Adventures of Frangipan

Monday, 31 October 2005

Punctura

It’s raining, it’s pouring, and we get a puncture on our way up to work. Luckily, it’s incredibly easy to change the tyre on a tuk-tuk, so we were only delayed by about 10 minutes. Work wasn’t too bad cuz the rain let up a bit. Oscar came over to tell us we didn’t have to come to work on Tuesday or Wednesday cuz it was a fiesta for them so they wouldn’t be working.

Attempted to practice Spanish in the afternoon. All afternoon. Yey!

Watched Sleepy Hollow – Halloween special on the movie channels. Gave Carrie a miss though. Finished A Time to Kill before bed.



Stuff I miss (in no particular order):
  • Hair straighteners - the curls are getting tired. I long for a sleek outline!
  • My vast wardrobe - wearing the same clothes day-in day-out. Oh wait, I do that every day at home for work!
  • Being able to walk down the street without having every male conversation stop while they all stare. Don't get me wrong, if I thought they did it cuz I was something special, I'd be flattered, but they do it to every single girl
  • Being around people I know - I've made friends here, but I can't be myself around them. People who've known me for years still think I'm strange: how would these people feel?!
  • Having more to do - way too much free time on my hands here!
  • Staying in bed until 10am - I'm the last one to have breakfast in my house at 6:30am. Kids are walking to school at 6:45am while I wait for the taxi up to Sesesmil.
  • The Dogs - it's just not the same without two white balls of fluff jumping all over me to wake me up in the mornings
  • My computer and a fast, decent internet connection
Stuff I Love about here:
  • How beautiful and lush the countryside is
  • People seem happy with what they've got. I'm sure they'd like more money and easier lives, but they still seem happy without
  • English TV channels - I'd be very lonely without them!
  • Being able to walk from one side of town to the other in 5 minutes. It took 10 minutes to cross Leeds campus!
  • The pickup rides. Haven't been in a really packed one yet which is a bummer, but they're good fun. And a lot more dangerous than I let myself worry about
  • The kids in Sesesmil being fascinated by us. A little boy walked past the other day, and his face lit up when I smiled at him. There were about eight kids watching us in another house, and they were made up when we waved at them from the pickup as we went home. Don't worry, this doesn't mean I'm going soft!

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Sunday, 30 October 2005

Monster In Law

Tried once again to upload my photos and once again I was unsuccessful. Had breakfast in Casa de Todo: pancakes with Maple Syrup!

Went to Café Welchez after lunch to meet Robin, Jimmy and Lauren cuz we had organized going to the cinema in Hacienda El Jaral, which is about 15 minutes drive from Copan. There’s a hotel there, and next door is a water park, a cinema, a few shops and a cow museum (go figure). I never knew you could get so many cow related souvenirs.

There was a few minutes while the trailers were on when we had a horrible feeling the film would be dubbed in Spanish, but luckily it was in English with Spanish subtitles. So we got to see and hear J-Lo in all her glory. To be fair, the film wasn’t as bad as I was expecting.

 Casa de Todo - coral building at the bottom of the hill

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Saturday, 29 October 2005

Cheap Cuba Libres

Harry Potter was on TV when I left the house this morning: didn’t want to drag myself away! Weekends are very slow here, and it was especially quiet today for some reason unknown to us. I tried to upload photos onto the website, but the internet crashed every time.

Robin and I had a look around the handicrafts market after lunch, which took us all of about 30 minutes. We sat in Café Welchez for ages and ages reading.

We met Jimmy and new girl Lauren on our way over to Tunkul’s that night, and hung out with them. After a few drinks we decided to check out a Halloween party we’d been told about. It was mostly gringos, and we were the only ones not dressed up! Some people put a lot of effort into their costumes too. There were about five Wonder Womans and a guy dressed as Wonder Bread, which seems to be something North American, since I was the only one who didn’t understand. After a few minutes we decided we were far too sober for this, and headed back to Tunkul’s.

Managed to get five Cuba Libres for 125 Lempiras: that’s less than 5 quid.

 Cafe Velchez

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Friday, 28 October 2005

My Achy Breaky Hands

Woke up at 5:45am, like I do every morning and lay in bed until 6:15am. My hands have a habit of seizing up while I'm asleep and I use this time to try to stretch them back into their proper position. Fucking hurts. My muscles are getting used to the work after five days, and the skin on my hands is starting to toughen, but I hate having to stretch my hands!

We started work on House #4 today. We have two concrete walls to get underneath. Guillermo showed up after an hour or so and told us the trench in House #2 needed to be deeper and then he’d show us how to put the pipes in. So we dug deeper, we watched, and then we covered it all back up.

The lady of the house made us a cup of coffee straight from the harvest. It was kinda nutty, but certainly the best cup of black coffee I’ve had here.

We went back to House #4 and got another hour of digging in. The ground isn’t too bad so far: not filled with rocks like the other three houses we’ve done. And the walls aren’t very deep: Keith’s already got underneath one of them.

