It is almost the end of day two and we are safe and sound and loving Guatemala! We arrived in Guatemala City yesterday morning and had a jam packed day until we made it to Ciudad Vieja, which means old city. Last night we stayed in a hotel and it was the cutest place in the world. A small Guatemalan family runs the hotel and they greeted us as if we were part of their family. The hotel, as well as many of the other buildings here is very colorful and is half inside/half outside. Many buildings here do not have full roofs, but it is really nice because Guatemala is the land of eternal spring time so it is always the perfect weather. We dropped out bags at our hotel and met with our group leader, Jane. She brought us sandwiches ( yay for real/non airport food) and then we went on a walk to explore the area. She explained to us that the large booms that we hear are not bombs or gunshots, but fire crackers because Guatemalans like to celebrate and will find any excuse to do so at any hour of the day. Our hotel was in La Cuidad Vieja, but De La Gente and our new living quarters are in San Miguel Escobar. Each of these towns consists of maybe 3-5 streets and are very small. The scenery here is breath taking. Everything is so colorful and surrounded by the two massive volcanoes which are always amazing to look at. After our orientation walk with Jane we got a much needed nap in before we were picked up by some farmers to go to dinner. The farmers made us tamales for dinner, which is what they eat every saturday for dinner. It was muy delicioso! I envisioned tamales to be extremely spicy, but it was a potato like dish that was heavenly! We got to converse with the farmer and his family and thankfully there was a translator because it was very hard to speak with them. After dinner we went back to our hotel to get some much needed rest after a long day of travel.
This morning we woke up and got breakfast made by our hotel family. We had eggs, cheese, beans, fruit, and fried plantains. We also got our first cup of Guatemalan coffee. Apparently Sam and I mistook the salt for sugar and were not too fond our of coffee until we realized what we had put in it. We finished up breakfast and left for Antigua. Antigua is the larger city in this part of the country and today was extra special because it is lent. This is a very religious area, so there were many processions and parades for the upcoming holy week. Many people make these beautiful “carpets” of flowers and colored sawdust and there were people and vendors EVERYWHERE! I think we are so lucky to be down here during this time because it is so rich with culture. After converting our money at a bank, we had some Guatemalan children approach us as they were doing a school project. My interpretation was spotty, but basically they wanted un abrazo ( or hug) and in return theywould give us a heart. It was a way to spread positivity. Our heart says, “Que la gracia del Senor Jesuscristo sea ton su espiritu”. Which is a bible verse, inspired by holy week. We then, hiked up a very very large hill, not fully realizing what we were in for, until we got to the top where this larger cross monument was placed. This was cool to see, until we took a few more steps are realized we were overlooking all of Antigua, with the breathtaking volcano behind it. We got to take hundreds of pictures, mingle with some locals and also discuss a bit of Guatemala history.
We then hiked down and went to see some Mayan ruins. Wading through Antigua was very hard today because so many people are staked out for the religious festivities. The ruins were very beautiful to see and walk through. Many families were camped out eating picnics in the grassy areas and it was so nice to be able to see. There was also a museum there as well but, given our lack of spanish knowledge, it was muy difacil to interpret. We did learn a lot though about Saint Hermano Pedro, who is the only saint of Guatemala and dedicated his whole life to serving others. There was a whole section where people wrote thank yous and left their crutches or medical equipment that they no longer needed because he helped them. It was very empowering to see. After the museum we walked to lunch which was a more international restaurant, so could order food we are more familiar with if we chose. We all got smoothies, per our guides recommendation, and not only were they the size of our heads, but they were delicious. Nicole, Anna and I split some quesidillas which were fabulous. After lunch we got to go to the market for a little bit at shop. Oh my gosh, what an overwhelming experience. The markets here are all set up for you to bargain the price, but even just walking up to look at something, the vendors would latch on to you and make it very hard to walk away. Their booths were filled with colorful merchandise,so while shopping you had to attempt to speak Spanish, find what you wanted to buy, convert how much it actually cost, and then stop them from talking you in to buying 8 more. It was both exhilarating and exhausting.
At 3pm we caught our bus back to San Miguel Escobar and got to move in to the De La Gente house, where we will stay for the remainder of the trip. We now have some down time until we eat dinner with a farmer again.
I asked a few group members what their favorite thing so far is and heres what they said:
Anna- ” I liked the market and getting to practice my Spanish. It made me realize I know more than i thought”
Karissa- ” The market was also my favorite so far too because we got to interact with a local who was very interactive and shared many tips about our trip.” I believe they spoke to this lady for a long time in the market and really connected with her. It was very cool to hear about!
Stephanie- ” I really liked going to the cross today and hiking up so high. It was really beautiful to see the volcanoes and beautiful scenery. Everyone up there was so open to talking with us and we took a larger group photo with some of them which was so much fun!”
Nicole- ” I tried Guacamole, and it wasn’t terrible”.
I will be quoting some other group members in my next post, but they are all currently resting. Overall, we are safe, sound, and LOVING Guatemala!