HAPPY NEW YEAR! I must write about my long vacation and I will try to keep it interesting. After a few days in site, Lisa, Rem and I traveled to Huehue and visited the Zaculeau Ruins. After the day eating street tacos and sightseeing we headed to my friend Callie’s site about 40 minutes away. There we were able to hike around, swim in the pools and drink some delicious wine. I also got very good at impersonating the Turkey at her house…Gobble Gobble Gobble (trust me, it’s much better in person).
Zaculeu Ruins outside of Huehue
The lovebirds at Zaculeu
After a few nights there we headed off to Coban. This is where the shit hit the fan. The national government decided to issue a “State of Siege” on the department where we intended to spend the next week. The government wanted to take back the cities run by narco-traffickers. After numerous phone calls to Peace Corps staff and many tears on my side we decided to change things up and head up to Flores instead of visiting the Limestone Pools of Semuc Champey. We arrived in Flores and found a hotel with a lovely view. Unfortunately the tour people in and around the town were vicious and would not leave us alone. I guess everyone is always trying to make a buck. We spent the next day hiking near the island and then hitting up the many bars for happy hour.
The next day we headed up to Tikal. The national park is about an hour outside of Flores. We decided to spend the night at one of the hotels located in the park (thank you Lisa and Rem!). The place had a pool which combined with some afternoon Tequila led to some fun photo sessions.
Lisa and Me underwater
Rem and Me
Claire and Rem
We headed into the Tikal Ruins in the afternoon. The park was HUGE! You could easily get lost in there. We wandered around and saw a bunch of different old temples and got to climb some very scary stairs to reach the top of Temple #5. The view was amazing but I was feeling a bit nauseous looking down. Claire and Rem just walked around like it was no problem. Lisa and I stayed close to the ground. From the top of the temple you could see for miles and miles and it was just pure jungle. We saw a few more temples and the main plaza and watched the sun go down. It was cool to be in this place that 2000 years ago served as the capital city of the huge Mayan Empire. It makes everything else seem so new.
I also officially believe dinosaurs still exist. I know the signs said that the Howler Monkeys make very loud noises but the things I heard at night could no way have come from a little monkey. Those were noises of T-Rex and Raptors! Sleeping in the jungle (ok in a hotel really) was an amazing experience and I am so lucky to have experienced the dinosaur noises and all!
View from the top of one of the Temples
Lisa and Me
Lisa and Rem
Lisa and Rem
The horribly terrifying stairs to the top of Temple 5
The next day we returned to Tikal and saw some more ruins. After a few hours of climbing up and down we headed back to Flores. We hit up some more happy hours and enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve dinner. I slept through it all but I am told I missed World War 3 status fireworks at midnight. Guatemalans love their bombas.
The 4 travelers: Me, Claire, Rem, Lisa
View of the island of Flores
Me, Sabiha and Claire
Christmas day brought Mass and some more eating and swimming in the lake. We then took an overnight bus to Antigua. In Antigua we visited my old host family, toured a coffee farm and climbed Volcano Pacaya. The volcano was a really easy hike but it was a beautiful view from the top. We actually couldn’t go all the way to the top since Pacaya exploded last May. Too dangerous they say…I would have gone though!
Me on Volcano Pacaya with Volcano de Agua, Volcano de Fuego and Volcano Acatenango in the background
A few days before New Year’s Eve we headed to Monterrico, a small town on the Southern coast. The weather was warm, the waves were decent sized and we saw baby sea turtles. What else can I ask for? It was amazing to bask in the sun and hear the sounds of waves all day. We also got to eat some delicious fish and shrimp fresh out of the ocean. We took it easy on New Year’s Eve and just sat on the beach and watched all the fireworks. Once again, more bombas. One of the last days we took a boat tour of the Mangroves in Monterrico. It was very early but we saw some interesting fish and birds.
Baby sea turtle
The nightly release of the sea turtles
Lisa and Me at sunset on the beach
Lisa and Rem
Wildlife during the Mangrove tour
We returned to Antigua the night before Lisa and Rem flew out. We had Indian Food and went out for a beer. They had to leave the next morning ridiculously early. I was so sad to see them go. I cried for far too long that morning after they left. If I have learned one thing since I have been in Guatemala it is the value of family. Seeing my sister made me realize how much I miss my family.
To finish this long post I must update on a few things. I still am having medical issues and have to go in for more tests and such. UGH! I was super healthy before I came here so why now?!?!? It is hard to focus on my job when I have so much other Peace Corps official stuff to deal with. Now that I am back in site I am really trying to make more of an effort to get out. I am going to walk my dog every afternoon to see more people. I am hoping once school is back in session I will be able to teach some English classes as well. A new year and hopefully a new start.
But still no fence and no latrine…some things never change.