Sunday, November 30, 2008

Santa Maria

Today we hiked up Santa Maria, the volcano right next to Xela...took a total of 8 hours. Nice, long, steep hike, the view was amazing. Pictures to come soon. Got up at 5:40 to meet at 6 to get up there, had some car complications, didn't start hiking until 7am. It was a beautiful day. It doesn't rain here anymore so the whole way up it was clear and sunny but still cool. Most of the way we were covered by the trees too. What sucks is all the trash the whole way up. It's not that bad the higher you get, but then again on the peak there is trash and graffiti everywhere. Sucks since it's so beautiful. The crew today was: Jill, Ruchi, Jacobo, Eric, Steve, Liz (our coordinator), Hugo (Liz's fiance), and Hugo's 2 friends, and I. The rest of the Somos crew was at home sick...something happened on Thanksgiving that got most all the group sick and others who ate Thanksgiving; though now to think about it the family here didn't get sick. Pretty strange since all the food was cooked in the oven or vegis boiled...who knows. So, now I'm sitting in my bed, sore and tired as all hell. We saw all of Xela, the ocean (we think), Pacaya and it erupted (the other active volcano we hiked), the volcano at the lake, and the volcano next to Santa Maria that's active...and it erupted too. It was neat to see the chain of volcanos, with one side there was land and the other side there was a sea of clouds. Now I'm waiting on pizza, delivery. Good day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


So we're here today cooking for turkey day! We're having a potluck style thanksgiving, since there are like over 20 people going to be here. They don't have sweet potaotes here, they have something that resembles them though, camotes, that I'm using to cook sweet potaotes! So excited, already done half of it and with enough sugar and nuts, tastes like home. We're making everything including chocolate truffles and pies! Should be great. Hope you all are having a great turkey day, I'm thankful you read my blog...ha ha, thankful you love me enough to read it, and thankful you're in my life in general. You're great. Enjoy the dayyyy and drink enough wine! Love you!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I got tricked. So I thought you could just go to the baptism...but we went to the whole mass..2 hours long! Then like 15 minutes later there was the I could've gone just to the baptism. It was all interesting though since I've never been to a baptism and not to church since I was really young with a friend's family. It was fun. That evening we got to meet the founders of Somos Hermanos, Joe and Elise, they were really nice and asked us all sorts of questions about our experience so they can better the next groups. We're back to full-time class, it's pretty great. We're going to change our teachers every week this time rather than every 2 weeks like in the beginning. The weathers great now, hot and beautiful during the day but freezing at much better than rain, and I don't lose umbrellas anymore! Wooo! Well, movie time! Adios!

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Today there is the baptism of the 1 year old here, Sophie...they're going all out. I guess I've never been to a baptism in the states so I don't know how to compare but it's a huge deal here. After the baptism at 12, there is a party all day in the backyard...they've got tons of balloons set up all over, tables, tents, loud Disney music in Spanish, cakes, and other decorations. Lunch is supposed to be great. I guess I'm going to go to the baptism, why not. The creators of Somos Hermanos are here too so we'll be meeting them today. I want to ask them why they picked me and if I can see the recommendation letters people wrote someday. Anyway, so that's my Sunday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Semuc Pics

Check out also in Amy's Picassa album pics from Semuc Champey! And, if you want to read better writing about things that have happened here, check out Greg's blog:

