Sunday, June 28, 2009

So Have A Cup of Coffee And Catch Your Breath

(Written Thursday night)
Today was pretty amazing. 4 other volunteers and I zoomed out of Spanish School in the pouring rain, seriously the hardest it’s rained here yet, to wait for our ride to the coffee farm also known as Finca Filadelfia-having no connection to Philidelphia, PA.

Once at the farm, we got on the craziest looking jeep/mini bus thing. We had to pretty much climb a ladder on the back to get on it and the back was wide open. I will remind you the streets in Antigua are not exactly smooth and all made of stone, so it made for one interesting and bumpy ride.

Up we went through seriously beautiful scenery. It was green, mountainous, and gorgeous. Have a look.

Our guide, Roberto, took us around the entire farm on foot and in the scary but very fun jeep thing. We even got to pick our own coffee beans. I found a great one. We put them in our mouths and sucked on them for a while and they were super sweet.

We then were taken through the entire process of how the beans are picked, sorted, washed, roasted, etc. If you want more detail here then come to Guatemala and take the tour! You won’t be sorry! I mean really, look (although the pictures could never do it justice)…

While the tour was really good, it was the scenery that really took my breath away.

So, we found out that they export there best coffee to the US and keep the crappy stuff locally. And where does it go in the US? You guessed it…Starbucks.

So, at the end of the tour we went to the gift shop and all bought a bag of the best coffee they had, although there is most likely a more quality bag waiting for me at the corner of Broadway and Grace in Lakeview. Here is the bag they export the beans in.

The final part of our tour was the restaurant. This place actually houses a beautiful hotel and big restaurant. We were served, what else, coffee. Even though it was pretty humid out and more in need of Claritin than coffee, I drank every last drop. Mmmmmm.

More adventure lies ahead this weekend when I put another stamp on my passport and head to Copan, Honduras. As of now I am getting picked up at 4am on Saturday morning and headed to another country with 5 people I met like 3 days ago, but who all have known each other for several years. We have a ride there and back, but no where to stay or a guide or anything else yet. Copan is a big place to see Mayan Ruins. Not quite as big as Tikal, which is a place I hope to visit, but still supposed to be pretty fantastic. I have no idea how long it takes to get there. (Debra, some help here?) So, another expedition awaits.

To all you loyal readers out there, which is probably only like 2 of you since I get so few notes (hint, hint), I most likely will not be writing quite as much in the weeks to come. Soon I will be teaching in my school and taking Spanish school after and there is just so little time! But I will do my best! Don’t worry, I won’t sleep, just blog.

I will leave you with a few pictures to make you wish you were here!



“Fee” -Phish

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Just Like Bad Medicine

I had a little setback here yesterday. Two nights ago, despite the fact I took Nyquil, I got absolutely no sleep. I mean NONE. Yesterday I did my best to make it through Spanish school. Equipped with tons of Kleenex, sanitizer, medicine, and vitamin-c chewables, I made the 25 minute walk over, feeling like I could die. I made it until noon, when I got very sick and was sent home. I actually think it might have been the medicine (bought in the US, not in Guatemala) that made me sick. I was disappointed I didn’t make it through the whole day, but there was nothing I could do. I headed to my house, spent the rest of the day in bed, and was SO much better today.

Spanish school is going really well. My teacher, Maria Marta, is great. We actually have real conversations in Spanish, which I was not expecting at all. We talk about the most random things. (No Debra, we did not have a conversation about circumcision; I’m not that good at Spanish!) But we did talk about how we don’t like others pushing their religions on us and how we identify more with the cultural aspects of our religions than the religious ones. She’s teaching me so much, but I actually think I’m teaching her a little too about things in my world, even with my limited vocabulary.

Today we played Spanish Scrabble against Lisa and her teacher, Sergio, and kicked some ass! Okay, so I totally guessed many of the words, but it turned out they were actual words so it counts. I get homework every night, and I strangely enjoy doing it. Quite a change from National Louis University. If Senor Bachman at GBN was half as interesting, I may have actually paid attention in Spanish in high school instead of taking those enjoyable siestas.

