Day 12 - The Beginning of the End

Everything has to come to a close sometime. Subway recently ended their point system. You can no longer invest with the Lehman Brothers. Even the Beatles broke up eventually. That's why I'm disappointed, but not shocked, that we go back home tomorrow.

The day was rather uneventful. We headed back over to the school to say our final goodbyes. They received us with a little fiesta. A lot of the younger kids were dressed up in costume, and they had us judge a dance competition. I'll be honest, none of them were Chris Brown. But they were still pretty cute. The best of the little kid dancers was Frankenstein.

The older kids had a dress up dance competition, but there was only one entry. It was this kid Rafael who we kicked it with. He wore a wool tan suit and a old man mask, and for his dance, he shuffled around pulling women out of the crowd to dance with. He even pulled down our girls, leading to the funniest few minutes of the trip.

After the dance exhibition, the party got buck wild. They had a pinata, and us gringos took turns getting blindfolded and taking our whacks. Ben got frighteningly close to smacking a little Guatemalan girl in the face with his stick after she rushed in to try to score some candy off the ground, but Ryan still took home the grand prize for his valiant impalement through the heart of the paper Elmo.

Then we had a little dance party of our own. The Guatemalans showed us a little somethin' somethin' about salsa dancing. Despite our lesson, I did not feel competent on the dance floor. Then we showed them Soulja Boy. I know, it's way played out and hella expired, but there are only so many dances that we look even slightly competent at.

We had to get home for lunch, so it was time to say final goodbyes to our Guatemalan amigos. People gave speeches, contact information was exchanged, tears were shed. Cindy definitely tried to garner extra cheek kisses from me, I obliged.

After lunch, we had to go on some last minute market missions for souvenirs. Laura picked up Slumdog Millionaire on the day after it won best picture (it is NOT out on DVD yet) and I got two really obnoxious T-shirts. They're pretty funny and somewhat vulgar but it's acceptable seeing as it's a foreign language.

Mari had a special dinner for us, complete with cake and really rich hot chocolate. I will miss her. Unless of course, customs doesn't find her in my backpack.

Everybody around me is packing right now, but I figure I'd bust out some reflective words right about now.

First of all, this is the last blog. Hopefully you readers have enjoyed it; otherwise, hopefully you soon suffer a mild injury. It's been a pleasure to write it and fun to offer my interpretation of everything we've done--hopefully I didn't butcher anything too badly (EDIT: there is one thing. Yesterday we went zip-lining too. I forgot to write it. My bad. It was fun. Sorry Heidi.).

Second of all, the trip. All jokes aside, going on this trip was definitely a great experience. It was pretty crazy to get a new perspective on how they live over here--it's a way of life totally foreign to us. Literally. I'm not really sure if it makes me embarrassed for all our excesses, or appreciative for how lucky we are. It felt good to be able to communicate and have fun with Guatemalan kids our age--kind of shows that we're all sorta the same no matter where we're from.

But what really made the trip great was the people on it. Everybody got along real well and we all got a lot closer to people we might not even have known otherwise. Major shout out to Mike and Bob and Barb for being great chaperones and somehow finding a way to make it all work out.

OK now I gotta go pack. Final verdict: Guatemala is dope. So is TSC. See you tomorrow Mom and Dad! Or Wednesday the rest of you.



Days 10 & 11 - Lago Atitlan

It was a long work week, and all of us were looking forward to having a nice relaxing weekend at the lake. Supposedly it's pretty filthy. It almost became one of the ¨Natural Wonders of the World.¨ We had tickets for a bus early Saturday morning, so we had to wake up at like six o'clock. When I think about a bus you get tickets for, I figure we're talking Greyhound.

We did not get a Greyhound. Fortunately we at least got seats, which is more than can be said for the people who got on at the second stop, about 5 minutes in to the 2.5 hour ride.

We arrived in Panajachel, the town on the lake in which we were spending the night, at about 10 in the morning. Initially, we weren't all that excited about our hotel. Kate and Hannah had told us while it had a pool, it was only like ¨one or two inches deep.¨ They lied.

