Once again the wonderful and lovely Jessica, aka Little Edie, came down here to visit me and once again she took more and better pictures than I did and once again she is much more likely to put them online than I am and once again I will link it here when that is done. Last time she came she carried with her a duffel bag full of books and to continue with the trend, once again she brought me a boat load of goods. First, she brought the computer that I am writing on right now that I bought and had sent to my parents’ house. Cross that one off my list of excuses for not blogging. However, this computer has a game on it called Plants VS. Zombies that is about as addictive and mindless as heroin. Naturally, I love it. Unfortunately, Jessica had the crazy idea in her head that she did not spend hundreds of dollars and travel thousands of miles to watch me sit around fending off virtual zombies with virtual peashooters, so I will have to do my Plants VS. Zombies playing here in Xebe. What I’m trying to say is, add Plants VS. Zombies to the list of excuses for not blogging.
Other than the computer there were some things I asked for from my parents such as reinforcements on the essentials of coffee and Sriacha Sauce, super glue, and my favorite Pendleton Wool shirt. (Aside from these items that I specifically asked for, my mother decided that out of the goodness of her heart she would send me a metal kazoo and an “OOEY GOOEY Squish ‘Em Squeeze ‘Em Frog!” for my birthday. Prominently written on both labels: “Ages 3+”).
However, this isn’t even the half of it. Instead of a duffel of books, this time it was a duffel of candy and food. I’m attaching a picture so you can grasp the magnitude of how much delicious goodness I now have in my possession. Just to list a few, there are Snickers, Almond Joys, Baby Ruths, Reece’s Pieces, sunflower seeds, homemade(!) beef jerky, an assortment of teas, cookies, PowerBars, trail mix, Sour Patch Kids, a bottle of melatonin sleep aid (which will be essential since I plan on gorging myself with candy every night before I go to bed for the next month)… and that is probably only about half. Needless to say, life here in Xebe just improved exponentially.
As for the actual trip, it was the longest I’ve been away from Xebe since I got here and it was nice to have some time to travel and see another side of Guatemala that I did not know. After finding delicious sushi in Antigua on my birthday, we headed up to a place called Lanquin where went on a tour of a cave that we had to swim into and carry candles above our heads for light. Our guide said that a couple years ago some Americans came down to see how far the cave goes and after three days and 11 kilometers they had to turn around, leaving the actual distance still unknown. There was another option for spelunking in the Lanquin area in a place simply referred to by English speakers and the Lanquin Bat Caves. Even though she made it through the first cave just fine, Little Edie doesn’t exactly like small spaces and seeing as I hate bats more than Kobe Bryant’s fist pump, we decided one cave was enough.
After that our tour van/truck took us to the main attraction in the Lanquin area: a freak natural phenomenon called Semuc Champey. It is pretty hard to describe without pictures or having been there but it is basically a place along a river where the river passes underground for about 300 meters and above it is a limestone bridge that has fresh, beautifully blue spring water cascading down it. (Since this is very difficult to describe, here and here are some pictures to give you a better idea of what I’m talking about.) I have no idea how this happened but it is a really great place and because of the difficulty it takes to get there, not overrun by tourists. Because of some tropical storms that caused landslides across the country, Peace Corps told me that I wasn’t allowed to travel for a few days which actually turned out to be good because we were able to go back to Semuc Champey two days later not with a tour and have the whole place to ourselves until the afternoon crowd got there.
Once we got the go-ahead from Peace Corps, we headed north towns the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. Even though it was about 90 degrees at 9AM, we lazily walked around the park and saw all of pyramids and monuments and even had enough time for lunch and some quality (and much needed) bench resting time. From there we went to a place on a lake next to the Caribbean called Rio Dulce. Aside from a minor bus incident where we missed our stop that luckily wasn’t a major bus incident, we made it there and went to another freak natural phenomenon called El Paraiso. Here there is a river that has a hot springs waterfall flowing into it. (Once again, hard to explain so here are some pictures). You can stand underneath the waterfall in river temperature water while getting shower-hot water pouring down on you. Since one of my favorite things to do is jump off of high things into bodies of water, I loved it. There was even a little part underneath the waterfall that you had to swim under a rock to get to that was sort of like a natural sauna. Other than a place called the Taco Mansion, this is probably my favorite place in Guatemala so far.
The next stop was a Caribbean beach-town only reachable by an hour and a half boat ride from Rio Dulce called Livingston. It’s a very strange place and is nothing like the Guatemala I live in. I was told ahead of time by a number of people that the beaches are dirty and littered, but I had no idea. Even though the “beach” is only a couple feet before it reaches a jungle tree line, it is so “littered” that you actually have to walk on top of garbage the almost whole time. The Oregonian in me was crying.
From there it was back to Antigua for the Guatemalan Independence Day. As I explained last year at this time, I’m not exactly a fan of the parade but the street food was good so I put up with it. Then, the next day the wonderful and lovely Jessica boarded her plane and left. I went with my backpack and duffel of goodies back to Santa Maria Chiquimula and here I am, writing on my new computer, drinking a new flavor of tea, and excited to finish this up and kick some zombie ass.