Nothing to do this afternoon, so watched A Time to Kill dubbed in Spanish whilst reading it English, and then went to some café and had a yummy Piña Liquado con Leche. Robin and I went to Tunkul’s, which was dead cuz of some Peace Corps party which was warming up in ViaVia. So we went there for one but weren’t really up for a big night out. Watched The Day After Tomorrow when I got home. Awesome film.

 Cafe ViaVia and Tunkul's Bar

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Thursday, 27 October 2005

Sunbathing

Had pancakes for breakfast. Yum. Quite cold today, by Honduran standards at least. All the locals are wrapped up in jumpers and scarves. Oscar set us to work finishing a trench on a house the locals started. We reckon they reached the tree roots and decided to pass the buck. By the time we’d finished Oscar was nowhere to be found and no-one seemed to know what we were supposed to be doing next, so we had another early finish. We got a chance to watch coffee being harvested, and came across a random huge house in the middle of all these huts. It was absolutely massive, had a double garage, and was so nice I would live there. Totally out of place though. We caught a lift in a government pickup today, so we didn’t have to pay.

The weather improved a lot by the afternoon, so Robin and I spent the afternoon sunbathing by the pool. I did a few lengths but it was baking hot and that just made the water feel colder than usual. I went to Casa de Todo on the way back and had a Granita, which is basically a coffee-flavoured slush puppy. Not as nice as Café Welchez.

I’m getting a lot more freckles and what could be described as a tan on my arms. For me at least. Legs are still as white as milk though!

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Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Frangipani Plant

Short day at the office. Got up the mountain to find my very big trench being filled in and another being dug next to it, to get around the huge boulder. We still managed to finish it quickly, and Oscar let us leave early, but we had to wait ages for a pickup.

Kike took Adam (another volunteer), Robin and I to the Enchanted Wings Butterfly House & Nature Centre today. We traveled on paved roads. I didn’t think they existed in this town: it’s all been cobbles and dirt tracks so far. There were some beautiful butterflies in frames, but the live ones were mostly uninteresting. Lots of Owl Eye butterflies. The Orchid House was a bit rubbish: over 100 species of orchid and three were in bloom. The best part was on the way out, when I spotted a Frangipani Plant.

It was Adam’s last day in Copan so he invited us to Café ViaVia for drinks. We left at about 10pm – getting tired from all this digging!

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Tuesday, 25 October 2005

The Rock Is My Nemesis

So work isn't too bad. We have a taxi that drives us up to the village at 7am, so we're there by 7:30am. Then we work until around 12noon, then wait for a pickup to drive by and take us back to Copan. Sometimes you wait five minutes, sometimes forty minutes. Worst part is when one flies by at 11:50am and then we have to wait ages for the next. Keith is still having Spanish lessons this week, and Kike's set up all the trips for Robin and I this week, so we all have to be back and cleaned up by 2pm.

Went up to Sesesmil Dos in a tuk-tuk today, and we finished House #1. Think Oscar was quite surprised. So we moved onto House #2 just down the road, and once again I was nearest the road. I had to dig to the same depth as the pipe running along the road – really deep! I came across one rock that took ages to dig out, and then one of the local guys came along and did some picking for me – much better at it than I am! Then we realized there was a huge boulder in the middle of where we needed to dig. At least 4ft cubed. So we did as much as we could before we had to leave. Guillermo, the guy in charge of the project, came along, said hi and that he’d show us how to lay the pipes at the end of the week.

We caught a pickup ride back and my cap went flying off. It was very sunny today and I got badly burnt on my arms and neck. Shock. We went on our “horse-riding” trip today, up to an indigenous village, where we got to grind maize and make tortillas. The riding was interesting. We got western saddles which was cool, and the bit was basically a piece of metal on either side of the horse’s mouth with the reins (which were ropes) attached, but nothing going through the mouth. My horse naturally went to sleep, as do all horses I ride. And there isn’t much to these horses: you don’t feel like there’s very much under you.

There’s a doctor staying/living at the hotel I’m in, who I met at supper. He can speak quite a bit of English, and said he’d teach me a new Spanish word each day.

 Main road through Sesesmil Dos

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Monday, 24 October 2005

Working

First day digging trenches. First day riding in the back of a pickup. It was bloody hard work and I’ve got two blisters already, but I enjoyed it. Not sure how I’ll feel after four weeks but it’s good at the moment! There’s a guy who we’ve affectionately nicknamed “The Old Bastard”. He’s (Oscar) the foreman’s dad, and he’s a real busy body. Has to get involved with the work, even though we’re all certain he has nothing to do with it.

It’s shocking how much they’ve dug and all by hand. As you go up the mountain, there’s trenches along the roadside and every now and then some guys digging more or filling them back in. And there I was, armed with my pickaxe and shovel, and spent two hours with my arse sticking out of the hedge (I had to dig out the bank near the road). Luckily the pipes are pretty small (about the size of a hosepipe) so we don’t have to dig too deep. We did have to remove two small trees to reach the house though, cuz we hit the building foundations.

