November 30: Tikal – day 1

At 4am I am waiting at my door for the mini bus to pick me up. It’s advised not to wait outside, no matter how desolate it is on the street.
In the car are 6 other sleepy passengers- we don’t bother knowing each other until breakfast.

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At breakfast, I learn that there is another bus with us- predominantly German girls fresh out of high school, and one American woman. The people in my bus are a bit more mixed – San Francisco, Belgium, Austria, and Spain. We make good company and the American from the other bus joins us- the German girls are a bit standoffish and cliquish… Maybe I was like that too at that age, I don’t remember.

After breakfast, we drive to a banana plantation. Its amazing how many bananas come out of one flower- about a hundred. we also catch a banana train fly by!

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After another 3-4 hours, we arrive in Rio Dolce- a small town with a bustling Main Street with lots of vendors and ppl selling things at car windows.

We arrive in a park outside te city for lunch and take a tour around an old Spanish castle that was built in the 1800s. It’s actually quite beautiful, but it was used with different purposes throughout its time, including a fort, home and prison.

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We have a filling picnic lunch of sandwiches and fresh fruit. Then we head for Flores.

It’s around 6:30 when we arrive in Flores- a quaint town with a lot of tourists. We check into our hotel- my first experience in Guatemala. The bathroom is my favorite πŸ™‚

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For dinner we head to a restaurant by the water. The weather is warmer here than in Antigua so we enjoy a patio view. It’s also happy hour. I get two Cuba libres for 18q’s. it’s enough to put me to sleep- and I did sleep very well!

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November 25: a day around Antigua

It’s Sunday – day of corporate worship. I did some research before hand and found a bilingual church called Iglesias del Camino. But before that, I look for a breakfast place and find one close to te church.

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I head to church just before 9 and get seated next to a woman who lived most her life in the US but moved down to Guatemala in the last 4 years. The service starts – we sing worship songs in both English and Spanish and I’m impressed at how smoothly they pull it off. Being in a bilingual church as well, we sometimes struggle with the gap in languages i think. The message was over Matthew 7:7-8. I was reminded to continually ask, seek, and knock at all times. It’s easy to forget when things are going your way… But God is good and he shakes things up to remind us to rely on Him (look out for November 26 post ;))

After church, I stroll the city. There are lots of tourists at Central Park and live music is in the streets. I weave my way to the famous arc.

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The textile shop is also something worth checking out. They also sell/swap used books!

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It’s around 2 and i want to head to the sky cafe- a place recommended to view the sunset and volcan de agua. But I forget where it is!! And so my walk begins and I spot new things along the way…

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I finally find blue building that represents the sky cafe and make my way to the top. I buy something to drink so I have an excuse to stay there and pull out my school materials…

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At around 5:15, (not exactly sunset)- I remember the bagel barn has a movie showing. Everyday they have free movies with English subtitles in their cafe. Today it’s Y Tu mama tambien. I’m a bit shocked at the opening scene and about 60% of the movie but overall it’s pretty good. Along the way I have a conversation with a British woman in her mid 40’s maybe. She’s been traveling for exactly one year on her own. She had a corporate management job where every moment of her life was planned (one secretary scheduled her work and another scheduled everything else) It must have been quite a change- I’m amazed at her boldness to just quit but it made me reflect on myself- I don’t want to be without a plan or without a ‘base’. The people you meet in your travels can be fleeting. It’s easy to make new friends here but I find it difficult to keep them once we go our separate ways. Still, it’s worth it still if we can retain a close friend in the long run!

November 22: Spanish 101

I woke up with a chill in the morning. At 6:30 I’m up and at 7am, my host mama Thelma has an amazing breakfast for us students: fresh papaya, pineapple and banana, yogurt, granola, chocolate chip pancakes and tea.

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At 7:45, I head out with te other two students to class, it’s about ten minutes away.

I’m greeted by the manager, and introduced to Kathy- my teacher. Over the next four hours, I learn the basics. By the end, my head feels filled to the brim but I feel much better knowing more than I did coming in. We cover simple conversations like yo me llamo Myra… Yo soy de Canada (I’m from Canada), me gusta mucho (I like very much)… Yo tengo un hermano y una hermanas (I have a brother and a sister). It’s helpful stuff πŸ™‚

Class ends at 12, and I use my limited Spanish to buy some mosquito itch balm from the pharmacy. I was so happy the person understood my broken Spanish!

Lunch is back at the house and its delicious again (I was half expecting rice and beans everyday).

At 2pm, my ‘sister’ and I meet her friend to visit the mercado (market) and there we spend a couple hours digging through second hand clothes (that’s where all our clothes get donated to…)
I see fun things like snow pants and Halloween costumes.

We head back at 5 and study more Spanish until our heads hurt again, then 7pm hits and its feeding time. Another delicious meal!

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At night, my sister and I head out once more to get a drink with her friend again. We stumble upon a very rustic and European-like wine bar and share a bottle of red wine for 70 quetzals. That’s about $3 per person.

Unfortunately I wasn’t sure what the surroundings were like so I didn’t bring a camera… Maybe next time!

November 21: transition to Guatemala

At 9am, my mom dad and I left placencia via maya air to Belize city where we would fly out in all separate directions. My dad to Ohio, my mom to Toronto, and myself to Guatemala.

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I arrived in Guatemala at 3:30 and was greeted by Julio- from Tecun Uman Spanish school. We set off for Antigua -about an hours drive from Guate. I was glad to get out of Guate though, the roads smell strongly of fumes and it reminds me of the things I don’t miss about big cities. One big difference is seeing men carrying machine guns outside banks and also kids hanging from the back of trucks on the highway.

At last we arrived in Antigua – it’s on the other side of the mountain and surrounded by 3 volcanoes. Quite a beautiful sight!

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Now I am staying just a short walk away from my school at a host family’s place. Three generations live in this building along with 2 other students. One from Netherlands, and Taiwan.

I feel a bit lost without knowing the language- but it makes me really excited to learn Spanish so I can start speaking to my family here! :p

A new adventure begins…

This is day three of my leave of absence…and I’m loving it!

July 6th, 2012 marked the last day (for a year) of work at IBM. It’s such a blessing to take this time off and I’m so thankful to my coworkers and boss who’ve made this possible.

Tomorrow I’m embarking on a new adventure – I will be on a short term mission with 25 others from my churchΒ to Phoenix, Arizona. I’m so EXCITED and NERVOUS but I look forward to God’s leading and working in my team, and of course the Navajo people. Check out more about the missions here.

After Arizona, I’m headed to San Francisco and Vancouver to visit friends. Also a good excuse to eat GOOD FOOD!

Keep posted =)