I have nothing really interesting to post today but I thought I might ramble on about some of the different things that are going on. A note to some readers this may not be terribly interesting so i apologize for that in advance.
School right now is a bit of a mixed bag, i have no idea if im getting any better at speaking spanish. I know that i have the capability to use at least two too many verb tenses but i have no idea if that is translating into more accurate and understandable conversations. To no ones surprise i am terrible at pronouncing everything and when i try to explain to them that i dont pronounce things in english very well either(bagel for example) and that it is just a very me thing to pronounce things a little off they are not very accepting of the concept. Apparently i also have a habit of shrugging my shoulders in that i dont know fashion when i try to pronounce things correctly in the subjunctive tense and it is literally impossible to stop that habit so i look pretty ridiculous most of the time, and im sure if i had to pronounce multiple words in a row i would be doing my patented shoulder dance pretty easily. Other than that i would guess that my spanish is going ok, im churning through the books they give us and people only get mildly frustrated with me, especially when i get stubborn and decide that despite the fact that i dont know spanish i know better than the teachers.
Volunteering is a mixed bag right now as well. I really like all of the students in my english class but they show up so sporadically that my many hours of planning tend to get tossed out the window. Last week i made all of these cards for travel vocabulary with pictures and all sorts of destinations and only three students showed up so we ended up just talking about soccer for two hours. Not bad but a bit demoralizing. Teaching basketball is pretty much the same except the kids are so full of energy that we tend to just have a fun time no matter what. Its basically the girls who like to play bball so we end up just playing 3 on 3 for a few hours and they are so funny at times that i have literally fallen on the ground laughing. They love to cheer and yell bravo everytime they score and they love to tell me im a tramposo(cheater) because im so much taller than them, but lets be honest i would be dominating no mattter what my height was. Oh and talking trash with limited spanish to 13 year old girls is a blast, i mean if i was the type of guy who would talk trash to 13 year old girls, doesnt really sound like me though, im far too classy for that.
Other than that im currently feeling a little like crap, probably developing a little malaria or yellow fever or it could just be a headache or cold but im no doctor.
Let me know if you guys want to hear about anything in particular especially when there is nothing big happening.
Monday, November 16, 2009
On Thursday my plan was simple, I was going to spend the weekend with a nice relaxing trip to the beach town of Monterico, get some sun and watch some turtles race. By Friday my plans had changed dramitically as I sat in the offices of OX and listened to the preexcursion speech on the dangers of the trek we were about to encounter. Instead of cervezas and hammocks I would be ascending 13000 ft in the air and camping out inside a volcanic crater. Things would certainly be different but then again ive never really liked the beach much.
On saturday morning we got up around 5 and took off for OX[outdoor excursions]. We were to meet up with 9 other brave souls and trek up one of the largest volcanoes in central america. Our day began with the early morning trot through antigua, running late as usual and needing to hustle to not seem like the dead weight slackers of the group. When we arrived we finished filling our packs adding more weight from shared gear, my job to carry up the huge container of curry for that nights dinner. A quick stop at a cafe where we scarfed down some chicken sandwiches in hopes of getting those last tiny bits of protein to propel us up the volcano and we were off.
We were told the first 45 minutes would be a flat out bitch and it couldnt have been more true. We trudged through loose dirt and passed local farmlands on our way into the first trails of the volcano. It wasnt long before i was breathing heavy and i was nervous that i was the only one struggling from the onset. The pack already felt like an albatross around my neck and we were bolting up the mountain at breakneck speed.
When Stefan our guide turned to me and asked me if i did much trekking I wasnt sure wether to lie or not so i blurted out the truth. Nope it was my first time, i havent really done anything like this before. I once tried to climb a small mountain in Massachusetts but ended up driving around a tiny town lost and barely made it to the opening of the mountain before i had to turn back. He was not amused and the look of worry on his face was priceless.
We climbed and intemittently took breaks to ensure that we were doing alright and properly hydrated. As we climbed higher i hit my stride, keeping up with the pace of the group, listening to stories of how they had climbed the alps, the sierras and the matterhorn and trying to keep it a secret that the closest i had come was reading about stuff like that and once watching the movie with chris odonnell where his sister gets stuck on a mountain and he has to go save her and they are carrying that supersensitive explosive gel, you know the one im talking about.
