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Favorite Vacation Spot
Every body has their favorite vacation spot, and my mother’s would just happen to be Antigua, Guatemala. Not England, not Paris, Antigua, Guatemala. It is in Central America, in case you didn’t know. I have already been there once. That time it was just for tourism, as my mother claims. So, as soon as my cousins Robbie and George suggest going to Guatemala, my mother jumps upon the opportunity (while canceling our trip to Hawaii in the process). This time it wasn’t just for “tourism”, it was for the learning experience and the necessity of learning Spanish. On April 29th George left to Antigua. He left on the Continental and received expensive boarding in a Hispanic family’s home which was right next to the Spanish school he was attending. It was arranged that Robbie would live with him and my mother and I would stay with another family free of charge; it was my mother’s friend’s parents.
July was soon approaching, and I was hesitant to go. A third world country verse Hawaii … Well, I was still very angry about that. I was then given the option of going to Antigua or staying with grandma. I went with the first one. The three of us were to leave on July 27th and return on the evening of August 12th. Staying for around two weeks left me with freight and anger; I would be missing Cold Play’s concert on the 9th of August. Robbie and his father came over our house, spent the night, and drove with us to the airport. Uncle Ed, Robbie’s uncle, soon departed leaving us with at least 100-lbs. of luggage. We found the correct gate with ease; many people seemed to be going on the same route as us. The airplane came, waited for us to board, and took us to Dallas, Texas. The airplane was completely full, high school – college students were the majority population. I assume they were going for volunteer purposes. The distressful part about the airplane was its lack of television. No movie played upon the screens. No music could be found in the armrests. All I had to entertain me was a Jurassic Park novel and the fact that Robbie found me extremely annoying.
The Bush airport came into sight, welcoming us with its enormous span of land. We had to wait two – three hours in that place, which was over populated with men wearing cowboy hats. The airplane that would take us to Guatemala soon arrived, and we set board on that. Lucky for Robbie, it had a movie playing. The two-hour span which it took to reach the country quickly passed; we had arrived. A mountainous terrain was portrayed once we looked out of our windows. The landscape was definitely awe – inspiring. The airplane descended into Guatemala City. Out of all the things I disliked about Guatemala, that was the worst. The thick odor of gasoline tainted the air, smog seemed to be constantly overhead. The buzz of traffic and people alike made it impossible to have a single thought.
The airport was compact. I believe a mere hundred people in there would’ve been considered over populated. We claimed our luggage and exited it to be greeted by a large, screaming crowd of people who held signs with people’s names written upon them. George, who was supposed to pick up Robbie, was no where to be seen. Neither was our host family. Thirty minutes passed, our host family had arrived but George was no where to be seen. So, my mother decided to wait another thirty – minutes for George. Then he arrived clad in a safari hat and baggy khaki pants, sun screen was visible upon his face. I will never understand how he decided that was the best way to “fit in” with the Guatemalan crowds. He left with Robbie, taking him to the boarding home. My mother and I left to go to the family’s home (the family we stayed with will continue to be called ‘family’ because I have forgotten their names). The drive was only a few minutes over an hour, which was very amazing considering the traffic. Once we left Guatemala City, though, the traffic had decreased immensely. It was torture the first thirty minutes in that car for he had no air conditioning so we had to roll down the windows. As I have mentioned, the air was thick with gasoline.
Now we come to Antigua. A beautiful city, with almost Rome – like qualities. It is densely populated, only the main road filled with people. It is a center of tourism in Guatemala. The house I lived on was on top of a hill, I think the street was called Street 7. Each street is given a number, for example: Street 6. Or the “street” part could be “avenue”. I do not recall any of the roads being paved; they were all cobblestone. Our house was small with a simple gate and a few flowers decorating the outer interior. Two doors, heavily locked by American standards, made entrance into a living room. It contained a bench, bench – like sofa, and a rocking chair. A 20” television set was in the right hand corner of the room. I remember this because I spent many hours lurking in that room, watching subtitled episodes of CSI and Without a Trace. Two intersecting hallways came from it; one lead to a small bathroom (the only one in fact. The toilet had gotten clogged numerous times during our stay and the shower only gave cold water. Neither my mom nor I knew how to work it. ), and three bed rooms ( one was the grandmother’s room, the one next to it which had two beds was my mothers and mine, and the last one was extra ), the other lead to a kitchen. The kitchen lead to an out side porch – type thing. Thick walls that were about 12’ tall surrounded the porch. The family was usually not there, because the grandmother had some form of cancer. The only thing that remained with us constantly was the family dog. The poor creature was blind and had a horrid case of fleas.
The day after our arrival was our first day in Spanish school. An event that I never want to go through again. The day started with breakfast, as all do, at a neighboring house. The couple who lived there let a few students board there and my mother and I eat there, for a small price of course. The place was beautiful though. A small estate it seemed; a variety of flowers covered the ground and small apartments were neighboring the large house in which the couple stayed. A huge wall surrounded the area that kept trespassers out. If only I could give such compliments for the cooking. The food was foreign, and I am a picky eater with all but Mexican food. I was not ready for the constant rice that always came with a meal, or the lack of any drink but tea and coffee. Also, I believe it was her cooking that gave me “Montezuma’s Revenge” for a day.
After breakfast my mother attempted to pull over a tuk – tuk to drive us to the school. A tuk – tuk is a taxi – like vehicle. It is also small, windowless, door-less, and has a golf cart appearance. The tuk – tuk can drive very quickly, considering the rocky roads. Not a very good way of transportation for easily upset stomachs. Later in the week, my mother would sign up service with a tuk – tuk driver so that he would always pick us up and drop us off for a price. He then would later cancel upon that order due to our frequent being – late status.
