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Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

How To Spend 5000 Quetzales in One Day

(That’s about £400)

After my fabulous breakfast at San Jorge (no, they didn’t kick me out on the street) I went to Old Town Outfitters, and joined a 2-day trip to Monterrico on the Pacific Coast, and a 3-day trip to Lake Atitlan. I then went around the corner and booked a 2-day trip to Tikal. So I haven’t got much time left to fill up now. Gutted that I won’t get to La Ceiba and Roatan, but wouldn’t really want to be there while there’s a tropical storm/hurricane.

Doreen and Mirna helped me find a new, cheaper hotel, so I’m now in Posada Don Valentino. It’s basic, but good enough for me. I’ve got my own bathroom with hot water, and it’s only 3 blocks from Parque Central. I went to Bagel Barn for lunch and then to Sin Ventura (the coffee shop). I checked out what films were showing where over the weekend, then sent a few emails.

I had a look at what else I could do while I’m in Antigua. Might go on a Coffee Finca tour, climb Pacaya volcano, and either going on a Cultural tour, or at least have a proper look around by myself.

I went back to Bagel Barn at 4:30pm to watch Matrix Reloaded, but the power for the whole street went out at 6pm, so I went back to the hotel, and then the power came back on. Went back at 7:30pm for some supper and to watch The Incredibles.

I’m much more comfortable in Antigua this time around. Probably a combination of knowing the language a bit better, and already having a vague idea of where to find everything here. And spending so much time in Copan by myself that I don’t feel so self-conscious about it now.

Guatemala Honduras Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Back to Antigua

Woke up way too early. My shuttle isn’t until 12noon, I’ve got very little to do, and I’m awake by 7am. Bought a newspaper and saw the photos of the bridges – one third of a 250 metre bridge missing between El Progreso and Tela, and another between Tela and La Ceiba. The great thing about this part of the world is there’s only one road to get somewhere, so if that’s out of action, you’re stuck. So I did some shopping, and then went for breakfast in Cafe Welchez – pancakes…mmm.

There was an advert for hair straighteners on the TV in there, with all these women going “wow, my hair is so straight” and running their fingers through their hair…I’m so jealous! Also, decided I’m either going to get my hair cut like Catherine Zeta Jones in Ocean’s Twelve, or grow it long but keep lots of layers. Any thoughts?

I said goodbye to Kike for the third time as I got onto the shuttle. Sat next to possibly the best looking guy in the world. Six pretty uninteresting hours to Antigua. My ears only popped once, compared to the many times on the way to Copan. You have to pass through the outskirts of Guatemala City to get to Antigua. There are some amazing sights of all these shanty towns built onto the sides of the mountains. I’ll try to get some photos when I head back to the airport. We arrived in Antigua at dusk, and it was quite clear so there were great views of the volcanoes, with just a few clouds around them.

Kike told me I had a room at Hotel San Jorge (the plush one I stayed at in the beginning), so I went there, and they told me someone else would be joining me tomorrow night. Rather confused. To cut a long story short, they thought I was someone else who was booked in with Old Town Outfitters tour company so put me in her room. As it turned out, I never had a reservation, so I don’t know what happened there!

Went to Doreen’s house expecting there to be a BBQ, but they had it last night for Sally and Robyn’s last day. Chatted to her and went to see Brian, then went to Monoloco to look for everyone else, but couldn’t see them. Went back to the hotel and ended up falling asleep in front of Shrek dubbed in Spanish.

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Bike Ride

Washing pila

Me and Sally went on our bike ride today. We were taken through the southern part of Antigua, went by a couple of churches, then left the city and went through a few of the outlying towns (similar to Santa Maria). We stopped at Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm (don’t ask what vikings have to do with Guatemala!) where we got a bit of a tour, pancakes with macadamia nut butter, and a facial with macadamia nut cream. My skin feels all soft and smooth now! We then cycled back along the highway to Antigua. It was a really nice ride and not too much work thankfully, but I’m quite badly sunburnt! (only down my left side though, strangely).

