Wednesday, August 30, 2006

The Moldy Mesita De La Noche

We were going to update the volcano entry to include some more flattering pictures, but then this happened and so VOILA - a new entry.

THIS being: a horrendous mold smell in our "luxury" apartment in the Centro Linguistico Internacional (CLI for short, different from the TV series "CLI: Antigua"). One minute we were almost asleep, the next minute sniffing around, looking for the culprit. We blamed towels, the closet, musty clothes, each other, other students, outside, our language teacher who really had no connection to the incident and finally the Guatemalan government. We were on the edge of giving up when Em opened the drawer of the Mesita De La Noche and almost keeled over. For those of you not currently enrolled in Spanish Language School or unfluent in the beautiful language, Mesita De La Noche is a nightstand. It was a raunchfest, to quote my blisteringly hot wife. We diplomatically discussed the best ways to deal with the problem, ranging from ignoring it to hurling it out the window. Alas, bars killed the latter idea.

Truth of the matter was it got a little heated as we commanded one another to deal with the janky furniture. The story ends well, with us sleeping soundly, the nightstand in the far corner of the room and a makeshift nighstand concocted out of an ordinary stool. Brilliant! Being married is exciting, but when you throw a moldy Mesita in the mix it's downright caliente!

Now that you've suffered through our latest entry with us, enjoy pictures of some random Guatemalan kids (Brenda is on the left, and there's another cute little girl on the right)


A much more slimming picture of myself and Em on Acatenango (just shy of 14,000 feet in case you missed the last entry). We're smiling because we're still 4,000 feet shy of the summit.


And a gratuitous tourist shot of an indigenous woman walking with a basket on her head next to some doofy guys looking for their car in front of a fantastically beautiful colonial arch.


If you've read this far and haven't lost interest yet, you're about to be rewarded with some fun Antigua facts NOT in the Lonely Planet guidebook.

-Minimum drying time for clothes during the rainy season: take them to another country. Seriously, one week and counting for our first load of laundry hanging in our room.

-Size of Guatemalan mosquitos: Em went to pet a cute dog and noticed it had a really long snout and wings.

-Non stop lightning. As soon as the sky gets dark enough, it's lit up with serious pyrotechnics. Only locals can tell the difference between thunder and small volcanic eruptions without climbing to the top and checking for flying sparks and hot magma.

-The granola is really good. It's got pumpkin seeds in it. Bet you didn't know that!

-Not really a fact, but it would be cool if everytime someone stubs their toe wearing Chacos they called it "Taco your chaco" because your sandal folds in half like a taco. And gave us credit for it. And sponsorship. Chaco, USA Inc. That means you.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Oh, that's in METERS!


Acatenango, the volcano, kicked our butts.

We figured that when a guide company says "extremely strenuous", they mean for everyone else. We were humbled by this monstrosity whom we originally thought was just under 4,000 feet high. Try just under 4,000 METERS high, which when attempted from the lowly valley of Antigua is quite a haul. We didn't see it coming.

It's the typical story - a guide picks us up at the hotel at Oh Dark Thirty (that's really early for those of you who don't speak military time), we have a silent ride to pick up the other victims, then it's off for an hour to get to "base camp". The road turns to a single lane dirt road about four minutes into the ride and we have a harrowing, dark ride halfway up the mountain passing buses. How did buses get up here? We went over a bump in the road that I was sure was the volcano.

We won't take you through all the gory details, but 4 hours later we summited and were met with blasts of icy wind and rain and views that made your stomach drop. So incredible it made the slog back through the mud endurable. Easily the hardest hike Emily and I have ever taken part in, possibly any physical feat. Luckily my bride is of hardier stock than I and carried our pack with all our water and gear up the entire mountain while I gasped for breath. I love her. We also have to give credit to Michael and Sarah, a brother and sister team who also made the climb and who were arguably more hardcore. For example, not only did Emily carry our pack up the mountain, the Angel Michael literally pushed me the last few thousand feet to the top.

Since then we've been nursing sore muscles and enjoying Antigua. We recently moved into the Honeymoon Suite of our language school, which is all of seven feet from where we enjoy our Spanish lessons. Four hours this morning, a little grueling but definitely worthwhile. It was fun to explore the nuances of language in a beautiful courtyard with other students happily chatting away. If you're going to get the same room when you visit, be advised everyone shows up at 7am and congregates outside your door.

I don't think you can visit Antigua without snagging a kid. They're so cute it hurts; we'd post pictures but I want you to read the rest of the entry instead of calling a Guatemalan adoption agency.

Other highlights include the discovery of coffee that once ingested causes you to crave it every 45 minutes. It's a little scary, but once you figure out what's happening it's a remarkable alarm clock.

Speaking of, we've been on the internet 43 minutes now and we're at least 2 minutes from the nearest coffee shop. Gotta go!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Rip Van Winkle and Antigua

So we got here and slept about 18 hours. Then we figured out where "here" was... Antigua, Guatemala. I semi-consciously remember getting off the plane and taking a shuttle straight to Antigua at 6am yesterday morning. It was really reasonable for an hour shuttle ride ($20 for two people), we had the whole thing to ourselves, and our driver was courteous and agile. It is important to note that the shuttle costs 20 times what a bus ride would have cost, but it´s SO much nicer to ride inside the vehicle instead of outside like a lot of the passengers we saw on "public" transportation. At least on the first day.

Guatemala City was a blur. Antigua is INCREDIBLE. There are three volcanoes bordering the view at all times, huge ruined churches, an incredible central park, and rows and rows of shops, hotels, courtyards and anything else you can imagine behind brightly colored doors and stuccoed walls. Pictures will be forthcoming. During the day, you can look through the open doors and see fountains and plants and people enjoying food, but at night when the doors are closed you have no idea what lies behind. Take our hotel, for instance. An incredible open courtyard with ferns and big wooden columns and lazy sunlight drifting through during the day... and an unmarked door at night. Very unmarked. We walked past twice, then asked the guy watching the door of our hotel where our hotel was. Our Spanish is still coming up to speed, so we tried to conjure images of the beautiful courtyard and lush plants with our hands. He looked at us like we were crazy and rang the buzzer. Home!

It´s been a bit of a blur these last few weeks, so we´re doing everything we can to rest up and catch up. I described the experience to Emily like being put in a sack, beaten with a stick, and waking up in another country. It was actually a lot more pleasant than that, but we were tired at the time.

We want to say thanks before we get too deep into our trip. Family and friends coming out for the wedding, the incredible times we had leading up to the wedding, and the support and love we got before we left were all very humbling. We´ve been marveling at the deep relationships and love we´ve felt from all of you. Know that you are all in our prayers and that you are the ones who have made much of this adventure possible. THANK YOU!

With that, we are off to explore Antigua, get our feet under us, get our bearings, and get some Malaria pills.

Love you all -

Ryan and Emily