Saturday, 3 May 2014

"He's Talking to the Geckos Again."

The month of April… a good month, a short month, a full month. It needed a longer-than-normal blog post.

In A Nutshell…

On Monday, April 7th, I had just finished the day of school and was sitting in my classroom talking to Profe Erick, when Zack Gingrich walked through the door. His youth Pastor, Brian Zehr, came to Guatemala to visit his friends that are named Steve. Zack was given the opportunity to come along, so he did! He had visited El Chal with the Countryside School group a year ago, and must have liked it. I had taught him many Spanish words such as “taxi”, “maskin teip”, and “laptop.” He remembered most of the words! Very impressive. I was a little busy with school for the three days he was in El Chal because we were right in the middle of exams and report cards, so I got him to help me with my school work. We didn’t do anything too exciting, but we did manage to hit up Stephan’s pool a couple of times.

On Saturday, I drove to the capital with five other people from El Chal in Stephan’s truck. We arrived at about 7:30 that evening, and I went to bed ready for my cousins to arrive the next day. They arrived in Guatemala at about noon the next day. It was really good to see them again. We got back to the mission and their suitcases were full of stuff for me! …Everything from flip-flops to chocolate to shirts to colourful pencils to large brown envelopes. It was great.  That afternoon we attended a church service in a home about a half hour away from the mission in the city. Later that evening after some ping-pong and tetherball, I found them all asleep in our dorm at eight o’clock. “Wimps,” I thought, but then I remembered that they had been last twenty hours. I quickly forgave them.

On Monday morning, after sleeping in and eating a hearty breakfast, we walked to the nearby Wal-Mart to buy some supplies for the three days at the ocean. We walked out of the store satisfied that we had everything we could possibly need. We bought a soccer ball, a pump, stuff for sandwiches, cereal, a 3L bottle of Coke, orange juice, and chips. What more could we have possibly needed? At about 10:30 in the morning we headed for Monterrico, the town along the cost where our hotel was. It took forever to get out of the city because of all the traffic, but we finally arrived at our hotel at about one thirty. The hotel was nice. It wasn’t extremely fancy, but our room had air-conditioning and there was a large pool, so it was all good. After checking in, we grabbed our baseball gloves and headed out to the beach to play catch. We soon discovered that bare feet on the sand in the middle of the day just does not work. It almost worked to “dig” down to where the sand was cooler and make a little spot to stand. The throws had to be accurate, or else you had to move off of your “safe zone,” and that just hurt. Pulling your first-baseman off the bag with a wild throw didn’t cause an error, but it sure made for an angry first-baseman. We soon discovered that if we played where the sand was wet from recent waves, it didn’t hurt so much. Then we played some full body-contact five hundred. The only rule was you couldn’t hold another player’s “glove arm.” Pushing? Yup. Tackling? Pretty much. It was by far the most grueling and fun game of five hundred I had ever played. After a little while we decided it was time to get in the water. The waves were huge and breaking very close to shore. Because of that and riptide warnings, we didn’t go out very far. As refreshing as swimming in the ocean on a hot day might sound to someone who has never swum in the ocean on a hot day, it’s actually not that refreshing. We walked back to the hotel, covered in sand, eyes and noses burning from all the salt. We got some of the sand off of ourselves using the showers outside the pool, but still managed to bring a lot of it into our hotel room. That was a mistake, and we learned from that mistake. In fact, each day we got better at not brining as much sand back with us. Thankfully, the solution to the mistake we made on the first day was simple. We just turned our shower into a sandbox. We swam for a while in the big pool, and tried to see who could swim the whole length of the pool under water. Trent forgot that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line and swam right into the feet of a guy in the edge of the pool. It was an awkward moment for Trent, but a very hilarious one for the rest of us. Thankfully, the guy was really nice, and Trent was more careful from then on. For supper that evening, we ate sandwiches. They were excellent. When we finished eating, there was one piece of cheese left. No one wanted it. Not even Austin. No one ate it, and no one is sure what exactly happened to it. For all we know, there’s still a Mozzarella in Monterrico.
The four of us
The large pool where Trent swam into a complete stranger.