Haven’t really done much this afternoon. Had a coffee and chatted to Sally for ages after our bike ride, been round a few shops, that’s about it. I’m leaving at 8.30am tomorrow – somebody called Marvin is driving a few of us to Copan, and it’ll take about 6 hours. So I’m just getting ready for that really.

So yeah, not a very big entry today. Sorry!

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Juego Futbol

Last day of Spanish School! Huzzah! Might request a teacher who knows a lot of English in Honduras! I was learning yet more verbs today. And still don’t know past or future tense!

I went on my first chicken bus ride today. These buses don’t have timetables: they leave when they’re full to bursting. Imagine my disappointment when the driver left when it was only half full! I was really looking forward to being squashed up against the locals! We went up to Santa Maria de Jesus, which is a community on the slopes of Volcan Agua were the volunteers go.

It’s a strange place, but probably just like everywhere else here. You go up the volcano and all you see from the road is breeze-block buildings on the hills, and lots of rubbish (I’m sure you can imagine what it smells like). Most of the roads were paved and there were some convenience stores along the bigger roads. All the houses are small: 2-3 rooms per family. The infant school consisted of a room with a small sheltered area of dirt outside. They had a couple of toilets and a sink too, but it wasn’t much at all. But then when we were leaving, we walked up to the ‘centre’ to catch a bus, and there was all sorts: more shops, a police station, civil offices: not what I was expecting!

So Friday is sports day in the schools, which means football. We walked from the infant school to the junior school, and then everyone walked out of the town and down the hill a bit to the football field: a fair-sized patch of grass on a slope, near crops and a donkey tied to a small post. We had proper goals which surprised me, but no-one seemed to care where the edge of the pitch was. Basically, if the ball went into the nettles or went shooting past the goal, then it was out. Guatemalans play really frantic football. Everyone follows the ball wherever it goes – no defenders or strikers. Only the goalie stayed where he was. I think there was about 40 of us on the pitch. Maybe a little less. My team won 6-3 which was good news cuz the teacher Santiago was on the other team, and he’s really competitive (and a Spurs supporter!). Me, Keegan and Robyn didn’t really want to tackle the kids, but we had no problem going after him! He was really good tho, and so were a lot of the older kids.

My lower back is really killing now. I don’t think I’ve played football since me, Maz, Danny, Cameron and everyone else used to play in Twm or Nant! And I probably haven’t run much since then either.

We all went to Dom and Doreen’s for a barbeque in the evening. It was more fun than last week’s cuz at least I knew everyone this week. It’s Grace and Robyn’s last day, so they got a present each, and Dom and Michael each said how much their work was appreciated.

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Dia Malo y Dia Bueno

Thank God tomorrow is my last day of Spanish School! I’m so fed up with it. I know I’ve got another week in Honduras, but I’m just hoping I’ll have someone who can speak more English.

Today was pretty rubbish for the most part, but got better by the late afternoon.

I wanted to go to the market today but I spent ages and ages doing Spanish after lunch, so I didn’t have very long. I bought a really nice bag tho (cuz I need more bags!) and some souvenirs, so it wasn’t a total waste of an afternoon.

I met the other volunteers at the coffee shop at 5pm. It was so nice to hang out and chat! I’ve been so lonely. This isn’t really a place to be by yourself. Plenty of places to go and plenty of things to see, but not much fun alone! Me, Sally, Keegan and Veronica booked a bike ride for Saturday. I’m not entirely sure where we’re going – along the lower slopes of the volcanoes and to a macademia nut farm I think!

I went home for supper and did more Spanish, then went to Riki’s Bar to do a pub quiz (in Spanish) with the other volunteers. There were 11 of us altogether and we weren’t allowed to all be on one team. My team came 5th (second to last) and we won a litre of beer, and the other volunteers came 2nd and won a bottle of vodka! We got 13 out of 45 which wasn’t bad since we didn’t understand half of the questions! And those we did understand we just didn’t know the answer to, like which country has the highest ratio of police to the population? (It’s Argentina in case you’re interested). I went to a bar called Reds and a ‘club’ called La Casbah (think Juliets) with British Robyn, Canadian Robin and Libby. We met some guys called Michael and Tyler who are out here shooting a documentary for uni. Michael very kindly walked us all home at 1am, even though I live on the other side of town to the rest of them!

