Thursday, June 28, 2012

This is what I get to do every day. Just kidding, we don't often have special events like this, but just look at the woman in the audience dancing. That is my current life. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mis Cumpleaños

Can I just start this post by informing the world that I'm pretty sure I helped one of mi amigas ancianas take a dump today? Just another day with the oldies. Bed pans are the best, right? ha. not. Please don't be too jealous of my ultra glamorous life.

Besides the constant talk of poo, it was mis cumpleaños ayer! As you all know and surely celebrated, despite my absence. p.s. I expect a super extravaganza once I grace you with my presence in a couple days. Está bien? Si. I actually thought I was going to get away with only a select few knowing it was my birthdays. JOKES. I came back from placement to balloons and my name on sticky notes around the door. If it had been anyone but Lily I wouldn't have been pleased...but I love her more than anything ever, so all was forgiven. Until I got sung to by everyone at lunch. Como, I still love Lily, plus I got cake. YUM. My second birthday present came in the form of the city tour for all the newbies. So the house was nice and peaceful for a few hours. Me gusta. Virginia came late and ruined the surprise that Laura, Ann, Devin, and Kat were taking me out to dinner in the nicer zone later that night, but está bien, because I still appreciated it. It was nice to get out of the house and away from the constant people everywhere for a while, and just kinda change up our usual schedule. They ended up taking me to a nice Italian restaurant that looked a lot like somewhere in the United States, which seems like it would be normal, but no está verdad. As weird as it felt to be among the richer Guatemalans, it was a super nice dinner...even though some people are suffering today. But who knows that might not be from the food. It's hard to tell. Overall it was a solid birthday spent in Guatemala. I'm going to be sad to leave all the women who sang me happy birthday at the nursing home, the staff here that excitedly hugged me, and the good friends who treated me to a birthday dinner. Muchas Gracias!

At placement, Ann and I got invited to spend the rest of the week down in the physical therapy area where we bring some of the ladies in the morning. It's been a nice change since we still get to see all the women, and get to interact with the nurses. Let me just tell you, the physical therapists are waaaaay nicer and more welcoming than the nursing home nurses. We've been working with Debby, who speaks English really well, so that's been less mentally draining than the last three weeks as well. Although it's funny, because more people can speak at least limited English down there so Ann and I have had to censor what we say since we've gotten so used to people just not understanding a word we say. Como, oops. But it's been a lot of fun since some of the physical therapists want to learn English so we sort of teach each other things, and they welcome our help in general. It's also been cool seeing what goes on when we drop the ladies off for physical therapy. Debby informed us that the hospital has to give physical therapy treatments to 190 women in three hours. That seems doable. She used to work in the private hospital in the area, and apparently it's crazy different. What a difference a little money makes, right? Apparently, they don't have enough time to treat everyone so they get shortened treatments, rather than the one on one time they really need, but the therapists do the best they can with what they have that's for sure.

Ann and I were supposed to conduct a class today, but instead a marimba band came in and played a concert for those in physical therapy. Muy awesome. The girls that played were super good and the patients got so into it! Cecilia, one of the ladies I talk to on the regz, danced like a kid, it was so great. Apparently her father was from the area that the marimba band came from so it reminded her of him and brought her to tears. So presh. I love her. I love them all. I'm going to cry on Friday when I leave them for good. Thanks for changing my life, ladies.

April Fools!

JUST KIDDING. Happy late April Fools y'all. Thanks to the generosity of my awesome parents, I got to stay an extra week. Yay! Está bien. They also let me go away this weekend, which was extra cool. yayayayay. There are a lot of newbies now, which is weird and overwhelming, but luckily, a small chunk of my orig group is still here, so it's decent.

So anyways, I cannot possibly recount all the hilarious and sad things my new old lady friends have said to me because there are always so many gems. Shonita told me today that all Guatemalan men are monkeys. lol. They kind of are gross when they whistle and stare, so good call, mi amiga. I have started talking to a woman named Fabiana recently, and we don't have the most cheerful conversations, but always super intelligent. I wish I could clearly understand everything she says to me, but I only really catch the gist. It's enough most of the time. She actually worked as a nanny/cleaning lady for a family in Los Angeles for a year so she thinks pretty highly of Americans. This is good. She tells me a lot about the problems in Guatemala, including the dump, and the country's lack of education, saying that without education, you won't learn to have respect for people. Es verdad. She's told me so many interesting and sometimes depressing things, but for sure always informative. I love the variety of women I work with.

Outside of my placement I was able to go on and extra weekend trip to Lake Atitlan (THANKS MOM AND DAD). It was amazing! As per usual. I feel like it was decently relaxing....ok maybe not, but there was only five of us so it was super not stressful. We took off for the lacke on Friday afternoon without a plan for our hostel, but está bien porque there are so many hostels and hotels in the area, so we weren't worried. We had to make a really short stop in Antigua before moving on to Panajachel two and a half hours away. The ride was meh. Nothing special. Thankfully I didn't get carsick though. Success.

Once we got to Panajachel and found a really cute hostel type place to stay. It was kind of a mix between hotel and hostel. Breakfast and dinner were included and we got our own private rooms and bathrooms. SCORE. The next day the five of us woke up early to get our ziplining on. yay so fun. Even though I've zipped across the Berkshires, I wasn't really quite sure what to expect, and was getting decently nervous. I knew once I got past the first zipline, como, está bien, but it didn't take long for me to remember why ziplining is the best.