The hotel was beautiful, with a pool and really comfy basking chairs next to it right outside the restaurant. It was already hot and sunny at 10:30 after we checked in, so we decided to go and check out the pool ¨for a second¨. Pretty soon a second turned into a minute, which turned into several hours. We lay on the chairs with sunscreen slathered all over our bodies. We tanned. We ordered drinks which they brought to us by the pool. I got a Piña Colada, extra alcohol. Just kidding, it was virgin. Delicioso.

The other notable event of the early afternoon: we got Colin to do the impossible situp. If you don't know what that is, it's a really tough ab workout. Ask me if you can try it next time we're together.

Once our bodies were sufficiently fried,the girls walked through the market buying stuff like girls do, and the guys went down and hung out by the waterfront. We found another market child, a really cute one this time. He was throwing rocks into the water and then we played with him and he climbed around on us for a while. There's something about Guatemalan market children. They are just too cute.

We ate dinner in a pretty bomb restaurant. I finally got the large piece of meat I've been craving all trip. It was chicken.

After dinner we came back to the hotel and hung out in our room and talked and bonded a ton. We stayed up far too late--it was worth it.

The next morning Mike and Bob had a fun AND safe adventure planned for us. We were going on a boat ride to two different villages on the lake. Our method of transportation was to be a highly crash-tested and safety regulated boat, run by a first-aid certified crew and a former navy captain. Darn it, there I go lying again. There were a bunch of guys on the street who offered Mike and Bob a boat ride for 30 quetzales for each of us. Don't worry, they bargained him down. It was super legitimate.

On the actual craft, it was just us and the captain. He motored us over to Santiago, a village on the lake. It was sunny, and the water was beautiful with a backdrop of volcanoes. Super pretty. At Santiago, the girls shopped at the market. Big surprise there. Us guys found a place called "Mario's Pool Hall". We played 2 games. Total price: 7 quetzales ($1). LOVE that exchange rate. We got ice cream, that's a given, and I met another market child. I don't know what it is about these kids. I love 'em.

Then came some drama. Mike wanted the boat driver to take us to San Pedro, but he said that it was too windy, and the water was too choppy. He just wanted to take us home. But chaperone Mike convinced the veteran boat driver that the water was perfectly safe. With girls screaming and Kate and Hannah decrying their father's name, we got back on the boat.

The captain was not joking. The water was extreme. We almost went Titanic on that lake like 12 times. Most people got kind of sick, and the girls were really tearing Mike apart. I was sitting next to Hannah Collins, but I lucked out--I guess the boat was no bus ride, and no vomit crossed her lips.

We successfully arrived in San Pedro with no pukage. Success! But no one was really in the mood to explore the town. Instead, we just sipped carbonated beverages until our stomachs reoriented, and then it was back on the water to go back to Panajachel. Fortunately, it was way less intense on the ride back. Ryan, Hannah and I actually fell asleep.

Back in Panajachel, we boarded a bus to come back to Antigua and leave the lake behind. The drive back was really beautiful too, with the driver taking us up into the hills with incredible views over the lake and the village. For sure I was bummed to go.

For dinner, we went to this touristy but really bomb place called Frida's. I scored a large piece of meat, steak this time, and a large glass of milk, another craving which I have missed this week. Then we came home and watched the Oscars, content with the knowledge that all our friends would be at school tomorrow.

Today is our last full day. This is tragic. Peep the post tonight.


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Day 9 - The Weekend Cometh!

TGIF. Yup, today was the last day of work. We had to put the finishing touches on the labs. This meant tons of checking computers and installing last-minute programs and checking Facebook. Lots and lots of checking Facebook.

Our Guatemalan friends at the school seemed really sorry to see us go. They crowded around us, taking pictures and slapping high fives and cheek kissing (I LOVE that custom). I extended my cheek multiple times without divulging the information that we were, in fact, coming back on Monday.

In other news, Colin kneeled on a thumbtack. By now you know the drill. The funeral is on Monday. Zoe tried to perform open heart surgery, blatantly overlooking the fact that a band-aid would have sufficed.

We wanted to finish all the work today, so we ended up staying late, until about 3:00. Barb kept us running with fare from the pastelaria, fortunately. When we arrived a la casa, Mari had soup and chicken and rice ready for us. While the majority of rice traveled through the esophagus and to the stomach, then proceeded through the intestines, a few grains made their way out Ryan's nose when a particularly funny joke was made.