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Verbos!

Downside of not going to sleep til ‘late’ is being tired in the morning.

Learnt lots and lots of verbs today. I know how to say almost anything in the present tense. Difficult to put into conversation though since most people want to know what you have done or what you’re going to do. Although there is a way of using the present tense to say you’re going to do something in the future – I just need to look it up!

The bus station is right next to the market in Antigua so I walked over with Keegan and Sally (who where catching a bus to their projects in Santa Maria) and had a quick look around before lunch. I planned to go back later after I’d changed some traveller’s cheques, but I didn’t have time cuz I was doing my homework. And all the banks were closed by the time I went out.

Guatemala were playing Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifiers tonight. They won but Mexico and USA have qualified, so the Guatemalans didn’t stay happy for long!

Learnt how to say ‘the good, the bad and the ugly’ in Spanish today, so stay tuned for ‘lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo’ of Antigua.

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Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Bored

Whilst lying awake at 5am (still falling asleep too early hence the ridiculous hour) and going through my Spanish, it dawned on me that all of yesterday, I was learning ‘ser’ (to be) and all the questions I was answering were ‘I am’, ‘you are’, ‘he is’, etc. I can be so dense sometimes!

So second day of Spanish. Moved onto ‘estar’, also ‘to be’, but in different circumstances. Then moved on to ‘haber’, to have, and lost me completely! It’s so infuriating when you can’t say what you want to in English cuz the teacher can’t understand, and you can’t understand what she is saying either! But this seems to be how it’s done here, so I can’t really get angry about it. Word of warning if ever any of you plan to come here to learn Spanish (as most gringos seem to): bring a really good dictionary, make sure you have a lot of patience, and that you don’t mind a lack of structure! Learnt (or at least copied down) lots and lots of adjectives and antonyms too.

Went home and practiced a bit before lunch. Lots of people seem to get homework, but mine is just to practice. Don’t know if that’s good or bad. Checked my emails after lunch, but the power cut out twice and I was getting impatient cuz the connection was slow too. I wanted to have a proper look around town, but I’m quite intimidated going by myself (cuz everyone else is in their projects). It’s a nice enough town but nowhere is really ‘open’ – you don’t know what a place is until you’re on top it or past it. I still don’t feel like I know enough Spanish to get by alone either. And I can’t imagine looking around the ruins is much fun alone, but I may have to resort to that!

After supper, Carolina (my host mother) told me and Keegan (volunteer from Alaska) lots of stories about Antigua, mostly about Holy Week and all the religious stuff around here. Between us, I think we actually understood most of it! I’m starting to understand what people are saying to me (rather than just guessing), but I’m just struggling to talk back! Not much you can say using ‘to be’ and ‘to have’!

Figured out that I’m drinking much less coffee here than at home and that’s probably why I’m so tired. So I had an extra cup with supper and managed to stay awake til 11pm! I’m such a rebel.

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Escuela Espanol

Puppies being born meant people in the house being up late, which meant I didn’t sleep well. Woke up cuz I could hear voices and thought I was late for breakfast. It was 2.30am. I couldn’t get to sleep for ages, then woke up at 7am, entangled in my bedsheets. That left me with 45mins to shower, change, have breakfast and walk 10 minutes to the coffee shop to meet Dom before school.

So Spanish School is kinda weird. Basically, it’s one-on-one teaching from 8am to 12 noon, and there’s lots of desks dotted around the rooms and courtyard of the school. There seems to be a syllabus but no set method, so everyone learns different things on different days. And I’m fairly certain my teacher knows as much English as I do Spanish. Not much help when you’re trying to say that you don’t understand what she’s asking you to do! Not enough structure for my liking!

Went home and had lunch, then tried to practice what I’d learned. I’m having to teach myself from my Spanish textbook (from home, not given them here!) and dictionary. I went to The Bagel Barn to get out of the house and practice more, and had the biggest latte ever (and a bagel of course). Replied to emails and chatted to Maz and Fred on MSN.

