I´m now posting from Red´s Bar here in Antigua. The thing about this place is I can sit here sipping on a Pina Colada – that costs about 2 bucks – and playing on the internet for about a $1-hour. There is waitress service, it also sells a pretty good selection of used books, and I can choose to either speak English or Spanish, because it´s a mixed crowd of Guatemalan and traveler customers and there are staff members that speak both. But enough about the bar… on to the volcano!
So I climbed a volcano today! It was awesome. Our guide roasted marshmallows, many people melted their shoes, I definitely felt the heat. I climbed over lava, and was within oh two to three feet of the main flow. The hike up was intense as well. I was gasping for breath at times because we were booking it! We´d gotten tickets for the 2 pm trip but didn´t end up leaving Antigua until after 3 pm. The volcano is apparently pretty dangerous at night because of the dangers of sharp rock, unlit paths, and bandits. We had no problems, but wow was the hike tiring. It was very pretty though, with walking next to some steep corn fields, a little lightly forested area, and some open grassy expanses. Then the lava field, and the playing with lava. It was altogether fun.
Storytime. A few little anecdotes about Antigua, Guatemala.
-Yesterday morning I stood on a corner opposite a ruined church, waiting for the usual assortment of brightly colored old school buses, minivans of more descriptions than I can count, bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters, to pass on the cobbled street. One particular scooter caught my eye because the driver had this ´leader of the pack´attitude that just jumped out as she sucked on her lolly pop. She was maybe 12 to 14 years old, had another girl sitting just behind her, and was dressed in a pretty standard Catholic school girl uniform.
– Corpus Christi!
Yesterday was Corpus Christi. This is apparently some sort of Catholic holiday, I don’t know anything about the religious part except it is also celebrated in Germany. So here in Antigua they celebrate with:
1) a large procession around the main square leaving from the Cathedral at Parque Central and the procession consists of: little children dressed like angels walking out of the Cathedral(on a path made up of green leaves and plants) scattering flowers, followed by boys carrying flags and monks carrying things that look a little like metal tiki torches. Then come the old ladies wearing gold and black veils, also with a flag. Then comes a man(priest?) ringing a bell and the priest under a little tent that is being carried as well. The priest holds a gold pointy thing, and there are men walking around with incense. Then comes the marching band. This is all done in a huge crowd so it’s hard to tell who is officially in the procession and who isn’t. The pictures are on my flickr page.
2) Religious ceremonies lasting all day
3) Men give their girlfriends toy pigeons and women give their boyfriends monkeys. When I asked my host family about this, I believe they said (my Spanish isn’t that good yet) the pigeons symbolize the womans sexual organs, and the monkeys the mens. So women buy the monkeys, then give them to there boyfriend. This interpretation is substantiated by the fact that everyone at the table burst out laughing, and the 12 year old girl blushed particularly furiously, and eventually ran out of the room as the explanation was going on.
– banana bread!
Many people, starting with Lonely Planet, had recommended this one bakery. They particularly recommended the banana bread. I’m not generally a fan, but I was hungry and walking by and it smelled good so… I bought some banana bread. It was so amazingly delicious! Not too moist, not a weird texture, just super yummy bread. I finished a half loaf in a day and a half. I found out recently they also make mango and coconut and papaya and all kinds of other fruit breads, and cookies. I’m so going to have to try them all.
I just got back from Parque Central and Antigua´s main cathedral. Today is Corpus Christi, and a big celebration here. I´ve never heard of it before, unless it goes by a different name in the States. I finally broke out my camera today, and took many pictures of a small area of Antigua. I´ll post some later. Now, back to class, then I´ll write about the children, the banana bread, the celebration, and my plans for the rest of the trip.
So, I am officially on my trip. I arrived in Guatemala yesterday, and today was my first day of Spanish class. I am staying in a homestay arranged through the school (Proyecto Linguistico Francisco Marroquin) and the classes are all day, one-on-one. Antigua is beautiful – surrounded by lush green volcanos and with all of the buildings painted bright colors, pink and yellow being the most common.
-skip forward one day-
The Mayan women are also impressively bright, their traditional dress/skirt outfits aqua and orange and true blue. Some carry goods in wide baskets on their heads, and set up in front of a few different areas selling different crafts and occasionally food. The town smells vaguely like fire, which I love. At first I thought it may be the volcanos but now I think it might be just wood fires. I guess I´ll find out when I climb one of the volcanos and see what it smells like up top.
I´m headed to a macadamia plantation on Friday where we will have a traditional Mayan lunch, get to see the growing coffee and macadamia and a traditional Mayan wedding. It sounds good. Then this weekend I´m thinking I might climb one of the volcanos – we´ll see how I feel, it might also be a good time for a photo excursion.
We had a great thunderstorm last night, and the afternoons tend to be overcast, losing the volcano tops in the clouds and smoke, so I think any of the photo trips will have to be early in the morning, which is coincidentally the best weather anyways. Anyways, back to class for me!