Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Guatemala City

Just to start...here are some pics from San Pedro!

Guatemala City - 7/26/10
I had some interesting luck after having my detour to Antigua. First, I was the only passenger in the minivan shuttle that left Antigua at 3:00pm. So, I had lots of space and a comfortable ride to Guatemala City instead of being crammed into a much smaller van with 15 other people. Second, the driver of the 3:00 van was the same guy that drove our group to Lago de Atitlan and Chichicastenango my first weekend in Guatemala. He is a very friendly guy named Lester. Andrea and I had a lot of fun chatting with him on our trip to Lago de Atitlan but at the end of the trip we didn’t get any of his contact information and weren’t ever able to hang out again while in Antigua. So, the fact that I had to wait in Antigua a few extra hours proved to be a really great thing. Not only did I have more time to check e-mail for the last time and a much more comfortable ride to Guatemala City, but I also got to connect with Lester again and this time we exchanged information. It was a very fortunate layover and I can’t say that about many layovers.

Guatemala City has been interesting. When I arrived at the Mira Flores Shopping Center, I had to call Chusita and her daughter to find out where they were. They told me they were at La Crepe and that sounded pretty easy to get to so I told them I’d meet them there. However, after following a sign that pointed me in the direction of La Crepe, I walked quite a distance and didn’t see this mythical restaurant or any other signs which would have lead me to believe I was going in the right direction. So, I asked a few people that I thought would know where this place was and both pointed me back in the direction I had come from. I figured if two people were telling me to go the same way, maybe the sign was wrong. I should have known better. Turns out that I just didn’t walk quite far enough. Had I turned the corner that was another 100 feet from where I decided to turn around, I would have realized I was going in the right direction. However, my big backpack and my little backpack were getting kind of heavy and I wanted to find somewhere to set them down so that I could give my muscles a little break. So, I plopped my small backpack on the ground by my feet and called Chusita again to tell them that I couldn’t find La Crepe. Eventually we worked it out that they would come find me. After successfully meeting up with them, we dropped my bags in the car and headed back into the mall to go to a Mayan artifact museum that is near the mall. It was really quite interesting and informative. I only say the informative part because all of the passages next to the displays were in both English and Spanish. I probably would only have understood one half or two thirds of the information had I only been allowed to read the Spanish part. I probably would have taken a few photos too but didn’t have my camera with me at the time. The museum was all about the Mira Flores Lake that used to be located at the same place as the museum and mall. The exhibits told the story of the community that existed so long ago as well as how a large team of scientists uncovered some of the ruins.

After the museum, we headed back to the car to go to a different shopping center where we would be meeting up with Chusita’s son and his family. However, en route to the car, I spotted a Zara and of course, they were having a huge sale. So, we went into the store and I leafed through a few racks before finding a really great summer dress that was on sale for Q79, which ends up being about $10. Pretty good deal if you ask me! Knowing I had a bit of money to burn, I decided to buy it. I hadn’t really bought much for myself yet except food and travel plus it is a very lightweight dress that will compact easily into my backpack. I told myself the exact same thing at the next mall when I found a really cute shirt and leggings that were also on sale. After I had sufficiently satisfied my retail cravings, we met up with Chusita’s son and his family and then we all headed back to their neighborhood, which is about 20 minutes south of the city when there is no traffic. Chusita and her daughter live in one house and her son and his family live about three blocks away. We had a bit of dinner and then chatted a bit around the table. This made me realize that it takes a few days to get used to how people speak before I start to really understand what they are saying. I purposely didn’t tell them to slow down a whole lot because I wanted to see if I could understand them when they were speaking at their normal pace. I have to admit that I didn’t catch a whole lot of the conversation but I got the general drift when they started talking about Andres, Chusita’s grandson, and his karate lessons. Now, after having spent a few days with them, I am starting to pick up much more even when they are speaking their normal speed.

Sunday was pretty chill. I just hung out at their house in the morning and afternoon, reading my chick-lit novel, Last Chance Saloon, from the used bookstore in San Pedro. We had a late afternoon meal of grilled beef, guacamole, rice and bean soup, tortillas and of course a little bit of cake after the meal. I continued to read more after everyone scattered when we finished eating and ended up finishing my book, a little over 48 hours since I started reading it. It was exactly the book I was looking for and was pretty entertaining for a no-brainer book. Thinking back to the beginning of the summer, I can’t really believe I’ve read four books in a little more than two months. I still have one left on my nightstand at home that I need to finish. We’ll see how many I can squeeze in before school starts on August 23rd. Although, I might not have a ton of time because I know I’m going to be catching up on so many errands and tons of SHARING stuff. Kind of daunting…but right now I’m still on vacation.

Today, we woke up really early to get into the city in time for Chusita’s daughter to get to work by 8:30. We left the house at 6:30 and were in bumper-to-bumper traffic headed into the city the entire way. At one point, the entire highway had turned into a one-way highway into the city. It was very amusing. The traffic police had completely stopped the cars and motorcycles that wanted to head out of town. Who knows how long they had to wait to leave the city. Being a passenger here, in both the city and in the country, makes me really appreciate the highway system in the US. I’m sure I’d be able to hold my own and drive here if I had to, but it is definitely not something I would choose to do. After finally reaching the city, Chusita and I went to the Palacio Nacional, the main government building of Guatemala. It was quite spectacular and we even had a guide that explained a lot about the building and the different rooms that she showed us. One point that I found particularly interesting was that the president, who initiated the construction of the Palacio, had his fingerprint imprinted on every single door handle in the building. Talk about a big ego or, at least, wanting to leave a lasting impression. This is also where I started taking a few photos…

Palacio Nacional in Guatemala City

Inner courtyard of the Palacio Nacional

Door handle with the thumb print of the former Guatemalan president who commissioned the construction of the Palacio Nacional building.

Amazing stained glass windows in the Palacio Nacional

Presidental Reception Hall in the Palacio Nacional

After leaving the Palacio Nacional, we went to the Mercado Central, and like many other markets in Guatemala, it was filled with artisan crafts and tourist trinkets. However, this market also had more than just one level and the other levels housed food markets as well as booths that were making food on the spot. Had I been on my own in Guatemala City, I probably would have planned to visit this market during the lunch hour so that I could have sampled some of the local fare. However, I wasn’t that hungry and I was also meeting up with a former student, who now lives in Guatemala City with her family. So, I didn’t really have a ton of time to wander around the market. Maria, my former student, met up with us in the market and then she and I parted ways with Chusita. Maria and I walked a bit more around the market so that I could buy a small present for Chusita for letting me stay with her while I’m here. Then we went into the cathedral and looked around, took some pictures and talked a bit about the catholic faith.

La Cathedral in Guatemala City

Main alter in the cathedral

Maria is Mormon so she had never been in the cathedral. I had read a bit about the cathedral in my guidebook. So, like a proper tourist, I informed Maria that many of the artifacts and alters had been transported from Antigua’s cathedral after the earthquake in the 1770s that lead to the government moving the capital from Antigua to Guatemala City. Thinking a little more about the number of times that the capital has moved, I realized that the two former capitals are named Antigua, which means antique, and la Ciudad Vieja, which means the old city. It is quite interesting…at least, I think so.

