Prior to arriving in El Remate, my journey consisted of waking up at 4am to head over to my sister´s to leave my car where a cab picked me. The cabbie was new at his job and started driving a cab after getting laid off from his IT consulting job. I coached him a little bit on how to use this new temporary job as an opportunity to meet new people where he came up with the idea of having business cards and resumes available to handout to potential employers, since you never know who you will meet.
My flight left at 8am and had the pleasure of meeting an English teacher and his wife from San Diego. They were traveling around Guatemala mostly without knowing where they were going to stay. I´m loving this idea of just rolling with it and seeing where things take you. When I arrived in San Salvador I had plenty of time to think about my journey ahead with a 6 hour layover. I had a subway sandwich and watched some kids play a wii that was in the middle of the airport. Brilliant marketing. I slept a little and finally stepped foot on the flight to Guatemala City. When I arrived the driver from Patricia´s Hotel picked me up and thankfully he spoke great English since I was really tired. I was so happy to lay down my head and just sleep.
I was then awoken at 5am to catch my flight to Flores where I was picked up by my friend Allison and her El Remate friend Erwin. They took me to the bank where I got some Quetzales for my entire visit. We also went to the supermarket which felt like a big Walmart to get some food. The drive to El Remate was so beautiful and so green. It´s very warm here and very humid of course being that it´s pretty much the jungle. We also stopped and got some fresh cut coconut and drank the juice right out of the shell. When I arrived at my bungalow and settled in, I came down to have snack of fresh cut coconut.
The rest of my day involved, a swim in the lake where I will be spending a lot of time cooling off and swimming, a siesta and then an incredible welcome dinner for me and a reunion dinner for Allison with the women she helped planting vegetable gardens. There were more than 40 women there with their kids and they picked fresh flowers that were placed in jars on the table and we dined with new friends. When going back to the bungalow before crawling into bed, we took a night swim and chatted with Argelio who takes care of the grounds at the hotel.
I´m of course getting lots of practice at Spanish and it´s humbling in regards to how to communicate with these beautiful local people. We all want to learn just the same. I spent yesterday walking around town seeing all the gardens Allison planted 2 months ago with the two groups of women she worked with, and how much they´ve grown. Who knew that cucumbers grew so fast! There are beets, carrots, radishes, lettuce, spinach, sweet peppers, etc.
Last night, Allison and I had a caprese salad at an Italian restaurant which is right next door to my bungalow. The owner and chef who makes fresh homemade pastas and pizzas is direct from Italy. We had some wine and dessert of cooked pears, ice cream and chocolate sauce. I should also note that I am definitely having my fair share of homemade tortillas, probably too much!
In the evening we were then picked up by Erwin and had a fun time at a hotel owned by Estella and her husband Amilcar. We were entertained with singing, a strumming guitar and some tequila! It was a fun surprise to recognize some of the songs from Buena Vista Social Club. In conversation it came out that although Estella is originally from Guatemala, before marrying Amilcar she lived in LA for 10 years just along mid Wilshire. Also along or the concert were some other travelers from the states and a volunteer from Australia, whom I´ll be working with doing arts and crafts with the local kids.
Today I was very nervous to meet with some teens but overall it went well and thank god I had Allison there to help out with translations and ideas to get them talking. They were pretty shy at first. They asked me a few questions about myself and the rest of the time I taught them English. We also got to talk about what their dreams are for future professions. Looks like we´ll have some really great lawyers, doctors, teachers, a judge, a car mechanic and a secretary contributing themselves in the future. They were ages 12-20.
As I was sitting here at this internet cafe, a man who moved here from the US and opened up a bakery came in with a basket full of fresh baked breads and muffins. He sold us some carrot cake and banana bread. I´m already digging in the bag, where the loaf is still hot and it´s so yummy! I need to save some room since I´ll be having lunch somewhere in town. After we will have a swim in the lake and tonight a nice rest before I support Allison in the El Remate triathlon tomorrow. In the morning I´ll be traveling with Erwin to Tikal where I´ll be spending the day getting familiar with the cherished ancient Mayan pyramids and ruins.
It´s incredible coming to a place where the US media talks so negatively about it, instilling a lot of fear. I´m sure there has to be some good reason for all of it, and maybe it´s not for everyone. The hardest thing for me is seeing the random dogs walking around town that are mostly scavengers with most of their bones clearly visible.
It´s also interesting to see the random horses, pigs and chickens just going where they choose. Thankfully I´ve come and am having a different experience than one that would be feared. Don´t get me wrong, I´ve run into some unwelcome friends such as very big spiders and roaches, but if that´s the worst of it, so be it.
I´ll be back in a few days…