So we’re in a village called Sesesmil Dos. Apparently the valley is called Sesesmil and the villages have just been named Uno, Dos and Tres as go up the mountain. It’s really beautiful up in the mountains: it’s very fertile and there’s fruit trees and coffee plants everywhere. All the locals bring us fruit all the time: definitely getting my five a day! The houses are very basic. Bigger than I was expecting, but they have dirt floors and wooden “windows”, and the families are probably still quite cramped. All the people up here seem to be farmers of one sort or another. Not many people have transportation. Some have horses and some have bicycles, but the vast majority catch lifts in pickups owned by the more prosperous farmers.

We got a pickup ride back and cleaned up. Kike then took me and Robin to Macaw Mountain, the bird sanctuary. The green macaw was my favourite. Got to hold a scarlet macaw and a little parrot (I think) called Paco. Kike and our guide showed us a tree called “The Naked Gringo”, and pointed out my sunburn to show us why it was called that. It’s a reddish colour and the bark peels off.

Sat in Casa de Todo and finished my book (The Chamber, John Grisham). Not a great ending. Watched Down with Love, which was OK but was a bit silly.

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Sunday, 23 October 2005

Films

Whiled away my morning watching Mighty Ducks 3 and Man on Fire. Mmm…Denzel Washington. Robin and I went to find somewhere serving breakfast, but everywhere starts serving lunch by 11.30am here. We both felt kinda bad cuz in Copan the host family makes meals for you everyday, but in Antigua you get your own food on Sundays. So neither of us showed up for breakfast or lunch that day!

I watched yet another film (Home Fries), and we thought we’d be going to the bird sanctuary, but no such luck. We went to Café Welchez and read for a while.

Came home and watched Erin Brokovich and Se7en dubbed. That was interesting. Then we went to Tunkul’s for a couple of beers. Met the Nicaraguan guy on our way out and said goodbye cuz he leaves tomorrow. Hoped to see Jimmy out but there weren’t many people around.

Another slow day, so I'll tell you about licuados. Licuados are really yummy drinks, made in a liquidiser, usually with fruit, but you can get chocolate or cereal too. The licuado con leche is basically a milkshake, but made fresh and with real fruit, and they are divine. Especially the pineapple one.

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Saturday, 22 October 2005

Slow Day

Woke up this morning to find some bug has basically walked along my leg and bitten me seven times. Four of them are in a straight line.

Spent two and a half hours updating my weblog and then went to Café Welchez and read and listened to my MP3 player.

Went to Tunkul’s with Robin for a couple and met Jimmy and his Nicaraguan friend whose name I can’t remember. He said he loves the way I talk! Ramon apologized for being very drunk on Friday night – think he was quite embarrassed! Everyone was getting at us for going home early and not going dancing. On our walk back through the square, there was a group of guys playing instruments to nobody. Just stood there playing at 11pm. Only in Copan!

Slow day so I'll take this opportunity to tell you about tuk-tuks. A tuk-tuk is a taxi which is basically a scooter on stabilisers, with a cage, seats and a canvas roof. There were tuk-tuks in Antigua too, but I think they're more obvious here cuz Copan is so small. They go about 15mph, and are one of the best ways to get around. They're really cheap, but they charge per person so the drivers try to get as many people in as possible. You can get about five people in plus the driver. Maybe up to eight if there are kids. But then, these people can get four passengers on a scooter.

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Friday, 21 October 2005

Gecko In My Room/Ramon

I decided to have a change of scene today and sat in the very pretty garden at Casa de Todo (the internet café/souvenir shop/café/launderette) to do my homework. At school I told Karla about Toy Story, then we did more work on pronouns, and then moved onto the preterite tense (one of the past tenses). I was very happy. When we went to Café Welchez I even felt like I understand more already!

Karla, Robin, Edgar and I played Scrabble when we got back to school. I’m rubbish at it in this language too, although I did get a few good words which surprised me. I got stuck with the ‘z’ in the end though. I only know 4 words with ‘z’ in: luz, lapiz, nariz, (can’t remember the fourth now) and I didn’t have any vowels!

I was held hostage in my bathroom today by a spider. He's determined to stay, but I don't want him there. So I just have a really good look for him before I touch anything in there. A gecko has also decided to inhabit my room. Geckos don't really bother me, but I don't really want to climb into bed one night with him. And I had to kill some nasty looking bug that hitched a ride on my newly washed jeans. I'm sure it was a very small scorpion or something.

Everyone in Copan seems to go out on Friday. Much like everywhere else. Robin and I met Nat and Nicola in Café ViaVia and had a drink there, and then we all moved onto Tunkul’s next door and met lots of other people, including Francis, Maurizio, Kike, Ramon, and many others. I had a good laugh with Ramon, through my limited Spanish and his limited English. He seemed to think he was getting somewhere and told me he liked me, and a couple of seconds later, Nat pulled me to one side and told me he has a pregnant girlfriend! He was funny though so I hope we hang out again, maybe with him flirting a little less! Boys. You’re all the same. Twats. Might have to teach Ramon that word!

After Tunkul’s we walked down to Camino Maya Hotel, because it also has a discoteca underground! It was kinda boring, but it was nice to find out that some places in the world still play Ace of Base in 2005.