We had to hike for about for about twenty minutes before the zipline, which included some wooden hangy bridges aka my worst nightmare. Hello adventurous Amanda. God, I'm such a champ now LOL nawwwwt. Also, I'm still mad at Kat for the unnecessary swinging of the bridges -_____-. We ended up having to trek over a bridge right next to a giant waterfall, which I would have appreciated more if I wasn't swinging over a rushing river.  Como, whatever.

And then we got to the zipline. IT WAS THE BEST!! Zipling over Guatemalan forest with a beautiful, gigantic lake view on one side and a waterfall on the other? Yes, please. It may have kicked Mass ziplining in the butt. Just kidding, Massachusetts's zipling is still wicked awesome. I felt pretty safe attached to the wire, but it's definitely less structured than the United States' ziplining. details. I also had to break myself, but está bien, it really wasn't a huge deal, even though that's what scared me. We ended up meeting a couple families from the States on vacation in Guatemala, so I've offish decided our fam needs less princessy vacations and more adventure. Muy bien! I actually just kept thinking that Uncle Scrub, Lucas, and Jessica would be all over this sweet ziplining adventure. Casual trip to Central America, anyone???

After ziplining we found a hippyish kind of restaurant for lunch and shared some delish food and laughs. Definitely a solid group to travel with. We spent the afternoon just kind of shopping and relaxing, so all was good.

Chichicastenango (the biggest market in Central America) was on the agenda for the next day. That was definitely an experience. It was crazy crowded con muchos gringos, but it was still cool, yo. I didn't really buy much since I was kind of overwhelmed and wasn't really sure of what I I left the biggest market around with a postcard.

I was just going to end this, but then I remembered that on the way home WE GOT BAGEL BARN AGAIN. obsessed. We semi jokingly asked if the tour company would bring us to Bagel Barn since we are obsessed over it all the way to Antigua. Extra Bage Barn? BEST DAY EVER. Pizza bagels 4 dayzzzz

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The grand finale

Alright, I'm pretty much done recapping because 1) I'm lazy 2) my life's pretty much a blur 3) There's just too much. I can't believe this is coming to an end, I really can't. I apologize in advance for being so sentimental and gross in this post.

Let me just start by thanking Guatemala and all the AMAZING people I've met. You have all truly changed my life in absolutely indescribable ways. I've learned how uptight New Englanders really are (guilty), and how nice it is to hug instead of shake hands. I'm still not used to so much physical contact (we are a cold people), but I appreciate the change. For example, just this morning I met some super nice Guatemalan students, and ended up hugging most of them. It doesn't completely weird me out anymore. Guatemalans know how to say nice to meet you, and truly mean it.

I feel like I've learned so much in such a short span of time. Not only have I been immersed in the Spanish language, but also the colorful Guatemalan culture. I mean sure, I won't miss the middle aged men whistling at the gringas, but there are so many positive aspects of this country and culture that I will for sure miss. I'll miss the mujeres ancianas telling me I'm beautiful (LOL), their smiles, embraces, and infectious enthusiasm for life. I'll miss coming home to such a wonderful group of young women every afternoon, and swapping stories over tortillas and Lily's amazing cooking. I'll miss weekend adventures, despite having more than a few near death experiences. I will this whole experience.

Though I'll miss it all, I know I've gained so much in the last three weeks that I'll keep with me always. I learned that once I get passed the fear of something, it can be so so awesome. Semuc Champey, anyone? Getting out of my comfort zone was for sure terrifying. Just ask Kat, she witnessed and took part in some major panic attacks June 1st. But here I am three weeks later, not quite ready to bid farewell to this place and return to my normal life. I've learned that you can never have too much compassion for someone, and that just smiling or holding a hand can make all the difference in the world. I've learned that I need to appreciate all that I have, as difficult as it may be in the moment. I'm not sure I could list or put into words everything I've learned here. It's just too much. 

Don't get me wrong, I'm excited to see all ya, breathe fresh air, and wear a seatbelt, but these three weeks have felt more like three days. 

Not only have I loved getting to know the amazing women I work with, but also many of the volunteers. Traveling con una amiga buena has been great, helped avoid homesickness, and kept the laughs and awkward momes coming. I guess this is a decent sign (other than our general awkwardness) since ya know, we'll be heading to Denmark real soon. Lo siento no estoy lo siento. I feel as if I've known many of the volunteers forever and hope I get the chance to see and talk with them in the future. 

Okay, I need to tone down the mush. On a lighter note, San Martin bakert, I'm coming for you big time. Have the pastries ready. 

It's been real Guatemala. I'll for sure be back. No question. Thank you for being so amazingly wonderful and making me a better person...and more open to hugs. te amo.


Sunday, June 17, 2012

Volcanos and Antigua

Guatemala, you the best. Seriously. I'm more in love every day with this place. This is by far the most amazing experience of my life. I feel like I spend most of this blog obsessing over Guatemala, but I just can't help it.

I'm having a hard time remembering what happened at placement Thursday and Friday, so probs won't be recapping much, or at all. On Friday, Kristen, Rachel, and Bri were getting ready to leave us, so most of us journeyed to the Volcan de Pacaya for a last adventure for those leaving. I was pretty traumatized by last week's hike, so trekking my way up a volcano didn't sound too great. Good thing they offered horses up the volcan. Laziness for dayzzz. Shame all the horses looked like they hadn't eaten in five years. Whatever, it got me up there, right? Poor caballo. Some brave souls decided to walk while the rest of us horsed it up the volcano. Kat and Ann had never been on a horse before so that was fun lol. Although, let's be real, I'm no pony expert, and may or may not have a slight fear of riding something with a mind of its own up the side of an active volcano, but, meh, details. All was fine (minus the sore butt) my horse just had a tendency to make its way to the edge. A lot. That tumble probably wouldn't have been too fun.

