Cockroaches, Volcanoes, Lakes, Devils and Chocolate!

ImageA lot has happened in the past 2 weeks – some good, some bad. Last Saturday, the 1st, I went out with the girls (Manon and Marie). We went to go see Gustalvo play at Cafe No Se and on our way we stopped at bar that had a 2-for-1 margarita special. In the middle of our first drink a group of Guatemalan natives decided to take it upon themselves to introduce us to some amazing cultural drinks. The first one was Rosa de Jamaica – which is an alcoholic drink derived from hibiscus flowers. It was okay. I wasn’t a huge fan, but it seems to be really popular down here. The other drink we were introduced to was La Cucaracha (the cockroach), which was a Kahlua and Patron shot that is lit on fire and sipped through a straw. I really liked that one! A couple of margaritas later we stumbled into Cafe No Se. It was getting late and Marie and I had a shuttle to catch at 6:00 a.m the next day to hike up Volcan de Pacaya. We watched Gustalvo play a few songs and head home.

ImageAfter sleeping for 4 hours, I woke up and got ready for my hiking trip. I felt a little bit nauseous but I assumed it was because I was hungry.  I tried to eat something but could only take a few bites of my peanut butter sandwich. One hour into our drive to the volcano my nausea started to get worse and I threw up at our bathroom stop! I realized then that I was having another episode of acid reflux from drinking the night before. My luck to develop acid reflux one-month before my trip. Anyway, we continued with our drive and arrived at the volcano. I was feeling a little better until we started our 4km hike up the steepest mountain ever to the volcano. Of course, strenuous exercise aggravates acid reflux and after another episode of throwing up I decided I should probably ride a horse the rest of the way up for the sake of my stomach – so that’s what I did. I was in awe once we reached the top of the mountain and started exploring the volcano! It was breathtaking! I was okay for the rest of the hike and took the opportunity to embrace this magnificent natural landmark. From Pacaya I was able to see three other volcanoes; agua, fuego and acetenanga. I couldn’t help but to think how lucky I was to be able to have this opportunity. We roasted some marshmellows from the natural of this active volcano and head back down! Once I got on the shuttle, my stomach started to bother me again and for the next 4 days.

ImageI started Spanish class the next day and my stomach began to have another problem – of course, Montezuma’s revenge! But fortunately…in the most minor form (yes, I am publicizing this). When I arrived in Guatemala I decided that I was going use the sink water to brush my teeth and eat everything I wanted to because I wanted to really immerse myself into the culture and not create barriers because of bacteria, pfffffffft. I have a relatively strong stomach so I figured the bacteria wouldn’t get me sick because I’ve never been sick in other foreign countries. Unfortunately, acid reflux reduces the stomachs ability to fight off bacteria so I was dealing with more than one problem! I took it easy until Thursday with a lot of rest, bread, water and Spanish homework. By Friday, I felt like myself again! I was so thankful to be staying with a host-family during this time. I definitely won’t be doing much drinking on this trip (booo).

ImageImageFriday – Friday was amazing! Friday, the 7th, was Quema del Diablo (the burning of the devil). The celebration used to be popular among all of Guatemala but many activists have protested against it because of the pollution caused by burning paper-mache devils. Fortunately, Antigua still celebrates this holiday!  Jenna and I, my new roommate, came early enough to have front row seats to the show! They spent 10 minutes dousing the devil in gasoline and then BOOM! He was set ablaze along with some fireworks – WOW!! I ducked to prevent being lit on fire and looked around to see all the excitement in the people around me. I am not sure about the exact significance of the holiday, but I know that it is religious and the gist of it is that the burning signifies a way to rid people of all bad things for the upcoming year.

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This past week I went to Lago Atitlan  via Panajachel and stayed in San Pedro. I loved Panajachel. It was a beautiful town filled with intricate and vibrant textiles. I really wish I had more than just a backpack to buy these beautiful handmade artisan crafts. Anywho, we stayed in San Pedro for some rest and relaxation. I wasn’t a fan of the village – it was mainly hippies (REAL hippies), who chose to live there and sell goods. I didn’t like that they were competing with the native Guatemalans.
We soaked in the “thermal baths” (it was really just hot water poured into an outdoor tub) and went to bed early that night. The next day….I went PARAGLIDING! We took a boat back to Panajachel on Sunday, had a 30-min drive up the mountain, jumped off the cliff and flew over the BEAUTIFUL lake of Atitlan surrounded by 4 volcanoes! It was the most amazing experience I have had and something I will never forget. I didn’t take my camera with me but my instructor took photos with his phone. I am still waiting on those but will definitely post once I receive them!!

ImageThis past weekend has been pretty uneventful. It is my last week in Antigua and my last week of Spanish class! My Spanish has severely improved. I can have a conversation with people now! It’s pretty awesome, though I still have a lot (a lot) of work to do before becoming fluent. Not much else has happened except for taking a chocolate making class at the chocolate museum! That was yet another unforgettable experience! I learned about and did everything chocolate! Chocolate tea, Maya chocolate milk, roasting cacao seeds, breaking open cacao seeds, making cacao paste and making my own chocolates! It was an exciting and tasty experience 😉

 

What I have loosely planned next:

Tomorrow I will be heading to Lanquin to see what is known as “the 8th wonder of the world!” in Semuc Champey National Park. There are a series of stepped, turquoise pools flowing through the mountains and caves to swim through to get there! There won’t be any internet there so I will have to post pictures later. After about 3 nights in Lanquin I will head to Coban, check out the coffee plantations and then go to Rio Dulce. Rio Dulce is a very, very isolated place in the jungle. I have to take a boat just to get to my hostel! I’m gonna spend a few days there with the howler monkeys, do some reading and sun bathe. After a few days of relaxing, I will be on to Flores to check out the Maya Ruins in Tikal (which is supposed to be like the Machu Picchu of Central America). I am super excited!!

I am so thankful for having this opportunity.

I feel so lucky.

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