El Salvador

El Salvador
El Salvador was great and exhausting. Each day we had like 3 different meetings for 9 days. We learned a lot about the war there, heard the two different political parties speak (ARENA and FMLN), USAID meeting in the US Embassy, went to Romero, La Loma, Cinquera, Comasaguas all really poor communities where we stayed the night at Comasagua (no water or electricity) and Cinquera, heard other various organizations speak about immigration, women's rights, ate too many pupusas, etc...all in Spanish, visited the level 3 public hospital where I saw a dead person, bowling, to the mall a few times, Jesuit Vigil, tie dyed, went to the beach El Zonte, meeting with Jesuit and saw museum and rose garden where 8 were killed, 2 tremors. Each day we got up at like 7 and didn't get home until after dinner. It was pretty cool though cause we had a tour guide that picked us up in our Mercedes bus each day...such a treat! She, Cristy, was a great tour guide, really nice, knew a lot and was really passionate. I'm going to tell about everything me tell you a little about the war...really basic...the people wanted more rights, the government didn't want them to have them, 80,000 people were tortured, raped, and killed after Arch Bishop Romero was killed in 1980 (he's their hero) and it lasted until 1992 when the Peace Accords were signed. The US, under Reagan, fearing the takeovers seen in Cuba and Nicaragua because of Communism, financed the war on the guerrillas...$1M a day to basically slaughter people. In 1989 the killings of 6 Jesuit priests and 2 others shocked the international community into action, we saw the pictures and locations at the University of Central America where they were killed. Really gory pics. We heard the stories from people who survived the war. The election coming up in January is the first ever because ARENA has been in power for at least 20 years and now FMLN (basically the guerrilas from the war), have their own party and are trying to get office. The ARENA party still thinks they're communists, that's what they told us in the meeting. Between 20-30% of their GDP comes from remittences from workers in US. When you get into San're pretty much in the US...kinda, they have US food chains everywhere, 4 crazy nice malls, 2 of which are directly funded by drug money, nice roads, no trash, nice cars everywhere. Basically a false economy since they don't have comes from remittances but then is re-spent on companies from the US. So, the communities we went to...Romero was a community with no electricity or water, living in shacks made of metal scraps and wood, listened to them talk about how they fought to get the land they live on, though their spanish was really mumbled so it was hard to understand most of the time. Next we went to Cinquera where we stay the night with a homestay. We hiked to a lookout and waterfall (lame waterfall and lookout compared to what we've seen), listened to a man speak about his experience in the war in their community, and how he's seen so many people's dead tortured bodies. The homestay was interesting...2 sisters, equally preggers, Gma slept on the floor, ceiling basically made of spiders in their webs, random dog under my bed, kittens under Jills, a lovebird in the smallest cage ever, rooster that sounded like it was dieing all night. Jill, Amy, and I showered together...more like stood in a cement enclosure scooping water onto ourselves, freezing in the night while a chicken sat above us in a tree...chickens climb trees. Of course the toliets here were all holes in the ground, expected. The family also didn't talk to us at all...just showed us our beds and went about their business. Comasagua was the next community we went to and stayed the night...this place had been helped out a lot by some Canadians as well as CIS (the organization we went through for all the tours) so their houses were really nice and sturdy in comparison, though they still didn't have water or electricity in their homes, just in the community center. This community was the prettiest one I've been to though cause it was situated on a hillside (super windy and dusty was the only problem), facing the ocean...the sunset was amazing that night. There were a lot of flowers and bushes, it seemed like the people actually cared about their surroundings where as usually the communities are covered in trash. Amy and I slept in a house with 2 was so windy and cold that night, and we were unprepared so we didn't really sleep so good. The day we were there we took a trip to a community that makes tye dye from we went there an learned how to make it...only blue and white...bought a scarf. Next we went to La Loma...1 drive in the back of a pickup and 30min walk to get there...closer to the ocean than Comasagua. We didn't stay the night there but chatted a bit with the leader of the community, gave the kids a pinata, toured their land...then off to El Zonte, the beach! God I was waiting forever to get to the beach in El Salvador to surf! The beach was probably one of the most beautiful I've been to. Perfect waves, perfect temperature, black sparkly sand, nice flowers and trees, and no one around. There were a few nice houses on the cliffs...which, I'd love to be mine one day. We stayed in a hotel there, complete with cockroaches, but good food at the restaurant and great view. Spent the whole day surfing ($15 for a longboard) and playing in the waves...burning my skin to oblivion because I was having so much fun I didn't get out of the water to my face is peeling. Awesome sunset. So, yes, we went bowling, it was so much fun, it was after the day at the beach and I was exhausted but it was fun...haven't been bowling in so long; no bowling alleys here. We got 30 minutes at one of the malls once, and all went bonkers...I thought just Jill and I were shopping but most of the group came out with at least one shirt, in 30 minutes, SPEED SHOPPING! God that made me miss the US, shopping with friends/sister and mom! Pupusas are the traditional food there, basically 2 tortillas sandwiched together with beans and stinky cheese...we ate them entirely too much. Felt two tremors, one I was outside standing on the street and the world started's the weirdest experience ever. Then again during the meeting with ARENA. Makes me feel so woozy. I'm bored of blogging....questions?!