We were pretty exhausted from the long day of work, so we spent most of the afternoon chilling out at our pad and doing homework. We worked hard and got really thirsty, and drank a lot. Then we peed a lot. Unfortunately, there was no running water. This was a problem.

Dinner was a little bit ambiguous. By name it was enchiladas. In appearance - clearly Guatemalan enchiladas are a little bit different. With cabbage. Mari is like my favorite woman in the world at this point sans Miley Cyrus and Jamie Lynne Spears, but when I'm feenin' for enchiladas I'll stick to Azteca.

After dinner some of the men went to McDonalds. It filled the vacuum in my stomach and the hole in my heart.

We've got to wake up at like 6:00 am tomorrow to take the bus to Lago Atitlan, so I gotta bounce.

First, I've gotta spill some deep feelings. The Garfield Basketball team has been playing Redmond for 20 minutes at this point. I would do anything; yes, ANYTHING, to be at this game. Gentlemen, I wish you good luck. Tony, Glenn, if you guys are reading this, I really admire you as players and citizens of the world. Please comment on this blog and tell me the score of the game.

See ya,


Day 8 - Computer Lab Gets Owned By Internet

We had internet in the lab today, so work was awesome! At first, we crimped the wires for networking Lab 2. But we finished quickly and efficiently, seasoned veterans that we now are. Afterward, our Guatemalan homies came in and we showed them the internet in Lab 1. Guess what they had more fun with: learning how to use Powerpoint and Word yesterday, or watching "Fat Kid Slips On Diving Board" and highlights of Tony Wroten on YouTube today? We ended the work day taping the network cables in Lab 1 together and to the wall, which is physically pretty painful because it involves a bunch of crouching and crawling on your knees. But it's a necessary poison.

All the juego me and Ryan been spittin' finally came through big: today, Cindy and Lourdes asked me and Ryan to be their novios. Our days as bachelors are finished. Sorry, ladies.

We played soccer again today at 12:30. Some sort of obscure stars must have been aligned, because we beat them. I still don't understand it myself.

We came home to un almuerzo delicioso from Mari. It was the most famous Guatemalan dish: spaghetti. But real talk, it was bomb. After lunch, we walked to the park at the ruins which are right by the market. It was completely clear and sunny and hot, and we got ice cream and laid in the park and Maui Babe'd up and tanned and relaxed. I've developing a dependency on the weather here. The sun has become sort of like heroin to me. I'm about to go through withdrawal when we come home.

We had another cooking lesson with Mari, and then had the super dupe dinner: we had hot chocolate and cookies and this bomb platano drink and these weird tamale things and it was great.

After dinner we hit the town, eager to experience some Antigua nightlife. As you avid readers may recall, we learned to salsa dance a couple days ago. Now was our opportunity to showcase those skills. We walked into the club at like 9:30, and it was not quite poppin' yet. The live salsa band was still warming up and sound checking and such. We sat around the tables and sipped Everclear and Tequila. Virgin Everclear and Tequila, of course. Kidding!

When the music started, we hit the floor. Thus began one of the most awkward, embarrassing experiences in my life. We realized that we are not good at salsa dancing. The three steps and one turn we learned a couple days ago do not encompass an entire genre of dance. Songs have difficult beats. Also, at salsa nights in bars in Antigua, people show up who are FILTHY. In short, we made fools of ourselves. But whatever it was still pretty fun. And we took date pictures so its almost like we didn't miss Tolo.

It's Friday now. We stayed out pretty late last night and I wasn't able to finish the blog because of how drunk I was when we came back. (That's another joke.)

You can look for today's adventures tonight. In the meantime, I'm gonna try to put up some pictures from the Volcano and perhaps other activities. Check 'em out.



Day 7 - It's Halftime

Today was the third day of work. There's no more messing around. We've gone from slow to pro. Broken to smokin'. Geek to chic. And by chic, I mean able to set up computers really fast. The TSC work crew is now a well-oiled machine of efficiency. We're kind of a big deal.

Ryan, Ben and Colin went a little bit early today to set up. It was a rough morning, since the four of us had stayed up late gossiping about boy stuff. But once we got to the school, it was all business.