Once we made it to the foggy look out area we ditched the ponies and hiked by foot the rest of the way. The rest of the hike was the perfect combination of terrifying and amazing, just like everything I've done here. It's definitely been awesome getting out of my comfort zone. It's no cliche to say that this trip has changed my life. The views on the way up were really fantastic. The whole experience reminded me of either Mars or the Lion King wasteland business. So cool. I just kept thinking the whole time "is this real life?" Sure didn't feel like it. Thanks Wheaton, Mom, and Dad. I couldn't be more thankful for this amazing opportunity.

Anyways, we had to climb over volcanic rocks in the foggy cloudiness, until we reached the most awesome campfire of sorts, marshmallow roasting party evs. There's a little natural vent type thing where we were invited to roast some marshmallows. Made a smore on top of a volcano. no big deal. Snapped plenty of awkz pics up there with my colorful Guatemala mallows. So awesome. All mi amigas chillin in the U.S. right now, I'm dragging you with me next time.

After making smores and just kinda chillin on the top, it was time to trek back down. The sky started to clear a bit and we were treated to the most beautiful view ever. The volcan de agua stood majestically across from us, framed with big puffy clouds and the setting sun. Check that awesomeness on facebook fo sho. I'm debating whethere this or the Grand Canyon claims the top spot for the most amazingly gorgeous views of mah life. I'm thinking this might just take the cake. Can't believe this is real.

After the hike we drove back to the homebase to drop Kristen, Rachel, and Bri off and said our goodbyes. muy triste. Now Kat and I are just having an awkwardness explosion in our room by ourselves. Rachel seemed to reign it in a little.

Sidenote, saw two prostitutes on our drive back to the ciudad. It couldn't have later than 8 PM. Classy stuff, yo.

Antigua was next on the agenda. It was tough to really look around in the dark and we were exhausted, so after checking into our hostel, we ran across the street to a lovely little restaurant for dinner. Baseball and American music were playing. Hello tourist capital of Guatemala. Back at our hostel we met a really awesome woman named Laura who had spent the last two years traveling the globe. Jellin on your life, lady.

The next morning I just spent our day shopping, eating, and exploring the city with some wonderful people. Antigua is super precious and beautiful. There are really cute shops and restaurants everywhere (and gringos), so it was a nice change from Guate City.

We had a low key lunch at the Bagel Barn (Katie, you would have loved this place. And Antigua) and I had the most amazing pizza bagel with pesto and peppers. SO GOOD. Later, we made a stop for fresh made froyo. Such a solid day. Very relaxing and lovely....other than someone's struggles with travelers d. lol. so hilarious, yet also not. Only funny when you make an announcement about it bahahahaha. I'm gonna miss these people.

Mayan Ruins, yo.

Yesterday we all got the day from our placements and spent the day being touristy. woot. We left at about 8:30 for the hour and a half trip to Iximché to see the Mayan ruins. Apparently they are really small in comparison to Tikal, but it was still really cool!

We were led around by Virginia and Juan Carlos and learned a little about Mayan culture and what happened when the Spanish took over. We ended up running into some authentic rituals, that we obvz couldn't take pictures of, but it was super interesting. I'm actually obsessed with different cultures now. Obsessed. Once you get past the idea that you can't compare cultural practices to home, it can be really cool to watch.

After the Mayan ruins we all went out to lunch at a more touristy restaurant. Given that I apparently decided to be a vegetarian here, I opted for the nachos rather than the meat dishes. No me gusta chicken  on bone, it freaks me out. I'm pretty sure the first day of placement when I had to feed an old lady a chicken wing scarred me. So nachos and homemade tortillas it is. Perf. And a delicious carbonated lemonade. Holy yum.

After lunch we proceeded to the town where Oscar Peren paints. Virginia wanted to take us the scenic route aka another death drive. Nothing like windy dirt roads filled with pot holes, literally on the sides of mountains. Guatemala has for sure toughened up my stomach in so many ways. I think I'm gonna take on a roller coaster now. Okay, maybe that's pushing it. Let's try the roads of Yellowstone or something. Better yet, I'm dragging my family to Latin America. Yeah? Time to get out of your five star comfort zone, mi familia. I'm pretty much in love with this area of the world now, so let's do this. You won't regret it. Promise.

Anyways, we arrived at Peren's little paint shop and oh myyyy god, that man's got skillzzz. The car ride back was kind of miserable for unbloggable reasons, and because we got stuck in really bad traffic for a long time. The smog here is pretty unbearable so that make traffic significantly worst. But we got back, so all is well.

p.s. I'm way to lazy to add pics so just go on facebook. lo siento no estoy lo siento.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Sad realities

This post is just kinda going to be a mess of Monday and Tuesday's activities. I'll definitely get to today's Mayan Ruin outing at some point, but I'm having a hard time keeping up with my life lately. Also I hand wrote this so it's just written in present tense. Don't get yoselves confused.

