The Great Migration: Where I've been

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Passing of an Era

So it's finally come. The moment I've been waiting for. I've preparing for weeks really. All of the time, all of the effort, and finally, finally, finally...

I have amoebas.

That's right, dear friends, my poo has been the lovely consistency of Cup O' Noodles for the past couple of days. It's just now starting to sort itself out, and my stomach has stopped feeling quite so much like a tank of piranahs. But I'm on more medication than I've been perscribed in my life, AND I'm not allowed to drink. Of course, I'm not allowed to have ice cream or Indian food either, but that didn't really stop me.

Oh Guatemala.

But on to more pressing matters. Friday, July 18th (what the fuck is happening to the summer??) marks another important event in my last day in Xela. For the past five weeks, I've lived a very sedentary, well-organized, relatively predictable life. My days look something like this:

1. Carmen makes me frijoles and juevos for breakfast
2. Go to Spanish school, about 10 minutes late. I am incapable of being on time.
3. Greeted by my favorite teachers with a resounding "Buenas Noches Hayley!"
4. Feel utterly frustrated/beautifully elated at my progress
5. Eat far more bread than I am hungry for at the break
6. Carmen makes me lunch with yet more bread
7. Go on a little trips/fuck around at the internet cafe/take weaving lessons/be in Xela/do homework/do yoga/walk around/speak too much English
8. Tell myself I am not going to buy ice cream today
9. Buy ice cream from the nice woman Paula who knows me because I go there everyday
10. Carmen makes me dinner, and I carry on a pathetically simple conversation with my host family
11. Finish (or not) my homework
12. Party/dance salsa/watch a movie

A day in the life of Hayley Currier, Xela style. It's a tough life, but some how I've lived through it. My weekends are varied and wonderful, but still quite structured, with a definite home to return to. Besides the occasional poweroutage and unfortunate unpredictability of the hot water, I have no complaints. As I think I have been able to convey to you, I have basically been rocking the shit out of life.

Alas, Saturday at 6:00 am, this strange stability, this little life I've created, is no more. I will be going on a three-day hike that I'm pretty sure is eons beyond my capability and begin my solitary travel. Two weeks of me, my backpack, and Guatemala. Amen to that.

First, though, I feel I must commemorate my fantastic five weeks in Xela with some thoughts, beginning with the amazing coolness that was my weekend. Prepare yourselves.

Friday night (we're talking about a week ago, now) was my good friend Jillian's last night, as well as her birthday (at midnight). Clearly, a good amount of partying was in order. We have some deliciously fun (and deliciously good looking) teachers at our school, so we had quite a group as we trudged around Xela. The party continued at our teacher Julio's house, and was still going when I decided to leave at 3:00 am. I had to be up at 6:00 am, so another teacher drove me to my house. As I stood in the dark fumbling with the key, I somehow managed to break the key off in the door. That's right, my friends...a broken key. The middle of the night. Absolutely no way to get to my nice warm bed. My lovely teacher friend Jose tried to calm me down as I was wracked with guilt at what I had done to my host family. Fucking Jose was also so kind as to continue to correct my Spanish through my curses. The word "llave" (key) is now firmly implanted in my Spanish vocabulary.

Anyway, I proceeded to sleep at Jose's house, for all of two hours, as I had no way to get into my house. He then returned me to my house at 6:00, where I explained to Carmen what had happened. (One of the downsides of a host family is that I felt kind of judged coming home at 6:00 am in with a boy, no matter how innocently. I'm too old for that shit.) I then peaced out to climb yet another volcano.

So Saturday was my ascent of Volcan Chikobal. This is an absolutely incredible place. While Santa Maria was all about the climb, the accomplishment, getting my ass up to the gloriously elusive summit, Chikobal is not very challenging at all. But at the top is a spectacular lake, filled mysteriously by underground rivers, eerie clouds constantly shifting through the rainforest. Arriving there felt more like a discovery than a victory. We had lunch, heard the story of the place, a sacred Mayan prayer location that has altars that are still in use, and spent some time circling the lake. Though I walked with about ten others, I had this wonderful solitary feeling. I was just walking and thinking and feeling absolutely at peace in this fantastic setting. I always love nature, love hiking and just being outside, but this trip brought me back to a more pure appreciation of nature. It's not always about the steepest climb or the most remote location. Sometimes its just about enjoying where I am and the unique natural incredibleness I am lucky enough to be immersed in.

