Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Geoff, Colleen, Eric, and I had a most unforgettable weekend in Guatemala! I won't go into all the details here, but some unpleasant things happened on our way back from Guate and we were delayed a day in getting back to work. We also experienced various car troubles throughout the trip, which were worrisome only because they meant that we had to get out in rural areas to fix the muffler or to crash in a random rural town for the night. At one point, our brakes overheated and started to fail while descending very steep mountainous roads. (None of us even knew that overheating was possible for brakes!) It was scary as shit, as Eric would say...

Alas, we made it back safely! So, let's focus on how beautiful the rest of the weekend was. This weekend lasted 4 days long, in celebration of Central American independence from Spain*, so the crew had decided that we would take the opportunity to go across the border to check out Antigua and Lake Atitlan, both located in Guatemala. As it turns out, Antigua is a beautiful cobble-stoned city that has retained much of its colonial look and feel, but mixed in with an international crowd and awesome restaurants and bars. Geoff and I loved Cafe No Se, which is a bar with an eclectic crowd, great tequila (although they call it something else there), and very interesting internal decor. The town is also filled with colonial ruins, and just generally had a lot of character. It being independence weekend, there were performers and crowds galore, and we had a fun time just walking around this pedestrian-friendly tourist town. At night, Geoff and I closed down Cafe No Se (which wasn't hard to do -- bars closed in the town at 1am).

The next day, we set out for Chichitenango, which has a weekly Sunday market that sells everything from food to traditional goods. Geoff and I had been looking for a cheap and water-proof hammock, which we found there for 150 quetzales. (The exchange rate is about 8 quetzales to 1 dollar, so it was a pretty good deal. Similar hammocks we found in El Salvador for at least twice the cost!) Geoff also began shopping for his parents for Christmas, since we saw something very unique that they would like. I bought a traditional weaved Guatemalan skirt, along with a belt (also weaved/embroidered) to hold it up. Colleen and Eric bought a ton more stuff than us, so it was a good day trip for everyone. :) At night, our brakes failed while on the way to Lago de Atitlan, so we decided to crash in a small town called San Juan to wait for the daylight to come. In San Juan (a tiny town about 15 or 20 minutes from the lake), we found a hotel right across the street from the police station. There, all of us just relaxed and chatted, finishing the bottle of wine that we had brought on the trip...

As it turns out, the brakes often fail for cars going down those windy mountainous roads, because of how many tumulos (speed bumps) there are, the steep grade of the roads, and the many sharp turns that lead to the bottom of the mountains. The mechanic told us not to worry, so we headed on down to Lake Atitlan on Monday to enjoy the beautiful view. Lake Atitlan is amazing! It's huge and gorgeous, surrounded by volcanic mountains, and has really cool little bars and restaurants -- and hippies! I think I had the most amazing sandwich of my life there, at an organic bar called Freedom. (I don't even like sandwiches normally!) During the day, we also took the boats out to another town, hiked a little, and then jumped off a cliff! Everyone else (Geoff, Colleen, and Eric) had done something like it before, except for me, so I was scared as hell. The cliff was about 20 to 30 feet according to Geoff and Colleen, and there were rocks in the water. The lake itself was really, really deep, so we weren't really worried about hitting the bottom of the lake, as long as we could jump far enough to get away from the rocky shore. Anyway, I put my hand over my heart and felt my heart pumping like crazy, and when I jumped, Geoff was scared out of his mind because he saw me almost hitting the side of the cliff and going with my head first into the water. It was so fast, I really didn't know what was going on, but I felt a little dizzy upon entering the water, like someone had hit me over the head. Fortunately, I was OK and didn't pass out or anything. :) Colleen and Eric helped guide me to the shore, because I was feeling a little disoriented at that point. Honestly, I don't know if I will do it again. I really wanted to do it this time, just to know what it feels like. Not sure if I should tempt fate in the future, especially because I was so clumsy about it this time. :)

All in all, we had a brilliant time. (I'll post pictures very soon, I promise!) The only bummer is that I had to miss work today, because I had been looking forward to a really productive day at school with the kids, and returning late from Guate definitely is going to throw things off. But, I'm really glad to be home after a long weekend, and in the grand scheme, things could have certainly been a lot worse. :)

Ciao! Next weekend is Geoff's and my three-year anniversary! I almost can't believe it; time has really flown by!

*Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador all celebrate their independence from Spain on September 15.

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