Maria and I walked back to her house and chatted along the way about what she is doing now and what I am doing now. It was really nice to catch up with her. Her family lives in a military neighborhood because her dad is in the army. I got to see her house, and meet her two youngest sisters, her dad and her super cute husky puppy. Her dad started talking to me a lot about how politics in Guatemala have changed over the years and how the country seems to always be on a roller coaster depending on who is president at the time. He seems like a very intense man and had I stayed much longer at their house, I probably would have learned much more about his feelings on the Guatemalan government. However, I had to leave to meet up with Chusita and company so that we could get some lunch and then head back home.

Maria and I at her house in Guatemala City

The rest of the afternoon was pretty chill. We ate lunch at McDonald’s (for me, probably the first time in years) with Andres, I watched some Biggest Loser (dubbed in Spanish) with Andres, and then we brought Andres to his Karate lessons and watched his lesson. Most of the afternoon revolved around what 7-year-old Andres was doing and now I have a small glimpse of what it must be like to have a child. Don’t get me wrong, I still had a grand time hanging out with him and Chusita. The karate lesson was actually very entertaining. Especially because the instructor was quite good looking even though he had a jerry curl that looked like it came straight out of “Coming to America.”

That’s really about it for Guatemala City. Again, had I been on my own in the city, I probably would have explored a bit more but I’m satisfied with everything that I saw and can leave the rest for the next time I come back. Who knows when that will be but I do plan on coming back at some point.

Peace out until the next leg of Andrea’s Travels! Time for me to head to bed so that I won’t be too tired when I wake up at the butt crack of dawn to catch my 7:15am flight.


P.S. I made it back to the US in one piece...haven't checked my fragile items yet to see if they are in the same state though!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Layover in Antigua...

So for a bit of piece of mind, I decided to take a tourist minivan from San Pedro to Guatemala City instead of the chicken bus. It definitely would have been faster to take the chicken bus but I figured I had a little money to burn so I might as well feel a touch safer traveling with other tourists instead of by myself on the chicken bus. However, the shuttle first made a stop in Antigua and I had to switch buses to go on to Guatemala City. After running a block and a half, I was told that there were no more seats on the van that was leaving at that moment and that I was actually scheduled to go on the 3:30 bus. At first I was a little peeved but then I realized it was alright because I could relax a bit and check my e-mail (and post to my blog again). So, after calling Chusita (Andrea's grandmother in Guatemala City) and letting her know when I will be arriving, I headed to the familiar Café Rainbow and proceeded to check my e-mail, facebook and write this post. The stop is good because it also gives me a chance to eat a real lunch.

Last night, I resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't be running anymore while I'm here so I left my running shoes (and a bunch of other things that I didn't want to carry around anymore) at the hotel in San Pedro. I re-packed my backpack and seem to have so much more room now. It's really unbelievable. I packed all of my fragile items in my carry-on backpack and stuffed my running clothes in between and on the sides of all the items. So, that left A LOT more room in my big backpack.

I also picked up a chick-lit novel at the used book store in San Pedro and read that most of last night. I didn't end up going out with the Dutch guys and the American woman because I never ran into them during the day to find out what was going on that night. Apparently, I missed quite a wild night though because the American woman was in my shuttle bus this morning and she told me all about the evening. Kinda bummed I didn't go out but I am also really glad that I got some sleep and properly re-packed my backpack. I also had to make a quick patch on the front pocket of my big backpack because en-route to San Pedro part of the fabric had torn. I bought one of those cheesy touristy flag patches, one of the Guatemalan flag, of course, and stitched it over the rip so that it didn't get any bigger. The last thing I need is for all of my underwear and bras to start flying out of my pack.

I have about 1.5 hours before my bus to Guatemala is scheduled to depart. At least it's sunny today and I can enjoy my book in the park. First, I need to run to the supermarket and pick up a bottle of hot sauce for my dear friends Jessica and Luke! The x-ray people at the airport are gonna get a real kick out of my checked luggage. A huge container of instant coffee, two bags of normal coffee beans, hot sauce, books, and a few clothes stuffed in between everything else.

Hopefully I get to post again before I leave Guatemala but we'll see. No new pictures since I was visiting the same location as three weeks ago and didn't go crazy taking pictures. I meant to take one of my hotel in San Pedro but forgot to do it before packing my camera deep in my small backpack.

Time to enjoy the beautiful weather...

Friday, July 23, 2010

San Pedro La Laguna

Quick update from a local internet cafe...

I arrived in San Pedro La Laguna around 6pm after a very very long day of traveling on minivans and chicken buses. The last of said chicken buses actually had chickens on it!!! It was an interesting journey and one that I am glad I made if for nothing else, the experience.

I slept in today and then headed via boat to Panajachel and then by pick-up truck to San Antonio to re-visit the textile and ceramic factories. Needeless to say, I spent a lot of money. The spending continued when I arrived back in Panajachel as I am finishing up buying gifts for myself and others.

I leave tomorrow morning to go to Guatemala City and meet up with more relatives of the Martinez family. Tonight, I will probably take it easy and re-pack my bag now that I have many new items to haul back to Nebraska! We shall see though because I met a group of Dutch guys and their friendly female tour guide last night along with another American girl who is in San Pedro for the weekend from Antigua. We might get some dinner and have some drinks.

This will probably be my last or second to last post before returning to the US. So, thanks to everyone who has been reading and I hope my experiences have provided a bit of entertainment to all :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wrapping up in Chicaman

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
My time in Chicaman is coming to a close. I’ll be leaving to head back to Lago de Atitlan tomorrow because the road to Cobán is impassable right now because of the heavy rains and some landslides that have covered the highways and other roads. I’m kind of excited to go back to Lago de Atitlan and enjoy the lake a bit more. I’m going to stay in a town called San Pedro this time around and hopefully the weather is nice for the next few days so that I can catch a few rays before coming back to the US.

Update on the past few days before I chat more about today…

Sunday, I went to mass in the morning with Miny and actually understood most of the sermon. Well, more like I understood the words the priest was saying but to say that I actually caught the meaning of his sermon might be a stretch. After mass, I had a bit of time so I decided to go for a run. I ran the same route as a few days before but 12 minutes into my run it started to downpour. So, I found a bit of shelter and waited out the rain for about 40 minutes and then continued on my run. I ran down the mountain for about two and a half miles and then had to turn around and run back up the mountain. It was pretty difficult at times and I walked up two of the steepest parts of the climb but for the most part ran the entire way. I think I went about 5 miles but that might be stretching it. If nothing else, I gave my lungs a good workout and I think that is what is most important when training for a marathon. My legs pretty much remember what to do, it’s my lungs and my heart that need the conditioning, haha. After my run, I showered and then went to have lunch with Myra and her daughter Catharinne. Their house is quite a different world than the Martinez house and doesn’t have all the amenities, but I’d have to say it is still comfortable and very homey. We ate lunch, listened to music, played with Catharinne’s dolls, looked at pictures and chatted about life. It was a nice lunch and I’m glad I got a chance to spend some time with Myra and Catharinne. After lunch and chatting, I went back to the church with Miny so that we could help Nick and Nicole, the Canadian couple, set up for their big dinner for the visiting doctors from Cuba that helped them out a few weeks ago as well as for a few nuns that have been very helpful to them while they’ve been in Chicaman working on their building project. We had quite a feast and I was glad to be invited and even happier to help out a bit since I would be eating some of their food. I didn’t do much to help in the way of cooking because Nicole had that under control. She is an amazing cook and we had so much great food the entire night. Miny and I mostly helped out by putting last minute touches on salads, cutting meats and washing the dishes. The four of us worked pretty well together in the hour or so before the guests arrived. Here’s what ended up being on the menu: vegetable and chicken skewers, tomato & avocado bruchetta, roast beef, meatballs, chicken stuffed with ricotta, spinach and mushrooms, twiced baked potatoes, macaroni salad, tomato and olive salad, pastel de tres leches, and tirimisu. Everything was delicious and above all, we all had great conversation the entire night. I even got to chat a bit with the doctors from Cuba. Not much more than a short explanation of what I am studying, how much longer I have to study and what I maybe want to be when I finish school. Needless to say, I was pooped at the end of the day and crashed right when I got home.