We had decided on Monday night to wake up a bit early, and go to the beach when the sun wasn’t so hot, and play some football. By the time we got up and out of our room, it was already about 8:30. The breakfast area was full so we had to come back later. By the time we finally got out to the beach it was after ten o’clock. The sun was blazing and the sand was just as hot as the afternoon before. So much for our brilliant idea. We still played football for awhile, but soon Trent and I decided that the heat of the sand was just too much and it was time to stop. The fact that we were up by a touchdown helped make the decision easier. The waves weren’t quite as big as they were previous day, and they were breaking farther out, so we were able to venture out farther. We invented a game in which the four of us stood in a line and braced ourselves as waves crashed. The last one standing was the winner. Usually there was a definite winner, but every now and then, a wave would come that was so big it would practically wash the four of us right up on shore. There’s nothing more rewarding that being tossed and turned underneath the water for a few seconds, then resurfacing thinking you’re eliminated, but then seeing the other three guys resurfacing and gasping for air just like you are. I realize that if you’re not a competitive Martin, you might not understand that particular feeling of relief. Once again, the pool was wonderful after the ocean, and the air-conditioned room even better. Later that evening, we played beach volleyball with some other guys. They must play a lot, because they killed us.
Breakfast selfie!
The four of us at the Pacific Ocean. We liked the whole "selfie" thing.

On Wednesday morning, we all felt a little tired and sunburned and dead (naturally… we had been killed the evening before). Somehow, Anthony convinced me to go running with him. We ran about four kilometers, and I almost died a second time. Even thought we were tired, we decided to go to the beach again, since you don’t wake up 100 meters from the ocean just every morning. It was Wednesday that we invented maybe the coolest game yet. One guy would toss the water-friendly football that Trent brought into the ocean. We would then wait until it came in on a wave and try to “recover the fumble.” The person who came up with the football got a point. It might sound easy, but it was not. Of course, there was pushing and shoving from other players, but that wasn’t the hardest part. On most waves, the front of the wave would hit you right before the football arrived. There were a few times I was sure I had a beat on it, but just like that, I was knocked down by the wave and the football was picked up by someone fifteen feet behind me. The game was a lot of fun, and good for building fumble recovery skills. I’m surprised that NFL teams don’t bring their players to the beach for training camp to do ocean drills. That afternoon, we walked around Monterrico looking for a place to eat. We bought chicken, and ended up sitting on a curb to eat it. It was so hot and we were so sick and tired of being in the sun, that we headed right back to the hotel. On the way back, Anthony, Austin, and I secretly decided amongst ourselves without Trent knowing to suddenly fake the urge to go right back to the beach. We played our roles perfectly, but instead of convincing Trent to go back, he told us we could go ahead, but he was going to the air-conditioning. He’s just too smart.
Which one does not belong?

On Thursday morning, we went to the ocean one last time before heading for the city. The little town of Monterrico was getting pretty busy gearing up for Semana Santa (Holy week) weekend. We had a bit of a problem getting out because there were cars wanting to go both ways on a road big enough for only one car at a time. We ate at a Pollo Campero for lunch, and made it back to the city in pretty good time. We ate at the mall that’s close to the mission in the city, and went to bed with plans to leave for El Chal early the next morning.
Traffic jam in Monterrico

On Friday, we made the trip back to El Chal. We arrived at about one o’clock, and got some tacos for lunch. Not a whole lot happened that afternoon. We all were pretty tired, and managed to fit a nap in somewhere. On Saturday, after a breakfast of pancakes, flipped by Anthony, we went to Santa Elena to play tennis. We brought some water along, but not nearly enough. After a couple of hours of playing tennis under the hot sun, we started to feel chilled. “Not good,” we thought, so we went to a nearby store to buy liquid. We then drove to a town close by to swim in the lake for a while. However, because it was Saturday of Semana Santa, the town was packed full of people. We turned around and went back to Santa Elena, and decided to go to the marketplace. There wasn’t much going on there at all, so we decided to just go back and play tennis. After another hour and a half of tennis, we were really hungry. Pizza Hut was the perfect solution to that problem. We ordered “cheesy pops” for an appetizer and two large pizzas. Unexpectedly, the pizza arrived first. We were over halfway through the pizza when the cheesy pops finally arrived. We recommend eating the appetizer before the main course. After pizza, I was very full, but someone spotted a Yogen Früz not far away. I went with my brother’s “you-can-eat-ice-cream-after-a-large-meal-and-be-okay-cause-it-doesn’t-actually-make-you-fuller-it-just-fills-in-the-cracks” theory. I proved it wrong. I was very very full after the frozen yogurt. The theory must only work for ice cream.

On Monday, I took my cousins to Mopan, a nice swimming spot with large waterfall about an hour away from El Chal. Kristina packed us an awesome lunch of watermelon and hamburgers, and we made a fire and cooked the burgers right there. We had fun swimming, too, and did many exciting things like trying to pass the football to your friend on the way down to the water. It’s not as easy as it looks. After a Temple Run 2 tournament and a soccer match (In which the Canadians won) we finished the day of with some pool time at Stephan’s.

