Monday, May 29, 2006

5 Days Worth

Guatemalan Architect
Wow! It´s been a long time.... I have been really busy socializing, traveling and architecting. Yes, architecting! My host family bought a property outside of Antigua and asked me to advise them. We visited the site on Wednesday evening and came straight home and drew up three different options. There were many challenges involved but some things were much easier.

First, they use meters instead of feet and inches here, so I had to convert the dimensions back and forth because I can´t design in metric! It was fun though! I also didn´t have any tools- not even a straightedge or a scale so everything was drawn freehand and had no scale. The great part about the whole thing is that Parramos, where the property is, has NO RESTRICTIONS. This might sound like no big deal to most of you, but this is a dream for architects.

The site is really small, 13x6.5 meters (that´s 21´-4¨x 42´-8¨) and the Rodriguez family wanted 3 levels and 4 bedrooms. The property is surrounded on three sides by other buildings and I have to assume that they may all be at least 3 levels at some time in the future if not before construction begins. Key to the design is a small jardin (garden) in the center of the building to get light into all the rooms.

It was so fun to draw everything freehand and have complete freedom with the design. I love that I got to label the rooms in Spanish and to present my designs to the family speaking Spanish. This is truly one of the best things that has happened to me since I´ve been here. I was searching for something to connect my real life at home to my ¨vacation¨ in Guatemala and I think I have found it. I am working on coming back to help with the construction.... we´ll see how that goes.

The architecture/building process is so different here. My plans didn´t have a scale but it didn´t matter- Rafael said that he could have given the plans (that I drew in less than an hour) to the mason and he would build from them. Unbelieveable! Three sheets of plans- no elevations, no sections, no details, no site plan, nada. I love being an architect here! I don´t want to bore the non-architects too much so I can tell you more when I return if you wish.

Thursday Night & Friday Morning
Thursday night, group of us from the school met at the gringo bar, Monoloco so a few of them could watch basketball. When the game was over we all went around the corner to a bar called La Sala (translates as ¨the living room¨) which is salsa bar that is popular for its ladies night on Thursdays. After way too many cuba libras with the Monterrico group, my Dutch friend Norberto and I jumped on a Range Rover for an after party. And I literally mean ¨jumped on.¨ There were probably 13 people inside that car (no room for us) and we had no idea where this place was, so we grabbed on to the cargo rack on top of the car and found a place for one foot along with other people doing the same.

I was busy chatting with 2 guys that I was sharing the running board with when I looked to my right to find Norberto playing James Bond running along side the car trying to catch up. He had broken the wheel well and fallen off. I think you have to know this guy for it to be as funny as we think it is, but you can imagine my reaction nonetheless.

The house we went to belonged to a guy who rents out rooms to foreigners, so I met a lot of people from countries like Belgium, Korea, Holland, Germany, England and Guatemala. I truly enjoy meeting the locals in situations like that- people that are near in age to me and have a different view of the world and how I see Guatemala. One local that I met had been driving his sister´s car earlier that evening and was pulled over by the police. They took everything from him- his watch, all his cash and his sister´s car. He was worried to leave the party because he thought that the police would ¨find¨ him again.

You know you have a great night of partying when you get home at 5:15am. You also know you may not have been smart about your responsibilties when you wake up still drunk at 7am and have to teach 2 classes of 40 rowdy girls English for 2 hours. On top of it all, it was my last day of teaching and my last day of español. Luckily, I was not hungover (I´m pretty sure there are no preservatives in the liquors here) I was just really tired.

Saying Goodbye to Las Niñas
The girls were so disappointed that it was my last day. When I got to my 2nd class, a group of girls called me over to their desks and put little star stickers on my temples. They are so sweet. I will miss them. I will miss their ¨Good morning Mees¨and the sweet little kisses on the cheek when I arrive and when I leave class.

The teachers in the girls' school rarely cooperated with or supported us English teachers and I believe that they resent us because 1.) we may be effective 2.) they are envious of our lifestyles, skills and even possesions such as clothing or 3.) the kids like us and actually have fun. I have so many frustrations with the school system but I came here and did what I wanted to do and I think (I tested them as a class) I was successful. That is the best I could hope for.

This weekend a group of us went to Tikal, a village in a jungle near Mayan ruins in northern Guatemala. We were picked up at 4am on Saturday morning and shuttled to a small airport in Guatemala City. We flew into Flores and were taken to Tikal by our tour guide. He spoke very good English and gave a us a very in-depth history of the Mayan culture on our way to The Tikal Inn. We began our tour by 9am and were finished with the condensed tour by 1:30pm. We saw toucans, lots of monkeys, woodpeckers, lizards, butterflies and tons of ants carrying bright green leaves in a perfect lines across the hiking trails.

We ate lunch at the hotel and then I went back into the park to do a sketch. The jungle is crazy! On my way back from doing my sketch, I stood under a ¨herd¨of 8 monkeys passing over the trail in the trees above me. One had a baby monkey on its back. It was so amazing to watch these creatures use all 5 extremeties to swing to and from such flimsy tree branches. They were so graceful.

There was all kinds of wildlife but limited electricity in Tikal. Since the park is protected, there are no power lines and the electricity was produced soley by generators. To conserve energy, our hotel only had power between 7 and 10 am, 12:30 and 3pm and 6pm to 10pm. By about 7:30pm our group was ready to eat dinner and we decided to go next door to the Jaguar Inn for dinner. We knew that the electrcity there went off at 9pm. We were also used to really slow service, so I think we were all interested to know what would happen if the electricity went out before we were done eating. The wait staff didn´t seem too concerned or give any disclaimers or warnings, so we sat down in a group of 12 and ordered dinner and drinks.

The humidity and temperature in addition to the scarcity of lights made for an interesting dinner. There were flying ants everywhere- on our clothes, in our hair, on our drinks, everywhere. As the dinner progressed it just kept getting worse. Worse in that the flying ants got thicker and more aggressive and we started noticing that the beetles (frigging huge- at least and inch and a quarter in length and very crunchy) were also invading our personal space. Everyone was constantly swatting away ants until we could not even carry on a conversation because we were too busy protecting our food, skin and sanity.

It got worse when the lights went out. The ants were swarming the table and the beetles were all over underneath the tables and all over the floor of the restaurant. It was just like a horror movie. We were not even done eating when we couldn´t stand it any longer. We scurried to pay and left quickly with the 3 flashlights and headlamps that we had, stepping on the crunchy beetles the whole way.

Back at our hotel, we still had about 40 minutes of electricty left, so we had to decide quickly what we were to do about the party we were going to have in the dark. There was no "hotel bar" per se, so we bought a bottle of rum (that took 20 minutes- the servers had to calculate how many shots were in the bottle), a couple of bottles of Coca-Cola and bunch of beers from the restaurant. We had a party in the dark until the alcohol was gone and the candle was low, which was just a few hours. What a night.


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