Sunday, 4 August 2013

"No Thanks, I Just Ate."

Here it is. The account of that time my family came and visited me in Guatemala. A week late, but I’d say its length makes up for its lateness. You won’t want to miss this one… not because it’s well written, but because my family is just that awesome.

In A Nutshell…

On Thursday (July 18th) evening at about 10:40 I boarded the ADN night bus for the city. I slept pretty well on the bus and arrived in the city around 8:00 in the morning. Tim picked me up and took me back to the mission. I tried to make the time pass as quickly as possible because I was pretty excited about my family coming that afternoon. First I showered, and then I made good use of the WIFI at the mission in the city. Afterwards, I went with Tim to run some errands and took a nap (at the same time. I was tired apparently). After some more WIFI and a walk to the local Wal-Mart, it was finally time to leave for the airport.

We waited at the airport for about 15 minutes before I saw my family walking towards the glass doors of the airport. Words cannot describe how good it was to see them again, especially Rolin and Kerra since I hadn’t seen them in over six months. After hugs and “hellos” we piled into a Mitsubishi van and headed back to the mission. We waited there awhile for Juan Carlos to come pick us up and take us to Byron and Karen’s house. He finally showed up, and we headed to Byron’s house in San Lucas, about a twenty-four minute drive from the mission. By the time we got there, it was already after 8:00 and none of us had eaten supper. I wisely had foreseen the possibility of eating supper at a late hour and had eaten a couple of snickers bars in the afternoon, but I figured that my family would be pretty famished. They survived, however, because of the meals they had on both flights. Who knew it was possible to fly to Guatemala and get served more than a bag of three pretzels? Yet another reason to fly “Copa” over “Delta.” At any rate, the meal that Karen served us was definitely worth waiting for. Everybody was pretty tired, so we went to bed.

We took it fairly easy on Saturday morning. We slept in, ate a breakfast of French toast and homemade peach yogurt, and relaxed some more after breakfast. The only work that Rolin and I did all morning was help Byron plant radish seeds… one seed every two inches. In the afternoon, we went to a park close to Byron’s house and had a picnic lunch there. After lunch, we went for a little hike and a big swing ride. We left the park and headed to the market place in San Lucas. After we looked around for a while and Dad successfully purchased a pound of peanuts, we ate supper at a restaurant right in the market place. For some reason, I saw it fit to order a side of extra green onions. In my defense, I didn’t know that almost every meal already came with green onions. The extra plate of fifteen wasn’t exactly necessary, but they were really good, and we finished almost all of them. Don’t worry, we’ve all brushed our teeth since then.

The big swing. "Look, Ma! No hands!"

On Sunday, we went with Byron’s to their church for a morning service as well as an afternoon song service. Our family sang a couple of English songs in the afternoon. It was really nice to be able to sing with my family again. In the evening, we had supper back at Byron’s house with some of his family. After supper, we sat around and visited and listened to an annoying school bus sing “Stop and go! Stop and go!” over and over again, before heading to bed.

Byron and Karen's two adorable kids… Lia and Gabriel

After an amazing breakfast from Karen once again, we said goodbye to our wonderful hosts, and headed in a Mitsubishi van to Panajachel, a town on Lake Atitlan. We arrived there in pretty good time, and thanks to Byron’s detailed map, we found the place we were looking for with out too much trouble. I only had to stop to ask for directions once. We arrived too early to move in so we decided to get some lunch in town, and head back later. We met a guy who called himself “Captain Carlos” that wanted to take us on a boat across Lake Atitlan to the towns on the other side. I told him that we didn’t really want to ride a boat right now, but that we just wanted something to eat. I then asked him if there was a Pollo Campero in town. He said that there was, and even offered to lead us there on his bicycle. We took him up on his offer, and he lead us right to the place. That was our first encounter with Captain Carlos. After a good lunch, we headed back to “Las Buenas Nuevas.” We were greeted by a locked gate, and after five minutes or so of my yelling and knocking, Rolin got the brilliant idea that I should call the owner. So I called the guy, and he said he’d come right away. “Perfect!” I thought. That’s when I noticed the doorbell. My family didn’t let me forget about my yelling and knocking (and honking the horn… although that may have been one of their added details to make the story better) for the rest of their stay. When we finally got in the gate and moved into our house, we discovered that this place really was good news. Three bathrooms, five bedrooms, a fireplace, fridge, stove, and even the occasional ceiling fan. We definitely enjoyed our house-for-two-days. After we were settled in, we took a stroll on the lake front. On the lake front in Panajachel, there are about four different things: restaurants, shops, boats, and people constantly trying to sell you stuff. Many of the people trying to sell stuff (anything from blankets to pens to boat rides) spoke English. I figured out that a good way to get them to stop asking me to buy their product was to say, “I really don’t need one of those right now, but I think he (pointing to Rolin) does.” Rolin figured out that another great way to get rid of them was to say, “No thanks, I just ate,” no matter what the thing they were selling was. I tried it. It really works.

