December 2: Livingston

Livingston reminds me of Belize- the palm trees, tropical water, colorful houses… We wake up at 6am for a hike to some natural pools. The walk along the beach for about 20 minutes and pass a family transporting a family of cows on our way.

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The walk is long but we eventual find a small group of garifuna people running the entrance to the pools. For about 15 quetzals- we enter begin (slippery) walk deeper into the forest.

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At last, we find ourselves at a large rock at the end of the pool. our guide climbs up, and jumps off the slippery rock into the cool water. It’s an open invitation. I decide I just wade around the pool- it feels so fresh after a sweaty slippery walk. However, I catch sight of my coordinator- at 40 something man jump off the rock, and I gather some courage to follow. It was worth it 🙂

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Once we return to the hotel, we have a couple hours to enjoy the sun before our trip back to Antigua. I decide to look for some coconut leaves to make another hat.

At 10:30, we head out towards Livingston town. There are more garifunas here. They are the black culture. A garifuna man grabs our attention and gives us a tour around town, but not to the tourist side but the garifuna slums. Half the time, I think we are going to be robbed, the other half is curious. We learn that there is some tension between the garifuna and guatelmatecans – the man also voiced some complaints of Americans buying property on the Main Street for their house but it is only occupied a couple weeks a year and is then a waste of space for the rest. We also learned how to say hello in their language: “ahyo!” People respond to our ahyo with an ahyo back.

At the end of our tour, he tells us he is raising money for a save the starving children organization. He leads us to a restaurant and then waits for us to tip him. It’s a very awkward moment. We tip him but we would never know if the organization was real. But we can only hope I guess.

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We leave Livingston and boat for another 30 min or so at a restaurant off te shore, we are just there for a quick break. Dring that time, a cat plops on my friends lap and enjoys all the attention 🙂

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After that, we drive another 6.5 hours towards Antigua!

December 1: Tikal day 2

At 5:30, we wake to take an early bus to Tikal. It’s about an hour drive and we arrive in time for the park gates to open. It reminds me of Jurassic park.

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Coming to the park early is good because more of the wildlife is out and about – like these cute little guys (from the raccoon family- and not shy at all)

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Our tour guide speaks very clearly in English and talks a lot about the history of Tikal. But before all that- we do some exercise before breakfast!

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Breakfast wakes us up a bit- so our tour guide takes us on a unpaved jungle hike to temple 2.

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We get a lot of exercise climbing up and down. Feels pretty nice after sitting around all week studying!

We make our way to the main plaza- many tourists are here and a few Mayans are performing a ritual. I believe they are also catholic – they thank God for the blessings in their life. It’s interesting seeing what was once a pagan religion changed to a God-fearing one with some of its cultural rituals intact. I’m thankful for this because after doing a missions at a native reserve, some natives voiced their fears that by becoming Christian, they are giving up their culture. In a sense- we all are giving up our paradigms to have Jesus’ but I don’t think it means not acknowledging where you came from either. I still follow some Chinese traditions but I am first a follower of Christ. Anyway- that’s what I came to from seeing this ritual.

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After Tikal, we have lunch outside the the park while others do Ziplinig for 30$. It was a good experience seeing these ruins. It is said that only 20% of tr ruins have been discovered and most of it lie under natural growth that look like large mounds or tiny mountains. Every time I see a large mound in Peten, it makes me wonder…

We now head to Livingston – it’s about 4-5 hours from Tikal and another hour by boat. It takes us 2-2.5 hours though because it gets dark and our boat is overloaded. What an experience tho! A bunch of non citizens traveling a boat silently through the night…

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We finally arrive at Livingston at 8pm. Its a tropical looking place with coconut trees, beaches, and thatched roofs. Our living quarters are a fun bungalows- but less fun with the damp sheets and giant bugs crawling, flying everywhere. Still an interesting experience i wouldn’t trade!

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A full but amazing day!