Every other store front in Antigua is a travel agency, literally. While I’m here there are so many things I am dying to do and so many places I want to visit! The first starts tomorrow, when four other volunteers and I go on a tour of a coffee plantation. It’s supposed to be beautiful and hopefully it won’t pour all day.

I’m glad I decided to stay an extra week after my volunteering is over. I feel like this country has endless possibilities and places to explore. I’ve only seen the tiniest bit, and already am longing for more. What I have seen has been very impressive. I can see how Americans can just pick up and move here. Tempting…

Another pic just for fun. It is LA Mercad Church in Antigua that I went to my first day here. So beautiful. The picture doesnt do it justice at all. Many more pictures to come.



“Bad Medicine” –Bon Jovi (Just for you Sam!)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

There´s A Roof Above and Good Walls All Around

Today’s topic: My house and family in Antigua. Since there are so many volunteers here right now, most of us are two to a house, some even three. The first person I met when I got here, Lisa, happens to be in my house with me. So, the houses here, not quite like those in the US, not that I was expecting them to be.

You walk in to what doubles as a front door and a garage. Pretty much the car is parked right next to the dining room table! Next there is a typical dining room and a tiny kitchen. My room and Lisa’s room are next, with a bathroom between us. However, outside our doors is the courtyard, so once you step out of the bedrooms or bathroom you are pretty much outside. There is an upstairs and multiple other bedrooms, and I think a family room, yet I haven’t actually been in any of these yet.

Our host mom is named Beatriz and is very nice. She definitely engages us in Spanish conversation. Lisa and I both brought her gifts from our hometowns and she was excited. Then there is her housekeeper, Carmen, who cooks our meals and cleans our rooms. She may or may not live here with her 4 children, two sets of twins! Still haven’t quite figured that out yet. What I do know is that she makes amazing taquitos and some damn good fried plantains. Her daughters also cook homemade tortillas!

So far, I can compare living here to overnight camp. I wear my flip flops everywhere, I have a set of very rickety drawers, my feet are constantly dirty, I have several mosquito bites, I sleep with a flashlight next to my bed, the shower is cold, and whether the toilet works completely or not is questionable. But still, it’s great! There is definitely a bit more to see and do here than Eagle River, Wisconsin.

So, I already have a bad cold, which is never fun, but even worse when you are somewhere unfamiliar. Thank God I brought the mini packets of Kleenex, although at this rate they won’t last long. I’m doing my best to not let it get me down, but I definitely need to get some rest! It’s only eight here, but I’m absolutely exhausted. Nyquil here I come!

I´ll leave you with another picture. This is the famous and beautiful Arch of Santa Catalina in Antigua:


“You’re My Home” –Billy Joel

Monday, June 22, 2009

Just Kickin' Down the Cobblestones

My first entry from Antigua, Guatemala! After absolutely no sleep on Friday night and a huge whole in the ceiling (don’t ask), William drove me to the airport at 4am. Two boring plane rides later, I was in the Guatemala airport. After finding the person there to get me, meeting another volunteer, Lisa from Oklahoma, and waiting two hours for another one to show up who never did, it was off to Antigua.

We were checked into our hotel room (3 beds and walls), which Lisa and I would be sharing with another volunteer arriving that night, given a map, and off to the main part of town we went.

Lisa and I decided to get dinner, even though it was only 4:30. We went to a really cute place called Los Palmas, which had excellent Spanish music, aka Buena Vista Social Club. It’s seriously the only music sung in Spanish I know besides La Bamba, so I thought it was ironic that it was playing. The waiter was very impressed with my musical knowledge.

So Lisa and I walked around a little, and I was instantly amazed with this city. Back to the hotel we went, and were joined by Esther before quickly falling asleep. (Thanks Ambien)

This morning we were up bright and early, had a breakfast and presentation with the other volunteers who arrived, I think there are 9 of us, met our host families, and took a quick tour of the city.

After the short tour, three of the volunteers and I walked ALL around the city. I seriously don’t think we left a single street untouched. We checked out the outdoor market, the grocery store, went into travel agencies, looked at lots of Jade, and even climbed a hill called Cerro de la Cruz where you get a view of the whole city and one of the volcano’s that lies behind it. It was quite a workout for me, but well worth it.