"Guys, look! It's a volcano!"
Capitan Carlos

On Tuesday, we decided to take Captain Carlos up on his boat ride offer. He took us across the lake to a town called Santiago. We traveled around the town in tuktuks. The five main attractions, as we found out from countless people wanting to be our tour guide, were the market square, the Catholic Church, the women washing clothes, the lookout, and an art museum. As you can well imagine, it’s a pretty exciting town. Unfortunately, we only made it to three of the five main attractions, but if we ever visit Santiago again, we will be sure to see the women washing close and the art museum. That evening, we ate at a restaurant back in Panajechel that had an amazing view of the lake, average food, and a really worn out speaker playing Spanish music. You gotta take the good with the bad, I guess. We definitely enjoyed our time in Panajachel. It was really great being able to relax, play soccer, eat, and play everlasting games of “twenty down” with my family again.

On Wednesday morning, we packed up our things and headed back to the city. On the way back, we took a little bit of a detour to visit my mom’s uncle and aunt, Vernon and Sue Miller, who live in Paquip. We drank coffee, ate some cinnamon roll goodness, and talked for a while before heading on our way once again. When we arrived in the city, it was high time for some supper, and we chose McDonalds. Dad really likes eating at McDonalds in Guatemala because of how much faster and better the service is compared to Canada. I just like the food. That evening, we boarded an ADN night bus and headed for El Chal. 

We arrived in El Chal the next morning around 6:30 and got settled in to Stephan’s empty house. There wasn’t an abundant amount of time in-between breakfast at the mission with Neil’s and the first class I had to teach, so I felt a little tired and unprepared for teaching. Of course, my family had to sit in on my English classes, even though they all know English as well or better than me. I was a little bit nervous about Rolin watching me teach since he just finished two years of FB teacher training and I’ve had, well… no training. My family seemed to think I did a pretty good job of teaching, although Rolin mentioned that he had trouble staying awake. I said, “Yeah, so did I.” We spent that afternoon relaxing at Stephan’s house, and went out for tacos for supper. Rolin claimed that if he lived in El Chal, he’d go out for tacos every night.

Yup. That's what I look like when I teach. 

After a breakfast at the mission on Friday morning, we headed to a park near Santa Elena called Ixpanpajul. At this park, they have fun things to do like zip-lining and hiking on a trail with multiple swinging bridges. Then the have other things to do like horseback riding. We decided to try the zip-lining first. The zip-line tour they offered consisted of six different cables that went from tree to tree in the middle of the jungle. It was pretty wild. It was sort like being “George of the jungle” without the crashing into trees part. Later, we went on the sky walk, which was the hike with swinging bridges. The longest bridge was over 100 meters long, and about thirty meters above the ground. When we finally reached the halfway point of the hike, a pavilion with a great view of the surrounding jungle, Rolin and I noticed the hammocks. I played “The World’s Hardest Game” on his iPod while he played “Bubble Burst” on my phone for a while before checking out the view. It was a pretty nice view, and I now hold the record for highest score on the “catching the eggs” challenge. After Ixpanpajul, we ate lunch and did some shopping in Santa Elena. While Mom and the girls were buying some food, Dad thought he’d exchange some of his American dollars for Quetzales. He had quite the story afterwards about how every US bill had to be perfect in order to pass. They rejected two of his bills because of little rips. He said later that he considered carefully going through each Q100 bill and rejecting a few, but he wisely decided to just take his money and leave.

Zip-lining is fun! …right, Mom?
One of the bridges
The beautiful lookout spot

On Saturday, we hung around the mission for the whole morning while Neil’s went to Tikal for the day. Not a whole lot of exciting things happened that morning, other than my brother and I beating Wilmer and Gabriel in a two-on-two soccer match. In the afternoon, Rolin and I went up town to buy a few things and get a haircut. Rolin experienced his first authentic Guatemalan haircut. (They are very similar to Canadian haircuts, only much cheaper) That evening, Rolin, Kayleen, Kerra, and I all went to a youth thing at Edix’s house. I was in charge of the activity, and we played that “Pictionary telephone” game. Afterwards, I roped my siblings into helping clean the church for Sunday morning. Not much happened after we finally got back to Stephan’s house because everybody was very tired.