We divided up into two elite squads. Group A stayed in the completed Lab 1 and taught some of the Guatemalan students a little bit about using their new computers. We showed them Word, Powerpoint, Excel, and Publisher. They had fun playing with images and animations and such, but it was unbelievably difficult to help them figure out how to do things. I started just adding an accent to all my English words, hoping everything would work out. And only recently did I discover that the verb "tipar" does not mean "to type".

Squad 2, led by ace commander Colin Butler, kicked it in Lab 2 installin Operating Systems on the computers. My heart goes out to all of them--it's super tedious. Major props to Jenny Lin for bopping on four computers. She's the league leader. Damn girl!

Working on computers is really physically strenous. By mid-morning, we were literally drenched in sweat and depleted of carbohydrates. I was about to pass out from exhaustion when the chaperones showed up with a huge load of cinnamon rolls, turnovers, and cookies in tow. It was a major clutch move on their part.

We took a work break at 12:30 to play soccer with the Guatemalans after class was over. We played us against them. I don't want to talk about it. Laura was about to score like her fifth goal but she took a bad slip on the concrete and got an owie on her knee. On the plus side, Medic Zoe got her first opportunity to patch up a patient. She had to amputate the leg, but Laura already says she hardly misses it. (Just kidding Zoe did great.)

We were working late today, and Mari brought our lunch to the school. Have I raved about her yet? She even made us salad. I'm kind of trying to bring her home with me.

We were exhausted by the end of the day, but it was tight because we got ahead of schedule. So hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit easier. When we got back, we had a cooking lesson with Mari. Taquitos, guacamole, y chiles rellanos. Puck off, Wolfgang. Because TSC kids can now cook traditional Guatemalan fare.

We got to eat our own creations for dinner. The carrots in the taquitos were the best part. I swear, I'm not just saying that because I shredded them myself.

We're trying to catch up on some sleep tonight, so it's time to say farewell.

Happy Birthday to Chris Perkins and Rose McCarty!!! Equally important, happy half-birthday to me! The trip is half over, too.

Here's a pun I just thought of:
Question: What's it called when you drink the water and get sick with traveler's diarrhea all night?
Answer: a Guatemalady.


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Day 6 - We Finally Get Ice Cream

Today was pancake day. Bomb. As usual, they came with cantaloupe and watermelon. Double bomb. The girls gave me a bunch of extra watermelon. Triple bomb.

We had woken up half an hour early so that we could get a head start on the day, since the early bird catches the worm and such. Unfortunately, we were all a little bit sleepy. I guess Bob must have dozed off on the bus or something, because when the driver hit the brakes, he got hurled out into the aisle. It wasn't funny, I swear. I don't know about the other guys, but I was only laughing because of a spontaneous booger joke that popped into my head.

The task for the day was networking lab 1. Networking is pretty complicated, but Colin and Ben and Ryan are like the A Team of technology stuff. For us mortals, networking means crimping wires. We have to strip the wire (sounds hot huh!?), separate out the separate pieces, straighten them, and put them back together in a clip. Then you stick the little piece into the hole and magically everything works! That's the theory. In reality, Colin and Ben and Ryan had to do a lot of troubleshooting. We were forced to go out and lie on the benches and tan to pass the time. Laura and Zoe didn't apply sunscreen, and quickly perished from melanoma. I also got a really sore burn on my pinky.

On the bus ride back we passed another bus on like a 1.5 lane road. My life literally flashed before my eyes. Year 6 was the best.

We got home late for lunch, but that was OK because it meant the food was already on the table. I sat by Laura, as I always try to do because she gives me her chicken. We had beets, too, and Eliza told us all that if you eat enough it turns your pee red. If that wasn't motivation to scarf those down, I don't know what was.

After we ate, I bet Colin 10 quetzales he couldn't eat the 4 ultra-processed ham sandwiches left over from yesterday. Not wanting to lose any masculinity, he took the bet. Sure, I lost 10 quetzales, but the video footage is worth a buck fifty.

We had a walking tour of Antigua in the afternoon. It was really hot and sunny out, so this was too good of a tanning opportunity to pass up. We busted out the Maui Babe tanning oil.

