Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Guatemala: Sunday - Thursday!!!

Hey Everybody!!!!!

So I have now been in Guatemala for a week! In addition, I have loved almost everyday I have been here!! I know this is my first update since getting here but the Internet is not so great so I have not been able to post. In addition in order to use the Internet I have to purchase something at a Cafe or restaurant. So please bear with me I am trying as hard as I can to post and take wonderful pictures!

Currently there has been a lot going on in Guatemala alone. There was a Volcano eruption in which a reporter was found dead and protecting the camera, which he was filming from, three children have also gone missing and there is said to be a cyclone headed here.

The Pacaya volcano was an attraction we were going to visit on our third weekend here but because of the eruption we will not be able to climb it or do any activity in relation to it. Danny and I along with other students in our group are thinking of going to the location of the volcano and help with the cleaning and reconstruction of people's homes. We also want to interview the people who live in that area because we think it would be a great way to make a short documentary. We were also not able to go to Lake Atitlán and look for Maximon, saint that is part saint and part devil! It is a bit scary especially after talking to our host family. They say there is another Maximon in Iztapa and that it is all related to black magic. So we are thinking of going to Iztapa as well with our host family and doing some filming there, but now I am getting ahead of myself.

I will first talk about my experience day by day so this will be a looong blog because so many exciting things have happened!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010!!

Figure 1 The Group at Cafe Barista, there are more people but these are the ones we found on Sunday! Michelle is also here but she did not fit in the picture!

This was our first actual day in Guatemala, and Danny and I ended up going down to Parque Central (central park) and we went to a bank to exchange our money. Right after we exited the bank people selling things ambushed us. The problem with all of this was that we were jipped because we re chums or chumps like Danny likes to say. I was unable to say no to people because they told me many different sad stories, little did I know this was just a sales tactic. It was especially hard to say no to children! It was interested to get a glimpse of how the people, especially, the vendors viewed me. When I would tell them I had no money they would just tell me to go get more in the bank, they actually thought that I had tons of money just because I came from the USA. It was quite shocking because I am on this trip thanks to the generosity and help of many people. It was through a scholarship that I was able to make the trip, and so I have very little spending money. So for me to come from a background such as this, and for them to think I am a millionaire and just greedy with my money it sort of hurt my feelings a little bit. I even had a little girl get angry with me because I would not buy anything from her. We also had people follow us to restaurants and just stand outside. We were especially followed because Danny, is White with blue eyes, blondish hair, and that automatically to them says tourist who is rich, even though that may not be true.

Figure 2 This is one of the little girls who was selling items on the street.

All of the different vendors had a different story and it seemed that each one was sadder than the one before.The saddest story I heard was the lady who told me that she was a widow and had 13 children. She told me if she did not sell anything she would not be able to send her children to school. This especially hit home with me because I am a firm believer in the importance of education. So after speaking with her I bought a necklace and a matching bracelet for 120Quetzales, and while I know that she may have lied to me, I really do hope that she uses that money to send her children to school.

Figure 3 This is the necklace I bought from that lady and I also purchased a matching bracelet.

I was unable to keep the necklace though! When we got to La Merced one of the cathedrals in Antigua, we came across a little girl, who tried to sell us scarves. We were all in a half circle and we started talking to her. We asked her how old she was, 8, and then many other questions. She was a very charismatic little girl with the ability to make a killer sad face. She made a joke that while I may not have money Danny did because he was white. After talking to her for a while longer and her begging us to please buy something I just gave her my necklace and ran, because I had nothing more to give her, and she made me really sad, and she reminded me of my younger sister Victoria! Seeing her also made think about how lucky I was, because while my parents were not able to give my sisters and I everything we ever wanted they still were able to provide us with enough s that we never had to go out into the street and work. Now that I think about it, my father especially tried to keep me from working for as long as he could. After I ran away the people I was with laughed at me and were shocked at what I had just done. They also decided they needed to build a shield around me before I took off my clothes and gave them away! Hahaha this just made me giggle and feel much better.

Figure 4 La Merced Cathedral

After the Merced we headed back to el parque central were we had some time t kill because we were going to meet Dr. Golsan at 3PM for a tour of Antigua. Before we headed off to the park we went over to MonoLoco a popular restaurant/bar! We met more people from our group there. In the end Danny and I were not hungry so we left for the park and watched a presentation that was going on for Escuelas Abiertas, Open Schools. This is a program that opens a school on the weekend for kids and it’s a free program, the difference from a regular school is that this one has more of fun subjects that the students might be interested in such as dance, karate, music, sports and other subjects.