When we reached lunch i realized that this was going to be ridiculously hard but it was also incredibly doable. I had been nervous the night before and for much of the early hike but reaching midway and feeling good instilled me with confidence for the rest of the hike. We ate and took an hour to rest and acclimate ourself with the increasing altitude. Vanity got the best of me and as we were told it would be dress to take off our shirts to dry them i obviously decided to try and get some sun and in typical tim fashion i burnt up my entire chest and back turning once again into a fresh steamed lobster.
Along with us on our trip was Chela, a dog who lives at the tour house. That dog carries its own pack and busts up the mountain playing and bounding up some of the more treacherous passes as if they were nothing. She was the best despite her incessant desire to eat our food and her lack of preocupation with knocking you right off the trail with her pack.
We climbed for several more hours eventually passing the fake summits and reaching our first summit. It was amazing and we took off our packs to stare at the clouds below us and admire the other volcanoes that made up the panoramic landscape infront of us. We climbed to a small peak and practiced our handstands and jumpkicks above 10000 ft, you never know when you are going to need them.
By this point our legs were spent, drained of all energy and we were dying to just leave our packs on the ground and be done for the day. Unfortunately we had 45 more minutes of hiking to the final peak and the crater which would be our bedroom for the evening. The last 45 minutes was brutal as we sloshed through gravel and volcanic ash struggling to reach the top. Once we got to the top of the crater it was relief and it looked like the moon.
We walked down into the crater and dropped our packs sensing the end of the first major part of our adventure. The wind blew huge gusts in our faces as we set up the tents and changed into our down jackets for the night. The temperature had dropped signifigantly and we were now close to freezing. Our guide let us know that we had arrived about 2 hours earlier than expected and now our only course of action was to go drink a ton of wine and watch volcano fuego erupt over and over. So we headed off to the side of the volcano, cups in hand and picked our spots to drink and watch the magnificent vistas.
The combination of altitude and booze, which went from red wine to rum to bacardi fairly quickly, led some members of the group to get a little tipsy and as we started to hurl boulders down the mountain and sing all sorts of partially remembered pop songs the sunset on us and the temperature dropped to ass kicking point.
We ate our curry dinner and then headed quickly off to bed, the security and warmth of our sleeping bags a welcome treat. Our tent was shared with Chela and she was not the most accomadating tentmate. By midnight my face was pressed into the side of the tent as andy and lindsey had shoved me from my spot into my tight squeeze. We came to find out that as we were packed like sardines the dog had taken over the tent and had occupied 2 and half spots for herself and was not going to be moved easily. We struggled with this all night eventually realizing that tiny bits of uncomfortable sleep were the best we could ask for.
When i woke up from my last 5 min rest i was completely nauseous suffering from altitude sickness and thought i was going to throw up or fall face first from dizziness. I did my best to walk up to the edge of the crater to watch the sunset with everyone but could only sit and pray not to vomit in front of everyone. Chela came over and joined me, she must have sensed i needed a little support at that time or she just wanted to steal my warmth as her down jacket wasnt providing enough. We watched the sunrise together and i began to start feeling like myself again. Apparently i just wasnt getting enough oxygen as i slept and recuperated quickly, thank god.[this is also why i have no pics of the sunrise]
The descent was another adventure altogether. Our first inclination that it would be something different was when our guide told us we needed to be safe and do exactly as he did and then he sprinted down the first major part of the descent sending volcanic ash flying as bolted down. We all gave each other that look of holy crap i guess we have to do that too and we followed in hot pursuit. The descent was a series of sprints down mixed in with ridiculous jungle leaves in your face as you weaved down the mountain and silently prayed to not fall on your ass. We took little to know breaks asking each other what the big rush was.By the time we reached the homestretch my knee was throbbing, Lindseys toes were brutalized, andy was exhausted and the rest of our group was suffering from blisters and varying other ailments. Our guides had left us in their dust and our only course of action was to fend for ourselves. Somehow we made it to the bottom jelly legged and covered in sweat. When we reached the van our guides gave us high fives and told us we made it in record time, i was too tired and cared very little for records though i will say i smoked that cocky swiss kid who stole my walking stick[he know he stole it too and deserves eating my dust]
We took our van ride back cramping up on the ride and then hobbled back finishing our day with lunch at Rainbow cafe, sharing our moments of self doubt, our favorite moments[sunset for me] and our shared knowledge that we would not be attempting this again anytime soon. In closing I know many of you have done some crazy stuff and maybe its much more impressive than 13000 ft but lay off this was big for me and im pretty proud of myself because i did pretty damn well.