Friday, November 14, 2008


Made it to San Salvador, El Salvador...were really busy so far, tell you about it tomorrow maybe...but Im alive! Love you!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Off We Go...Again

So the fam doesn't worry, we're leaving tomorrow at 4am for El Salvador so I don't know when I'll be able to go online. We'll be there for 10 days...then back to Xela for full-time classes, 4 hours a day, 5 days a week, along with writing a thesis 12 pages long and in! I'm doing mine on adolescent pregnancy. Did I ever mention that McDonalds here is amazing. I think it's because it's the only place with flavor in the food and reminds us of home. I love the McNiffica, 100% carne de res (beef). It's funny cause the rest of the menu has burgers, but doesn't say anything about them being made of beef at all...gross. People eat McDonalds here only if they're well off, it's like a "nice" place to eat. Glad you all liked the Semuc Blog. Dad, you'd be fine in the cave. I also kept thinking in there, what happens if there is an earthquake right now? Yikes. Dylan, get your surgery for your jealousy tube breakage, sorry about that! What else, I had made a decision to stay in Texas when I get back, but looking at the fall pictures in Colorado on facebook made my heart wretch. Ahhh life. Who knows where I'll be in a year. So, if you don't hear from me in a while, I'm just off in El Salvador...we get to go to the beach one day, I'm so excited.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Semuc Champey