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Thursday, 20 October 2005

Emotional Rollercoaster/Agua Caliente

I’m going to Agua Caliente (natural hot springs up in the mountains) today with people from the school, so no swimming this morning. And half an hour less Spanish cuz we have to leave at 5pm. Spent the morning feeling very lonely and fed up. I feel so pathetic cuz this was the challenge I set for myself, and all I can think about is how many days I’ve got left. And I feel like a failure cuz I just can’t seem to do this. 13 days gone, 44 days left.

I went to Café Welchez for a couple of hours to do my homework. Karla wanted me to write my daily diary, and also tell her about a book or a film I liked. So I decided to be a teacher’s pet and wrote about a book and a film: Fantastic Mr Fox (El Señor Zorro Fantastico in Spanish) and Madagascar. Took me ages to look everything up in my dictionary!

However, I misunderstood what Karla wanted: I had to talk about them, not read them. So we sat there for ages, while I tried to remember all these new words I’d written, and attempted to tell her about them! Got there eventually though, and then moved onto direct and indirect pronouns, which frazzled my brain even more!

After our break in - yes you guessed it - Café Welchez, we played cards cuz Karla decided I’d worked very hard today. A gecko also dropped in on us and sat on the back of a spare chair for a while, which Karla didn’t like too much!

Agua Caliente was nice: just like two really big baths. It was too dark for us to walk up to the natural springs when we got there, so we just lounged around in the pools for about an hour. The journey there and back was interesting: takes about an hour along what is basically a dirt track, which is incredibly steep and narrow in a few places: we ‘bottomed out’ at one point. We all went straight home when we got back, and I was kinda tired so went almost straight to bed.

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Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Tunkul's

We went swimming again in the morning. We’re not sure if we should be bothered by the lack of guests in the hotel, or if it’s just low tourist season. At least we have the pool to ourselves though!

I looked over my homework before school to try to spot any errors. Less mistakes than yesterday which was good, but did reflexive verbs which I’ve already done in Antigua, and they’re kinda pointless. Karla wants me to talk more, but I don’t feel like I’m learning anything I can drop into conversation, and I’m not learning how to ask questions either.

Robin and Edgar went to the mechanics to pick up Edgar’s car, so Karla and I went to Café Welchez by ourselves. I met two other students of Karla’s: Jimmy and William, who are from the Redneck Deep South. William is even a hunter by profession. They’re nice guys though, and invited me to Tunkul’s Bar later for drinks.

Robin needed a coffee after school so we went back to Café Welchez, and some guy who is related to the family Robin is staying with paid for our drinks before he left. Robin and I went to Tunkul’s later and hung out with Jimmy, William and a few others for a couple of hours. I think we needed it: both feeling a bit down! And Jimmy paid for our drinks there, so I didn’t pay for much today!

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Tuesday, 18 October 2005

Swimming

Robin and I walked down to the hotel this morning and went for a swim. It’s only about 12 metres long so I don’t get too tired, and can swim quite a few lengths! It’s not exactly strenuous but at least it’s exercise! And they have hot, powerful showers. It's not a very clean pool: leaves are always falling off the trees into it, and as you swim along you can see all these bugs nearby.

We went to school in the afternoon, which wasn’t too much fun cuz I made quite a few mistakes in my homework, and they were really dumb ones too. Just not paying attention. I also phoned Mum before school which upset me and probably didn’t help my state of mind! Learnt new stuff today though: gerund and one form of the future tense.

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Monday, 17 October 2005

Ruins

I met Robin, Rachel and Grace (who are only here for the day) outside Guacamaya (our Spanish school, owned by Kike) to go to the Ruins. Our guide, Maurizio, a friend of Kike’s, also met us there and we all walked down the road to the ruins.

They were pretty cool. They’re all close together because it’s basically the ancient Mayan city centre: where all the government stuff is and where the rich live. They built new temples and buildings every 52 years to coincide with some lunar-solar calendar concerning new beginnings. They literally covered the temples with soil, and built new ones. As you walk around, you see lots of little hills, and there’s likely to be another temple underneath it that just hasn’t been uncovered yet. I took quite a few photos but I’ve left my camera in my room so I’ll try uploading them another time.

So new Spanish school today. Karla is my new teacher and she’s really nice, and knows more English than my last one! Karla, Robin, Edgar (Robin’s teacher) and I went for a coffee together to Café Welchez in our break, and they took us down to Camino Maya Hotel to show us the swimming pool.

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Sunday, 16 October 2005

Copan

Internet connection is rubbish up here, so I’ll probably only update the blog once or twice a week from now on. Unless I somehow learn to have patience with computers.

Felt kinda bad when I left Antigua cuz the family I was staying with had already gone to church by the time I got up. Instructions from Dom: meet at the coffee shop at 8.30am, get driven to Copan by Marvin, and Kike (short for Enrique) will meet us off the minibus.