Ugh, time to shake of the inspirational poster quotes. On to Sunday. My school took a group of us to a canopy forest above Lago Atitlan, a large and (you guessed it) incredibly beautiful lake not two hours away. I was just starting to feel less than stellar, but I wasn't about to miss this one. Decked out in harnesses, caribeeners, and helmets we hiked to the edge of the mountain and jumped on some cables. Ziplines! The first one was a teaser...totally fun, beautiful, but kind of short. Then they brought out the big dogs. Fucking 450 meters of cable suspended between two mountain tops: about 30 glorious seconds of flying in midair, 300 feet above the trees, miles of mountain and lake stretched out in front of me on all sides. Holy shit. It was so awesome, we did it twice. How many times are you in Guatemala, flying above the rainforest?

Back home I was legit feeling my little amoeba friends. We went to a concert when we returned, where entrance was a food donation. It was very cool to be a part of the modern city culture, but it was also interesting to see how things are done here. This concert was in the big theater in town--an falsely impressive building done in wannabe Greco-Roman style. (El Parque Central is done in the same style--some stupid ass rich guys in the goverment clearly have it in their heads that being modern means being European. Busts of famous generals that did far more harm than good litter the city as well. It's quite clear who's in charge here.) This theater is the height of culture here. But the show itself was highly unprofessional. The lights weren't cued, the microphones screeched in feedback, the announcer walked right through the artists to get off the stage. I asked for the bathroom, and they lead me to the men' took them a good five minutes to figure out where the women's bathroom was. And when I arrived, there was no toilet paper or soap. The music was great, and it was quite interesting to observe the smaller cultural differences not immediately obvious upon viewing this very Western building.

Sunday night was when the amoebas (that I did not yet know where amoebas) began to show themselves in full force. Bedtime was 7:00 with a nice healthy dose of Pepto-Bismal. Mmmm. Cherry.

So that was the weekend. But exciting trips and thrilling sites only partly describe my experience here. A huge part of my time in Guatemala is focused on language. Oh the language fuck that goes on here! I spend around four hours every day getting hardcore grammar lessons from my teacher, Lucky. But the real headfuck goes on when I'm trying to speak. I think I know what I'm talking about, and I can speak for hours with Lucky almost entirely in Spanish (she doesn't speak English so it's hard to cheat) and then get flustered when I have to order in a restaurant. I'll be speaking in English and then accidently thrown in a Spanish word without thinking. My English seems to be going downhill as my Spanish improves. I love it when I'm talking to other students who's first language isn't English--they'll forget the English word so try to switch to Spanish. The Danish-Spanish dictionaries make me laugh--of course not everyone uses English as their reference. Fucking American mindset.

Extranjeros of all types fill my mind as well. Though I should only be speaking Spanish and have only Guatemalan friends, I do spend a lot of my time with foreigners. It's horrible, but it's easy. However, I never cease learning. Europeans (especially the Danes...they have absolutely flooded our school), Canadians, even other folks from the US...they all have something to share with my to expand my mind. It is fascinating to hear a conferencia on the corruption of education in Guatemala, then talk to the Danes about their socialist schools and medicine, while comparing notes on school experiences in the US. Every student has a different reason for being here as well. Some want a vacation, and think its fun to pick up a bit of Spanish. Some stay for two months, really trying to be fluent. Some are just stopping by, one week of a six-month backpacking trip. Whatever the reason, this life definitely seems to bring out a certain type...the incredibly well-travelled, the socially conscious, the adventurers. It's amazingly easy to make friends, actual bonds, have real conversations across ages, countries, professions, places in life. The famous handball player from Denmark (like legit famous, in tabloids and everything...I haven't even heard of handball), the Canadian professor in her 60's, the unemployed 20-something from Hawaii trying to find herself for 6 months in Latin America, the recent college grad looking for a break before she sells her soul to the man. An incredible, ever-changing group. We do the same stupid shit we do at home, we go on adventures. What a party.

I have more to say, but I've probably bored you stupid, if you've even read this far. Besides, its dinner time--my last home cooked Guatemalan meal. I love having this space to write--I feel like I'm bursting with things to say. It helps me feel connected to home while having a place to analyze and record my very fluid life. I miss you, I miss Berkeley, I miss some of the conveniences of home (mail that works, hot showers, being able to walk alone at night) but I am in no hurry. I could get used to this.


Lisa Your Love said...

For once I'm glad its not "deadly amoeba". Man you're gonna have so many stories. It sounds like you're having an awesome time. I miss you :(. Good luck with the next leg of the trip and keep me updated...

Anonymous said...

thinking of you hayley! paz y amor, sara rose

Orly said...

wait... how does a key BREAK in a door? dios mio!

ps if you hang out with the danish handball star enough, maybe you'll be in the tabloids, and when i'm in europe i can read all about you! now wouldn't that be something to add to your list of adventures ;)