Well, happy Monday (wrote this on lunes obvzz) todos los personas. I'm exhausted from my weekend so today at placement was meh. I mostly just drew for three hours with one woman, which was cool since I like drawing and wasn't really in the mood for heavy chatting. I didn't really want to complain about being tired while these women live in their crappy conditions so I tried to suck it up as best I could. It's become a lot harder to communicate with the ladies now since we've gotten past the whole, oh, what's your name, age, country, etc. Now it's time for legit conversations, which isn't easy, let me tell you. Pretty sure the nurses spend their days laughing at Anne and me. Oh well.

After work and lunch we all piled into the van with Juan Carlos to get a cultural look at the city beyond Zona 2 and our placements. We were able to see the best of the best and the worst of the worst. I feel like each day has some new kind of holy crap moment, and the city tour for sure offered some. We made our way through one of the public cemeteries in the city first. It really doesn't compare at all to the United States. Nothing here really does to be honest. The graves are more mausoleum like, and the richer the family, usually the more elaborate the grave site. check it.

We were informed that only about ten families have all the money in the country, and we were even able to see the CRAZY mausoleum of on of the richest families in Guatemala. Apparently the goal of the monument was to show the other people of the country that they have all the money and power. That's nice. I seriously couldn't believe that was true. That's not messed up or anything. It also seemed strategically placed right next to the giant wall that the poorer people are placed in when the giant graves are too expensive. nice.

this was massive. note the wall of grave slots next to it. yup.
The whole thing kind of freaked me out a little, although cemeteries in the U.S. freak me out as well, so it's not that surprising. But seriously people, take note, I would like a giant monument. Just kidding. Oh wait, no I'm not.

Once we wound our way through the cemetery we ended up way in the back near the dump. We were led out of the van and the smell hit me real hard. Apparently it was really ripe today. Although, I can't imagine it ever smells good. I can't actually imagine having to breathe that in day in and day out. There are tons of shacks all surrounding the dump area, so I'm sure that stink must just be everywhere. We ended up at a little ledge that overlooked the dump, and my heart instantly dropped. I knew people basically lived in the dump and spent their days rummaging through the trash, but honestly, I don't think it's something I fully comprehended until I saw it. And even still, it's so hard to imagine that this is people's lives. There are swarms of vultures and other birds that just ominously fly over the area, and it was actually kind of sickening. I've never felt so guilty about my super privileged life.

We all quietly got back in the van and drove through the neighborhood of the dump. Probably the saddest thing I've ever seen. The streets, houses, etc., are just filled with trash from the dump. Children play in the dirty streets and stray, skinny dogs are seriously everywhere. I couldn't believe it was real. I can't even imagine the health of any of these people. So crazy.

We drove through a lot of different neighborhoods filled with markets, chop shops, and drug dealers. There are significant issues with the functioning of the country, but with so much government corruption, how can it really get better?

Going from the dump to the ritzy area was insane, so we stopped to get ice cream in between to make the transition. yum. I got caramel explosion. so good. No Cherry Hill, but still a solid pit stop.

I honestly don't remember what I did last night. Sat? Probably. But today (Tuesday) was a much needed quiet day at the homebase after going nonstop for so long. My morning at the nursing home was pretty solid. Just loving about 5 old ladies more and more everyday. I've realized that I'm obsessed with Cecelia because she reminds me SO MUCH of Memere Lucille. Just a Guatemalan version. She's presh. After breakfast I started drawing again and made a nice cartoon pic of Cecelia and me, and she just started cracking up and showing it to the other women around. It was so great. I drew a more serious (or well as serious as a crayon drawing can get) drawing of a dog that was on a woman's coffee mug. I even went all out and shaded it. getatme. Bringing back my artsy self for realz. Cecelia was obsessed and kept both drawings. It was too presh. The owner of the dog mug even wheeled over to me and held my hand and thanked me for drawing the dog. lol. No probs, ladies. Cecelia also attempted to teach me how to crochet, but it's seriously difficult. I failed a lot. Memere, I'm coming over for some lessons. I'm determined now. Later, Maria gave me the address to write to her. I died. I'm actually going to cry when I have to leave. DONTMAKEMEGO.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

"Time to start believing in God again"

Lol. Except not really. I'm just gonna put the warning out now for my mother, and various aunts that read this, I'm sure some of the stuff I'm going to write will make you panic, but rest assured, I'm safe back in my bed at the homebase. So I cheated death like 2349839572093480239539458 times, as long as I made it back, right? I'm just kidding. Sorta.

So this weekend eleven of us shipped off to Coban, Guatemala to go on a tour of the waterfalls and caves out there. I drugged myself up on a mad dose of dramamine after packing in record time. The bus ride to Coban was supposed to take about five hours, but ours ended up being a torturous seven. No, you didn't read it wrong. And seriously the drivers here are nuts. I will never again complain about drivers in Massachusetts. Jokes, I probably will, but now I know what real crazy is. This explains the title of this post. These were the last words spoken before the bus pulled out of the little bus station in Guate City. Kat and I are really positive people. It didn't help that not long after we started going Kat makes the lovely comment "I should have told my mom I loved her." So reassuring. I mean I guess the bus ride wasn't that bad, but we do drive on super curvy roads on the sides of mountains. So, just kidding, it was that bad. Plus there was no air conditioning on the bus so it was crazy hot and humid. We ended up getting stuck in traffic for awhile which really slowed down our journey, therefore, extending it a couple hours. Eventually it got dark outside and then we all started to realize how unprepared we all were. woops. We asked someone who works on the bus to tell us when our stop was but eventually everybody but one other drunk guy were chilling on the bus and I think the movie Taken all flashed into our minds for some brief moments. But fortunately, Guatemala didn't get eleven new sex slaves, and we arrived at our hostel at around 9:30. We ate dinner in our hotel and then went to bed so we could wake up early for our tour at 8.