Wasn’t too bad a journey, took about 4 hours. You forget just how mountainous this area is until you’re winding along mountain highways for that long. Immigration was interesting: just a bit of a shed at the side of the road, lots of money changers meeting you as soon as you pull up, and a shop selling snacks. We got through quite quickly though, and I got two more stamps on my passport!

Copan is about 10 minutes after the border. Its absolutely tiny: there’s a population of 6000, everyone seems to know everyone else or be related to a lot of people here, and its quite peaceful (certainly more so than Antigua) but there’s still plenty going on. Just like home!

So Marvin drives to the central park, and none of us know what Kike looks like, but there is no-one meeting us. So we unload our stuff and wait at the ‘meeting point’ cuz Marvin had to get back to Antigua. And we wait. Five of us sat on a wall near the church in the centre of town. After about an hour we decide to phone Dom and tell him Kike hasn’t shown up. Dom says he’ll try to get in touch with him, but we got there quickly and Kike probably wasn't expecting us until about 3.30pm (it was now 3pm). So we sit there for another 45 minutes and decide to phone Dom again. He hadn’t been able to get in touch with Kike, so he gave us directions to Kike’s aunt’s hotel. Good thing since it then started to rain.

Natalie, another volunteer who’s been here a while, shows up at the hotel not long later, and then finally, Kike turned up! Well not really: he lives two doors up from his aunt. Turns out Ramon (more about him on Friday), was waiting at the school for us and he was on the internet, which was why Dom couldn’t reach him. Kike then took us to our homestays. I’m in the hotel next door to Kike, Robin is in the aunt’s hotel, and Keith (new volunteer) is about 100 metres up the road, near Nicola (another volunteer who’s been here a while).

It’s a decent enough room, and I’ve got my own bathroom which is cool. No hot water, but I’m getting used to that now. Biggest problem is the ants. They’re everywhere. Getting used to them too though.

Kike showed us where the internet café is and set up accounts for us, then Kike took us all for a meal to Llama del Bosque, then to Café ViaVia for drinks. Us newbies came home early though – tired after our journey and two hour wait in the park. Got to sleep easily but a cockerel insisted on crowing from about 3am and my window slats don’t shut properly, and my bathroom window isn’t so much a window, but more a hole in the wall with a grate over it!

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Saturday, 15 October 2005

Bike Ride

Me and Sally went on our bike ride today. We were taken through the southern part of Antigua, went by a couple of churches, then left the city and went through a few of the outlying towns (similar to Santa Maria). We stopped at Valhalla Macadamia Nut Farm (don't ask what vikings have to do with Guatemala!) where we got a bit of a tour, pancakes with macadamia nut butter, and a facial with macadamia nut cream. My skin feels all soft and smooth now! We then cycled back along the highway to Antigua. It was a really nice ride and not too much work thankfully, but I'm quite badly sunburnt! (only down my left side though, strangely).

Haven't really done much this afternoon. Had a coffee and chatted to Sally for ages after our bike ride, been round a few shops, that's about it. I'm leaving at 8.30am tomorrow - somebody called Marvin is driving a few of us to Copan, and it'll take about 6 hours. So I'm just getting ready for that really.

So yeah, not a very big entry today. Sorry!

 Washing pila

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Friday, 14 October 2005

Juego Futbol

Last day of Spanish School! Huzzah! Might request a teacher who knows a lot of English in Honduras! I was learning yet more verbs today. And still don't know past or future tense!

I went on my first chicken bus ride today. These buses don't have timetables: they leave when they're full to bursting. Imagine my disappointment when the driver left when it was only half full! I was really looking forward to being squashed up against the locals! We went up to Santa Maria de Jesus, which is a community on the slopes of Volcan Agua were the volunteers go.

It's a strange place, but probably just like everywhere else here. You go up the volcano and all you see from the road is breeze-block buildings on the hills, and lots of rubbish (I'm sure you can imagine what it smells like). Most of the roads were paved and there were some convenience stores along the bigger roads. All the houses are small: 2-3 rooms per family. The infant school consisted of a room with a small sheltered area of dirt outside. They had a couple of toilets and a sink too, but it wasn't much at all. But then when we were leaving, we walked up to the 'centre' to catch a bus, and there was all sorts: more shops, a police station, civil offices: not what I was expecting!

So Friday is sports day in the schools, which means football. We walked from the infant school to the junior school, and then everyone walked out of the town and down the hill a bit to the football field: a fair-sized patch of grass on a slope, near crops and a donkey tied to a small post. We had proper goals which surprised me, but no-one seemed to care where the edge of the pitch was. Basically, if the ball went into the nettles or went shooting past the goal, then it was out. Guatemalans play really frantic football. Everyone follows the ball wherever it goes - no defenders or strikers. Only the goalie stayed where he was. I think there was about 40 of us on the pitch. Maybe a little less. My team won 6-3 which was good news cuz the teacher Santiago was on the other team, and he's really competitive (and a Spurs supporter!). Me, Keegan and Robyn didn't really want to tackle the kids, but we had no problem going after him! He was really good tho, and so were a lot of the older kids.

My lower back is really killing now. I don't think I've played football since me, Maz, Danny, Cameron and everyone else used to play in Twm or Nant! And I probably haven't run much since then either.