The tour was cool but a lot of us were pretty tired. We saw a lot of the Antigua ruins and such. They were big. Really big. We went into the catacombs too. There were a lot of dead people living there.

The tour took us into a jade museum, where we learned that jade is hard. Very, very hard. I dropped three grand on a jade chess set. I didn't have the cash, so I used Mike's credit card. He doesn't know yet!

The tour ended in the biggest hotel in Antigua. Muy grande y bonito. There was a pool and palm trees and ruins and porters and little basins of water with petals in them. We're gonna go pool hopping there. There's a wall around the pool, though, so its an obstacle. The main plans for getting in have been narrowed down to tunneling or grenades.

Guess what we did on the way home. If you don't know by now, get yourself educated. Ice cream. You know the drill.

I'm tired. Good night.

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Day 5 - Chips and Salsa, Hold the Chips

Today was the first day of work. The spanish verb is "trabajar," which derived originally from the Latin "traba," meaning "activity," and "jar," meaning "which sucks."

We started out the day with a hardy blue-collar breakfast of mosh and sweet bread and fruit, prepared by Mari, the greatest woman ever. Then we hit the block towards the bus stop. We were decked out in matching outfits, sort of like the Crips or the Bloods, but with TSC T-shirts with our names on them.

The task for the day was setting up the operating systems for all the computers in lab 1. In practice, it equated to all of us huddled around our computer, meticulously following the instructions on the seven page packet Ben had prepared for us, as he floated around the room troubleshooting. It was exhausting work. We were able to keep going only with the help of Barb, who provided many tasty snacks.

We didn't get home until 2:30. Mari made us lunch, and then we worked it off and toned our bods with some pushups. Colin impressed us all, doing at least 84 without a break. 27 of those were one-armed. The rest he didn't use his arms at all. Wow. Once a freshman, now a hulking man.

We learned to salsa dance today! It was at this restaurant with a little dance floor which gives free lessons every Monday at five. The lady there taught us the three crucial salsa moves: the forward shuffle, the sideways shuffle, and the diagonal shuffle. As a bonus, she taught us to turn. I can't speak for everyone, but I danced with Hannah and Laura, and our moves were so hot the floor literally caught fire at one point. And our skills will be applicable to the real world too, now that freakdancing is so conveniently outlawed! Did I mention I'm bitter about this?

On the way home, we FINALLY got ice cream. We were really craving our fix, not having tasted it for nearly 12 hours. On the way there, I was counting my money when I tripped over a passed out drunk guy in the street. Then Laura was making fun of me, and she tripped over a concrete post. There is a God.

At dinner, Mike ate 12 platanos. Pretty impressive. Also, we did laundry for the first time today. Our one concession to the poor fools who followed the packing list's suggestion of "two pairs socks, two T-shirts". We wouldn't have done it, but the air in the boys room was like 10% oxygen, 90% nasty stank.

OK gotta go. Colin wants to use the computer, and he is REALLY intimidating.

Tomorrow sounds pretty fun. Running with scissors, swimming after we eat, crossing without looking both ways, and hijacking tuc-tucs. Love you Mom!


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Day 4 - Mocos y Pedos

Sunday means one thing: going out to eat. Come breakfast time, we walked over to Dona Luisa, a restaurant where Kate and Hannah are frequent clientele. It was crazy delicious. The pancake sandwich was a popular choice. Personally, I was just happy to get a glass of milk, because my calcium intake has been far too low on this trip (if THAT'S not blog-worthy, I don't know what is!).

We were meeting the Guatemalan kids at the Antigua soccer stadium at 10:30 to watch a game, and the hour was fast approaching. Walking would put us at a high risk for tardiness. Thank god for tuc-tucs.

Tuc-tucs are kind of like a Guatemalan version of a taxi. But there's a couple notable differences. Taxis are cars. Tuc-tucs are motorized tricycles with a driver in front and room for three in the back. Taxis have steel frames. Tuc-tucs have little canvas covers to break the wind. Taxis have seat belts. Tuc-tucs have high death rates.

We piled into four of them to make the trip. My personal favorite part of the trip was when my tuc-tuc passed the bus with approximately ten feet between us and the other tuc-tuc barelling towards us, clearly going for the head-on. 3/4s of our tuc-tucs arrived at the stadium, which handily beats the average tuc-tuc survival rate of 67%. And, the one that didn't make it had the chaperones. WOOOH!! NO PARENTS, NO RULES!!