Figure 5 One of the music programs by Escuelas Abiertas

Figure 6 Little Kids Jumping Rope as one of the Programs put on by Escuelas Abiertas

Figure 7 This is Ms. Antigua, she was wearing ALOT of makeup

Soon after watching some of the music and dance presentations we met with the whole group and Dr. Golsan by a fountain that was very interesting. It had women on the side of it covering their breasts and then water came out, please refer to the picture below.

After we made sure everyone was present Dr. Golsan introduced us to Sergio who would be out guide and would be taking us on a tour around Antigua, I was a little disappointed when he did not walk backwards =).

Sergio, told us a lot about the history of Antigua and how it once used to be the capital of Guatemala but after the earthquake the capital moved over to Guatemala City. In addition he showed us the cathedral and he explained to us a little of the history. One of the many interesting things I learned was that what the cathedral is now is not what it used to be before it is actually much bigger, however, they only rebuilt a small portion of it.

Figure 8 Ruins of the Catedral

Figure 9 These are the archetectural floor plans of the original Catedral along with a photograph!!

Figure 10 This is our guide Sergio in front of some ruins

Figure 11 This is a place of reflection where there is a statue of Jesus Christ & other saints

This little cave like thing was underneath the ground and was very small and narrow. There are nine steps, which are related to the Mayan calendar. In addition at the moment there were two men down there smoking huge cigars and one of them even peed in front of Jesus! Our tour guide Sergio explained a little bit about how this place is usually a place of reflection and a way to feel more connected with Christ and what those men did and were doing was not appropriate and was related with black magic. Another amazing thing that I learned about was that soon the Mayan people would be able to make use of the ruins so that they could be more in touch with their Mayan ancestry.

Figure 12 There we aot of different places were flowers were growing!

Figure 13 Will, Myself & the Giant Leaves!

During the tour around the Catedral we came across these giant leaves and I was fascinated by them because I had never seen leaves so BIG!!! I am pictured above with not just the leaves but Will, who now goes by Guillermo, he a student at Chico State whose father works at Pacific and who came on the trip with the Pacific Group! In addition he is very old school he did not have a digital camera but a disposable one!!

Figure 14 More Ruins

Figure 15 I found my name, well part of it already carved on a brick of the ruins!

Figure 16 Danny on the steps that lead down to the other Sanctuary rooms!

Figure 17 Me underneath another Sanctuary

Figure 18 I am not sure what this says but there was another plate similar to this and that told of who was buried under the cathedral!

Figure 19 Inside La Merced

The next stop on our tour was to La Merced which is a cathedral some of us had already visited. During this stop we learned about the different customs in Antigua. Tomorrow (Sunday) I will be attending mass at 7PM in this place.

Figure 20 Another Cathedral this one is not open yet

After visiting La Merced we stopped by another cathedral, this one however is not open. Also if you look closely you can see that some of the statues are missing body parts and this is because of different symbolic meanings.

After looking at three different Cathedrals we all needed a change of scenery and so Sergio took us to La Casa de Jade, House of Jade. In Guatemala Jade is very important and in the Mayan Culture it is especially important. The Mayans used to love jade and it was to them a symbol of life and closely related to nature. In the house of jade we also learned that there is green jade, imperial jade which is the darker green, black jade and recently found orange jade. If we wanted to purchase anything we could and we would receive a 10% discount! I did not purchase anything because everything was so expensive!

Figure 21 The Entryway has this beautiful sign!

Figure 22 That small line of green is imperial jade, and it is hard to extract. A bracelet made of imperial jade can be worth up to and more than 12,000.00$US

Figure 23 This was outside of the house of Jade and I couldn't resists the temptation to climb inside it!

Figure 24 After the house of Jade, we all headed over to Dr. Golsan's apartment for dinner! It was very cozy!

