Alright. I’m gonna take a short break from Spanish to update you on my summer travels. Then I’ll translate it into Spanish simply for fun and practice (would you like to read that?).
I have a total of 5 weeks vacation before I need to be back to work. I stayed at school a week after teachers left, and return 2 and a half weeks before new teachers arrive. Have I told you yet that I’m now the Curriculum Coordinator? Hence the extra work/shorter summer (and that’s not a bad thing). Yay for new professional learning/experiences. So, what have I been doing in my 5 weeks (currently in week 4)?
Week 1-ish: Antigua
Where should I go in my five weeks? That was the question at this point. I was waiting on my new bank card to arrive, so I decided to have it sent to Antigua, and spend the first week of my vacation there. I just wandered around the city, met people at the hostel, continued my learning about nutrition and digestion, and read. A real vacation week. At this point, I had been considering going to Nicaragua, or possible Xela, Guatemala to study Spanish. That hasn’t happened.
Week 1.5-ish: Livingston
I met this super awesome girl, Holly, at the hostel one night. We chatted, explored the chocolate museum, relaxed in a beautiful courtyard – we got along splendidly. Holly recently signed a contract to teach in Senegal. She speaks French and this will be her first experience teaching abroad. Naturally, we had a lot to talk about. She taught me about African culture, languages, and geography, and I taught her about teaching. She sparked a curiosity about this region of the world and now I really want to visit Africa, maybe learn French there when I’m done learning Spanish here. Anyway, Holly was going to Livingston the next day and, in true Lauren style, I made a last minute decision to tag along on her adventure to this place I knew next-to-nothing about. I had said I might join her, and then we didn’t talk about until the next morning when she showed up at my hostel and said, “Let’s go”. My response? “Umm… okay, let me pack my bag.” Fifteen minutes later, we were off. I splurged on the luxury bus (there really aren’t any other options besides hitchhiking). I had heard about Livingston and some river on the east coast of Guatemala, but I didn’t know much about it. So what is it about? Well, besides the fact that the climate is ridiculously different (read f-ing humid), there is an entirely different culture: Garifuna. We stayed in a dumpy but cheap hotel called African Place, which let us use their kitchen for free (a tough find in Livingston). If we’d had more time (and if I hadn’t been dying to get back to a climate where my clothes wouldn’t be constantly damp), we might have seen or taken part in a local dance, drum circle, or something of the sort. But, it was enough to simply wander the streets and take in the vibe.
We arrived just in time for the daily storm. I’ve never experienced a storm like this. A true tropical storm: torrential downpour, complete overcast sky, palm trees swaying from the heavy winds. We were stuck on the boat, waiting for the storm to pass before we could get to Livingston. Once it was mostly clear, we headed out, but there was still lightning in the distance. Pushing aside our concerns about safety, we embraced the adventure, watching the lightning in the distance, and laughing as the rain blew into the boat, soaking us and our bags. We walked to a hotel in the downpour, getting completely soaked from head to toe.
After a good night’s sleep, we went for a 2? 3? 4? hour walk along the beach to waterfalls nearby. One of those collection of cascading falls surrounded by nature and very few people. It was blissful, as these places always are.
After a couple days, Holly had to keep moving (she was on a short holiday), so she headed to Lake Atitlan, and I went to stay in a hotel further down the river, accessible only by boat. The food was shitty and the hotel was loaded with groups of travellers who, at first, didn’t appear all that interested in meeting others. The food stayed shitty, but I ended up chatting with a great group of Belgian girls my first night, and having a great conversation with a Guatemalan (city boy) at breakfast the next morning. After breakfast, I headed out in a kayak for some alone time and wrote this collection of thoughts about the serene experience. There is just something about being alone in the middle of a body of water that is just so… so… well, it’s indescribable, but I try.
Feeling ready to eat some good food again, pay less for it, and maybe get somewhere where my skin won’t be in a constant state of sweaty shimmer, I decided to depart this unique part of Guatemala. I’d seen it, I’d enjoyed it. I was ready to leave it. I had one last caramel frappe (oh, did I tell you there’s this place with THE most amazing caramel frappe I’ve EVER had… yeah, it was ridiculously expensive and I bought one every day I was there!).
I went back to Livingston for one more night so I didn’t have to worry about getting up early for the bus (the beauty of slow travel). I found myself a private room for super cheap in a wonderful little hotel that, again, let me use their kitchen. I splurged on a roast dinner at the party hostel down the way, got my daily fill of socializing, and retired early. Another luxury bus ride brought me to “the city” the next day.
So that’s what I was up to the first week and a half of my vacation. I feel like the real fun starts in Guatemala City and continues in Antigua (weeks 2-5), so stay tuned for that.
We should do this more often. What have you been up to?