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Winter Abroad: Guatemala 2013

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By now we've settled into Antigua, Guatemala, an enchanting city with it's well preserved Spanish-baroque architecture serving as our home base for Spanish lessons and cultural immersion. From every point in the city you can see the three volcanoes dominating the expansive skyline, but don't look up too long, at least not while walking on the cobblestone streets, or you might break an ankle! Uneven is an understatement. It's no wonder Guatemalans drive old pick-up trucks, mini vans, and my personal favorite, the family dirt bike. The family dirt bike looks something like this: un padre driving, small child, una madre, and behind her whatever lucky stranger got picked-up walking to the city from a nearby town, hanging on for dear life just happy he isn't walking in the afternoon sun. Sometimes there is even an older child in front of papi, and mama has a newborn wrapped to her in a traditional sling, sleeping soundly, pacified by the bumby road. (I don't know whatwas in the air nine months ago 'round these parts but it seems like every mother has a new baby.) No streetlights, no crosswalks, no lanes. So like I said, watch your step when walking. But it doesn't take long to develop an internal alert system conscious to the ebbs and flows of traffic so only a slight pause in conversation is needed before navigating across an intersection.

Each morning is “Buenos dias!” as everyone greets each other in the street, strangers and friends alike, morning, noon, and night. “Buenos dias. Como estas? - Bien, bien. Gracias. Y tu?” People must be overdosing on the vitamin D from the sun which, by the way, hasn't stopped shining since we arrived. Highs of 90's during the day, lows of 60's at night. Tourists and students are in shorts and tank tops, locals, especially children, are in hats, scarves, and winter jackets. Hmmmm.

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Travel was taken to a whole new level the day we went for our field training. Wearing matching GP gear and toting lacrosse sticks, as if we didn't stand out before, to get to the field we took what foreigners call the 'chicken bus' because Guatemalans carry chickens on their lap from farms to the cities. This monstrosity of a vehicle - which looks like the engine and cabin of an 18-wheeler was welded to the body of a school bus – should rather be called a 'sardine bus', because that's how we were packed in. Amongst a sea of brown faces (all staring at us) who fit comfortably three or four people to a seat, there we were, seven gringos (foreigners) in matching clothes with funny sticks ('for fishing?') either standing or trying to get one cheek on a seat somewhere. Luckily it was only a 20 minute drive and people were getting on and off constantly; we laughed and talked over the roar of the engine, happily bumping along as our seatmates smiled at our Spanish skills :-)


Lo and behold the chicken bus delivered us safely to our destination: a futbol field presumably used by workers after tending to the sugar fields on the farm which surrounded it. Oh yeah, and we were right at the base of 12,356 foot volcano, Volcan de Aqua. Not too shabby a background for ladder drills and stick skills. Won't be forgetting that image anytime soon.  

Weekly trainings this week consisted of a hill/mountain/trail run, light weight reps and balance exercises, and the agility and stickwork training. We couldn't ask for a better group of athletes. Everyone is drinking lots of water, working hard, and eating well. Black beans breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Check. Frozen watermelon covered in vegan chocolate? Check. Drinking one gallon of water per day? Check. Speaking of a gallon of water, that's probably how much Pacific saltwater I got in my mouth, nose, and eyeballs over the weekend...


To round off the week, our excursion this weekend was to the surf camp El Paredon. To find this hidden gem just drive to the end of the Earth, turn left onto basically 'el dirt road de Juan Carlos' and keep going 14km until you see the ocean. It's only about two hours from Antigua which is convenient. Well, three if you get lost. The drive was beautiful but it was soon trumped by something you don't experience everyday; black volcanic sand (which literally felt like lava during the peak afternoon hours!). The beach was desolate save a few other guests staying at the camp and the ocean was calling... baiting us into the waves. Before diving in we got a safety lesson on the rips, currents and strengths of the waters and everyone learned quickly to respect the Pacifico. This was no Ocean City, MD. During surf lessons, everyone caught waves and lived to tell about it. Hang ten amigos! 


Days were filled with bouts in the water, laying in hammocks, cat naps, reading, and speaking Spanish. Tough life but someone's got to live it. Speaking of Spanish this is a little something I put together... Lets put your Spanish to the test.

Nosotros vamos a la playa

Nosotros vamos a la playa en Guatemala. Nostros llegamos el sabato por a manana. La playa es muy linda. Yo camino en la playa y yo nado en el mar. Un 'yogi', Jed, toca una harmonia y el didjerido. Las mujeres preparan el desayuno, el almuerzo, y la cena.

Now, granted this is simple text and it's only in present tense and limited to verbs ending in -ar BUT I started with 'Hola!' three days ago! I'm proud of it and so is my Spanish teacher Alvaro so onwards and upwards. This week on to irregular verbs, adjectives, questions, and maybe if we're lucky... past tense. Plus, salsa lessons, more weekly workouts, and gearing up for our big service project with Manos Amigas coaching lacrosse in Spanish!

Stay tuned... 

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