Just kidding.

The soccer game was a lot of fun. The Antigua team, Santiago, won handily 11-1. The medics kept themselves busy, with stretchers carrying players off the field approximately every seven minutes.

After the game, we split with the school kids and walked back to the house. After a quick check of every online account possessed by every member of the TSC team, we walked to the greatest restaurant in the world: Pollo Campero. Pollo Campero is a Guatemalan fried chicken chain. The one we went to covers an entire city block. Antigua has a listed population of 35,000, but there were at least a million people in the restaurant. Ryan and Colin get major props for finishing off the "special" with ice cream, extra chicken, a roll, fries, and a large drink.

We spent the afternoon walking through the market, buying gifts, trinkets, and "legitimate" DVDs. I scored Saw 1 through 5, all on the same disc!

For dinner we went to Queso y Vino, an Italian restaurant and another Collins family favorite. Americans eating Italian in Guatemala! What a cultural blend! We were sitting outside, and it was dark by the time we got our food. It was pretty weird to be eating without actually being able to see our food. For all I know, my Fettucine a la bolognese could have been made out of "moco" (look it up), but it tasted good so I don't care.

Notable quotes of the day:

"Pasta makes me. . .bored" - Jenny

"I want a fan club!" - Kate

"90% of the last sip is backwash"
"Zach always gives me the last sip of his chocolate milk!" - Eliza

"Zach is tight" - Barack Obama

Our first day of real work is tomorrow. Exciting.

Bye guys!

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Day 3 - The Volcano

We had to wake up real real early today. Why, you ask? so we could get our climb on. We walked to Old Town Outfitters, which is about a ten minute walk from our house. That's the company which was taking us up the mountain. All of us piled into a van and a bus, and drove to the school in Ciudad Vieja, where we met the Guatemalan kids.

The drive to Pacaya was long. Hannah puked like 12 times. (just kidding!) It was pretty interesting to get out of the city. The most striking thing for me was at one point on the highway. There hadn't been any houses for a while, but suddenly two little towns were on either side of the highway. The first one was a gated community, with new-looking, identical houses, streets with roundabouts and perfectly sheared plants in the middle, and a fresh basketball court. The other side of the highway was tiny, one-room shacks pieced together from scrap metal. Pretty wacky contrast.

There were little shacks on the side of the road all the way up until the visitor's center partway up Pacaya, where we parked. As soon as we got off the bus, we were mauled by little kids trying to sell us walking sticks for cinco quetzales. I bought one. That stick was totally worth it.

The hike was sweet. It started out through the forest, and once we gained enough elevation, the trees opened up into fields of volcanic rock. We hiked right next to the bottom of a lava flow, and some of the rocks were still molten. This was actually maybe the coolest thing I've ever seen in my life. The tour guide told us if we touched it, it "wouldn't burn. It would vaporize." Needless to say, Eliza touched it and is no longer with us. (just kidding!) But really, you could feel the heat from 30 feet away. I stuck my stick into one of the smaller rocks which had fallen away, and it immediately charred and caught fire.

Our trip ended up taking a little longer than we expected. All in all, we were hiking for like five hours. Sure, we got pretty tired and hungry, but it was worth it. We got a lot closer to the Guatemalan kids. And we saw lava.

On the drive back we were conked out. Caught up on major ZZs. Success. And when we dropped the kids back at the school, me and Ryan scored cheek kisses from las chicas. Love that custom. Double success.

Back at the house, our wonderful host Mari prepared us a lavish Valentines Day feast. She gave us a bomb speech, such a sweetheart. We had taquitos and tamales and ice cream cake for Ben and Kate's birthdays. (Which, lets be honest, weren't exactly close enough to justify cake. But we'll excuse it.)

The trip thus far:
Days: 3
Days consuming ice cream: 3
Stinky boys sleeping in one room: 4
Deceased TSC members: 3 (guess which ones!) (just kidding!)
Ratio of hot to cold showers: 1:957

In other news, we heard Tolo sucked. You win this round, anti-freakdancing parents.

Love from Guatemala,
Zach and the whole gang.