Monday, I went to the clinic in the morning and apparently the director only wanted me to observe in the Emergency area of the clinic. So, I went to the Emergency area and there was a nurse on duty and basically it was his job to triage those that presented to the Emergency room and decide if the doctor really needed to see them. It was different than last week because this week I guess there is only one doctor in the clinic each day and he/she sees normal patients during regular hours and then tends to the Emergency area at night. Anyway, not very many Emergency patients came in to the clinic but one very interesting case did pass my way. A woman came in with an infection underneath her thumbnail. It seemed very painful and you could even see the pocket of pus underneath her nail. Without calling the doctor to help or consult, the very experienced nurse, drained the puss and when he wasn’t quite satisfied with the results, he proceeded to numb her thumb and remove the entire nail. It was pretty grotesque but cool at the same time. I was just surprised at how much the nurse did without even consulting the doctor. It was definitely more time efficient but such a 180 from the system in the US where every move has to be ordered by a doctor. That was the most exciting part of the day. A few other patients came in for fevers and/or infections but the doctor was never called to consult on any of the patients that came in during the morning. I was debating whether I should stay for a longer period of time or come back after the lunch hour but after spending most of the morning twiddling my thumbs and not really understanding much of what the patients said to the nurse, I figured a better use of my time would be getting myself organized for my departure and having conversations with the Martinez family to improve my day to day Spanish. The rest of the day was pretty boring and I spent most of it relaxing and finishing my book, Devil in The White City. I also spent a bit of time going through flashcards and trying to learn a few new vocabulary words. Now that my time is almost up, I have realized that I should have set a goal to learn at least 20 new words each day so that I could have built a larger vocabulary. Hindsight is 20/20 right?

Centro de Salud in Chicaman

Emergency area in the Centro de Salud

Tuesday, I went back to the clinic in the morning and it was pretty much the same story. The nurse triaged any patient that arrived and then decided if the doctor was needed. However, the nurse on Tuesday was a younger man and he called the doctor a few more times than the nurse on Monday. Two interesting cases came in on Tuesday. One man had cut his thumb with his machete and the nurse had to stitch it up. I think he may have nicked an artery when stitching up the cut because it really wouldn’t stop bleeding after he finished putting in the fourth stitch. However, I can’t say that I’d do any better than he did. It definitely made me realize that I need some practice in suturing and other procedures before starting rotations next summer. I’m going to have to be a bit more forceful at my preceptor’s office and ask to get more involved in treatments and procedures. The next interesting case, was a mother and her 12 day old baby girl. The mother and baby came in for a post-partum check-up and it turns out that the baby had lost weight since being born and the mother was septic because she hadn’t changed her undergarments often enough since giving birth and she had not been walking around enough to get her body back to its normal shape. Both were referred to the more equipped hospital in Uspantán about 6 miles away. The mom was also started on IV antibiotics before being taken to the hospital in the Chicaman Ambulance. Having this short glimpse into the world of Guatemalan medicine, I am really interested in coming back to do a rotation here or in a similar area. Again, my afternoon was fairly boring. I did go running again in the late afternoon and went a bit farther than on Sunday. Down the mountain and back up, walking again up the steepest parts. Overall, I felt good but at the end of the run started to get a strange muscle spasm in my back and realized it was because I ran too soon after eating a very large meal.

One of the greatest things about being in Chicaman is the food and sitting down to eat lunch every day. It is their biggest meal of the day and I love it. Monday we had chicken stir-fry with noodles, Tuesday we had baked barbequed chicken with rice and vegetables and today, we had beef, soup, and a huge assortment of vegetables. I am still full from today’s lunch.

Back to my update from Tuesday…after my run, Sergio took me to see Jeni and Juan’s house on the family property outside of town. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves but this was an absolutely beautiful location and the house was very cozy and I’m sure, a very good place to be while Jeni and Juan were living in Chicaman with their four children.

View of the cornfields and Martinez land from Jeni and Juan's house.

After getting back from our trip to Casa de Jeni y Juan, we ate a light supper and then sat and chatted for quite a long time around the dinner table. I actually got into a long medical conversation with Sergio and pulled out my Netter’s Clinical Anatomy book that I brought with me. For any of my fellow med students who are reading this, no, it is not the big Netter Atlas. It’s a different book that my PCB preceptor bought for me while I was in Cherokee, IA. I was starting to doubt why I decided to haul it along with me but it came in really hand for the conversation last night. I enjoyed talking medicine and trying to impart knowledge that I gained during the last year. We joked a little about how I know enough to know that something is not right but I don’t know yet how to diagnose or treat anything. Sergio told me I’m not allowed back to visit until I know how to treat and cure his ailments, haha.

As for today, it was a day of organization. I did my laundry, checked e-mail, sorted through my luggage and tried to eliminate any unnecessary items. I will probably dump more stuff when I depart Lago de Atitlan for Guatemala City but for now, I gifted some toiletry items to the Canadian couple and threw away a pair of my cheap flip flops because I have plenty of shoes to wear for the rest of the trip and they were pretty much worn out. Of course, I knew when I was packing that I probably wouldn’t need all of the clothes I packed. However, I convinced myself that it would be okay and I should just pack them anyway since I had the space. Now, I’m regretting that decision. I’m running out of room and will have to be very crafty in order to fit all of the wonderful gifts I have purchased (and will purchase in the coming days) for family and friends. I might leave behind a few clothing items that I don’t want anymore but we’ll see. I’m not so much worried about everything fitting since I’ve become quite an artist at packing my bag, I’m more worried about how much my luggage will weigh!

Today was also a day of baking with Miny. We made angel food cake and then also successfully made Grandma Mullen’s homemade mayonnaise. The first and only time I’ve attempted to make homemade mayo, it didn’t turnout quite right and I wasn’t sure why but when making it today, I realized why. The recipe calls for mixing the ingredients in a double boiler. Well, the first time I attempted to make the mayo, I started mixing the ingredients in the double boiler while it was hot. It turns out that when you put egg yolks into a hot container before you have mixed them with the necessary ingredients, they cook and turn into little chunks. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe that I have a chemistry degree. This time around, I mixed all the ingredients first and then put the pot in boiling water to cook slowly. It turned out really well, although I might have used a little too much mustard. I’ll experiment with it the next time, whenever that may be. Miny liked both the cake and the mayo so much that she wrote down the recipes and I told her that I would send her a proper angel food cake pan when I get back to the US. We used a bunt cake pan, which ended up being a little too small so we put the 2nd half of the batter into a normal loaf pan. The resulting cakes were wonderful but the one baked in the loaf pan ended up a little flat. The taste was the same though.