On Tuesday morning, at ten forty-five, I waved good-bye to my good cousins. It was definitely one of the best Semana Santas I’ve had since I’ve been down here. It was a little bit of an adjustment to get back into school and a schedule again, but the week was soon over. On Friday night, we had a staff meeting and a little birthday party for me! There was even a cake and a piñata! Now, I’m a huge fan of hitting things. I think that hitting things is fun. But… I must see whatever it is that I’m hitting. The blindfold isn’t actually the worst part. The worst part is the 21 times they spin you around because you’re turning 21. You have no sense of direction, no idea which way is up and which way is down, and they want you to hit a relatively small bear full of candy. What’s worse is everybody’s yelling “To your right!” and “To your left!” and “Straight ahead!!” all at the same time. I decided to just take wild swings… it didn’t matter if it was from the piñata or a kid, I was going to get candy to come out of something. On about the third swing I connected with something and heard candy falling. They sure don’t make piñatas like they used to.

I thought my birthday celebrations were over on Monday, but I was wrong. I was just about to head to English class with 8th and 9th grade when Profe Erick came and asked me if I’d walk to the church with the 7th grade. I asked him why, and he told me that he wanted to take the students there, and because it was away from school property and I was the homeroom teacher, I had to go along. He said it would just be for a little bit.  I told him that I needed to teach English, and he said that he got Douglas to cover for me. I was still a little confused about it, but I decided to not ask a whole bunch of questions in front of the whole class, and said “yes.” I just figured it was another one of Profe Erick’s “interesting” ideas. We got to the church and sat in a circle in the hut. I didn’t catch on until then that it was for my birthday. They had a lunch prepared and everything. Each one of my students had a few words for me. They said some pretty nice things. It made me feel special. Then after we finished eating, Profe Erick asked me if he could borrow my phone to make a call. I should have seen it coming, but it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. Seconds later I felt five gallons of cold water hit my neck. Guatemalans and their crazy traditions… it was all right, though, because it really cooled me off. I told Erick later that I’ll never believe anything he says ever again.

Twenty-one years and still kicking… oh yeah.


>>The President coming. On April 26th, the president of Guatemala visited El Chal. Apparently, he came just because it was my birthday. Douglas and I stood in the hot sun for an hour just to hear him say a few words. It was worth it because it was the first leader of a country that I had ever seen in real life… other than Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin of course.
There he is… the guy with the white hair. Apparently not used to the Petén heat. 
>>The “Pollo Campero” joke. Right after picking the cousins up from the airport, we passed a Pollo Campero. Not realizing that Pollo Camperos in Guatemala are like Tim Horton’s in Canada, Trent asked me, “Is that the Pollo Campero that we ate at three years ago with our class?” Every single Pollo Campero we saw after that became the one we had eaten at three years ago. We would even make up stories like, “Yeah, I remember it had a play place and it was right across from a Burger King… had to be that one.” Trent got a little sick of the joke but Anthony and I sure didn’t.
>>My birthday cake. Judy Lehman made it for me. I didn’t even ask her to make a Bluejays cake. I asked her afterwards how she knew that I liked the Bluejays. Apparently I had been singing the “Okay, Bluejays, Let’s play ball!” song one time when we were playing volleyball.

Not so Highlights…

>>Night of the bees. One Wednesday evening, we were playing volleyball, while Benj and Lucio were getting a huge beehive out of a nearby tree. The bees got angry and decided to blame the volleyball players. My skill level goes down significantly when there are bees flying down. I don’t like bees. One stung me and my arm got all red and hot for three days.
>>Losing to those guys in beach volleyball. It was a little hard on the pride. We got skunked.

Top 5 Quotes…

*this special “cousins” edition includes extra quotes and a quote from me!

“Dude, don’t try to make yourself look more useful than you actually are.” – Trent

“I guess we thought we were amphibians or something.” – Anthony (after we made the “ocean to hotel room” transition a little too quickly)

“I wonder how people find their animals at the end of the day” – Austin

“That insult would have been a lot more effective without the stuttering.” – Anthony

“Oh no… Trent’s talking to the geckos again.” – Ricky
Trent Martin: faster than the average gecko.

 “Wouldn’t it be awesome to see a snowmobile in Guatemala?” – Trent

“Wow. We could survive in the wilderness as long as someone would pack us a lunch every day!” – Anthony

WOW from Ricky…

>>Sand is cooler at night.

>>Everyone should eat at least one fish eyeball in their life. That way, they will be able to say “I’ve eaten a fish eyeball” and also, they will know that there really is no difference between fish eyeballs and the “bubbles” in bubble tea.

>>Never eat an entire piece of lime… skin and all. Not even if Anthony offers you five Quetzales

>>Fish really is best served with the bones and everything. Shrimp, on the other hand, is best served with the shells removed.
The four of us before our seafood meal. Excellent fish and hard-to-eat shrimp.

More to Add…

Just a shout out to Trent, Anthony and Austin… Thanks for coming and making my Semana Santa awesome. You’re the best of the best!

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