Day 2 - Not Just Another School Day

We woke up bright and early this morning, ready for our first full day in Antigua. Breakfast was hearty. We're talking sweet bread, melons and watermelon, and mosh, which is a lot like Cream of Wheat but sweeter and yummier. Stomachs full, we set out for the bus stop. We were going to the school to meet the kids for the first time. We used Antigua public transportation, and it ain't no Monorail. The buses got packed in three to a seat, with people often loading and unloading through the back door, what I have always understood to be the "emergency exit."

Colegio Valle de Almolonga is located just up the street from the bus stop, and consists of a little courtyard with a building and a garden with lots of plants and a pond. When we arrived, all the students, first grade through high school, came out into the courtyard and lined up. It started out with a quick ceremony. The head of the school gave a speech which, though my Spanish isn't great, I was able to translate roughly as "Thank You." Mr. Bob Huppe gave one right back, which was generally, "No, Thank You." Some of the younger kids gave presentations as well. They performed a quick skit for us, and several seventh grade boys expressively recited poetry. But my favorite part was when a little girl, who couldn't have been more than eight years old, thanked us for coming in excellent English, which she had clearly worked hard to learn.

Once the festivities were over, the school set us up with these sweet T-shirts and a little surprise, too: breakfast numero dos. Tamales and cupcakes.

We met the high school kids, who we're going to be spending most of our time with. It was a little bit awkward at first, since no one really knew what to say, let alone how to say it. But things loosened up fast. They took us on a walk around their garden, but things really heated up when we brought out the frisbees. We played catch for a while, and Ben, Ryan and I bonded with the guys over a little chat about "las chicas."

We played some soccer after that. They were waaay better at that than at frisbee.

It was great to meet them, and we're all really excited to get to know them over the next week, but duty called. So we did some work on the computers, and then took the bus back to our house in Antigua.

Everybody was pretty tired, so we took a little siesta at the house. I scored major points with our hostess for telling her "Que Sabrozo!" at lunch.

All rested, we took a walk to the market, which is touristy but still a lot of fun. There are tons of stands selling T-shirts, bags, swords (loaded up on those!), hackey sacks, DVDs, CDs, and various other trinkets. Since we're going back on Sunday, this was a sort of scouting trip, with the real purchasing to be done in a couple days. But I did buy a Harold and Kumar DVD for 10 quetzales (about $1.50). Don't worry--the DVD said "100% DVD original" on it, so it must be legal.

The notable event of the excursion: a Guatemalan kid who was probably like six years old latched onto us while we were in the market. He was a pretty angry kid. He followed us everywhere in the market, periodically socking us in the stomach, groin, thigh--anything he could reach. At one point, he had a piece of grass twine which he was whipping us with. We thought we lost him at one point, but then all of a sudden he hopped off of the bumper of a pickup truck, and he was with us again. He might have followed us home, but fortunately someone he knew stopped him as we were walking towards the edge of the market.

So that was day two. Tomorrow we climb the volcano which should be totally awesome.

For now, goodnight, Seattle. And good luck.


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Day 1 - Arriving in Guatemala

It's been like 15 hours since we were sitting at the gate in SeaTac. We've been through a lot. The flight went as well as it could have for a midnight to 5 am plane ride. I'll be honest, it wasn't that fun. The three hour layover was totally sweet. We slept mostly, as Mike carved out his own little den on the airport floor. Coincidentally, Colin and I separately purchased identical breakfasts of Starbucks parfaits and Odwallas.

As we stepped out of the Guatemala airport at about noon earlier today, we felt a strange, foreign feeling upon our skin. Warmth! A feeling forgotten during the long, dreary Seattle winter, it was nice to have it back again.

We loaded up the tubs and drove over to the school where we unloaded the computers. Then we got a ride over to the house, where our hosts alerted us that Kate and Hannah "had run off to Panama". Just kidding. Kate and Hannah arrived on the school bus a few minutes after us, all decked out in their blue school coats.

Since then we've been hanging out here, but we're about to go leave go buck wild for a night in Antigua. Kidding again. We'll probably just go to sleep since we've got a long day tomorrow.

Here's the summary: We're here at our house in Antigua, safe. Stay tuned mom and dad, there'll be more soon.