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Erica's Travel Adventures

Antigua Week 2

GUATEMALA | Tuesday, 22 January 2013 | Views [359]

I am settling in very well in my second week in Antigua and finally getting comfortable with my schedule.  Monday morning I started back with my volunteer work at Casa Aleluya.  It was very different because all of the children 5 years and older went back to school after winter break.  It is so much less chaotic now and, and I can give the kids more individual attention.  There are 12 kids 3 and under, including 2 babies around 4 months old.  One is so tiny she looks like she might break.  Then there are seven 4 year olds, 5 girls and 2 boys.  They are all adorable.  The kids can be very possessive and aggressive.  They hate to share toys or companions.  If you pick one up and hold another’s hand, they get upset.  I guess I would feel the same way if I had nothing of my own.  It’s nice to get to know all of these kids one-on-one.  They are all very sweet and just need a lot of love.  The women who work with them were at one point orphans at Casa Aleluya.  If they work there then they can get scholarships to pay for their schooling. 


I learned a lot more about Casa Aleluya this week.  Not all of the children are orphaned.  Some were abandoned in churches because their parents can’t care for them but want them to be found and safe.  Others were brought to the actual facilities by their families, begging them to take their kids.  Many kids were also taken away from their families because of abusive situations.  Because of these circumstances, there are family visitation days.  Casa Aleluya was started by an American couple and is funded mainly by Evangelical groups in the states. 


So back to my Monday; way less kids.  It was very calm and we played and colored and did various activities.  After my placement, I went with my roommates to tour a cathedral in Antigua.  The inside is amazing with a lot of old ruins.  A lot of the building was destroyed by an earthquake.  It was very cool.  Amanda and I had quite the photo shoot with all of the various artifacts.  We went from the cathedral to Spanish class, which is actually very helpful.  My teachers speak almost completely in Spanish and I feel as though I am learning a lot.  I was still pretty tired from El Salvador so Monday night I just relaxed and went to bed early. 


Tuesday and Wednesday morning were standard placement mornings.  Wednesday catching the bus, though, was insane.  I was 30 minutes late to the orphanage because it took me so long to catch a bus and the one I finally caught was beyond crowded.  I had to stand the entire time, and there were literally people hanging out the door holding on to the windows.  I have never seen anything like it.  Tuesday morning we got 2 new volunteers, Katie and Sarah, who are both from Australian and are great! 


Wednesday I switched to a different Spanish class because the one I was originally in was too basic so my time slot switched to 2-4.  After class my friend Margot and I went with some people she knew to grab a snack.  We went to a cute little bakery and had delicious cake.  Margot and I split a really good cheesecake and an apple cake.  Then we went back to Maximo Nivel (our volunteer office) to meet up with some other girls to do salsa lessons.  It was a lot of fun, but it was in a really small room and was very hot.  After lessons we all went to eat at Pollo Campero because everyone wanted to see what all the hype was about.  Since Dani and Ari Farchi showed me what to order, I was the experienced one and told the others what to get. I was pretty proud of myself (thanks guys!).  Even though it’s a fast food restaurant we had a waiter who brought us our drinks and food and gave us placemats and silverware.  It had a nice fountain inside, too  It was the fanciest fast food restaurant I have ever been in (rumor has it, the McDonald’s here has a beautiful garden).

After dinner we headed to Rainbow Café, a bar that has open mic on Wednesday nights.  It was really crowded with all tourists and was so loud I could hardly have a conversation.  It was fun to be with everyone, though, and they had very delicious banana dacharis.  My roommate, Sunny, has friends from Guatemala City and they met as at the bar.  They were all really fun and very nice. 


Thursday morning the chicken buses were back to normal.  I was able to sit the entire ride with only one other person in the seat next to me.  I brought paint for the kids and they did some finger painting (only the 4 year olds- we did it before the younger ones were outside to play).  One of the other volunteers, Sara, noticed in the girls’ room that there were pictures of Minnie mouse drawn on the walls but not painted, as well as a quote.  She asked if we could finish it and it has turned into a great project for us.  We are finishing the girls’ room, putting drawings up in the boys’ room, and sanding and painting the seesaws and benches in the courtyard area.  I am really excited to help brighten the place up a little bit!   


During my Spanish class on Thursday, my teacher (who is fantastic) took me and 3 other girls to see a photo exhibit that has pictures of the real Guatemala.  Antigua is very sheltered from the dangers of the rest of the country.  The exhibit shows a lot of photos from the civil war in the 1980’s of families searching for the remains of loved ones or holding onto a piece of a loved one’s bloody clothing.  There were also several photos of crime scenes from gang related incidents.  It was very interesting and insightful.  I learned a lot about the hardships that many Guatemalans suffer through on a daily basis. 


Friday was another standard day in the orphanage and Spanish class.  That night we went out to celebrate because it was my roommate Jason’s last night in Antigua.  Saturday morning I woke up and went to the Earth lodge with my roommates Dave, Noah, Dainia, John, Amanda, and Emily and with my friends Desi, Margot, Sarah, Katie, and Nacim.  The Earth Lodge is about 20 minutes outside of Antigua in the mountains.  It is an avocado farm/hostel/hippie lodge.  We went to relax for the day and to a little bit of hiking.  We got there and had to hike down a steep hill to the actual lodge.  It has a stunning view overlooking the volcanoes.  We had a delicious lunch with a lot of amazing guacamole!  I got a bean and cheese quesadilla as well to go with my guac.  We spent a lot of time relaxing in hammocks and soaking up sun.  Then we went for a little hike.  We had to trek back up the massive hill.  I am quite out of shape.  It was completely worth it though to see the views.  On our way to find the lookout point, Noah asked 2 young indigenous kids where we needed to go and they asked their parents if they could take us so our tour guides were an 8 year old girl and 6 year old boy.  They were adorable!  The little boy waited for us to go down a slippery hill and stuck his hand out to help us down (I was terrified I would pull him down with me, but luckily I didn’t slip).  They wanted to us to take some pictures of them with our camera so I got some cute shots of them!  They were very sweet and must lead travelers to this hike pretty often.  On the way we also ran into some of their friends from school and they also were very insistent on being in some photos (they say “mi foto!). 


After our hike and a little bit more relaxation, my roommates left to go back to Antigua and I stayed with the other girls for the night.  For dinner we had a fresh, vegetarian meal of vegetables, mac n cheese with cauliflower and broccoli, zucchini pancakes, and salad.  For desert we had avocado bread.  It was such a good, fresh meal!  I headed back to our dorm pretty soon after dinner to go to sleep early.  The next morning we got up at had granola, fresh fruit, and yogurt for breakfast.  After some more time in the hammocks, we headed back up the dreaded hill to wait to be picked up and head back to Antigua. 


Sunday afternoon I met up with Katie and Sarah and they each got a hair wrap at Central Park (I got one already).  Then we met up at the artisan market with Desi and Margot, and I got a little homemade pouch to keep my money in.  Katie, Sarah, and I went back to Central Park to pick up Katie’s headphones that she left with a woman so that she could do a hair wrap on the cord of the headphones as a present for her brother (it turned out really nicely).  Then we got some gelato and sat at a coffee shop for a little bit.  I headed home from dinner and then went with Dave, Noah, and Emily to a little wine and cigar shop.  The room looks like one massive wine cellar and it has one table in the middle that everyone sits at.  The first glass of wine is 35 Quetzales, the second 30, etc.  It is a really cute, little shop!  I had a really nice, relaxing weekend, and I am ready to go traveling again for this coming weekend!

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