School must be doing something for me cuz I understood most of what my host mother was saying after supper. With a lot of miming!

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Rotary of Guatemala

Still waking up early. :-(. Finished The Da Vinci Code while still in bed. Met Dom, Doreen and the other volunteers at the coffee shop (which seems to be the meeting point for everything!). A few of us went for brunch in a cafe on the other side of town.

We spent the afternoon helping the Rotary of Guatemala (a lot younger than our Rotary!). We sorted through donated clothes to send to hurricane victims, bagging two outfits per person, and cereal for kids. People donate some weird stuff. Among the bags and piles of clothes, we found:

  • one leg warmer
  • a red strapless dress
  • a black ballgown
  • a few sexy slips
  • a cabbage patch doll
  • a Santa hat
  • a dinner jacket

We got driven back to the coffee shop and we chilled out there for a while: tiring work sorting through and bagging clothes for five hours! Finally got a photo of Volcan Agua cuz the clouds had cleared – hopefully I’ll figure out how to get it on my webpage in the next few days! A few of us went to a restaurant called Monoloco for supper – had a huge veggie burrito – couldn’t finish it. Learnt a bit about baseball from new volunteer Keegan. Apparently Alex Rodriguez is great!

In bed by 9pm. The dog in the homestay had puppies around 10.30pm, and all the noise woke me up, and I couldn’t get back to sleep for ages and ages. Beginning to wonder if I’ll ever get a normal night’s sleep while I’m here!

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

No hablo Espanol!

It was my last day in the luxury of the hotel today, so I made the most of the hot shower and chilling out. Dom and Doreen came to get me at 10am and took me to my homestay, where I’ll be until next Sunday. It’s with the same family as Rufus (another volunteer), and they own a printing shop in Antigua, so the place always smells of ink! I think there’s three daughters, two sons and a granddaughter, but I might be wrong – lots of people coming and going!

Haven’t really done anything today. Feeling very disorientated: not many people speak much English and I don’t speak Spanish! No-one in the family I’m living with speak much English so today was pretty difficult.

Went to watch Guatemala vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier in a bar in town with some of the other volunteers. Deafening screams when Guatemala scored their second and Mexico had 3, but Mexico eventually won 5-2.

Still out of sync.

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Free Day in Antigua

I woke up around 8am, and took my time getting ready since I haven’t got anything to do today. Showered – hurray! Got a really nice breakfast, which I ate outside in the hotel garden. I was sat in the sun for all of 15mins and got sunburn! But cuz of the angle I was sat at, it’s only on one shoulder. Look a bit like a Rhubarb & Custard sweet.

Dom came to see me to say that basically, I could do what I wanted today, and there was a get together for the volunteers that night, and someone would be along to fetch me. Spent the day reading Da Vinci and went into Antigua about 4pm. Got a latte and a huge slice of apple pie in a cafe, for about 2.50. Luckily, people here can speak enough English to understand me and say stuff to me, and I can sometimes understand what they’re saying in Spanish!

Antigua is built in blocks, surrounding a central plaza. Its fairly easy to find your way, but all the streets look very similar, so it can be a bit daunting. All the streets are cobbled: not the place to live if you like the suspension on your car. It also has a very strange traffic system: everyone here seems to know where they’re going, but I have no idea how.

Outside of my window in the hotel, there’s a huge Volcano (Volcan Agua). I could see it first thing this morning, but it clouded over before I got a chance to take a photo.

Some of the other volunteers arrived around 7.30pm to go to Dom’s house, where I met the rest of them. Doreen showed us the news which was broadcasting a road and a bridge we needed to travel along to get to Honduras. The road is totally flooded: it’s in the valleys, so all the runoff from the mountains is heading down it towards the sea. The bridge has a section that needs repairing before anyone can cross. There’s about 10 yards missing. They reckon they’ll have it fixed in 5 days.

Still a bit out of sync: I was getting tired by 9pm.