Table is set for a small dinner of sandwiches with cake and coffee for dessert.

Eni, Andrea, Me and Magdalena in the kitchen of Eni's house.

Mini and I after our successful day of baking.

Nick and Nicole came over for dinner and cake. We had sandwiches made with toasted bread, ham, tomatoes and the mayonnaise. Everyone really liked it and I’m quite relieved at that. However, some may have just been humoring me. One of Eni’s employees from the gas station comes to the house for lunch and dinner every day and he was at the table when we sat down to have our sandwiches. I asked him if he wanted to try the mayo and he said sure but I don’t think he really cared for the mayo. He said it was good but just a bit different for his tastes. At least he was honest, haha. I realized tonight that the mayo is more like a honey mustard sauce than a mayonnaise but delicious nonetheless.

As of now, I am packed and ready to head out tomorrow morning. Sergio is going to bring me to Uspantán and from there I will catch a mini-van to Quiché. From Quiché, I will take a chicken bus to Panajachel and depending on when I arrive, I will either take a boat across the lake to San Pedro to stay there for two nights or stay in Pana for one night and head to San Pedro early the next day. Boats stop running across the lake around 6:30pm. So, it all depends on when I arrive in Pana. After San Pedro, I will head back to Guatemala City to meet up with the grandparents of Andrea (Eni’s Daughter) who have graciously offered to let me stay with them and show me around the city a bit. Also, I will hopefully meet up with one of my former students who is now living in Guatemala City.

My trip is coming to an end and before I know it, I’ll be on a plane back to the US…sad but necessary as I am sure I have loads of errands to run as soon as I get back to Omaha. I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it :-)

Hasta luego gente!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Market Day in Chicaman

Before posting this blog, I indulged a little in my Bachelorette obsession and realized that #1 I cannot watch episodes online when I am outside the US and #2 the finale is on August 2nd….which means I will be back in Omaha in time to watch it!!!! Who’s up for a Bachelorette Finale Party???

Back to Guatemala…the market in Chicaman is very different than in Antigua. Of course, I knew it would be this way since Chicaman is not exactly at the epicenter of tourism. The Chicaman market was more of a gigantic farmers market and I have to say, more spectacular and enjoyable than the crazy touristy markets of Antigua and Chichicastenango. Although I very much appreciated the artisan markets, the cook in me came out while wandering through the market here in Chicaman. If I were living here a lot longer, I think I would really enjoy shopping at the markets each week for fresh vegetables, fruit and meat. It was extremely entertaining to watch the women in the market hack their chickens and pork pieces to bits. Much more interesting than buying a syran wrapped package of boneless skinless chicken breasts in the supermarket back home. After watching Miny skillfully negotiate deals with the vendors at the market, we headed back home to unload all of our goods. Little did we know, when we bought our pieces of pork, Miny had set down her bag of chicken and forgot to pick it up! When we got back to the house she was looking everywhere for it and finally went back to the market and found it at the pork vendor’s stall. It was a great experience and I admire the vendors for how far they must have to carry all of their goods.

Yesterday, I went to the very small village of San Pedro to hear mass said by the local priest and we walked 45 minutes just to reach the village and we had already driven another hour before that just to get to the hiking path. I was only carrying myself, my water bottle and my small purse and still I was exhausted after trying to traverse the paths. I can’t imagine carrying a load of corn or tortillas to the weekly market. Granted, I wasn’t exactly wearing the appropriate footware. I had my running shoes, which would have been perfect had the path been dry, but it wasn’t and I ended up with extremely wet feet and unbelievably muddy shoes. Looking on the bright side, now, I will definitely not forget the Spanish word for mud, lodo. Hubo mucho lodo en el bosque!

Here's the muddy path that we traversed to get to the village.

My already muddy shoes at the beginning of the journey.

The village of San Pedro

When we finally arrived in the village, we went directly into the small wooden building that is their church and Father Cruz immediately began to set up for the mass. A handful of men and one small boy were playing the guitar and singing Spanish hymns. This village only receives mass once every three months so yesterday’s service was a big deal. The mass went well and having sat through one service already with Miny, I was able to understand much more this time around. Maybe when I go to mass tomorrow morning, I will understand at least the entire liturgy of the Eucharist. We’ll see. I did make a small faux pas when receiving Eucharist because I wasn’t exactly sure what to do. I took the communion wafer and I was supposed to dip it in the wine but before I realized that, I had eaten the host and instead took a sip of the wine, directly from the cup. I didn’t get scolded but I hope that my actions weren’t too out of place.

After mass, the kids received toothbrushes from the Canadian couple who is staying with the priests as well as a short lesson about how to brush their teeth. The kids seemed receptive but I’m not sure they knew exactly what to do.

Then they showed us their school and told us a little about what they have been learning in school. It is a small one-room schoolhouse where 17 children attend school.

The teacher is from Chicaman and lives in the village during the week but goes back to Chicaman on the weekends. It seems as they are learning a lot and most of them said they go to school everyday. I’ve been told one of the more important things for them to learn is how to speak Spanish because their first language is one of the indigenous languages. All of the kids spoke very good Spanish from what I could tell but I’m probably not the best judge of their language abilities, haha.

Here's a group of boys from the village, they were enraptured by our cameras and got a real kick out of us taking photos of them and letting them see the results instantly.

Eventually, after eating a small meal of beans and tortillas, we headed back to the car. I never fell down on the return journey but I did step ankle deep into a mud pit at least two or three times. It was quite an adventure.

This is the spot where we started (and ended) our journey on foot.

Here's what my shoes ended up looking like when we got back to the car. I decided to take them off so that my feet didn't ferment in them as we drove back home.

When I got back to Eni’s house, I was a mess and took a shower pretty much right away. Myra, the woman that helps Eni around the house, very graciously washed my shoes and set them out to dry. I felt a little bad because I totally could have washed them myself but she was almost done when I finished my shower. Sergio, Juan’s brother, was at the house yesterday and sat down to chat with me and help me practice my Spanish. It was really great to talk with him but it also made me realize that I still don’t understand a lot when talking with someone one on one. I definitely don’t understand a whole lot when a large group of native Spanish speakers are talking to each other. However, that is to be expected since I’ve only been learning for three weeks now. Little by little, I learn more and understand more. I did appreciate his patience with my lack of vocabulary. Luckily I had my handy dandy dictionary (thank you Sarah Jones!!!) close by to look up words that neither of us was sure of the translation. I am still surprised by how exhausting it is thinking and talking in another language. I went to bed around 10pm and had a hard time waking up by 7:45 this morning.

I didn’t go running today because my shoes were still wet from yesterday’s muddy hike and I was totally wiped out anyway. The NYC Alzheimer’s Run to Remember team is meeting tomorrow for a group run (8 miles) in Central Park and since I can’t be there, I’m going to try and run 6 or 7 miles on my own here in Chicaman. We’ll see how that goes.