Sidenote we are all walking with decisive limps and Brenda, one of the daughters at our homestay, thinks its hilarious to sneak up behind us and then grab or poke our quads and watch as we freak out.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Today we convinced our teacher instead of having class in the morning we would be better off going to watch a race where waiters carry trays through the streets. It was pretty interesting though it all devolved into our teacher ogling some Gallo beer promotional girls. All in all it was an interesting morning.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I knew of Tikal far before I had ever heard the name and far before I ever took off for Guatemala. Only in my mind Tikal is Yavin IV the secret base of the rebel alliance where Luke came to fruition and listened as Admiral Akbar dispensed important intel on the destruction of the Death Star.
I got my chance to see Tikal for real this weekend and it is an amazing place. It was one of the major city states in the Mayan empire with skyscraping pyramids and temples. One of those places on earth that everyone really should try and see because it puts you in awe with mans ability to create.
I took off for Tikal in the early morning waking around 4 and heading for the airport with Cathy. Since Andy and Lindsey had already seen Tikal and were on an adventure of their own it was just the two of us for this trip. When we arrived at the airport in Flores we were greeted by Carlos who would be our guide for the next two days.
Our first tour would involve seeing some of the major temples and sites in Tikal. To get there Carlos insisted we take a pickup truck and we were carted through the walking paths like lazy people at airports, we felt a little like aholes but it was pretty fun at times to watch people give us snooty looks. It was even more fun to see the other group from our school who had taken the bus 11 hours to get to Tikal and wave at them as if we were local celebrities in the big homecoming parade.
We got to the first temple which was the massive temple iv and it was a blast to ascend and then take in the views. You get such a ridiculous view of the jungle and the other pyramids from temple iv it really is amazing.
After that we were greeted with the rain. It had rained all week in torrential proportions in Antigua and today would be no different. We went from pyramid to pyramid and got soaked. When i attempted a handstand for a picture i almost ate it when i slipped on the grass. None the less we were able to tour around the city and see all of the pyramids, temples, and residences.
One of highlights was standing listening to some history of the mayan people and i didnt realize that i was standing on a huge ant hill. The ants attacked me like ferocious beasts and bit the crap out of my legs. It was a continous pleasant surprise throughout the day to feel a sharp pain in my back or behind my knees and have a nice ant bite waiting for me.
We finished up the tour in a thunderstorm but were able to see some really nice sites. I was a big fan of the central plaza which had some smaller temples as well as houses and places for human sacrifice(i think thats what someone said at least). It was interesting to see everything in such a close proximity.
The next morning we woke up early again to try and catch the sunrise and this was one of highlights. For about 20 minutes on the top of temple iv we watched the sun ascend, though blocked by clouds though it was still beautiful, and watched the fog dance over the jungle top. The silence and the early morning were really something to behold. Its a must if you ever travel to tikal.
Other highlights from Tikal: -climbing one of the steepest ladders i have ever seen and having a group of australian tourists on the way down tell me that they thought i was an aussie and that my accent sounds more australian than american
-carlos explaining to me where the word ok came from before he lectured me on the need to have at least two girlfriends, one is simply not enough according to carlos
-the smell of my clothes, a potpourri of sweat mud and rain.
-a sweet dessertt of rice and milk, surprisingly tasty
Yaxha is a second site of ruins that was recently discovered. It is a little more of a small town compared to a major city that tikal is. It was pretty impressive and had some great stuff to climb and see as well. They also had some ball courts where the mayans played their sport. It was much smaller but there was more stuff in a close proximity to each other and it was all newly excavated so it was pretty exciting to get the opportunity to see it.
We then got to head into Flores which is a cool little beach like town. We took a short boat ride and at one point the carlos asked me to walk to the front of the boat and take a photo of everyone. I wanted to Carlos that i am petrified of boats and water and the idea of walking to the front was making me nauseous but im pretty sure he wouldnt have understood that and i was forced to the front to be the photographer in the group. Later on some of the folks in the group were snacking on some mango ice cream when the people of flores lit off some fireworks. One of the german ladies we were with was shocked and confused by the fireworks and when she approached me to ask why they were doing she missed a step and went tumbling down a flight of stairs, i was left with her hat in my hand as i attempted to grab her hand to no avail. She went down hard putting a pretty big scare into our group. She was unharmed for the most part despite having two artificial knees. She did sustain a massive gash under her chin but Cathy used her nursing skills to take care of it. Needless to say Carlos felt like ending the day there and we all headed for the airport and our return trip to Antigua.
Monday, November 2, 2009
more pics to come...