Guatemala Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Heathrow: Point of No Return

Woke up at 5.30am, left at 6.30am and got to Heathrow around 7am. On the way into the car park I wasn’t paying much attention to the radio, but caught the bit about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes going to have a baby. I turned to look at Mum, and she looked horrified. The story before that – that I didn’t catch – was that there had been a hurricane in Central America that killed 110 people. She wasn’t too impressed when I started laughing about the fact that it had completely passed me by! Oops!

Checked in, got some breakfast, phoned Dad to say ‘bye’. Went to departures and said bye to Mum. That’s when it really hit me, now that I was by myself, that I really was going to the other side of the world. Only lasted til I got through to the shops though! Bought a new memory card for my camera, body spray, and a small alarm clock in case I can’t figure out how to turn my watch back!

Distance to Miami: 4421 miles. That’s a long way. And I still have a fair bit after that! Taking off was pretty cool: I was right over the wing so I could see us jutting through the clouds. And it was so bright above the clouds covering London: brilliant blue skies.

Watched Dark Water, Bewitched and CSI on the plane. CSI was probably my favourite. Only got about 30mins sleep. Irritating couple in front kept messing with their chairs, going down then up then down, and on and on. No need!

Miami sucked. It’s always sunny and gorgeous on the TV. We arrived in rain. There was more cloud in Miami than in London. And the airport’s rubbish: all corridors, not much in the way of shops. Got some food, read more of The Da Vinci Code. Had quite a wait between flights so had a bit of a wash and felt a lot fresher. Still smelled though. Wasn’t really tired which surprised me since I’d been up for 16 hours. Texted Mum to say I’d got that far, and got Gillian’s text too.

Best parts of Miami:

  • the view when we took off: blocks and blocks of houses and hotels, and almost every one with a pool; and it was clear by that time so we could see the Caribbean too.
  • meeting a Chelsea fan at immigration: actually, he was the immigration officer. Said if I’d have been staying in Miami he would’ve shown me the city!

Sat alone on the flight to Guatemala so lay down and fell asleep. Quite disappointed that it was dark when I woke up and we were coming in to land: all I could were twinkling lights below. Dom and Doreen (work for GVI, the company I’m volunteering with) met me at the airport and took me to the Hotel San Jorge in Antigua, Guatemala. Very tired and smelly by this point.

They told me that they weren’t sure if I was going to get there: the whole area was and still is on hurricane alert. By the time I reached Guatemala, there were 200 dead and lots still missing. One of the GVI projects had been completely wiped out. Dom told me that there was a change of plan: the road we’d take to Honduras was impassable, so I would be staying in Guatemala for a week, and then going on to Honduras.

I was in bed by 8.30pm, and very grateful for it.

Honduras and Guatemala 2005

Travel Plans

Been slowly cutting down my ‘To Do List’ today. About time. Sorted out some currency and emailed Nancy in Guatemala who is organising a trip for me at the end of my volunteering. But I still have a few days to fill myself.

Plans look like so at the moment:

  • Monday 21st November: get bus from Copan to La Ceiba. Think I have a stopover in San Pedro Sula for two hours, and arrive in La Ceiba at 1pm. Get the ferry to Roatan at 3pm. Arrive at 5pm.
  • Tuesday 22nd November: activities in Roatan generally revolve around diving, which I’ve never done before. But apparently this is an amazing place to dive and its cheap, so might as well give it a go. There’s also a place called Frangipani’s Bar in a resort here, so figure I have to go there.
  • Wednesday 23rd-Thursday 24th November: get the ferry from Roatan at 7am and arrive in La Ceiba at 9am. Hoping to do a few activities through a company called Jungle River over these two days. They also have two hostels for me to choose from to stay in. Thinking of beach horse riding, hiking in Pico Bonito, the canopy zipline tour, and hiking to Rio Maria. Just hope I can fit them all in!
  • Friday 25th November: get bus from La Ceiba to Antigua, Guatemala, where I’ll meet up with Nancy and see what she’s got planned for me.
  • Thursday 1st December: fly from Guatemala City
  • Friday 2nd December: arrive in Heathrow
  • (Monday 5th December: back in work!)

So visit the site again at the end of November to see if I got round to it all!