After the service the next morning, since Rolin didn’t understand the message, he was going around asking the English-speaking people what one thing was that blessed them from it. After I gave my answer to Rolin, he said, “Hmm, that’s about exactly what Douglas said.” “Yes!!” I thought to myself. After lunch at the mission, Lucio and I took my family to Cotusa. They were pretty amazed at how much higher the water was this time compared to four years ago when we visited during dry season. I managed to convince all of my siblings (even Rolin!) to hike/swim upstream to the biggest waterfall. All of them made it to the top and all of them (even Rolin!) jumped off the waterfall. I was pretty amazed at my sisters’ bravery and rock-climbing skills. They all seemed pretty happy that they decided to come with me by the time we got back. One of the things I put on the list of “Things to bring for me when you come” was a Tim Horton’s ice cap. Kayleen brought along some stuff to make some “wanna-be” ice caps, and made some for us after the evening church service. After I tried it, I decided that Tim Horton’s ice caps are really just “wanna-be” Kayleen’s ice caps.

On Monday, I had to teach again. In grade four, we had a coke party to celebrate my family being here. The students thanked my family for coming. Rolin sat in on my Segundo Basico class and was writing a bunch of critiques on a piece of paper while I was teaching. Afterward, he told me that I actually did pretty well! That was encouraging since he is a real teacher. That afternoon, my sisters and I cleaned Stephan’s pool and then went swimming in it. The water was lovely. That evening, Douglas organized an extra volleyball game with the town guys so that my brother could play too. Rolin’s team won more games, but we both still think that we’re better at volleyball than the other.

"I want to drink pop!"

On Tuesday morning, we packed up our things, and after my one class and lunch at the mission, we headed out to the bus stop. I wouldn’t really have needed to go with my family back to the city because they were flying out the following day, but I figured that 24 more hours with them was worth the two long bus rides. The bus arrived about 15 minutes later than usual and we soon found out why. This bus was no ordinary bus. This bus was a bus that had to stop for a half hour every two or three hours to check something underneath the bus. I assured Rolin that it was just preventative maintenance; that they were just making sure everything was working down there. The bus had quite obviously seen better days. It’s average speed while ascending hills was approximately -2km per hour. Its average speed going down hill was not a whole lot faster. We did get to the city eventually, and even though it arrived almost three hours later than usual, we really can’t complain. Lee and Linden, however, who kindly waited at the bus stop for us for two hours… can. Kudos to them.

The next morning we hung out at the mission for a while before heading to the airport. Then, the time came to say good-bye. Saying good-bye doesn’t seem to get any easier, or less sad, but I was very thankful that my family came to visit me. I had a wonderful time! And thanks to Ian and Tamara, I know I will see them again at the end of the year.

Top 5 Highlights…

>>Watching my family walk out of the airport. Like I said earlier, words cannot describe it.
>>Playing soccer with my siblings. Our house at “Las Buenas Nuevas” had a really nice lawn… perfect for playing soccer. I bought a soccer ball (called “blackandyellow” …clever, isn’t it?) so that we could play soccer.

What a move!
>>Talking English to the people trying to sell stuff. The guys offering boat rides had some great lines. One guy offered “comfortation” on his boat and another guy said, “We have the ‘poobleek’ boat or the private boat. You ‘dee-cee-dee’ (decide).” Another vendor selling blankets passed by us as we were sitting and said, “I remember you. You no buy nothing!”
>>Singing and playing games with my family. It was really great to be able to sing with them again… and although we never finished the “Twenty down” game, I was winning when we quit.  
>>Playing ping-pong with Rolin and Dad. It was good to know that I’m still the champion ;)

Top 5 Quotes…

“But Mom, I don’t what to sit on the volcano!” – Rolin

“Boy, that sounded like a funny face.” – Kerra

“No, thanks. I just ate.” – Rolin (his response to a guy asking him in Spanish if he’d like a boat ride)

“Give me twenty-five cents… I pray all the time… even when I’m drunk I pray.” – a very drunk guy

“The Bible tells us to avoid temptation… of course, that was written long before the invention of chocolate chip cookies!” – a card from my Grandma

Spanish Vocabulary…

Lancha (LAHN chah) – it means “boat”

Memory tool: It may sound kind of like “lunch,” but it still means “boat.”  

Fun Facts…

>>Lake Atitlan really is one of the most beautiful places on earth.

A picture of Lake Atitlan's beauty with me and my two beautiful sisters.

>>It’s said that Lake Atitlan has no bottom… but I’m not sure I believe that.

>>”Angry birds” t-shirts and toys are very popular at tourist shops in Guatemala.

…hence the hacky sacks. Meet Chimmey and Felipe. 

>>There’s this plant in Guatemala that curls up when you touch it. Mom showed it to us. It’s pretty cool!

>>There is such a thing as a 3L bottle of Coke! I saw one! I want to buy one.

More to Add…

Not really. But I’ll say here again that I really enjoyed being with my family. A huge thanks to them for taking to time to come visit me!

This is apparently what I look like when I write blog posts. 

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