So, we left Wednesday for Semuc Champey and stayed there 3 day, leaving Sunday...from Xela to Semuc it's 10 bus. To say the least I'm sick to all hell of traveling by bus, but it was worth it. Semuc Champey is the coolest place I think I've ever been. On the way there we took an Alamo bus to Guatemala City, then switched to a different company to Coban. Stayed Wednesday night in Coban, at a really cute little hostel, then took a shuttle to our hostel in Semuc, Las Marias. I was so excited to see that our hostel in Semuc was right on the river, complete with a rope swing and dock to jump off of. YES! So we got to the hostel on Thursday and just hung out, swam in the river, went off the rope swing until I got blisters, literally. It's cool how some hostels work, you just order what you want and they keep a tab, so you never have to deal with money. The dinners there sucked, but the lunch and breakfasts were great. My partners in crime were Amy, Ruchi, and Greg, Jill had to go back to the states cause her grandma passed away...shitty. Our room had 5 beds, a French guy stayed in one of them and was high every second he was there. Anyway, that night we came up with a new drinking game, speak Spanish or drink! It worked great, so everytime we uttered English, you had to take a drink. We spoke for a few hours. Got up the next day to go to the pools of Semuc Champey. It was a 15 minute walk from our hostel; we walked by national geographic type houses with naked kids and chickens running around. Crossed a bridge which we later jumped. These pools are really beyond description. There is a series of cascading, blue as blue gets, clear pools, which end up feeding into a giant waterfall and white water rapids. Though, I expected to see this, I didn't expect that underneath these pools was a torrent river that took 3 lives. When you walk to the first pool, you can walk a little further to see the river funneling into a giant black hole in the earth. Looking at it gave me the chills, so much energy, so much power, you're so fucked if you end up in there. That water ends up where the waterfall is and creates the raging river below. It's crazy. I don't really understand how it could have been formed. So we hung out there until 1something because we had to get back to go on a cave tour...yipee caves right? This cave tour would never and will never be legal in the states. First we went off this great big rope swing into the current in the river, fun, anyway...walk up some stairs to the other hole in the earth with a waterfall coming out of it. They give each of us a candle. We go in, shin deep in water and it immediately smells of bat shit...the guide pointed out some bats with his I don't know how to tell you about this experience. We swam through the cave holding our candle in one hand many times for many meters, stalactites and formations everywhere, hearing rushing water ahead. Climbed a slippery metal ladder to bring us up to a cliff, where we'd end up later after climbing through a tiny space and down another ladder. Got to a point where the guide was like, wait here, after he took all of our candles and left one burning...for 15 minutes...until Amy and I were about to be in tears. I was thinking the whole time, what happened to our guide, he should be back by now, is this a joke, there is one candle and it's about to go out, what do I do, do I go back without light as soon as possible, or do I wait longer for the guide risking forgetting the path I just traveled. Fuck. Just when I was on the verge of panic, his headlamp came into view, and I shed some tears of relief. He had went ahead to light the path with our candles. Phew. After this he lead us to the reason for the sound of raging water...a waterfall. A waterfall I scaled with a rope and my weight against the rocks and water rushing into my face (you could climb the ladder too if you wanted). I was the first to climb it and fuck it was amazing. At the top of it there was the water rushing with candles lit all over the place for 30ft or so and ropes to help you fight the water waiting to fall. I waited at the top to watch the others get up, it was great, Greg scaled it too, Ruchi tried, Amy did the ladder. Who scales a waterfall inside a cave in Guatemala? Yea. So soon after this we got to another set of pools...the guide climbed up the wall of the cave...and jumped, 10 ft, into the pool. NEXT! I went first. Climbed up stalagmites to where he went, and jumped to the place his headlamp was pointing me to! Crazy! I felt like I needed to crouch when I jumped cause we were in a cave and I thought maybe I would hit my head...but in reality it wasn't anywhere near. I cliff jumped in a cave, wtf?! So awesome, didn't touch the bottom either, who knows how deep that thing is. We continued on, swimming and walking to what was the end of the cave tour for us...but then we had to go back. So I was thinking we'd go back the same way, but no, not exactly. We went down the waterfall on the ladder with candle in mouth, then our guide disappeared into this tiny whole in the wall, where we were all supposed to fit. At a few times in this cave I felt slightly claustrophobic. This was one of those times. 5 of us in a space that should only fit 3 maybe. So the waters coming through too and goes rushing down this slit...really a not a hole. The guide's like, turn around this way, feet dangle into slit, put one hand here, one hand here (underneath where we can't see), and poof, he's gone! Fell down the slit into the earth...what the hell. You can't see where it's going, it's black. Greg goes first, disappears into the earth, then it's my turn, guide takes my candle, so apparently there's ground down there somewhere, and I do as I'm told. Start sliding down the earth, no place for my feet and I just fall. I kept holding onto the right hand grip, until the guide grabbed me and swung me out of the slit. It was the weirdest feeling ever. The slit was really, really thin, if I were to ever get swallowed, this was it. I felt like I was swallowed. The wall of the slit was slippery enough to slide down easily but it kinda curved so I felt like I was a piece of food slowly (fast as hell) being pushed by throat muscles. I don't know, it was weird. I was swallowed. But then we were at the place where we first climbed the ladder. Weird. So, that day was amazing to say the least. After the caves we tubed from there to our 15 minutes, almost dark, freezing, but it was still great. The next day we just hung out and went back to Semuc for a little bit but the sun wasn't out so we didn't stay too long cause brrrrr. There was a group at the hostel from Xela who had their own we lucked out and got a private shuttle back to Xela on Sunday...stopped whenever we needed to, a luxury. Still though it was a painful 10 hours. We got back Sunday evening, and leave again, at 4am on Wednesday for El Salvador. boooo. I know, poor me right. I think I would go back to Guatemala soley to go to Semuc. The beds at that hostel were hell though, I didn't sleep much in those 3 back and slept like hell last night too cause I got up 3 times to poop my brains out. I swallowed my fair share of river water there from the swing. Though I don't feel sick really, my body really hurts (from the beds or sickness?), and my poop looks like pee and explodes out of me. Great! Thought you'd like that extra detail. Anyway, that was Semuc, and I need a back massage bad.

Monday, November 3, 2008

New Pics...

Go to my picassa and then to Gregs and Amy's to see new pics from Mexico and the volcano and whatever else you haven't seen!



4 hours to the border in a chicken bus, 12 hours in a nice, new big charter bus, though halfway through the A/C cut out and we were miserable and hot. Then it came back on and we slept...for a sec.

