Sunday, May 6, 2012

Back to reality, kind of

It seems to be time for another update.  The thing is that so much has happened since getting my wisdom teeth out that I don’t know where to begin!  Well I guess the obvious place to start would be Darren’s arrival to Guatemala :)

I picked him up at the Guate airport and whisked him to Antigua.  It’s not that I didn’t think he could make his own way to Antigua (which some people implied, as it is a generally very easy feat), but the town was so busy with Semana Santa festivities that I thought it best to personally guide him.  Indeed, there were a million people around and we kept getting stuck in the various processions (which last ALL day and ALL night).  Even so, it was a good introduction to the country for Darren and he got to meet a bunch of my Peace Corps friends before our chicken bus ride to Cunen – no tourist amenities for my adventurous brother!  In our short stay in my site, he got to meet my host family and friends, shop in the market, cook me dinner, and laugh at my weird lifestyle :)  Of course, the joke was on him when I dragged him 12 hours across the country to Rio Dulce and Livingston on our way to...

Darren and I in Antigua at the end of Semana Santa
...Placencia, Belize, to meet up with my sitemate Kate and friend Rachel for some beach time!  At the Puerto Barrios dock while waiting for our boat to Belize, I thought I was going crazy when a random Guatemalan guy was like, hola Nicole!  It turned out that Marvin, Rachel’s boyfriend, was joining us.  I was like, I didn’t know you were coming…does Rachel know?!  (Yes, she did lol).  Anyway, after taking a boat, bus, and water taxi, we finally made it to Placencia.  Absolutely beautiful.  And fun; Darren enjoyed it too much.  But who wouldn’t love getting sunburnt, snorkeling in an incredible coral reef (though bringing contact lenses probably would’ve been a smart idea…I didn’t think how you obviously can’t wear glasses with a snorkeling mask, fail), and eating excellent Caribbean food?  It was with heavy hearts and itching skin that Darren, Kate, and I left Rachel and Marvin and headed for Mexico…where we finally arrived in Playa del Carmen 15 desperate hours later. 

getting ready to go snorkeling in Placencia
Funny side note: While waiting for a bus in Belize City, some local men shouted at Darren: hey man, we like your women!  Darren, rather than defending my honor, replied: I like yours too!  And they were like: but you got a snow bunny!  Moral of the story is that you may refer to me by “Snow Bunny” from now on if it pleases you haha.  Also, we got unceremoniously left at the Mexican border by our Belizean bus, with no pesos.  While not a very surprising situation, it was definitely unexpected.

Anyway, we arrived in Playa at like 11pm and as Darren had to leave for the Cancun airport to go back to New York at 4am, the logical plan was to grab dinner and not go to sleep.  So Darren’s 5 hours in Playa del Carmen were filled with tacos, a lost debit card, Israelis at the Chabad house, and beers on the beach…not bad.  He even made his flight, so mumsy didn’t have to kill me.  She only had to keep putting money in my account at a rate faster than at which I was spending it.

Kate and I spent another night in Playa and then flew to Mexico City…omg I need to go back!  We packed it all in: anthropology museum, Frida Kahlo’s house, Leon Trotsky’s house, Teotihuacan pre-Aztec ruins, Diego Rivera murals, shopping, eating, and dancing.  A lack of sleep and high levels of pollution took a toll, but I would’ve loved to stay more than 4 days.  Next were 6 hours to Oaxaca for a mole-filled stopover (sooo freaking delicious!) and an 11-hour overnight bus to San Cristóbal de las Casas.  Our 4 days there were filled with extremes: lazy afternoons reading in cafés, a 2-hour hike to a fantastic limestone bridge and grutas, a wild evening (featuring an immense amount of wine and a pair of hobo-musician dance partners), and lots of sleep.  The whole trip was overall extraordinary and I secretly wished I had taken early COS so I could keep traveling.  Especially once we returned to Guatemalan chicken buses (after getting dumped at another Mexican border with barely enough money to pay the exit fee…Mexican borders suck, I can only imagine what it’s like trying to get into the States!). 

Kate and I at the Teotihuacan ruins outside of Mexico City
lovely San Cristóbal de las Casas
So now I am here back in Cunen, after almost a month of being away.  Kate and Melissa are both gone for good, which is a weird feeling, but I’m luckily really happy with Tatiana and Mayra in their place.  I think even weirder is no longer having an office here.  Save the Children had cleared out from Cunen right before I left, but I’m only first feeling it now.  I feel kind of lost without a base from which to not only get work done, but chat and hang out with co-workers.  Plus I’m spending more money now on internet and things like toilet paper and water now that I’m in my house more – how did I go through 5 gallons of drinking water in a week without even being here the whole time??  Alas, work goes on with the schoolkids and various farmers’ and artisan groups.  And although mango season seems to be coming to an end (which is really okay considering how many I’ve eaten in the last few months), plums and peaches are back!  Rainy season is supposedly imminent, but we’ll see.  More importantly?  My best friend Sam is coming for a last-minute trip at the end of the month!  So it’s not really back to reality yet :)