Saturday, May 13, 2006

Thursday, Friday and Saturday

Cooperativa de Mujeres de San Antonio
I dislike my afternoon instructor so much that in an attempt to ditch her for a day, I decided to go on one of the tours that the school organizes for students. We went to Cooperativa de Mujeres de San Antonio. San Antonio is close to Antigua, maybe a 15 minute drive. The cooperativa is a group of women (mujeres) who make amazing crafts by hand.

We all sat around for a private tour and explanation of their ways of life: language, weaving & handicrafts, coffee griding and making mole and even a (mock) matrimonial ceremony. They taught us basic greetings in the Iximchel language (they mostly speak Spanish and they did a really good job of speaking slowly and enunciating, although most of us still didn't get most of what they were saying.)

I guess my favorite part was the grinding of the coffee beans. They use this rather large stone (that has been passed down through their family for more than a hundred years) with legs and a rolling pin to grind the beans. From what I could deduct, they use different coffee beans for mole and different coffee beans for the mole. They grind the beans and sweep them into one of their handmade bowls. They passed around the two different types of ground beans and the mole bowl didn't even smell like coffee!

Building Construction & Class
On the way back from San Antonio we passed through Ciudad Viejo, a small town outside of Antigua which is much poorer than Antigua. It is really striking how you can tell what class a family is in by the finishes of their house. Some of the houses were just CMU without a finish on the walls. A lot of the roofs were corrugated metal, mostly rusted, although some roofs were other found materials- tarps or thatched roofing. I didn't realize before how "rich" Antigua is. Clay tile roofs are obviously more expensive (and less noisy may I add) and therefore signify more affluence.

I am realizing that the family that is hosting me is probably considered upper-middle class. They have a son who goes to college, they run a small restaurant, they have a "servant," they host students (up to 4 at a time and they feed them very well!!), their house is 2 floors, they own a car and Rafael just informed me that they bought another property outside Antigua to build a new building on. He has asked me to visit the site with him and give my architectural input. I am so excited! I am very glad he speaks a bit of English because I have not been taught the vocabulario for architecture.

Afternoon Thunderstorm
Unfortunately we got back to the school in time for an hour or so of class. Within a few minutes, it got very dark and it began pouring rain on our little metal roof classroom. Luckily, I couldn't really hear Naty. The lights flickered a couple of times and Naty reminded me to have my candle handy at home in case of an electicity failure. It was really great to be in an open classroom in the storm- there was all kinds of lightning and thunder, something I miss so much about living in the midwest.

After class I met Suzie, the other English volunteer so she could update me on the classes. I start teaching English on Monday morning and I am so nervous!! I think I am mostly nervous because of my level of Spanish but I also put a lot of pressure on myself to do a good job. Suzie gave me some good tips and brought me up to speed on what the girls have learned so far. I will definitely be blogging on Monday to update you all on how it goes!

I apologize for not writing yesterday! I know how some of you have been reading everyday and I feel the responsiblity to blog everyday now as well! My day was busy. It was my last class with Lorena, my morning instructor, so I was very sad to say goodbye to her. She has been so great these past two weeks. We didn't have a very intense class, we learned a few new verbs and their conjugations but we mostly just gossiped about some of the others at the school.... practicing in espanol of course!

I skipped my afternoon class. I haven't felt like I have learned anything from Naty and I didn't want to waste any more time with her. It worked out well to have a free afternoon to do some errands and kind of relax. I went back to Pasteles de Cenicenta for a late afternoon snack. I am testing for the best cake as a gift for the Rodriguez family before I leave. Mmmmm! The frases con crema (cake) was just as delicious as Papa Haydn's cakes and at only Q10, about 1/7th the price. Muy delicioso!

Happy Hour and Later

The school has a happy hour every Friday from 4:30-5:30, so I made it back in time for a couple of free rum & cokes. It was really hot yesterday, so sitting in the shade with all the other foreigners was really fun. There are a lot of Dutch, a couple of Germans and some new Americans who start next week. I find it so great how everyone who is studying Spanish here came alone and is so willing to meet new people and inexplicably trust these strangers. It seems like each of us would (and do) travel on the weekends together, not really knowing this other person but somehow knowing that they are in a similar situation or that they may be here for a similar reason or that they probably speak the same level of English. We all have something in common.

After we all ate dinner at each or our houses, we met up again to go out on the town. We went to the best known gringo bar in Antigua, Monoloco (not my choice, but I went anyway.) Nobody was speaking Spanish there and I felt like I could have been in Portland or some other american city. They even had the Boston Red Sox coverage on their bigscreen TVs.

It was so much like America that I after a while I had to leave. There was a group of obnoxious guys acting like they were at a college frat party, yelling and screaming and making asses of themselves. Joanna and I were leaving at 5:45am the next day for our volcano hike anyway, so I said my goodbyes to the group and hailed a tuk-tuk home. There were 3 of these funny mini-taxis waiting outside the bar and they pretty much fought over taking the gringo home.... Q15 or US$2.

Joanna, Janneke (a new Dutch student) and I woke up bright and early to catch our tourist bus to Volcan de Pacaya. In Guatemala, apparently "private" bus doesn't mean "luxury." Our bus was (no joke) a yellow school bus, just like the chicken buses, just not painted all crazy. It was a bit nostalgic riding in the school bus, though the last time I rode in a school bus things were much, much bigger.

We were accompanied by 3 security guards from Antigua and we picked up our guide once we got to a small village closer to Pacaya. For many tourist trips, you must request a guard because in the past tourists have been easy targets for robberies. Our bus driver picked up a couple of random people on the way, he just opened up the bi-fold door and slowed down enough for them to hop on. He only came to a complete stop for the cute old lady at the bottom of the volcano.

The drive to the trailhead was about an hour and a half from Antigua. I was not really prepared for the difficulty of this hike. It was very steep and the volcanic rock pebbles made it even more challenging. But it was so worth it. I have never been to Hawaii, so I have never seen lava flowing. IT WAS RIGHT THERE! It was truly amazing. There are three active volcanoes in Guatemala and I was there, at one in action.

At the top of caldera it was a bit windy but the heat from the flows was enough to keep our outer layers off most of the time. We went down into the caldera and we were climbing on the hardened lava for a good while. It was sooo hot down there and my shoes felt like they may have been melting at one point. Our guide found a part of the flows that had broken and that we could get to. I was within 3 feet of flowing lava! Insane.

It was truly exhilarating being so close, but at one point I realized how dangerous it was for us to be climbing all around and it scared the crap out of me. There were constantly huge chunks of hardened lava cracking and falling in an avalanche-like reaction. Sometimes the lava hardens and a hollow cavity forms below, so there were a lot of potential weak spots. There weren't any warnings from the guide about what to do to test the strength of the lava you were about to step onto. A quick "if it sounds hollow, it probably is" would have been nice.

Again, I am safely back in Antigua...


At 10:54 AM, May 15, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I love reading about your experiences, DON'T APOLOGIZE for not writing every day. Although I'm sure your journaling and blogging are a good way for you to process all that you experience, I do wish you wouldn't feel guilty. . . this is YOUR trip.

Be where you are. Live in the moment.

Love, t

At 11:17 AM, May 15, 2006, Blogger nicole said...

Thanks t. I do enjoy keeping track of my experiences this way though- perhaps I wasn't apologizing to you but to myself! Talk soon. xo, n


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