The Spanish school was in a house, which consisted of an upstairs for bedrooms for the family, and three business rooms. I do not know where all the other rooms were. Houses and businesses alike were different from what we would think; the Guatemalans seemed to like to add nature in their houses. When you first went into the house you were met with a small, business room where money exchanges were made. After leaving that, a cement-floored room with no ceiling would greet you. Stone staircases led to the upstairs. Vine and plants decorated that area.
My mother, who was more advanced than Robbie and I, was taught by the headman himself. Robbie, who would like to believe he succeeded me in the arts of Spanish, was taught by a lady. A lady also taught me. I do not recall her name. She was okay, I guess, but the very fact that I was in school during a break time made me have bad feelings towards her. She pressed hard, pushing me to my very limits. No exceptions. I put up with her for two weeks, letting her tutor me as I wrote down notes.
Days passed that were just like that, breakfast, lessons, lunch, home, CSI, homework, and bed. A few interrupting events came, for example: The earlier mentioned tuk – tuk driver was also blamed by my mother for my mother’s missing money due to some of her memories of him helping her to get in the tuk – tuk (it was later discovered that she just misplaced them in her bag), a few restaurants were visited, and occasionally my mother and I got lost. My mother and Robbie’s stay was more eventful. The participated in a small array of helping – people organizations. I was asked to help Robbie and my mother work in a nursing home but I refused. Again, I was not prepared for sicknesses and diseases that engulfed the elderly. Due to lack of money, the nursing home was not but a shelter to help the aging sick. I once went with my mother and Robbie to tour the place and see what was needed for help. Many patients trailed us, rambling things that not even my mother could decipher. To be honest, I was scared. I feel bad that I didn’t want to help, but I was sickened and frightened. Makes honorable people like Mother Theresa seem increasingly divine. So, I lingered at home, watching the CSI retakes and the countless music videos of My Chemical Romance. A rock band that the Spanish seemed to favor. Robbie participated in a house – building project for the homeless, which I couldn’t help at all. Too young and too weak. He may have also volunteered in an orphanage, or child – related project. I do not remember. My mother begged me to go and traverse the many areas of tourism in the city but I declined them all. I didn’t feel safe (the area that I stayed in was perfectly safe, the whole place was. Sure, tales of countless thieves were said but that was only in the countryside. I had no reason to be afraid). Basically, I was just a person getting in the way of fun. I do not know exactly what my reason was, maybe the book I was reading interested me more or the Spanish lessons were tiring. I do not know. I do feel sorry for answering no to all the invitations. Slowly the days passed, each one drawing the anticipation for my leave to Cincinnati.
Finally, an event that I could not decline to was aroused. My mother and cousins called for a tourism guide to take us to the Mayan ruins. A drive that would take us ten hours to do, five hours to it and five hours back. As usual, I was right in the end. It was a disastrous event.
A man named Juan, who was a college student studying the field of Mayan law, also came with us. He is the brother of a priest my mother knows. We all awaited the arrival of the guide and his bus. He was late, hours late. That, at the very most, gave us time to buy a few items of food for the trip. These items included Nutella, bread, soft drinks, and chips. The man finally came and took us to Guatemala City, where our bus got stuck in a mud ditch. The only reason that happened was because we were trying to avoid the traffic by escaping into an ally. An ally, which by the looks of it, was the home to many vandalizers and robbers. We were able to return to traffic, and slowly make our way up the hills of Guatemala. Nighttime quickly approached and being upon steep mountains at night was pretty scary. After leaving the hills of Guatemala, we entered and passed a few cities, and in the process we got lost. So an extended period of two hours was added. During that time I had the pleasures of listening to George complain about how the guide was “incapable” and “insufficient” and how we shouldn’t pay him. We finally got to the borderline of Guatemala and Honduras and checked in with the border patrol. The most exciting part was receiving a Honduran stamp on my passport. I believe that was the only reason George wanted to go. The last problem of the night was the finding of a hotel.
Each nice hotel was taken, leaving us with the remaining option. The place was ant – infested, at least my bed was. The man who ran it was pot – bellied and not very trustworthy looking. Spiders crept from the walls of our rooms and the blinds refused to work, not allowing our privacy. Luckily, we only had to stay a night there. The next morning we left in a rush, not even trusting to receive breakfast from them. The guide took us to the Mayan ruins, which I believe are entirely over estimated. We paid our fares and entered the otherworldly view. Stones of statues were separated, while tomb – like structures filled the in betweens. It would have been nicer if the sun hadn’t insisted upon a scorching level of heat. The heat mixed with my incredible non-interest in the place left me wanting to leave far sooner than I expected. The only area that excited me was the Mayan ball field; it was large and very unique. We left after an hour to return to Antigua. A less excruciating five hours that was. The guide took us back with speed that he wasn’t able to muster the night before.
The trip to Guatemala soon came to an end, and we left the house to return to the airport. I think it was an invaluable experience, to be intertwined with another culture and learn of all the people who need help in the world. I think it was my own twelve-year-old selfishness and ignorance that made the adventure so horrible. Even now, after looking back, I still believe I would have enjoyed the trip to Hawaii more. But now I am, at the very most, aware of the constant need of others. In my later years, when I am less ignorant, I think I will return to the area of land called Guatemala. With bug spray, of course.