Antigua really is amazing. Imagine all cobblestone streets, not a single traffic light, brightly colored buildings all attached to each other, and volcanoes pretty much everywhere you look. No building is higher than two stories and all the buildings are attached. They do have places here like Domino’s, but you would never know it was a Domino’s because it’s just as pretty as all the other building with only a teeny tiny sign letting you know it’s just an American pizza place.

The number one thing I’m thankful I purchased for this trip is my raincoat. They seriously weren’t kidding when they said it’s the rainy season here! It’s pretty much poured all morning, until we decided to walk around and it magically stopped. Then, just as we were headed back to our host families, it started up again.

So, I’ve already met people from Ireland, Austria, Wales, and then of course a girl from Deerfield. Small world.

Tomorrow starts Spanish school so we’ll see what, if anything, I remember from my days in Spanish class. Mostly I just remember taking some good siestas….


"The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" Simon and Garfunkel

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Take A Break From All I Know

I leave a week from today! Lately, I feel like I’ve been walking around like a chicken with its head cut off. There have been numerous appointments, trips to Target, errands to run, and meals with friends. Plus, I still have a 10 page paper to write for grad school, my last paper ever! But still, it needs to get done. In fact, I should be writing it now instead of blogging, but procrastination is my specialty.

This week I got the name and address of my host family. That’s literally all it is right now, a name and address on a piece of paper. It really won’t mean much until I actually get there. I also got a list of Spanish vocab to learn and a teaching guide. But getting all this info really made the trip seem real to me.

With this trip quickly approaching, there are so many things I am excited about. I’ve been reading my guidebook nonstop (again while I should be writing my paper). I’ve made a list of places I want to see and things I want to do. Not sure I’ll be able to do it all, but I definitely want to take advantage of all the time I have there and make the most of it.

Of course, excitement is not my only emotion. I’m also pretty nervous, which I think is normal. There are so many unknowns. When I’ve been asked questions about the trip I usually end up saying “I’ll see when I get there.” Here are a few things I’m a little nervous about...

-How well and how quickly will I pick up this language that I haven’t studied since high school?

-What will teaching indigenous children who don’t speak my language be like?

-Will the food in my house be edible?

-Will I be homesick?

-How is this very directionally challenged girl ever going to find her way around?

-Will I actually be up to the adventurous things I want to do like climbing volcanoes, kayaking, and zip lining?

Again, I’ll see when I get there. It might be all unknown, but that’s also what makes it exciting. It will definitely be a change from what I’m used to.

This upcoming week is bound to be super busy, so my next post will most likely be from Guatemala! I can’t wait!



“To The Light” –Newton Faulkner

Sunday, June 7, 2009

We'll Keep On Fighting 'Til The End

Last night I was able to have a very Latin American experience without leaving Chicago. I attended the US vs. Honduras world cup qualifying game at Soldier Field. The people supporting Honduras are the definition of Super Fans and definitely outnumbered those of us cheering for the U.S. Every single one was decked out in blue and white jerseys, toting huge flags, and sporting some serious face paint. As early as 10am, the streets of downtown were covered with fans ready for some fĂștbol action.

The rowdy guys sitting in front of us actually flew in from Honduras to attend this game and stay with their cousins in Wisconsin. Now, that’s some real team loyalty. With the help of some cerveza, their cheers were as passionate as their clothing.

Saying the U.S. was off to a rough start is a huge understatement. In fact, it appeared as if some of them had never kicked a ball before. Our weak action on the field allowed Honduras to score within the first five minutes of the game. It was looking pretty bad for the US, when we got a penalty kick and scored to tie the game.

In the second half it was seriously as if a new team came on the field. The vigor of the Honduras fans died down (possibly too many cervezas), as did their players. The U.S. came back strong and played their hearts out. They dominated the second half and ended up scoring another goal to win the game!

Today I wore my new U.S. soccer t-shirt with pride. Check it out.

I’m hoping I’ll get to see, and possibly play, some great soccer in Guatemala. Soccer, or rather fĂștbol, is definitely the sport of Latin America and I can’t wait to be in the center of it all! In less than two weeks I will be!


"We Are The Champions" -Queen