November 21, 2015
These are my last few days in Guatemala. Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve met countless amazing people, seen some of the most jaw-dropping scenery, and tasted delicious and authentic food. The most rewarding part of my time here was volunteering at Casa Aleluya, which is an orphanage/children’s home/school/hospital and so much more. I will write more about my experience there in the next post. But first, I want to highlight some of the amazing people I met while living here.
Eduardo, his niece Claudia, and her son Diego brought me into their home and made me a part of their family. The food was great and very authentic. It was great to hear about their experience hosting students and volunteers and also sharing my past. Eduardo has a Chinese background as well!
Sam [therealSamanthaFox or notTHATsamanthafox] showed me the ropes around Antigua and called me out for not having cojones. I’m just trying to not get mugged in the first month. She might go to bed at 8 pm every night, like my grandma, but she’s not one to be messed around with.
Through Sam, I met Liv and Amanda. Together we formed a band of bracelet-toting lake dwellers, boxed wine aficionados, guacamole/french fry seekers, and all-around happy degenerates.
We met Joanna and Laurent at the Maya Moon Lodge on Lago Atitlan. I can say they are the greatest symbol of love, life, food, and perseverance. They met, fell in love, traveled the world through the most difficult trials and tribulations (hitchhiking through Patagonia) in some of the most unexpected conditions. We were fortunate enough to celebrate Laurent’s birthday during our weekend. Joanna, who went to culinary school, taught us how to make profiteroles, Laurent’s favorite. Now they are on the verge of matrimony and starting their own piece of paradise in Colombia!
Teacher of the Year
I had 3 Spanish teachers over a span of 3 weeks. Even though I learned plenty from the professional teachers, I learned the most from Gladys, my language exchange partner. She is a native Guatemalteca studying English. We talked about our lives, interests, commonalities, and differences. She showed me around Antigua and helped me purchase gifts for my host family. We shared stories about friends, family, and aspirations, as well as our love for punk rock [in both English and Español].
I met Peter and Maggie at salsa class. Peter and I awkwardly uno, dos, tres, paused our way through 2 hours of dance lessons. Maggie was a lot better. Peter is moving to Chicago from NYC [hang out with Peter Chicago friends], I’m considering a move to Austin, and Maggie lives in Austin! I can only assume that Maggie is moving to the Northeast in the near future. Oh and Tyler is another UVA bro. He was there too.
Hugo and Aoife (no idea how to spell their real Irish names) were on the same 12-hour bus to Flores. We are currently on opposite ends of year-long travels. They helped me haggle and research the best price for Tikal and transportation. They provided some invaluable tips about traveling through Central and South America. They even have their own travel blog (twohungrybackpackers.com)! Follow them; there are some great tips and stories from Central and South America. Anyways as soon as I get a few hours alone in Flores, I get ripped off. You live; you learn.
The Chicken Bus
This was my mode of transportation every day to the orphanage. They are all over Central America. You can literally get anywhere you want. They are converted school buses all tricked out. The seats are meant to sit 3 with aisles the width of a baby carrot. The attendants that take the fares are fearless. They would jump out the back, traverse the racks above and hop in the front door all while the bus is going 50 mph up and down a curvy mountain road. Don’t let the picture below deceive you. They will fit at least 20 more people standing in the aisles.