I left you in Phoenix, Arizona at Christmas time. We had a good time in Arizona, but the first week we were there I wanted to go back to Guatemala, because it was colder in Phoenix than here. I had one long-sleeved flannel shirt, and wore it for a week straight until it warmed up a bit. Also, it was a bit strange being back in the U. S. but still encountering Spanish being spoken. But the thing was, it didn't sound right, and the people didn't look "right". It wasn't until we got back to the Houston airport waiting to board the plane for Guatemala that the sounds and sights were "right".
Rhinos in the Sun
Ooh, That Looks Tasty!
Back in Guatemala, school resumed for Debby, and in addition to starting an after-school beginning band, she is the music director for the middle-school musical which is to be this next weekend. They are doing a reduced version of "Guys and Dolls", and she has been coming home exhausted at 5:45 every night (after leaving at 6:20 and teaching all day).
I started Level 1 of Spanish, with the same teacher I had for Basico, and the two Russian ladies. Then we added two sisters from Syria (married to two brothers), then a Philipina married to a Finnish guy, and lastly a Californian married to a Guatemalteco. She is also taking Basico the previous two hours, and started with no Spanish (a glutton for punishment)! We have some interesting conversations! I am the "thorn among the roses," or as they say in Guatemala, "a blessing among the women" (I'm not making this up; my teacher told us that when I referred to myself as "una espina entre las rosas"). I'm not tutoring any more; due to a drop in attendance at Maya, the Reading Specialist needed more work so is helping Fernando.
Saturday the 26th of January I had a choice of climbing Volcan Agua near Antigua with the church youth group or going somewhere with my wife for the weekend. As it was also her birthday, you KNOW which I chose! This was our "big adventure" for this episode. I'm going to let her tell you about it in her own words, with a few of mine in [brackets].
How I Spent My Birthday. (Does this sound like "How I Spent My Summer Vacation"?)
Never in a million years would I have imagined spending my birthday (end of January, dead of winter, cold, wet, gloomy) like this: in my swim suit(!), lying in a hammock, at a Pacific Ocean beach.
We took a shuttle from Guate [abbreviation for Guatemala City] to Antigua at 6:00 am. [This is the hub for a lot of tours.] Then caught the shuttle going to Monterrico. [We drove around Antigua for a half hour, picking up people.] 13 people going for the day, weekend or longer. Canadians, French, Swiss, Germans, and us of course. Quite an international mix.
Coming down off the highlands the temperature starts warming up a little. We travel between 3 volcanoes, one of which (Fuego - which means fire - the most active) had a lava flow the night before which was seen from Antigua. The bridge is washed out so we have to take a 2 mile detour to ford the river between fields of sugar cane. Then back onto the main highway. We can also see the volcano Pacaya which smokes almost all the time. The wind is blowing the plume of smoke right down the side of the mountain into the valley toward us as we pass. It's pretty smoky.
We also pass a couple of fishermen standing up poling their boat, dragging a round net on a string and pulling up something edible. We're too far away to tell what it is.
When we reach Monterrico, the end of the line, we get off and head for the beach. The street has sidewalks but it's a very sleepy place. As we're walking various people call out "Hotel?" But no one stops. We're all heading for the beach. The road runs right into the beach. Black volcanic sand - it's HOT!
We turn left and stop at the first hotel we come to, Johnny's Place. It's a little tricky making reservations ahead of time since there are no phone lines. There are cell phones now but not every place has one. Some places have a Guatemala City number you can call to make reservations. The first two places we tried to call were full, the the second one said to just come on down, the beach isn't full. Johnny's just has bungalows with 2 rooms for 4 or so and tells us to try farther down the beach. The next place, Kaiman, has a room with 2 [single] beds for $15 a night. We take it. It's too hot to walk any farther. We ask if the mosquito netting over the beds is really necessary and are told there are lots of mosquitoes at night.
After paying we jump into the shower. The water is hot at first but then cools down to a more comfortable temperature; there's only one faucet. The water is stored in a large black plastic barrel up on the roof. There is a generator that we can hear running off and on throughout the day. We finally figure out it must run a pump to get the water up to the water tanks.
We head back up to the hotels and decide on Johnny's place for lunch. I love watermelon licuados, like a smoothy. We have chips made from Guatemalan tortillas (those will fill you up), guacamol, black beans, chirmol (salsa without the peppers) and shrimp ceviche. Then it's nap time.
Most of the rest of the weekend is spent just lying around and relaxing.
Go, Little Fellow...
...Gone into the Wave!
As you go down the path that leads away from the beach and the tortuguero, we pass by a man making fishing nets by hand. They're for sale. He must have a hundred stacked up. We then come to iguanas in enclosures sunning themselves [these are also being raised for release], and a very small museum with specimen jars labeled and some weathered posters telling about the endangered species in the area. [Due to a mishap involving my camera and a wave, I didn't get any pictures of these animals.]
Farther along the path is another enclosure with caimans (think alligator). The first space has maybe a hundred babies about a foot long. The next has larger ones, maybe three feet in length. They are so still they look like stone statues except that you can see their tongues move as they breathe. The next tank has really big guys. Six feet long, piled one on top of the other. When they are still, they don't look real. Then one decides he needs to cool off and heads for the pond. After he's in, he looks like a submerged log with just a little of his head showing. The color difference is interesting, gray stone when they're dry, and muddy-log brown when wet.
At night the breeze dies down and the temperature is quite warm but we need to wear more clothes because of the mosquitoes. We each got only one bite. Night life is pretty laid back and I'm in bed by shortly after 8:00 pm. I'm still recovering from the increased schedule at school with starting both Beginning Band and the Middle School musical last week.
The guy next door has his headphones on and is "singing" along with a CD. Pretty bad. [He apologized when he found out there was anybody listening.] The walls only go up to about seven feet. The windows are lattice-style concrete blocks. The ceiling is just chain link fencing. The roof is thatched with palm branches. Air flow is real important around here.
When it's time for the shuttle home we wander around town looking for the language school which is the meeting place. The streets are all black sand. Pretty hard to walk in but a little easier than the beach. After wandering around in circles for a while (missed the sign, it was facing the other way) we make it to the pickup point and are told it will be another hour. So we sack out in the hammocks. Every house has at least one hammock out in front.
After only half an hour a van stops by with two empty seats. We take them. Remember that 4K boat ride? This time we stay on this side of the river and go back to across from the original drop-off point and just take a ferry across.
Most of the group are French Canadians. There are a couple of Swiss. They're all talking in French. But after listening to them for a while I'm starting to understand some of what they say. They're all studying Spanish in Antigua for a month or so. I can answer some of their questions. Is gas sold by the gallon or liter? (Gallon.) Which volcano is that? (Pacaya.) What is that plant? (Sugar cane.) They think I speak French! Nope, There are just a lot of cognates between Spanish and French [and English].
As birthdays go, number 45 will by pretty memorable.
Well, that's about it for this time; stay tuned for the next exciting episode of Ron's Guatemala Adventures when we hear Sam ask Gloria... Oh, sorry, wrong program.