Some views from the bus

A lot of the houses in rural Guat look like this gem

Seriously this country is gorg

I felt pretty crappy when we woke up and didn't really feel up to sitting in a car for three more hours to get to the falls, but I sucked it up anyways and just chugged down a giant bottle of water and more dramamine, which made me feel much better. The ride to the actual tour definitely raised my blood pressure and probably took a couple years off my life, but hey, when in Guatemala, right? I would compare the ride to a really extended drive up Mt. Washington, ya know, basically on the edge of a really skinny, curvy road. After a couple hours the real road ended and we continued on a bumpy dirt road. Welcome to the jungle! The views from the van were absolutely breathtaking though. Guatemala is a beautiful country for sure. As if the adventure wasn't crazy enough, when it was time to actually start hiking we soon realized this was no easy jaunt through the woods. I'm pretty sure this mountain hike was the most physically rigorous experience of my life. Not even exaggerating. Our tour guide informed us before we got started that there were five hundred and something stairs to the top of the mountain. The sign that read "dificil" was no joke.

look how happy and not sweaty we look....just wait

so. many. stairs.

I learned some valuable lessons about myself this weekend, one being that I'm megs out of shape. Oh just kidding, Nike just called and wants to sponsor me. ha. I'd like to say that I conquered that mountain, but I'm pretty sure it was the other way around. I'm not sure at what point I felt like I was going to faint, die, and puke, but I thought all three of those things were going to happen at some point during that climb up la montaña. Kat, Ann, and I all kind of stuck together as we struggled. I feel like struggled isn't even a strong enough word for yesterday. It didn't really help that it was probably 85 degrees outside with 10345809385093485093845% humidity. By the time we got halfway up we were all drenched in sweat and choking on deet. It was a really special blend of smells. One of our tour guides stayed behind with us weaklings and tried to reassure us that this was normal. I have a feeling we offered him some quality entertainment for the day. Just three white girls struggling to get up the mountain he climbs once a day six times a week. No big deal. By the time we reached the top, because yes we did reach it, I FELT LIKE A CHAMP. I was five million times grosser than I was an hourish ago but hey, I climbed a damn mountain in Guatemala. We took a few group shots and then sat down to eat lunch. The thought of eating anything made me want to vom, so I opted for just enjoying the views of the water below.

taking a much needed break. please note that I just poured water over my head. 

group shot


   Now I can say I climbed a mountain in the rain forest of Guatemala. Hell yes. I thought about just crawling up and dying a few hundred steps into the process, BUT I DID IT. I'm basically a star athlete now. After breaking for lunch we made the decently steep decent to the water behind me in the last picture. At this point I couldn't wait to just jump in. I think I may have been on fire a little bit. Or a lot. I'm really feeling that hike today. All of our legs started shaking on the way down, but luckily all eleven of us made it down to the water alive. The water was so crystal clear and felt super great after being drenched in sweat, deet, and sunscreen for so long (yes mom, I wore my sunscreen and repellent).

 I look thrilled.

Añadir leyenda

this made everything worth it

Our guides basically took us from pool to pool and we either had to jump in our slide down some rock slides. Think the rivers in the White Mountains only a million times more beautiful and awesome. I definitely scraped my butt on one of the slides, but the scrapes were definitely worth it. I mean look at that water. LOOK AT IT. I kept having to remind myself that it was real life. Si, es verdad. I'm in love.

My morning was pretty uneventful. Half of us took the early 9am bus while the others chilled and ate breakfast. The ride back was significantly better; air conditioned bus, a quick four hours, no people standing in the aisle. What a difference five dollars makes. Alright, I'm peacing out early and going to bed. I'm exhausted, but clean now because I finally showered after three days of disgustingness. woot.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Day Seis!

Hola from mi lugar favorito en la casa, aka the outdoor patio. I think it's everyone's favorite place to sit and just read and write. Muy bien.

My morning with the ladies was pretty uneventful. We arrived right at the endish of breakfast, so I helped one woman eat her gross looking meal. That food looks downright nasty. The women take a mass amount of pills with their breakfast, and it took like a gallon of water for the woman I was helping to get her pills down. So when she ran out of water with a half a pill left to go, I asked if she wanted more water, but instead she told me to put it in some questionable white goop. Thinking she would eat the pill with the goop, I began to spoon it to her. Instead, she shook her head and told me she was done. ha. Sneaky, Gertrudis, very sneaky. So basically if she's dead tomorrow, blame me. It's casual, just helping old ladies hide their meds. Job well done.

Other than possibly endangering the lives of the elderly, I did a lot of chatting as usual. There's a young nun named Rebecca who I really like talking to. I can't understand a lot of what she says but she seems to like having someone around her age to talk with, because I'm assuming she's in her twenties. All I can say is thanks parents for legit raising me Catholic, or I'd be lying to a lot of people. Sure, Catholicism and me aren't the best of friends at the moment, but apparently saying that you are agnostic, atheist, etc, is not okay here, so therefore, I will be Catholic for the next two weeks. Rebecca even asked if I had a confirmation. Si. Such an upstanding Catholic. JOKES. I actually ended up watching a bit of a mass today with one woman, and in case you were wondering, everything is the same, just in Spanish. Can't even handle the variety.

