Friday, April 8, 2011

Friends come to visit!

Last month I had an amazing visit from Sarah and Meredith! It was much needed and a great time. Hard to believe I lived with those girls for 6 years and hadn't seen them in almost a year(It was exactly 1 year ago I left New York on the 15th of April)!

I was greeted by my estranged roomates at the airport and to my great delight they were donning this season's hottest ponchos- no really, apparently ponchos are 'in' this summer. Only minutes into being in Guatemala and already making such efforts to integrate! We spent their first 2 days in Antigua and I, being a drill seargent of a host, took them to climb Volcan Pacaya on their first full day in Guatemala. It was beautiful...and surprisingly cold for a volcano.

Setting off on the hike.

At the top of Volcan Pacaya with Volcan de Fuego in the background.

We then travelled up to Alta Verapaz to Semuc Champey. Alta Verapaz was the region of Gautemala under a State of Siege for 2 months last December and was lifted in February. The purpose of the State of Siege was to find out drug lords and drug rings in the region but because of the suspention of civil rights, Peace Corps Volunteers were evacuated from the region and were not allowed back until the siege was lifted. This took quite a toll on the service of many volunteers as well as tourism to the region. So we did our part to support the resurgance of the tourism industry in the I have been really wanting to go. Semuc Champey is a national park and literally translates to 'Where the water hides under the rocks'. There is a large river that runs through the park and in one area the river flows under caves until surfacing again. The park has hiking and water pools, swimming, tubing, candel-light cave exploring and is gorgeous.

Tubing down the river.

At the top of the Mirador.

We stayed at a great hostel, El Retiro, in Lanquin, about 40 minutes outside of the park. In Lanquin there is an amazing cave tour. The cave is not only huge but home to thousands of bats. Every evening the bats fly out of the caves at the same hour to hunt. We went with our guide and explored the caves, saw some nasty-ass spiders and then as we were leaving at dusk, witnessed the bats leaving the caves. In sum, we were not only trying not to slip and fall into the cave's abyss but also hoping that a bat wouldn't fly into our faces. Our tour guide asured us that this has never happened but we were very skeptical. Meredith probably still believes she has rabies.

Touring the bat caves.

Hoping not to get hit in the face by a bat. Please note the bat flying right next to my head.

I then took the lovely ladies to my site. Sarah and Meredith went with me to my English classes, out to one of my villages for home visits and hygiene talks and we ended the fun with an STD workshop at the local teacher-track school. Magical!

Out in one of my aldeas.

Sarah taking creepy photos of me talking about SERIOUS ISSUES- i.e.genital herpes and gonorrhea

We ended the trip in Antigua. This past March Peace Corps celebrated its 50 year anniversary. The Ambassador of the United States to Guatemala had a beautiful reception at his home in the capital to commemorate this. Needless to say this brought the majority of Volunteers from all over the country to Antigua for the weekend so the city was a bit over-run.

Travelling Guatemalan style.

We ended the trip with a visit to a macadamia plantation and a coffee finca just outside of Antigua. Then Sarah and Meredith were off back to New York leaving me with my NYC visit count-down- 6 months to go!

Obligatory Arch Street poses:


Come back!