Friday, August 15, 2008

The End

I'm finally heading home and I have to say, it feels like Time. I exchanged contact information with the two other Spanish students, Megan (left) and Susanne (right), said goodbye to everyone in the house, and headed for the airport in Guatemala City. I was a little worried because I'd contracted a mild case of the ol' Montezuma's Revenge but I self medicated and the flights passed uneventfully.

Anyway, the trip is over and sadly it's time for the blog to end as well. I'll miss it though, I enjoyed it and I hope you did too. By the way, I'm curious as to how many people actually look at this, so if you don't mind me knowing, please leave me a comment.

Where Coffee Comes From

There's an organic fair trade coffee farm just a short drive from where I'm staying so I hopped on a shuttle bus and went to check it out. Turns out they're just like regular coffee farms except with slightly higher wages. Still though, coffee farms are interesting in general and the museum was well put together. There were tours but the place was almost empty so the guide ended up showing just me and two Italians around. Italian is apparently so similar to Spanish that they were able to understand the tour without a translator. Crazy.

So it turns out coffee plants are rather boring. I'm fairly certain I've seen similar looking plants in my backyard. However the manner in which they are processed was fairly interesting. Apparently it takes about 6.5 pounds of raw bean to produce a single pound of roast, and goes through four separate stages in between. The best part was definitely the free cup of espresso at the end.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Volcán Pacaya

I finally got to climb Volcán Pacaya, an active volcano that last erupted two years ago, which is so recent that the lava hasn't finished cooling and only the top layer is rock. Underneath, and not particularly far underneath, it is still molten and incredibly hot. Fortunately, thanks to a total absence of safety regulations in Guatemala, tourists are allowed to climb up and even roast marshmellows if they like in the crevices through which the lava is still accessible.

It felt like a scene out of the Lord of the Rings. Fog covered the summit and the alien landscape was made all the more surreal by the sharp contrast between the freezing mountain wind and the at times overpowering heat of the lava. I had met up with a few Spaniards in the bus on the way over and I could've sworn we were questing together. I even nicknamed a stray dog we spotted Golem. He was wet and shivering when we first saw him but he came with us to the summit and warmed up quickly against the black volcanic rock.

The number one sweetest part was discovering that if you spit on hot lava, it evaporates before landing. However, being that close long enough to aim through the solid rock to the liquid is quite a feat. If you rush yourself and miss, it evaporates on contact with the solid part, which is not nearly as epic. The fully cooled rock was pretty dope too; it had a strange, brittle texture and a lot of it broke easily. In places it retained the shape of a viscous but flowing liquid, layered like thick molasses.

Lago De Atitlán

I decided to take a trip to Atitlán. It's another lake with volcanoes and such things that everyone says is a must see, and it's located a convenient two hours from Antigua. I met up with a few other backpackers to cut down on boat fairs and headed out to the hot springs which were, unfortunately, rather disappointing.

The tide was in so the lake was choppy and all the warm water got carried out immediately. It was only still hot right up against the rocks, where it was scaldingly so. We did, however, manage to stumble upon a really interesting graveyard. It was by far the most cheerful graveyard I've ever encountered, brightly colored and decorated with ribbons. The tombs were large enough to accommodate entire families, like a big after-life party.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Boring Classes

Classes continue to be long and boring. I eat breakfast at 7am, go to school for 4 hours and come back at noon for lunch. Then I go back to school for another 4 hours and come back at 6pm for dinner. Then I do homework go to bed early. Occasionally I go out with other students to bars but I'm always the first one home. I only recently got a chance to take some pictures of Antigua, which by the way is gorgeous.

I'm having a lot of fun though, and Yolanda, the lady who runs the pension, is super nice and easy to talk to. Talking to her has helped my Spanish a lot. Everything is winding down though, I'm leaving soon, the other American student is leaving soon, and all the girls in preparatoria are finishing up exams and graduating.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Música Latina

For some reason everywhere I go I hear the same song. It's in all the bars, all the clubs, even on people's cellphones. Not just as ringtones either, in the buses sometimes people will take out their cellphones and play entire songs, annd usually this is one of them.

It's called Dimelo, which literally means Say It To Me, although there's an English version of the song called Need To Know. The singer's name is Enrique Iglesias, a Latino superstar who apparently grew up in Miami although he was born in Madrid. The girls are all crazy for him and apparently his so famous he's getting cast in Hollywood movies now.

But the genre that seems most popular with the youth here is Reggaeton, a sort of Carribean sounding rap/hiphop genre but with a Latin twist. It's very danceable and reminds me of dancehall. If you've heard of Daddy Yankee, that's his genre. Another big name is Wisin y Yankel but if you don't like rap and hip hop I wouldn't bother with either of them, it's not a particularly gentle style of music.

Monday, August 11, 2008

La Barbita

Rather than shave and have to continue doing so daily I elected to get a trim at a local parlor next to my school. They did not seem to know what they were doing so I asked as politely as my Spanish would allow if I could just do it myself. I think it worked out quite nicely although the locals all seem to think the beard remains out of control and should be removed completely. I don't know why but Latinos just don't seem to like the rugged look. At least they have stopped calling me Barbuchín.