At the border we got off the chicken bus at the wrong stop, were harrassed to all hell for rides to the border...they convinced our director to takes all of us 12, 2 by 2 on bicycles with a big seat in the front, to the border. It was really really weird. Got the the border, crossed fine, waited forever cause they were out of forms for us to fill out, then off to the other place, Tapachula, Mexico to catch the big, nice bus to take over night. Got to Oaxaca Mexico at about 8am. My family was already there cause they were waiting with their prior student who was leaving on a bus to Mexico City. The first day with the fam was great, we got picked up by the daughter and the dad, mom was at home doing who knows what. The daughter, Bertha, (mom Bertha too), invited us to a her friend's child's 1st birthday party so we went, after a long needed nap in the hardest new bed of mine. We got to the party entirely too early, cause we sat awkwardly for an hour waiting for people to show up, the clown even showed up early. Yes clown, so scary, I never was afraid of clowns, but this one was weird. They served us 3 tamales, two with mole, one sweet one, cake, drinks, some pudding, candy, too much. There were 2 pinatas, one huge one and one made of clay, which I thought was weird and pretty unsafe, but it just clunked to the floor, didn't really shatter.

So, Oaxaca exceeded my expectations by far. It was beautiful, surrounded by big green mountains. There were tons of flowers, trees, clean streets, no pollution/trash, Jill and I sat in a park and drew and no one bothered us, you could walk alone without fear (though always safer to walk in pairs at night), great food, SUN aka NO RAIN. Though, our family was poor which was kinda disappointing just because everyone else had rich families and great food, like 5 course meals, gourmet style, and we got a tiny cup of fruit every morning, weird stale bread, rice and beans for lunch and dinner wasn't much better...once we got sandwiches with avocado...we were ridiculously too excited. The light in the dining room was eery as all hell...just one little fluorescent light that put out a weird tinge of blue on all the odd trinkets that flooded the shelves. Every night there was a candle lit, sitting on the floor of the "living room." Weird. The location was great though, just a 5 minute walk to school, by the park, and another 5 minutes to the Xocolo, the place for eating/shopping/going out/getting annoyed by people trying to sell you fancy toothpics. The school was beautiful too, with giant palm trees and other trees everywhere, and a nice big lawn. The first couple days were frusterating cause our teacher sucked kept wandering off into space about random shit, didn't learn anything. The third day, wednesday, we made masks for day of the dead, which included putting vasoline all over your face and having your partner wet strips of casting material (like for your arm), and place them all over your face, 3 layers full. It felt neat. Thursday and Friday we had a different teacher cause we bitched so much about the one lady...this guy ended up being really great and making us do fun activities. Sorry this is so choppy. Friday for day of the dead, after class we did final touches on our masks and waited around for the parade to start, our parade! It was great, there was a band, 2 giants (people in costumes on stilts) and the whole school in their masks parading around the block and occasionally stopping for music, shots of mescal, and a dance party! It was really fun, the teachers were going around feeding everyone mescal shots from gasoline tanks...fitting, cause mescal pretty much tastes like hell. If you didn't know, mescal is the liquor of Mexico, why, I don't know. So, we ended up drinking a lot of that and taking a giant nap before meeting up with the group to tour the cemeteries. We went to 3 cemeteries on Halloween, it was really interesting. So just some background, the 31st they celebrate the return of the dead children, 1st the adults, and the 2nd everyone...So people make different types of altars...altars are the things they set up for the return of the dead, as offerings, like food, water, mescal for adults, for the long journey home from the grave, and candy and toys for children. The altars always have these yellow flowers and lights, so they can find their way. Some are huge, and some are only so big as to offer water, food, and a flower and a candle. You can see these in the pics on picassa in Greg/Amy's pics. So families go to the cemeteries, clean up the graves and decorate them in flowers, incense, sand with glitter in the form of a picture, have food and music, and stay there all night long. There were so many people at the graves. Oaxaca is the most traditional in all of Mexico for Day of the Dead festivities, they say. Most of the people were there just to walk around and see all the decorations, but many families were just sitting there, around the grave, talking, or not. It was really neat, some graves were really beautiful with all the candles and flowers. After the cemeteries Jill, Greg, Ruchi, and I went out to celebrate night, up till 4am since the bars don't close there until like 6am. Jill was determined to make out with someone and succeeded, so did Ruchi, Greg and I danced the whole time, it was fun. Jill was in rare form that night, hilarious, belligerent. The next day was our last day, Jill stayed in bed all day, and I went out shopping alone, until I randomly found Amy and Ruchi, a great surprise, and we shopped, had a last great beer in the sun on the rooftop of a restaurant...and off we went at 6 back to Xela! That's it!

Sunday, November 2, 2008


just wanted to let you all know i'm alive and back in Xela, it was a great week, tell you all about it later! How was halloween?!