Monday, June 22, 2009

First Week!

The past few weeks have flown by faster than the rain that floods the streets of my new home San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala...and that's fast! I am still in the immersion phase, but the family I am staying with in San Pedro La Laguna is making me feel as comfortable as if they were my own. San Pedro La Laguna is a small village on Lake Atitlan, which is approximately four hours West of Guatemala City. Lake Atitlan (see picture) is absolutely beautiful as it is surrounded by three volcanoes. Its daily dose of rain makes it the greenest place I have ever been in my life. Think… “Great Valley” in the movie Land Before Time.

My office is in Panajachel, which is another village across the lake. I take a small boat to work each day. My Spanish is not perfect, but my family is taking the time to help me. My family has four children of all ages. They were very excited by the gifts I brought; coloring books, crayons, yo-yo, paddle with the ball attached, and their favorite which is the silly putty. This past Friday I hung out with the children. We played basketball in the village center, and I was like Yao Ming to them. After that I brought out my guitar and played some songs for them. I even began to teach one of the kids how to play.

This past weekend I went to Antigua, a tourist village three hours from Lake Atitlan with another volunteer named Meggie. There were many attractions to see, but the top of them all was the hike up Volcano Pacaya, pun intended. The tour book said not to go up if it is raining, but we did not listen. We took a bus to 6,000ft and hiked up to the peak at 10,000ft. It took a couple hours to summit. As we got closer to the top we began to smell the sulfur and feel the heat. At the peak we saw LAVA! It was hot and on the move. But it was raining so hard that you could only pick your head up to see it for a couple seconds. After that we began to retrace our steps down the mountain. Unlike in America, Central American tour guides are less concerned about the safety of the group or the liabilities involved. Our whole group got separated and Meggie and I were left alone to find our way back down. We could not see a football field’s length in front of us and the lava rocks were acting as quicksand. At one point of the volcano I was getting about two steps per minute. I started thinking “I didn’t sign up for this,” but then I remembered I didn’t sign anything because for these tours you are not forced to sign a waiver! We finally hit the tree line and I was able to use my “Man vs. Wild” skills (following horse manure and the water trails) back to base. But not before getting a little bloody. While stuck in the quicksand of lava rocks a basketball sized rock skidded down the volcano crashing into my leg leaving an ugly but manageable gash. It was quite the experience and if this was any indication to the next three months then Guatemala is going to be quite the excursion. Check out this video...

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