My day today was pretty laid back. Went to the market in the morning, baked a cake with Miny and the Canadians in the afternoon, went to the park with Catharinne to catch some rays while studying/coloring and then came back to the house to read a bit (I’m really into The Devil in the White City – Thanks Tessa :-) ). After reading, I joined Eni, Lesbi and Miny in the kitchen for some coffee and a light snack and good conversation about learning Spanish, baking/cooking, and writing in cursive. Then I wrote this blog entry, which like most of my writing, took the rest of the evening. Mostly because I interrupted myself several times to watch Bachelorette clips on abc.com.

Busy day tomorrow, back to the clinic on Monday and Tuesday and then possibly head to Cobán on Wednesday or Thursday. Probably, early-ish Thursday morning. I am thinking about making the Martinez family some dinner or at least some cookies/desert on Wednesday. I’ll report back on how that goes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Settled in Chicaman – 7/15/10

Not a whole lot to report but I'm sure I'll write a lot anyway...

Things in Chicaman are much more relaxed than in Antigua. I’ve just been hanging out, studying a bit here and there. Eni is letting me borrow her 501 Spanish verbs book and it is been pretty helpful. I am trying to learn a thing or two each day and then put it into practice while talking to Eni, Miny and Lesbi. I feel like I am talking more and more each day, especially at nights. I think my brain has some sort of dial that is turned a little bit each hour until I reach full power by dinner time. I am really enjoying being in Chicaman and I’m so glad that I decided to come here first before trying to travel to other cities in Guatemala. Andrea (a friend I met at Mundo in Antigua) put it very simply when I was trying to decide where to go next after Antigua, would I rather have more time in Chicaman and if I so choose, decide to leave early to travel elsewhere or have less time in Chicaman and regret later that I didn’t have enough time.

At first I didn’t have much to do besides learn verb forms from 501 Spanish verbs but now my days are starting to fill up. Yesterday, Eni took me to the Centro de Salud (Heath Center for the Chicaman area) and we asked the director if it was okay for me to observe in the mornings. She said yes, although she seemed a bit hesitant and I was a little worried she wouldn’t let me observe. I didn’t quite understand all of the conversation between her, Eni and me but eventually she showed me back to the Emergency area and introduced me to the doctor on call that day. He was much more willing to let me observe. He showed me around the clinic, introduced me to most of the staff and then let me observe as he tended to patients in the Emergency department. In this heath center, and I think health centers similar in other areas in Guatemala, women who choose to have their babies with the help of a doctor, come to the Emergency department. It just so happens that two women had come into the heath center the night before and were recovering from their deliveries while I was observing yesterday. The doctor showed me how to feel the shrinking uterus and explained to me and to the women, that even though it may hurt, they should be massaging their lower abdomens so that the uterus quickly returns to its normal size. Both women were very experienced in the birthing process. The newest addition to the family was number 6 for one woman and number 7 for the other. It was really interesting to observe at the health center. Although, I think I was a bit frazzled from the conversation with the director and didn’t quite comprehend everything that the doctor said to me. I got a little scared every time someone would ask me a question because I started psyching myself out thinking I couldn’t understand what they were saying. Also, at the health center that day was a group of medical educators doing a presentation on the correct way to do a breast examination. It was very interesting because it is pretty much exactly what we were taught in ICE last semester. They even had a female bust to practice on and one breast had lumps in various quadrants. The participants in the presentation took turns practicing on the dummy and most of them found the four lumps in the left breast. I passed up the chance to practice, probably because I was a little afraid that someone would say something to me and I wouldn’t understand what he or she was saying. Had the presentation been today, I might have tried.

I went back to the health center this morning and this time, a female doctor was there and I introduced myself and asked if it was alright to observe today as well. She said it was fine and proceeded to talk slowly and explain everything she was doing. I understood her much better than the doctor yesterday and was able to participate a little more in the physical exams. I also felt much more comfortable speaking with her than the doctor the day before but that might just be because I was more relaxed this morning. We saw about ten or twelve patients this morning and she invited me to come back in the afternoon but I had already planned do a bit of studying as well as get in a bit of running in the early evening. I told her thanks for letting me observe and that I’d probably be back on Monday to observe again. Little by little, I am learning more about how the health center works. From what I understand, patients can see the doctors at the clinic and get their medications for free at the clinic pharmacy (as long as the pharmacy has that specific medication in stock). Like I said before, this is also where women come to have babies, if they so choose. However, the clinic does not have a laboratory, other diagnostic equipment or the capacity to do surgeries. So, patients that need surgeries, x-rays or some other sort of test, have to go to Uspantán, San Cristóbal, Cobán or Guatemala City. I’m looking forward to going back to the clinic on Monday. If time permits, maybe I’ll even stop in during the weekend to see if I could observe for a short time.

I finally went running yesterday afternoon after I had let lunch settle. I plan on doing that again today but might have to wait an extra hour because I had a big lunch today! Eni showed me where to run and off I went in the direction of Cobán. The road went uphill for a bit but then took a steep downhill turn and I thought to myself, crap this is going to be a pain in the ass to run back up. But, I kept going and turned around after I had been running downhill for about 8 minutes because I knew it would take me at least 50% more time to run back up the hill. It wasn’t too bad and I’m looking forward to running that route again today. There was just one stretch that was super steep and I had to walk for a bit but I’m okay with that because I know that the NYC marathon doesn’t have any hills quite that steep. During our evening conversation, Miny told me that Jenny used to run to Uspantán and back when she was living here and even when she was pregnant. So, maybe I’ll try that this weekend. Someone told me that it’s only about 8 km from Chicaman to Uspantán so 16 km would be a good long run for the weekend. We’ll see…

After running yesterday, I colored a little bit with Catharinne, the daughter of the woman who helps Eni around the house and with processing the dairy products that the family makes. She and I have had a good time in the afternoons coloring, reading children’s magazines and a couple days ago we walked up to an old church on a huge hill to see the entire town of Chicaman. I think the church is called the Calbario but I’m not sure of the spelling. It has 76 steps up to the top and has a great view of Chicaman. I took a few pictures…

Yesterday at the end of my run, I climbed the steps again. My thought was to run the stairs but when I got to the first step, I was pooped and just walked them. Hopefully, before I leave Chicaman, I will run to the top of the stairs and do a little Rocky dance before descending them.

To complete my busy day, I attended mass with Miny and although I know the order of the catholic mass, it was pretty hard for me to understand what the priest was saying during most of the mass. It made me realize that I don’t know the English mass quite as well as I thought I did…so much for 9 years of catholic education. Before the mass, Miny introduced me to two Canadians who are staying with the priests of the church and are helping with various construction projects around the Chicaman area. They invited me to come with them on a short trip tomorrow to a very small primitive village where the priests go to say mass once a month. I’m pretty excited about this experience and again, really glad I came to Chicaman first before going anywhere else. Had I decided to go to Xela first, I would not have been able to meet as many people and wouldn’t have the same experience that I’m having now. Eni keeps asking if things are going well and I keep saying that yes, things are going really well but I hope I am saying it with enough emphasis to let her know how glad I am that she is letting me stay with her and her family.