I taught a couple women some words in English, which sounds way grosser than the Spanish equivalents. Yesterday Rebecca asked how to say sandía (watermelon) in English, which sounded awful after speaking in Spanish for so long. I mean pelo o hair. Which sounds grosser, let's be real. Although hey, yesterday some random woman waiting outside the hospital told Ann and me that our English was pretty. She was telling me that her daughter was learning English but didn't have the English accent that we had. Funny story since I was talking to her in my horrible Spanish accent. But I still appreciated her compliment. Thanks nice random lady.

On a final comical note, I met one of the super nice male nurses, Alexis (not sure how he actually spells it) and we were just talking about what I study in school and Antigua and other random things, including how to say nachos in English. Nachos. Same, yo. And sassy Betty (we have a love, hate relationship) gave me the eyes as if this probably late 20s, maybe 30 year old man and me were actually flirting. Lawlz. Broken Spanish and conversations about nachos are obviously supes romantic. Calm yoself, Betty. She told me he was trouble. God, mis amigas nuevas are really looking out for me. lol. I was actually dyingggg inside. Muy cómica.

Guate Day 5

How do I only have two weeks left here!? This experience is one of the most amazing of my life, no question. I've met some truly wonderful people, both Guatemalan and American. The staff at the house are the sweetest! Lily, our amazing cook, already knows everyone's name and always asks us individually how the food was. MUY BIEN OBVS.

Yesterday was another awesome day. One lady actually made me cry a little bit at the nursing home. She was going on and on about how Ann and I are beautiful, and have corazones lindas y grandes (big and beautiful hearts). Then she started crying, twice, and I just couldn't help but cry myself. Those are the moments that you know that being here is truly worthwhile. I love that I can offer some much needed company to these women. I loaded a bunch of pictures onto my ipod to show the ladies. Unfortunately, the aerial google maps shot of my house makes me want to die. Thanks for the wonderful home mom and dad, but seriously it looks like we belong in Beverly Hills from above. cool.

Anyways, after placement and lunch of hamburguesas, we piled into two vans and drove to a coffee plantation right outside of Antigua (the touristy old capital of Guatemala). The drive there offered the most culture shock I've felt so far, as well as the most magnificent scenes ever. As we exited the city, we drove past some of the poorer areas of la ciudad. These are the things I wish that everyone could see. There are literally hundred of shacks made of metal sheets all kind of piled on top of each other all over the sides of mountains. I can only imagine the disastrous effects of mudslides. The whole scene was something I couldn't really comprehend. It's so hard to believe people actually live in these conditions. I have honestly never felt so grateful for my home and country. It's one thing to see pictures and hear about the poverty of the world, but it's a whole other situation to actually see it with your own eyes. It's so crazy. I know that sadly, I will return to my first world life and therefore my first world complaints, but I for realsss encourage everybody to do something like this. I'm so happy I did. It's so eye opening and just amazingly wonderful to experience such a different culture. Don't pass up the chance, yo.

Antigua and the small puebla where the coffee plantation was ended up being super pretty. I can't wait to go back to the Antigua area in a week! The coffee plantation was really cool and had amazing views of the surrounding mountains. I wish the pictures really did the views justice. Our group went pretty picture crazy since we've all been hesitant about taking pictures around Guate City. Now I can actually prove I was here. Actually, it's all a lie, Kat and I stayed in Miami. Livin' large.

Just kidding, we are legit chilling in Guate. And you should all be proud, we have been decently social. Check us out. People probably also think we are a couple, but eh, small details. We are just really presh without even trying. It just comes naturally, obvz. But everyone is super friendly so it hasn't been to difficult to be social. We only had one night of isolation in our room. Whatevs.

After the coffee plantation tour we roamed around the gift shop. I opted for chocolate instead of coffee since I don't know anyone with a regular coffee maker anymore. Way to go guys. I only really wanted the coffee because it comes in a beautiful woven bag, but I plan on purchasing some hand made gems later. I did get to sample some free coffee though! It was way too strong black, but once I put coffeemate in it, I actually really enjoyed it.

We were then brought to a small market outside Antigua which was very Central American like. Virginia bought us all some corn type drink, but I only sipped some of Kat's before realizing that I don't enjoy corn in liquid form. There was also a woman making homemade tortillas filled with cheese and meats. I skipped out and just watched Ann and Kat obsess over their purchase. Yum. Now I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

  Driving tour of Antigua. Since I can't seem to explain to anyone what Guate looks like, here ya go! I have no idea what we are talking about in the background hahaha. Enjoy nonetheless.


I'm feeling way too lazy for a legit post today so I figured I'd just upload a sampling of my pics! Enjoy!

PASTRIES! the small one is filled with Nutella (YES!!) and the other is a cherry danish. me gustan.

Yesterday's lunch, yo. those tortillas are to die for

The home base! yay! don't let the bars on the windows scare you too much. 

Resident pups. Unforch they are leaving soon.

Oh hey it's mah birthday month. this was muy horrible. 


View from the coffee plantation! This picture does not do the view justice AT ALL. Y'all just need to come see fo yoself ;)

muy caliente, no? ha. note the matching outfits. we are so presh. ..and may or may not give off the impression that we are a couple. oops. 


Group shot! Such a wonderful group of people!

My free coffee sample. Once I put coffeemate in it I LOVED IT

Blurry Antigua. This city is adorbs. I love it. 