After dinner with Dr. Golsan we all headed home, we were very exhausted even though it was only 7:30PM (6:30PM USA) time because we all got up early to explore. We also all wanted to rest because we had classes at 8AM the next day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

This was the first day of classes, and thanks to the millions of birds and roosters I was able to wake up at 5:30AM. During this time we were staying at Doña Delia’s house, but due to her lack of communication with Danny and I we were placed in another home. Part of the program is that the host families speak with the students and have daily interaction. However, meals for Danny and I, were very awkward because no one said anything at all. So after speaking with Dr. Golsan on Tuesday we were able to switch homes. But back to my first day of school, it was great I met my teacher her name is Aurora and she is very intelligent and personable!! She cares for me a lot as well, and the first day of classes all we did was talk and get to know each other. The School I am attending in Antigua is called, Proyecto Lingüístico Francisco Marroquín! Everyone in the school is very nice and friendly. I also like our school schedule a lot. We start at 8AM and go until 10AM when we have a thirty-minute break. Then we go from 10:30AM to 12:00PM. At 12PM we have a 2-hour break to go have lunch and hang out as well. At 2PM we return to class and go on until 4:30PM. On Wednesdays at 4:30PM we have salsa classes if we want to attend. Everyday is the same except for Fridays, because on Friday students in the Spanish 27 class have a presentation so what happens is that we all have a test and then at 10:30AM the Spanish 27 class presents, and this goes until 12PM and after we all head home and when we return back at 2PM we go on a trip. One final thing that was done on Monday was that we went to a store to buy a cell phone. At first I did not want to get a cell phone but Dr. Golsan said that we would really be needing it specially if I was going to stay for the volunteer week I would definitely need it so I got a cell phone. Right In front of the cell phone place there was a McDonald’s so Danny and I decided to go and explore. The McDonald’s is one of the nicest I have ever seen, actually the nicest. It has an inside and an outside and when you sit outside you actually have a view of the volcano, I tried to get a picture but because of the flash and all of the fog you are not able to see it.

Figure 25 Shot from my room towards the small garden and in front the kitchen of Doña Delia's house.

Figure 26 Michelle & I, during the break at school! We get free tea, Water & coffee at the school, the cubicles behind us are the classrooms.

Figure 27 My classroom is numero treinta y cuatro!

Figure 28 Students can also leave their classroom and move to places like this to have class!

Figure 29 The initials of my school are made up by plants!

Figure 30 This is a calendar with all of the activities we will be doing during our time in Guatemala!

Figure 31 In front of the store where we bought cell phones there was a McDonald's! I tried to get a picture of the Volcano but it did not work!

Figure 32 The McDonald's has an inside and outside where you can eat, we chose outside and this fountain was out there

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday the day was the same as before except that we moved out of Doña Delia’s house. Danny and I spoke with some of the people on our trip on how it was going with their families, when all of them spoke of how much they loved their family and how much they talked to everyone in their family we were a little upset and jealous that our family did not talk to us. So on Tuesday, we both talked with our teachers and then with the people at the school about how we did not feel comfortable in our home and how no one talked to us. Doña Delia is an old woman who was never married and never had any children and so she likes to keep to herself and her brother with whom she lives with never says much of anything. It was a bit sad and upsetting to have to leave her home and awkward as well, but in the end we were glad we did it. The family that we are staying with now is nice to us and they talk a lot. It is a mom, dad, two sons one 19 one 12 and a grandma. The dad Luis always talks to us at dinnertime and Josue the 12 year old is talking to us more each day. Dora always talks to us as well but she is busy an awful lot, she not only works but she is also always doing housework. The grandma, Doña Elena, is a widow and her husband died 2 months ago. In Guatemala it is a custom for the widow to wear black for 1-3 years, however long she sees fit but never less than 6 months. Doña Maria Elena is also the one who makes our breakfast in the morning but she is always trying to keep busy because she does not like to think about her recent loss because it makes her too sad and upset. My favorite part is definitely dinnertime because I always learn something new about Guatemala and Antigua.

Figure 33 Table were we have out meals & stairs that lead up to our rooms

Figure 34 The house has like a whole in the middle to let the sun and rain in!

Figure 35 View from the roof of the home into the second floor! The first window (L-R) is to my room, the second is Danny's room, and the door is the bathroom! Our house is modern and so we have hot water!!

Figure 36 Living Room

Once we were done with classes on Tuesday we walked over to a travel agency to pay for our Tikal trip next weekend. It was a little chaotic because everyone wanted to be first so they could go home. In addition some people did not have enough money in their traveler’s checks so it was a bit of chaos.