So, I’m not quite sure what my schedule will be next week but I’ll probably stay in Chicaman until next weekend at least and then head back to Guatemala City on Sunday the 25th or Monday the 26th.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The journey to Chicaman

I left Antigua around 7am in a tourist shuttle bus that was to drop me off at a transfer point called Los Encuentros along the highway that leads to Panajachel. Of course, the bus was packed with people and their luggage. However, there were two less people in this bus than in the bus that went to the beach on Sunday. It was not uncomfortable, but definitely not the best way to travel. My ass fell asleep multiple times and I kept wanting to fall asleep but couldn’t because I didn’t really have anywhere to rest my head. I was sitting in the middle of the seat between two other people so I couldn’t lean against a window or anything. So, my ass got more rest than my brain…Little did I know, that more people could fit into a van this size. I was a kinda worried that I would miss the stop or that the driver wouldn’t remember that I was not going all the way to Panajachel, but soon enough, the bus arrived in Los Encuentros and I embarked on my first solo journey on Guatemalan public transportation.

Because of the rain, I had wrapped my backpack in trash bags and had to readjust the straps so that I could keep the wrapping on my luggage in case it would rain the rest of the way. My backpack was too big to fit inside any of the buses so it was tied to the top of first the tourist shuttle, then the large chicken bus (one that used to be a school bus in the US and since has had the exterior repainted and a loud sound system installed. Said sound system blasted popular Spanish music the whole way) and finally the two minivans that brought me from Quiche to Chicaman. Catching the first chicken bus was interesting but fairly easy. It came shortly after I was dropped off and I boarded with no problems other than accidentally dropping my full Nalgene water bottle on an unknowing elderly woman. I felt so bad but couldn’t do much other than apologize profusely in Spanish. Getting off the bus at Quiche was interesting as well. There was an onslaught of men asking me, “A dondé vas?” I correctly responded, “A Chicaman,” and one man took my backpack and told me to follow him. From the outside looking in, this could seem a little sketchy and I probably would have been more wary but someone at a travel agency in Antigua told me this would happen and that’s pretty much just the way it works at the bus stops. So, I followed the man and saw that his bus was carrying a family, an elderly woman and a mixture of other locals. I asked him how much it would cost before getting in the van and he gave me a reasonable price. So, I had little reason to believe this was anything other than normal public transportation. I was really glad to have asked people at the travel agencies how much the journey should cost and in the end it was right around the price the travel agencies said it should be.

I don’t have any photos of the journey because I didn’t dare take out my camera while riding on the bus. I had a hard enough time trying to eat a snack and not fall into the person sitting next to me every time the bus turned a corner, and there were a lot of turns on the road to Quiche. I also didn’t want to stick out too much like a tourist. Nor did I even have room to maneuver and get my camera out of my purse. The joke about chicken buses is true…How many people can fit into a chicken bus? Always one more! There were even little boys and young adult men riding on top of the minivan that I took from Quiche to Uspantán. It was interesting that only the men rode on top of the minivan. The women were always given preference to ride inside. However, that meant that if there was no more room inside, the women who needed a ride had to wait for the next bus while the men could just climb on top of the minivan or ride on the ladder attached to the side of the van. I was glad to be riding inside, no matter how packed it was. I think at one point we probably had 17 or 18 people in a space that usually fits 12 or 13.

Upon arriving in Chicaman, I hoisted my heavy backpack onto my shoulders and checked my dictionary one last time to make sure I knew how to say, “I’m looking for the Martinez family.” I asked a friendly man, who seemed to be working as some sort of civil servant by directing the minivans, where the Martinez family lived and he showed me to a house just across the street from where I was dropped off. Eni, Juan’s sister, greeted me warmly and showed me to a room on the second floor of her very large house. It is a big house because many members of the Martinez family live here. I am slowly piecing together who lives here and where everyone is at the moment. Right now, Juan’s parents are on their way to visit Jenny and Juan in Nebraska and Sergio, Juan’s brother, took them to Guatemala City to catch their flight. Sergio will be back on Wednesday but Juan’s parents will be in Nebraska until August 3rd. I get back to Omaha on August 1st so hopefully I will get to meet them before they return to Guatemala.

I had arrived in Chicaman around 2pm and had not eaten anything except for a bag of platanos (dried plantain chips). So, just as Jenny had told me she would, Eni promptly fed me some delicious chicken, rice and tortillas. After a short conversation, I went back up to my room to settle in and do a bit of studying. Of course, I ended up snoozing for about 15 minutes but that is to be expected when one studies in bed. The rest of the afternoon/evening was spent chatting with Eni, showing her photos and trying to talk as much as possible and at the same time understand what she was telling/asking me. I also spoke with the daughter of the woman who helps Eni around the house and showed her a few pictures as well. She was really cute and corrected me when I pronounced something incorrectly. I appreciated her candor and childhood honesty.

Eni also brought me next door and introduced me to her sister, Miny and Miny’s husband, Tito. Tito runs a pharmacy that is attached to their house. Miny and Tito have been hosting a French family that is in Guatemala for a vacation because their children were adopted from Guatemala. I ended up having dinner with the French family and Miny. We had quite an interesting mix of languages during the meal. We mostly spoke slow simple Spanish but also peppered into the conversation were English and French words or sentences as needed to clarify certain explanations. It was a nice way to end the evening.

I slept very well last night and woke up, well rested, at about 7:30am. Breakfast was a wide spread of eggs, beans, tortillas, corn flakes, coffee and more. Eni asked me if I’d like eggs and beans for breakfast and I said sure but then I felt bad because I didn’t want her to go to too much trouble to make me breakfast so then I think I said I could just have a bowl of cereal but I think that was interpreted as having cereal in addition to the eggs and beans. So, I ended up having a bowl of corn flakes, a hard boiled egg and a small portion of refried black beans with the whole wheat pita bread I had brought with me on my trip yesterday. It was a big breakfast and as I get ready to eat lunch right now, I’m still not quite hungry. I thought maybe I’d loose a little weight on this trip but now that I’m in Chicaman, I might put on a pound or two. Maybe this could be the motivation for me to get back to running. That’s the next question I have to pose to Eni…Where in Chicaman, can I go running?

I didn’t put any pictures of the beach in my last post so here are a few now that I’ve loaded them onto my computer.

Flooded roads on the way to the beach.

This is where we watched the final game of the World Cup.

Good view of the strong waves in the ocean.

Johnny's Restaurant in Monterico.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Vamos a la playa...

Just got back to Antigua from going to the beach in Monterico. It was beautiful, the waves were huge, the sun was hot and the weather held out until our journey back to Antigua. The beach was black sand and hot as hell....I thought my little piggies were gonna burn off! I attempted to get in the water but the waves were just too strong. I was almost pulled under a few times but secured my footing and only got a nose full of salt water but half of my bikini top fell off so I had to quickly re-adjust after my wardrobe malfunction!!!

After basking in the sun for about 45 minutes we wandered to a hotel/restaurant called Johnny's Place. This was one of the coolest places ever. We watched the final game of the World Cup at the restaurant while lying on cushioned floor mats and sipping on a variety of adult beverages. I have pictures but don't have them loaded onto my computer just yet so I'll try to post those the next time I have internet access.

I would have liked to spend more time at Johnny's Place but we only went down to the beach for the day and had to catch our bus back to Antigua around 4pm. It was a good thing we left when we did though because the rain started pouring down during our drive home and we had some really sketchy conditions on the journey. We had 15 people in a mini van that probably should seat 12 comfortably. It wasn't too bad but I now understand how the travel companies make their money...15 people in a van each paying $20 round trip. That adds up fast.