We all went to Dom and Doreen's for a barbeque in the evening. It was more fun than last week's cuz at least I knew everyone this week. It's Grace and Robyn's last day, so they got a present each and Dom and Michael each said how much their work was appreciated.

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Thursday, 13 October 2005

Dia Malo y Dia Bueno

Thank God tomorrow is my last day of Spanish School! I'm so fed up with it. I know I've got another week in Honduras, but I'm just hoping I'll have someone who can speak more English.

Today was pretty rubbish for the most part, but got better by the late afternoon.

I wanted to go to the market today but I spent ages and ages doing Spanish after lunch, so I didn't have very long. I bought a really nice bag tho (cuz I need more bags!) and some souvenirs, so it wasn't a total waste of an afternoon.

I met the other volunteers at the coffee shop at 5pm. It was so nice to hang out and chat! I've been so lonely. This isn't really a place to be by yourself. Plenty of places to go and plenty of things to see, but not much fun alone! Me, Sally, Keegan and Veronica booked a bike ride for Saturday. I'm not entirely sure where we're going - along the lower slopes of the volcanoes and to a macademia nut farm I think!

I went home for supper and did more Spanish, then went to Riki's Bar to do a pub quiz (in Spanish) with the other volunteers. There were 11 of us altogether and we weren't allowed to all be on one team. My team came 5th (second to last) and we won a litre of beer, and the other volunteers came 2nd and won a bottle of vodka! We got 13 out of 45 which wasn't bad since we didn't understand half of the questions! And those we did understand we just didn't know the answer to, like which country has the highest ratio of police to the population? (It's Argentina in case you're interested). I went to a bar called Reds and a 'club' called La Casbah (think Juliets) with British Robyn, Canadian Robin and Libby. We met some guys called Michael and Tyler who are out here shooting a documentary for uni. Michael very kindly walked us all home at 1am, even tho I live on the other side of town to the rest of them!

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Wednesday, 12 October 2005

Verbos!

Downside of not going to sleep til 'late' is being tired in the morning.

Learnt lots and lots of verbs today. I know how to say almost anything in the present tense. Difficult to put into conversation though since most people want to know what you have done or what you're going to do. Although there is a way of using the present tense to say you're going to do something in the future - I just need to look it up!

The bus station is right next to the market in Antigua so I walked over with Keegan and Sally (who where catching a bus to their projects in Santa Maria) and had a quick look around before lunch. I planned to go back later after I'd changed some traveller's cheques, but I didn't have time cuz I was doing my homework. And all the banks were closed by the time I went out.

Guatemala were playing Costa Rica in the World Cup qualifiers tonight. They won but Mexico and USA have qualified, so the Guatemalans didn't stay happy for long!

Learnt how to say 'the good, the bad and the ugly' in Spanish today, so stay tuned for 'lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo' of Antigua.


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Volcan Fuego and Volcan Acatenango, Antigua, Guatemala Posted by Picasa

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Tuesday, 11 October 2005

Bored

Whilst lying awake at 5am (still falling asleep too early hence the ridiculous hour) and going through my Spanish, it dawned on me that all of yesterday, I was learning 'ser' (to be) and all the questions I was answering were 'I am', 'you are', 'he is', etc. I can be so dense sometimes!

So second day of Spanish. Moved onto 'estar', also 'to be', but in different circumstances. Then moved on to 'haber', to have, and lost me completely! It's so infuriating when you can't say what you want to in English cuz the teacher can't understand, and you can't understand what she is saying either! But this seems to be how it's done here, so I can't really get angry about it. Word of warning if ever any of you plan to come here to learn Spanish (as most gringos seem to): bring a really good dictionary, make sure you have a lot of patience, and that you don't mind a lack of structure! Learnt (or at least copied down) lots and lots of adjectives and antonyms too.

Went home and practiced a bit before lunch. Lots of people seem to get homework, but mine is just to practice. Don't know if that's good or bad. Checked my emails after lunch, but the power cut out twice and I was getting impatient cuz the connection was slow too. I wanted to have a proper look around town, but I'm quite intimidated going by myself (cuz everyone else is in their projects). It's a nice enough town but nowhere is really 'open' - you don't know what a place is until you're on top it or past it. I still don't feel like I know enough Spanish to get by alone either. And I can't imagine looking around the ruins is much fun alone, but I may have to resort to that!

After supper, Carolina (my host mother) told me and Keegan (volunteer from Alaska) lots of stories about Antigua, mostly about Holy Week and all the religious stuff around here. Between us, I think we actually understood most of it! I'm starting to understand what people are saying to me (rather than just guessing), but I'm just struggling to talk back! Not much you can say using 'to be' and 'to have'!

Figured out that I'm drinking much less coffee here than at home and that's probably why I'm so tired. So I had an extra cup with supper and managed to stay awake til 11pm! I'm such a rebel.