Later that night after dinner, we went out with a couple of people from our group to MonoLoco because it was ladies night and so the ladies got drinks and food at a discounted rate. We were there until about 10PM and then we all headed home. One of the things I enjoy most about this trip is how we all did not really know each other before but we get along so well and are always making sure people are okay. I have honestly made some great friends on this trip. After MonoLoco Danny and I ended up walking home alone and it was our first time walking alone home at night so we were a little freaked out. However, we made it home safe and sound.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wednesday was not a good day for me; I woke up with hives and a terrible stomachache. I did not have the strength to get out of bed and when I finally managed to make it downstairs for breakfast I tipped my bowl of cereal over. It was once I had milk all over my clothes and I threw up that I decided not to go to school until after our 10 o’clock break and only if I felt better. I managed to make it to school that day but I did not feel good I would get cramps on and off.

After a while my teacher said I should just walk with her, and so we walked to the travel agency to get a receipt for my Tikal trip. When I got there I was told that my traveler’s checks and several others did not go through because my signatures were not exactly alike. Therefore, I could either pay for the Tikal trip some other way or I could go cash in the checks. I tried to go to some of the banks and ask them if I could exchange my traveler’s checks there but because I had already signed twice they would refuse to take them. I went back to school a little upset because some banks even when I showed them my passport said that was not me and that the checks were stolen or something. After talking to Dr. Golsan, she recommended that we wait and she went on to talk to the school. It was resolved that the next day we would go to the school’s bank and they would let us cash our checks as long as we brought our passport with us.

Our first salsa class was at 4:30PM but because I did not feel good I was unable to participate.

I felt extremely sick on Wednesday but I did not tell anyone except for Danny and some of the people on the trip because I did not want to have to give a sample and fid out I had amebas.

This night I went to bed crying because I had horrible stomach pain and I wanted to go home.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

On Thursday, I finally gave in told my teacher all about my pain and had to give a poop sample so that the laboratory in front of the school could analyze it and determine what was wrong with me. It would take an hour after I provided the sample for them to give me my results.

During the break I went to the bank with Dr. Golsan and Nora, who works for the school and has helped Dr. Golsan out since the beginning of the Immersion program. I finally exchanged my money and felt a little scared to be walking around Antigua, with 2,000+ quetzals in my pocket. We also found out on this day that the bank did not refuse our checks but it was the travel agency who refused them fearing that the bank would not accept them. They even rejected Dr. Golsan’s checks. We were all upset that the agency had lied to us and had made us go through all these different obstacles, it was even more upsetting when we found out we would have to pay $15 more.

At 2PM I found out that not only did I have amebas but also had and still have an intestinal infection. I was extremely upset when I found this out because I had been so careful. I had not eaten anything off the street and I had only drunk bottled water when I was out. My teacher and Christina’s teacher took me to the pharmacy where I got medicine for the amebas and for the infection. The process would be that I needed to take a capsule for three days to kill the amebas, I would take on every 12 hours and this would kills the amebas and I would start to feel better. The medicine for the infection was a 5-day treatment, 1 capsule every 12 hours as well. My stomach was killing me at this point and I just cried and wanted to go home. I called my mom and dad and spoke to them. They both told me that I just needed to stick it out, I was already there and I was an adult I was not going to die, and once this was over I would be fine.

I went to bed at 8PM on Thursday so I did not watch the news about the volcano eruption, I did not find out about it until Friday and by that time the reporter was already dead.

Stay Tuned More to come tonight!!! Hopefully Internet is good in whichever cafe we go to!!! Sorry it is soo late but Internet does not work well here I have been trying since Sunday!!!



  1. I'm happy to hear that you're having a great time in Guatemala. I'm more excited to hear that you're safe. I heard about the eruption and thought of both you and Danny. Have fun out there for me!

  2. I remember from my extended travels, especially a summer I spent alone in Munich while in college, that sometimes you will feel out of sorts or even very sick. A long period of time will not be without such times. And it's frustrating to think that you are doing everything you're supposed to do in terms of eating properly. But you'll get beyond this and, once you feel healthy, you'll feel so incredibly good that the greens of nature will look greener and the sky will look even more beautiful blue. This is a rare and wonderful opportunity. Enjoy every day, especially as you get healthy!