The trip down and back was really scenic and I got to sit in the front on the way there. I chatted it up with the van driver, Juan Jose, and practiced a bit of my Spanish. At the very beginning of the trip, Juan Jose immediately told me that my host father is the son of his ex-wife and that he and his ex-wife split because he was always looking at other women. In the next moment, he beeped his horn at a woman walking down the street. It was pretty funny. For the rest of the journey he periodically beeped his horn at random women. Other than his ogling of Guatemalan women, he was a nice quasi-tour guide. We saw a lot of examples of how Agatha really wreaked havoc on Guatemalan roads and fishing towns. One road was pretty much falling off a cliff and we had to pass one by one over the part that was still intact. It was a little scary but Juan Jose seemed to know what he was doing.

I didn't end up going to church last night. Andrea (one of the other students at my school) and I met her teacher at the church and proceeded to the room where the service was to be held. However, at the door to the room, this man, who seemed to be in charge of the service but was not any sort of priest, stopped us and told Andrea's teacher that we couldn't come in to participate in the service because we wouldn't be able to understand everything and couldn't participate fully. Apparently, it was a much more in-depth and involved service than the normal mass. Andrea's teacher felt really bad about inviting us and then having to tell us that we couldn't actually attend. So, instead of going to church and praying for our souls and the souls of our loved ones, we went to a bar and had a few drinks to commemorate my last few days in Antigua. It was a lot of fun but I am a little disappointed that I didn't get to go to church. I was a little put off by the fact that I was turned away from attending church. I have always been under the impression that church is somewhere that everyone is welcome but I guess I just don't know all the details about why exactly we couldn't participate.

I'm off to Chicaman tomorrow. Watch out chicken buses...here I come!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

End of Week 2

I conquered my fear of calling Juan’s family in Chicaman and very sloppily navigated my way through a telephone conversation where I maybe understood a quarter of what I should have. I think I managed to tell Juan’s sister that I will leave Antigua on Monday morning and arrive in Chicaman on Monday afternoon/evening. I will try to call again on Monday when I am on the road but that may or may not happen.

I didn’t run any more after the last post and I really hope that I can get back into training mode when I get back to the states. I’ll definitely have a lot of motivation to run more but I might need an extra push every now and then from friends and family (hint, hint!). My fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association is going to have to get a push start as well. This year, I’m on the Run to Remember team for the New York Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association and I am going to try to raise $3000 before November 7th. Three years ago I raised $4700 but since a lot of my friends are broke med students and I can’t send a mass e-mail out to the entire East Side High School faculty, I probably won’t be able to reach that amount this year. Who knows, maybe I will, but I’d be happy to raise $3000. I have my donation website set up and anyone reading this blog that wants to donate can do so at the following website: http://2010teamr2r.kintera.org/andrea I’m going to try to do a few social fundraisers too. I’m open for ideas and help from anyone :-)

Guatemala is still fantastic. I am excited to get out of Antigua and into a more rural area. I’m probably going to go dark for a while with this blog because I don’t know how close I will be to internet access while in Chicaman. Antigua is nice but I am definitely speaking much more English than I want to be and the city seems to be flooded with foreigners. There are quite a few American school groups and other tourists as well. I probably tend to notice the Americans more but I’ve been surprised to see so many Germans here as well. I know that I cannot totally blend in down here but I hope I don’t look too much like the other American tourists I’ve seen. They really rub me the wrong way sometimes. Not for any particular reason but I’m glad to be traveling by myself and not with a big group. I even ran into a group of med students from St. Louis University. I didn’t talk to them much but I keep seeing them around town and they are always with the same people. It would be nice to do some clinical work while I’m down here but it was more important for me to have an individual experience of traveling alone and learn a lot of Spanish. I might try to see if Juan’s family knows anyone that does clinical work up around Chicaman but if it doesn’t work out, I’m very content just learning as much Spanish as I possibly can.

I think I have a pretty good base now after taking two weeks of classes. My teacher, Amanda, was amazing and helped me learn so much in a very short amount of time. I am really lucky to have had her as a teacher. I really can’t believe how fast the past two weeks have gone. Now, the challenge comes in actually speaking to people when no one around me speaks English. The first few days will be a little difficult but once I’m up in Chicaman, I’m planning on really studying for the first day or so and then trying to speak more each day. I’m not sure how long I will be up there, but I hope that if I end up staying awhile, that I won’t wear out my welcome. I guess we’ll see…

Here’s a little synopsis of what I’ve been up to the past few days:

Tuesday 7/6 – Class in the morning, my computer broke in the afternoon but I couldn’t do much about that right away so I went on the school activity, which was visiting a macadamia nut farm. As always, in my limited understanding of Spanish, I think the guide told us that the farm has hundreds of macadamia nut trees and harvests the nuts all year round. She told us all about how the nuts are collected, dried, sorted and stored for processing. We even broke open a few nuts that were ready and ate them straight away. It was heaven. The farm also grows sapling trees to distribute to indigenous populations around Guatemala so that they can start their own farms and in 12 years when the trees start producing nuts, they can have another source of income. The nuts are used mainly for foods and cosmetics. We got to sample the lotion that the farm makes and sells at its small store. I even saw a bag of bee pollen for sale at their store. Supposedly, the bee pollen stops you from absorbing too much fat…I’m gonna have to look into that one.

We took local transportation to the farm and I even found a chicken bus that obviously belongs to me :-)

Wednesday 7/7 – I caught up on life and posted my last blog after my computer started working again. Not much to say about that.

Thursday 7/8 – Class in the morning and then the afternoon activity was visiting a coffee, corn and bean farm in the small town of Vieja outside of Antigua. It was quite amazing to walk around the farm, which is in the foothills of the Volcan de Agua, and see the area as well as the destruction caused by Agatha.

It was also a bit of an eye opener when it comes to how different the life of a Guatemalan farmer is from that of a Nebraskan farmer. All of the crops at this farm are harvested by hand, which, of course, requires a lot of manual labor. The farmer that took our group on a tour has 11 children and there were also two grandchildren running around the house while we were there. From what I understood, the children go to school until about 6th grade, and then begin helping with the farming. However a few of this farmer’s children have gone on to university and are studying business and other subjects. I’m assuming that once they are done they will come back to help with the farming business but I can’t say that for sure because I got lost in the middle of his explanation and didn’t catch everything he said about his family.

This was our afternoon snack after walking around the farm land.

As we walked around the farm, I pretty much got eaten alive by bugs. However, I’ve been surprised by how little I’ve actually been bitten since arriving. I do have one strange bite on my right calf that has been bothering me a lot. I think it must have been from a spider or some other insect because it did not look much like a mosquito or other flying bug bite. It seems to be getting better now but for a few days I was starting to worry that there might be something more seriously wrong with it. I might have gotten an idea in my head after finishing the Atul Gawande book, Complications. At the end of his book he tells a story of a young woman who presented to the ER with what seemed to be a simple case of cellulitis but ended up being necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating bacteria). So, armed with that story in my head, I started to imagine my calf being eaten by small bacteria and having to be flown home so that I could have the proper surgery to save my leg from being amputated. Obviously, since it’s gotten better, I don’t have necrotizing fasciitis but I sure did create an elaborate drama in my head before it got better.

