to our hostel for the weekend, Hostel Oasis.

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It was more like a bunch of cabinas and bungalows than a typical hostel.

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That night, we enjoyed dinner at the hostels restaurant where I enjoyed a cheeseburger and fries. We woke up that morning where I also enjoyed a cheeseburger and fries for breakfast.

“Typical American,” my group would jokingly say.

Hey, I just went six weeks without any beef! I needed those burgers! And plenty more where that came from. I did the same thing in Thailand where Viola also playfully made fun of my unorthodox eating habits. It’s not an American thing to eat a cheeseburger for breakfast, it’s just me. 🙂

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The first item on our agenda was a short hike up one of the mountains overlooking the pools. It took about 25 minutes before we easily reached the top where we found a deck that poked out beyond the plateau.

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After a few shots, we hiked back down and got into our swimsuits. IMG_7021Into the pools! The pools were completely natural and there were about four of them, each on different levels. The water was cool and felt great with the sun casting down on us. In order to get to the lower level pools, you either had to jump down into them or mudslide down into them. We did both! The slide down was over smooth mossy rocks that have been flattened out from the never ending flow of water. It was great. It was all great!

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Underneath one of the lower pools was a small tiny underpass that we had to carefully poke our heads under and through. One abrupt movement meant hitting your head against the rock walls just inches away. My mild claustrophobia went out the window. I had to try it!

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Me and Hanni!
Me and Hanni!

After splashing around, we went back up the pools and walked back up to the lodge for lunch. I had tostadas y arroz con vegetables. After lunch, we were gathered to hike over to the caves. I’ve been wearing my trusty water shoes all day which are good for moderate hikes and anything related to water. I don’t use them much but when I do need them I’m glad I had them. It’s like being barefoot with grips without the bulkiness of a normal hiking shoe. I wore those and my Under Armour gear for these caves. We were each given a candle to hold. We were told that these caves were pitch-black, deep, and filled with water and even some waterfalls. There would be many parts where we would have to tread water with our candle because the water would be too deep inside. Some of the others were nervous about this, but thankfully none of them backed down and were game for it!

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Instantly, I was reminded of one my favorite movies, The Goonies. I felt like a Goonie, as corny as that sounds. Remember the parts when they were in the caves with the waterfalls? These caves were way beyond my expectations. We were surrounded in total darkness, with only our candlelights to lead the way.

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The water was a lot colder in here and whenever we swam, sometimes we would hit an unexpected rock underneath the eerily black water. We’d have to squeeze through tight crevices in some areas in order to progress and it seemed like the more we progressed, the more difficult the terrain became. Some of the people in our group lost their flame by accidentally sticking their IMG_7047candle underwater. It happened to me a few times actually. At one point, we had the option to go up the natural stairs into another cavern or climb a raging waterfall that bashed on your body into the cavern. I chose the raging waterfall, but it was so dark in there that I could barely get any good photos. I brought my iPhone with a waterproof case inside, which was extremely risky on my part, but I just had to document this. If I dropped the phone or if it fell from my neck, it would have been gone forever. Forever! My GoPro is no good in dark conditions so I left that in Antigua. Some of the others were glad there was someone dumb enough to bring their phone inside these caves to take photos of them as well. I was that guy!

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After about an hour and a half of pure fun in the caves, we made it to the deepest, darkest end of it, seemingly at least. Our guide let us climb a few meters up and cliff jump into the pool of black. Of course, I had to do that too. Hanni was also game! When I jumped in, I let my feet hit the ground. I’d say the pool was about 15 feet deep, more or less. I sat on the floor of it and opened my eyes and saw nothing but black. After a few seconds I floated back up to the top, where the others thought I hit my head on something. “Nope, I was just chilling down there!”

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We went back through the cave the same way we went in. But at this point, our candles only had a couple inches of wax left. If all of our candles were to burn out while we were in the cave, I wouldn’t have minded it actually. What an adventure it would have been to try and get out of the cave in total darkness! As a matter of fact, I tossed my candle a while ago because I was sick of it always losing its flame everytime I went underwater. Worst case scenario, I still had my iPhone flashlight if things got messy.

We exited the caves and marched down back to the lodge. That was one of the funnest things I have ever done! Expectations exceeded. But the day wasn’t over yet, we still had to go tubing down the river.

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We were each giving a tube…some of the smallest tubes I have ever been in. We walked down to the river. At this point, the sun wasn’t shining as bright so it was a bit more chilly than earlier. This fact was even more so evident when I went into the water! The guide had us interlock our legs to a person in front of us.

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We floated outward into the flows. A bird flying high above us may have mistaken us for a giant snake swimming down the river. I was in an awkward position in the tube which was very comfortable to sit in. Most of my tube was underwater the whole time. I don’t think this is right. But still I sat there, leglocked with the other tubers while little local kids tubed near us selling beer. The cold didn’t bother them one bit. Little troopers.

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After a very fun weekend, my group packed our bags and made way back to Antigua. Semuc Champey was just the place I needed to go to after lying in bed sick all  week. I highly recommend it to anyone thinking about it.  We arrived back home during the evening. I saw the lights on in Katie’s room.

“Katie, I’m back!” I shouted as I knocked at her door. The door slowly swung open but it wasn’t Katie. It was a new volunteer who introduced herself as Uma (USA).

“Katie, stepped out for a moment,” she said. “But she told us we should wait for you before we go out for dinner.”

Uma informed me that while I was away for the weekend, that a few new volunteers arrived, which was music to my ears! After Adelah left, the place was starting to get lonely. How do you cap off a great weekend in an awesome place? I expected to just go to sleep when I got back home but instead, I was treated to wine, wine, and delicious food, with new volunteers from all around the world.

Things are off to a great start!