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Monday, 10 October 2005

Escuela Espanol

Puppies being born meant people in the house being up late, which meant I didn't sleep well. Woke up cuz I could hear voices and thought I was late for breakfast. It was 2.30am. I couldn't get to sleep for ages, then woke up at 7am, entangled in my bedsheets. That left me with 45mins to shower, change, have breakfast and walk 10 minutes to the coffee shop to meet Dom before school.

So Spanish School is kinda weird. Basically, it's one-on-one teaching from 8am to 12 noon, and there's lots of desks dotted around the rooms and courtyard of the school. There seems to be a syllabus but no set method, so everyone learns different things on different days. And I'm fairly certain my teacher knows as much English as I do Spanish. Not much help when you're trying to say that you don't understand what she's asking you to do! Not enough structure for my liking!

Went home and had lunch, then tried to practice what I'd learned. I'm having to teach myself from my Spanish textbook (from home, not given them here!) and dictionary. I went to The Bagel Barn to get out of the house and practice more, and had the biggest latte ever (and a bagel of course). Replied to emails and chatted to Maz and Fred on MSN.

School must be doing something for me cuz I understood most of what my host mother was saying after supper. With a lot of miming!

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Sunday, 9 October 2005

Rotary of Guatemala

Still waking up early. :-(. Finished The Da Vinci Code while still in bed. Met Dom, Doreen and the other volunteers at the coffee shop (which seems to be the meeting point for everything!). A few of us went for brunch in a cafe on the other side of town.

We spent the afternoon helping the Rotary of Guatemala (a lot younger than our Rotary!). We sorted through donated clothes to send to hurricane victims, bagging two outfits per person, and cereal for kids. People donate some weird stuff. Among the bags and piles of clothes, we found:
  • one leg warmer
  • a red strapless dress
  • a black ballgown
  • a few sexy slips
  • a cabbage patch doll
  • a Santa hat
  • a dinner jacket

We got driven back to the coffee shop and we chilled out there for a while: tiring work sorting through and bagging clothes for five hours! Finally got a photo of Volcan Agua cuz the clouds had cleared - hopefully I'll figure out how to get it on my webpage in the next few days! A few of us went to a restaurant called Monoloco for supper - had a huge veggie burrito - couldn't finish it. Learnt a bit about baseball from new volunteer Keegan. Apparently Alex Rodriguez is great!

In bed by 9pm. The dog in the homestay had puppies around 10.30pm, and all the noise woke me up, and I couldn't get back to sleep for ages and ages. Beginning to wonder if I'll ever get a normal night's sleep while I'm here!

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Saturday, 8 October 2005

No hablo Espanol!

It was my last day in the luxury of the hotel today, so I made the most of the hot shower and chilling out. Dom and Doreen came to get me at 10am and took me to my homestay, where I'll be until next Sunday. It's with the same family as Rufus (another volunteer), and they own a printing shop in Antigua, so the place always smells of ink! I think there's three daughters, two sons and a granddaughter, but I might be wrong - lots of people coming and going!

Haven't really done anything today. Feeling very disorientated: not many people speak much English and I don't speak Spanish! No-one in the family I'm living with speak much English so today was pretty difficult.

Went to watch Guatemala vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier in a bar in town with some of the other volunteers. Deafening screams when Guatemala scored their second and Mexico had 3, but Mexico eventually won 5-2.

Still out of sync.

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Hurricanes and Landslides

Just a couple of links I thought you might be interested in concerning the weather over here. But not to worry, it's not affecting me.

http://weather.msn.com/region.aspx?wealocations=Honduras

Satellite of Central America, taken at 10pm GMT on Saturday.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9588034/

Article about the mudslides.

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Friday, 7 October 2005

I woke up around 8am, and took my time getting ready since I haven't got anything to do today. Showered - hurray! Got a really nice breakfast, which I ate outside in the hotel garden. I was sat in the sun for all of 15mins and got sunburn! But cuz of the angle I was sat at, it's only on one shoulder. Look a bit like a Rhubarb & Custard sweet.

Dom came to see me to say that basically, I could do what I wanted today, and there was a get together for the volunteers that night, and someone would be along to fetch me. Spent the day reading Da Vinci and went into Antigua about 4pm. Got a latte and a huge slice of apple pie in a cafe, for about 2.50. Luckily, people here can speak enough English to understand me and say stuff to me, and I can sometimes understand what they're saying in Spanish!

Antigua is built in blocks, surrounding a central plaza. Its fairly easy to find your way, but all the streets look very similar, so it can be a bit daunting. All the streets are cobbled: not the place to live if you like the suspension on your car. It also has a very strange traffic system: everyone here seems to know where they're going, but I have no idea how.

Outside of my window in the hotel, there's a huge Volcano (Volcan Agua). I could see it first thing this morning, but it clouded over before I got a chance to take a photo.

Some of the other volunteers arrived around 7.30pm to go to Dom's house, where I met the rest of them. Doreen showed us the news which was broadcasting a road and a bridge we needed to travel along to get to Honduras. The road is totally flooded: it's in the valleys, so all the runoff from the mountains is heading down it towards the sea. The bridge has a section that needs repairing before anyone can cross. There's about 10 yards missing. They reckon they'll have it fixed in 5 days.