Church? I don't actually know, but it was muy bonita. 

shacks on a hill, yo. 

pretty church across the street from a market we stopped at

This was super legit! Handmaking tortillas!

Bravely trying street vendor food! Muy delicioso.

Action shot of the eating process.

Our driver lives in this neighborhood. Shoot. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Mah First Tuesday

Did I mention I love the old women I work with? They are the sweetest. My placement was pretty great today. I like it A LOT better than yesterday and was actually able understand and comunicate a lot more. We left a little late for placement since it was the first day for the interns, but I still had a solid amount of day ahead of me. Today I got to go with another girl from CCS which made the experience a lot smoother since she could understand my English babble. I may or may not have answered some people in English yesterday only to remember I was in Guatemala. This three week experience will probably teach me Spanish much quicker than any class ever did.

As soon as I walked in today, some of the most talkative ladies recognized me and waved with a cheerful "Buenos Dias!" We start our day by wheeling some of the women to physical therapy, which seems way too long and not enough one on one. Ann, the other girl with me in placement, went to wheel one of the women to therapy but she kept saying no. Ann called me over since my Spanish is slightly better and I realized that she needed to use the bathroom, but when we brought her to the bathroom door she continued to say no. Finally it dawned on me and I asked if she needed a nurse to go to el baño. I finally got a solid si. I ran to tell a nurse that she needed a nurse to go to the bathroom, and she said si and went about her business. ummm, cool. The poor old woman needs to go the bathroom! SOMEONE HELP HER. Someone finally came around to assist, but it was wayyy longer than it should have been.

We spent the rest of the morning just doing little tasks and socializing with the women. Pretty sure my new best friend is Maria. That woman is so sweet. I told her I was Catholic yesterday since we were told not to say we weren't any kind of religion, the women wouldn't understand. So today she enthusiastically shuffled over to me and told me that there was book on her night stand that she wanted us to read together. It ended up being a little Catholic prayer book that I read aloud for about an hour. It was super presh. She helped explain some of the more complicated Spanish words and smiled every time I asked a question. Since I did legitimately grow up Catholic I understood some of the prayers. I haven't done the sign of the cross in I don't even know how long, and it was the first time in forever that I did it happily. After each passage Maria would quietly mumble "que linda"-how beautiful. Mi día es muy buena.

After we got back from placement we had a delish lunch. I have pics but it takes a super long time to upload so I'll do an entire picture post tomorrow or Thursday. Then Virginia, our supervisor, said she had a surprise for us, so at about three we went out to the courtyard area to find a Happy Birthday banner for another volunteer and me, since we had birthdays in June. Our security guard hung out on the roof and controlled the giant piñata we destroyed. It was both horrible and great, since ya know, I hate attention, but it was muy comica. They bought us a lovely cake so we all went back inside to enjoy THE MOST AMAZING MEAL OF MY LIFE. Ok, that's overstating it a bit, but really, we had classic tostadas, which are basically a fried tortilla that you layer with beans, tomato type sauce, cheese, meat, guacamole, and delicious other things. Tostadas + Cake = amazing birthday celebration. The staff also chose not to reveal that Guatemalan birthday celebrations always include firecrackers. I think we all had heart attacks. The guard set them off in the corner of the yard as well unknowingly chatted across the way. I wish someone had gotten a video of our reactions. It was actually hilarious. Later Miguel, our guard, and Juan Carlos, another staff member, escorted the ten of us to the soccer court type thing and we all played a ridiculously fun game. My team won by the thanks to me. The days keep getting better, and it's been fun getting to know all the girls here since they are all super friendly. I can't wait to see what the next couple weeks hold for me!

I feel like a pic is necessary so here's the street I live on! Keep in mind that this is considered middle class.

La Primera Días en Guatemala

Ok, I'm officially in love with Guatemala. Alright, maybe not exactly Guatemala, but seriously, I'm loving this. A lot more than I thought I would. Me amo the women I work with and the others here from CCS, staff and other volunteers. Now that I've declared my love for this time to recap. I have a legit novel from my last few days so I'll skip the Sunday and just move on to my last two days of placement. HERE WE GOOOOO. sorry I'm not sorry for the español that I throw in. I'm in Guatemala. deal with it.

Anyways, I started at my placement on Monday, and it was a whole new kind of culture shock. Definitely the most I've felt so far. My morning started bright and early around 6 AM when it started to get noisy out in the city. I'd planned to get up around 7 AM, but Guatemala had different ideas. I quickly got dressed and headed off to breakfast. Yesterday's breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs with tomatoes and onions and strawberry yogurt with granola on the side. After breakfast it was time for all the volunteers to go to our placements while the interns got a Spanish crash course. A woman whose name is blanking on me went with us to introduce us to our placements. Surprisingly, she only spoke Spanish, but she was decently easy to understand, and we had someone fluent in Spanish and English with us. Very helpful. We drove through the grungy city and I just couldn't help but feel shocked at the state of the city. When we were stopped in traffic a lot of young boys tried to sell us various fruits and trinkets.

All I can really say is that the United States is absolutely nothing like this. Not even close. I can never imagine old school buses spewing black smoke and sporting shattered windows, ever being used as public transportation there. People literally hang out the doors of these already dangerous buses. I've had a lot of HOLY MOTHER OF GOD moments in the past few days. Seriously, it's crazy. I do live with all Americans though so it's nice to be able to speak English and talk about American culture. But seriously people, I'm going to come home speaking mad spanglish. Get ready, mi familia y mis amigos.