Friday 7/9 – I had my last class in the morning and got a quick lesson on another one of the past tense forms in Spanish. This solidified my limited Spanish base and made me feel much more comfortable about striking off on my own into the Guatemalan countryside. After classes were over and I said my good-byes to my teacher and a few students, I booked a shuttle bus to take me to a transfer point near Chichicastenango called Los Encuentros. After I get dropped off, I will transfer to a public bus (one of the chicken buses) and ride north to Quiche. In Quiche, I will transfer again to another public bus that will take me to Chicaman. It seems pretty straight forward and I’m excited for the experience. I just hope my bag fits in the luggage rack on the bus so that I don’t have to strap it to the roof of the bus. I wouldn’t really mind doing that but I wouldn’t want it to get wet and it would most likely get rained on at some point. Maybe I’ll bring a garbage bag to wrap around it in case it does have to go on top of the bus…I’ll have to put that on my to do list.

Friday night, I finally went out on the town for an extended period of time. I met up with some other students from my school at a place called Café Sky. We had a few strong margaritas and then the bar had to close at 10pm because of a local law saying that establishments that serve more food than liquor must close at 10pm. Well, we just moved on to a different bar called Café No Se and no one seemed to like this place so we again moved to a different bar. However, before leaving, my housemate and I took a few funny pictures. Café No Se has this funny door that is the front of a refrigerator and it leads to a different room in the bar. One of the other students living in my house described his first experience seeing people walk into that door and he was dumbfounded by the fact that people kept walking into a refrigerator. Eventually he realized that it lead to a different room but I can only imagine what he was thinking before this clarity set in.

The night ended at La Esquina (appropriately named because it is on the corner of two streets) where we all had one more drink before heading home around midnight. My housemate had to get up really early to be picked up by a shuttle that was taking her to Honduras and all of us were pretty tired from the day. It was a good night out in Antigua.

Saturday 7/10 – I ran a whole bunch of errands today and am knocking another one off of my to do list by writing this blog update! I met up with a couple other women from school and we booked a bus to go to Monterrico beach tomorrow, just for the day. The weather doesn’t look fantastic because of all the storms in the Atlantic but we thought why the heck not. We are taking a direct shuttle and only had to pay about $20 round trip. It is probably cheaper on public busses but the shuttles are much more comfortable and probably a shorter trip. We’ll get down to the beach by about 10 or 11am and then get to hang out for a while before finding a good place to eat and watch the final game of the World Cup. I watched the Germany vs. Uruguay game with my host family today and that was very entertaining because both of the daughters and the dad got really excited after any of the goals. Although, they wanted Uruguay to win so their excitement was much more pronounced after those goals. I didn’t understand much of what the announcers, or my host family, for that matter, was saying but I also wasn’t paying really close attention. Most of my other errands are pretty boring so I won’t subject anyone to reading about them.

Now, I’m off to go to church at La Merced with another student from school and her teacher. I’m excited to go to church and interested to see how much I understand during the mass. Maybe God will give me brownie points for going to mass in a different country. I need all the extra credit I can get…I never did go to mass while I was in Germany because Leipzig turned out to be completely Lutheran and I also didn’t work very hard to find a church to go to in Australia last summer. However, on the weekend trip that I took to Ireland, Erika and I found a mass to go to.

Again, I will be out of Internet contact for a while probably but I will update my blog as soon as I can. If anyone needs to get a hold of me for some reason, my parents have the phone numbers for where I will be staying in Chicaman.

Peace out!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


My computer is back to working now. I took out the RAM and let it air out overnight in the office of my school and then put it back in this morning, making sure to sufficiently tighten the cover (I think it was loose and that's the reason the moisture got in), and then attempted to turn it on. I was fully expecting to hear those three long and very annoying beeps but no!!! I heard no beeping and the display came on. I am writing this post from my computer as we speak :-)

I was so distracted yesterday when it didn't work that my teacher and I went to a few stores in town to see if they knew what could be wrong with it. Of course, they didn't know and said I'd have to pay for a diagnostic test. It wasn't that expensive for the diagnostic, only 275 Quetzales (about $35...a bargain compared to the Geek Squad) but I thought I could figure it out on my own or just wait till I got back to the states and use my extended warranty from Apple. One of the other American's at the school was an electrical/computer engineer for a while and he helped me do some online investigating and then also take the memory out and test a few things. So, with the help of an American engineer (Thanks Adam!!), an Australian computer genius (Thanks Raj!!) and a dry office at the school, I was able to fix my computer. I will probably not use my computer much at my house anymore because of all the moisture there, but tightening the cover on the memory slots should help a lot to protect the RAM.

I went running yesterday evening, about 5k, and it felt awesome! It was a little tricky because all of Antigua is cobblestones and I felt as though I would twist my ankle with every step. But, I made it without any injury (knock on wood) and hopefully will run again tomorrow. Running here is soooo much better than the hot weather in Omaha. I could run at any time of the day and be comfortable. Too bad I'm not taking advantage of it as much as I should. Tomorrow, I will try for 5 miles instead of 5k. I'm way behind in my training but I keep telling myself that I am at a higher altitude so, any exercise that I do is twice what I would do in Omaha. That's my story and I'm sticking to it...

So, here are the pictures I promised!!! They first ones are of Lago de Atitlan and the last few are of Chichicastenango. I'll try to write a bit about some of the pics so you know what you're looking at but probably won't write about every single one.

This is a beautiful waterfall we saw on the side of the road on the way to Panajachel.

Roadside view of Lago de Atitlan

Not exactly the best picture of me but I need a few pieces of evidence that I was actually in Guatemala, haha.

Boat ride on the lake...on the way to a few small villages around the lake.

Hand/foot operated weaving machine in San Antonio Palopo. This small factory was beautiful and it was really amazing to see how some of the textiles are woven by the hand/foot operated and then embellished with embroidery, also by hand. Needless to say, I bought a few things at this factory/store.

Village of San Antonio Palopo

Colorful cemetary in Guatemala with above ground vaults.

These seem to be the luxury vaults...designed in Asian, Russian, Myan and other styles.

The other end of the spectrum...graves of those who cannot afford to build large expensive vaults.

The beautiful flowers for sale on the steps of the Catholic/Indigenous/Mayan church in Chichicastenango...The rest of the market was wonderful. Of course, I bought a few things...mostly presents for people back home. I probably already said this but everyone should be expecting their Christmas presents to be from Guatemala. I had a lot of fun barganing and seeing all of the amazing textiles and other products in the market. It took about 20 minutes to buy one item but it was an adventure. You had to give a low offer and then counter offer with increases of 5 or 10 quetzales until you and the vendor met in the middle somewhere. I didn't do a great job at a few places but I'm glad I got a chance to practice at this market so that I can bargain better at other markets around the country. Although, the market at Chichi is pretty fantastic and I would love to go back.

Las Vacas-Cows for sale!!! My friend Andrea jokingly asked our tour van driver if she could buy a cow and put it in the van to take back to Antigua...he answered her very seriously, "Yes, of course! You can get two if you'd like. One can go in the back of the van and the other on top." He was also joking but it was amusing all in the same.

I'm off to figure out where my next destination will be....either one more week in Antigua or start traveling west and north to Xela and Chicaman. Hopefully I can make a decision by tomorrow afternoon.