Still a bit out of sync: I was getting tired by 9pm.

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Thursday, 6 October 2005

Heathrow: Point of No Return

Woke up at 5.30am, left at 6.30am and got to Heathrow around 7am. On the way into the car park I wasn't paying much attention to the radio, but caught the bit about Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes going to have a baby. I turned to look at Mum, and she looked horrified. The story before that - that I didn't catch - was that there had been a hurricane in Central America that killed 110 people. She wasn't too impressed when I started laughing about the fact that it had completely passed me by! Oops!

Checked in, got some breakfast, phoned Dad to say 'bye'. Went to departures and said bye to Mum. That's when it really hit me, now that I was by myself, that I really was going to the other side of the world. Only lasted til I got through to the shops though! Bought a new memory card for my camera, body spray, and a small alarm clock in case I can't figure out how to turn my watch back!

Distance to Miami: 4421 miles. That's a long way. And I still have a fair bit after that! Taking off was pretty cool: I was right over the wing so I could see us jutting through the clouds. And it was so bright above the clouds covering London: brilliant blue skies.

Watched Dark Water, Bewitched and CSI on the plane. CSI was probably my favourite. Only got about 30mins sleep. Irritating couple in front kept messing with their chairs, going down then up then down, and on and on. No need!

Miami sucked. It's always sunny and gorgeous on the TV. We arrived in rain. There was more cloud in Miami than in London. And the airport's rubbish: all corridors, not much in the way of shops. Got some food, read more of The Da Vinci Code. Had quite a wait between flights so had a bit of a wash and felt a lot fresher. Still smelled though. Wasn't really tired which surprised me since I'd been up for 16 hours. Texted Mum to say I'd got that far, and got Gillian's text too.

Best parts of Miami:
  • the view when we took off: blocks and blocks of houses and hotels, and almost every one with a pool; and it was clear by that time so we could see the Caribbean too.
  • meeting a Chelsea fan at immigration: actually, he was the immigration officer. Said if I'd have been staying in Miami he would've shown me the city!
Sat alone on the flight to Guatemala so lay down and fell asleep. Quite disappointed that it was dark when I woke up and we were coming in to land: all I could were twinkling lights below. Dom and Doreen (work for GVI, the company I'm volunteering with) met me at the airport and took me to the Hotel San Jorge in Antigua, Guatemala. Very tired and smelly by this point.

They told me that they weren't sure if I was going to get there: the whole area was and still is on hurricane alert. By the time I reached Guatemala, there were 200 dead and lots still missing. One of the GVI projects had been completely wiped out. Dom told me that there was a change of plan: the road we'd take to Honduras was impassable, so I would be staying in Guatemala for a week, and then going on to Honduras.

I was in bed by 8.30pm, and very grateful for it.

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Wednesday, 5 October 2005

Wokingham

Packed, finally. But something is wrong: everything fits in first time! Clearly there's something imperative I've forgotten. Mum wasn't impressed with my choice of books for the journey, so she gave me The Da Vinci Code. Got my St Christopher pendant and Turkish eye to protect me too.

Journey to Wokingham was pretty uneventful. Found the services in Birmingham interesting: automatic flush, automatic taps, but push-button dryers. Go figure. Got to Robert and Gillian's house around 6pm, although Robert wasn't there. Also met their daughters, Lucy and Rachel. Gillian made a yummy veggie lasagne for supper and I had a bottle of red wine while Mum and Gillian polished off a couple of bottles of white.

Went to bed around 10.30pm cuz of the early start to Heathrow.

Fun day, as I'm sure you can tell.

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Tuesday, 4 October 2005

Room still not tidy. Everything I'm taking is neatly laid out on the spare bed ready to pack.

Spent the day getting sorted and updating weblog. Been to Talardy for supper. Very tasty but small dessert portions!

Finally managed to download John Cale 'Perfect'. Only taken me about ten days! Its going to be a weird two months without being able to download music. And maybe not even hearing anything I would download!

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The usual politeness from Jake Posted by Picasa

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Me and Soph at the bowling alley Posted by Picasa

The girls (and Jake) at the bowling alley on Sunday night Posted by Picasa

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Almost There...

Packing! Kinda. More like throwing everything into my rucksack so I can tidy my bedroom, and then I'll pack properly after. Also listening to my new Franz album. Rockin!

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Monday, 3 October 2005

Last Minute Stuff

So by this time Thursday I'll be Honduras. So unprepared! Just been in Chester getting some last minute stuff like a first aid kit and new tops and the new Franz Ferdinand album (ahem).

It occurred to me about five minutes ago that I've still got to pack and phone the airline to say I want a veggie meal.

Nerves seriously starting to set in. I know I'll be fine once I'm there, but getting butterflies now. I think mostly cuz i don't know what to expect.

Went bowling last night for a staff party/my leaving do. Probably my worst bowling ever: 69 and 72 I think I scored. Fairly certain the bowling lane sloped at the end: didn't seem to matter how straight I bowled it always curved to the left at the last second. Won the space hopper race though! So happy about that! Photos to follow.

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