On to my placement. Pretty sure my instant reaction was "holy shit." I can't even explain how sheltered my life, and the lives of so many Americans, really is. I know we complain about nursing homes in the United States, and I know they are understaffed and whatnot, but trust me, it's nothing compared to what I experienced yesterday. No way. If I didn't already know it was a hospital I would never have guessed. I actually had a couple of moments that brought me close to tears, especially when I was standing in the bedroom of the women, which is literally a long room with worse than dorm room type mattresses all lined up with about two feet between them. They all have tiny little night stand, a bed, and a nametag. That's it. These women cannot possibly get the care and attention they really need there.   My first world problems have seemed quite unimportant as of late.

Yesterday was a special mix of culture shock, stress, and small moments of real happiness. I understood the gist of what the nurses said to me, but the language barrier was by far the most difficult part of yesterday. Most of the elderly women speak very mumbled and unclear so it could be hard to understand. But I met multiple sweet women who could have cared less that I was butchering their language and were honestly some of the most wonderful people I've ever encountered. I started off mostly just asking how all the women were, to which they sweetly grabbed my hand and answered with enthusiastic "muy biens" and would ask my name and where I was from. One nice lady tried to pronounce my last name in Spanish, which is pretty much not possible, and she laughed when I told her it was French. One of the first women I met told me to sit next to her and we chatted for awhile about Los Estados Unidos y Guatemala. She told me she had three children, eight grandchildren, but when asked if any of them visit, she answered with a sad "no." Those were some of the saddest moments of the day. Especially since the elderly are so respected in Latin cultures that for these women to be here, the are most likely abandoned. So not only do they live in crap conditions, eating food that would probably kill my first world stomach, but they are also so alone. That seriously kills a little bit.

I'm pretty sure I say si, me gusta, and no comprendo more times than I can count. But one of the most touching moments probably of my life was when my new friend María told me that all her family had passed away, as she put her hands together in prayer, and so soon after a nurse walked over to us just to say hi, and Maria grabbed the nurses hand and with the biggest most genuine smile said "Tengo un visitor!" aka I have a visitor! I just about died. You can so clearly tell that these women are dying to just talk to someone and have someone be there for them. This is gonna be rough and amazing. I can tell.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Welcome to Guatemala!

Culture shock, much? Jokes,I'm actually fine at the moment. Surprisingly so actually.Sure it's early in the game and all but I'm feeling decent. Before jumping into my experiences in actual Guatemala, it's always good to recap a travel day. Oh and p.s. To anyone I told that Guate is only an hour behind, I lied, it's two. That caused a solid amount of confusion today. Woops. Anyways, the day started at the crack of dawn. Haven't seen 5 am in a while, people. There's a reason I don't often see that time of day...I'm no ray of sunshine, nor do I look like one. So after stumbling out of bed and finally getting my stuff all together, pillow pet in tow, we were off. Our time at Logan was easy enough, especially since our first flight was only to Miami ( Spanish pronunciation of that, please) but I can't sayy im in love with American airlines. Not only was boarding pass printing a task and a half, but checking bags was another crazy ordeal. Ok, crazy is pushing it, but I ended up with four boarding passes and a lot of frustration. The plane ride itself was whatever, read some skymall, practiced mi espanol as Kat and I struggled to get through a few Spanish magazine articles, and took a fake nap. I also ate a bagel. Score. Love me some Dunks. Miami seemed super legit, so we may or may not have contemplated staying there. Either that or getting on one of the connecting flights to other boss destinations. Key West or St. Thomas , anyone? But we sucked it up and got on the right plane, but not before purchasing our last American meal for a wwhile. Airport tuna for the win. That flight was just as uneventful, except this time the coconut and raspberry m&ms made an appearance. Such solid purchases. The rasp m&ms are definitely gems. I recommend them to all. Ok, so now onto guatemala. Did I have some instant culture shock as we flew over the city? YES. Did I calm down? Yup. I'm sure I'll have more mOments in the future but I'm feeling good.Flying over the country was really beautiful for a while. Very lush and mountainy. Muy Bonita. From high above Guate city looks pretty much like anywhere, but getting closer we flew over a lot of shacks. And I mean legitamite tin roof shacks all kind of piled on top of each other. I think I just kept saying "holy crap,"and mayb some panic set in. The airport was pretty standard minus the lack of air conditioning. I'm so used to feeling like I'm in Antarctica when in aeropuertos but it was quite stuffy. After making my way through customs and whatnot, we exited and waited a little bit for the van. I awkwardly sai some things in Spanish and English to various people unsure of who knew what. Our driver spoke no English but I'm happy to report that I understood him when he said his arm was hurt so he couldn't help with bags. Unhappy to report that my bag was heavy. I was mid conversation as we made our way through the city, but it was definitely something to see and COMPLETELY unlike anything I've ever experienced. I'm not even really sure how to describe it. There are KFCs, tacobells, shell gas stations, normal things youd find around the good old USA, but it's not the US and that's obvious. I was mildly panicking as I knew I would, but a few hours into it and I'm feeling better. I feel very safe in the house, which is obviously important, and was able to spend most of my afternoon in some outdoorsy patio space beside a lime tree. Even as I sit here writing this I'm having a hard time believing it's real. Maybe it'll sink in come week three. We'll see. Just gotta comprehend that saying si or no to people Ian just a joke anymore. this is la vida real, la gente.