My journal entries are all finished, but I thought I would do one last post on Guatemala to share a few more of my pictures from the trip. I will probably go back through all of my pictures (here and in my other posts) and do some editing, but for now I am just sharing them as they were taken. Enjoy!
On Wednesday, the conference only went until noon and then we had the rest of the day to be tourists. I had planned on going zip lining with a group, but at the last minute opted out because this was going to be my only chance to walk around Antigua and through the markets. I had really been looking forward to zip lining and the videos my co-workers have from it were AMAZING, but I am glad I chose otherwise.
Antigua has a very simple, colonial feel, with lots of colors and textures. My co-workers gave me a hard time because I wanted to take pictures of everything – walls, floors, doors, windows – it was all so beautiful. I included a few of those pictures today, but the rest I will share tomorrow in my picture blog post wrap up. I’ll also mention now that it rained off and on all afternoon. I was the only in my group who didn’t have a good rain jacket. I own a few of those waterproof shell jackets that are popular in college but I figured that would be too heavy for the weather, so I didn’t bring one. Normally I wouldn’t have minded the rain, but I had my camera with me, so out came the poncho. There is a picture, but its on someone else’s phone.
We started out by getting some street food for a late lunch. I know that sounds a bit sketchy, but one of my co-workers, who is also fluent in Spanish, has spent enough time traveling specifically in Central and South America that we trusted her judgment. I can’t quite describe what it all was, with the exception of the papusas that we recognized from the hotel, but it was all so cute. Our dessert from another stop was mango slices that were covered in sugars and spices. It was a different taste, reminding me of some of the Mexican candy that I grew up around in Eastern Oregon. We also stop in a bakery (which are everywhere) to buy some wafer like cookies to share, as well as some tortillas to take home.
We spent the rest of the afternoon walking around two different markets. The first was less touristy, with lots of household and general items mixed in. The one thing I noticed all over Antigua that that there were a lot of shoe stores, pharmacies and bakeries. The second market had more of the type of items that we were interested in buying and was settled around the city’s main square. It was so overwhelming, my pictures do not do it justice. I had decided before my trip that it would be hard to do too many gifts for people because I would have to mail them once I was home, so I (selfishly) just focused on a few things I wanted. My main priority was some sort of artwork for my office. Everyone in my office has decorations from all of their international travel and my space kind of sticks out. Everything was so beautiful and SO COLORFUL, which was also difficult because my living room décor is somewhat southwestern with lots of oranges, reds and blues, so everywhere I looked there were things that would fit so well in it. In the end I fell in love with the paintings. Originally I wanted a much bigger and slightly different version of the painting of the women, but even with the help of my co-worker bartering skills, we couldn’t get the guy down on the price, and I settled for two equally as beautiful paintings. The bigger one, which I’ll have to have restretched, will go in my office and the smaller one will probably stay at home.
A few other highlights:
-At the market I also bought a hand-painted ceramic cross for my wall of crosses at home, a decorated small bottle and a thimble for my mom (her collection is impressive!)
-We went to a store called the “Choco Museo” and got to sample so many different coffees, teas and chocolate. Both coffee and cocoa are two of Guatemala’s top commodities and the store had a small educational room off to the side. I am visiting Kansas for a three-day weekend in October so I got a little bit of everything to share with my friends while I am there. I am so going to stash a bit of the coffee in my freezer to take home at Christmas.
-I really wanted to buy a jade necklace. I have a jade bracelet that I wear everyday that a friend brought back from China for me, but it was just a bit too expensive in Guatemala. Some of the spouses that were on the trip and got to do a lot of tours while we were at the conference were on the lookout for me, but even after taking a quick look myself, the ones that I loved were out of my price range.
-We stopped by the Casa de Ron, which sold the many different rums that Guatemala is also popular for. After someone bought a small bottle they invited us down in the “Rum Cave,” which was basically a really cool lounge down in a stone cellar. No, we didn’t get samples though…
-Except for my one bad experience, the food in Guatemala was amazing. However by the last evening I think we all were a bit ready for some basic comfort food, so one of our state commissions ordered Dominoes pizza for everyone in the hospitality suite. #ohsweetheavens #foreveracollegestudent
Day 6: September 3, 2015
This was our travel day home.
Even though my group’s flight was not until 1 pm, they wanted us to head for the airport at 9 am. In my Day 1 post I mentioned that there was a lot of political stuff going on in the country. The presidential election was coming up and at the same time there was a lot of controversy surrounding the sitting President. On night 4 or 5, the sitting President resigned because of accusations of fraud. There were fireworks that night, that sounded more like artillery, and we assumed it was because of the announcement. Anyway, they were still concerned about traffic being really bad (which it was) so we started out early. Once we made it to the airport, we had a lot of time to kill, which would have been fine by me, expect the airport had hardly any AC! I know that sounds a bit petty, but it was very uncomfortable.
Our travel back to the states went smoothly and mostly uneventful. The connection was in Atlanta, and we were supposed to land back in D.C. at 10:30 pm, but a flight delay didn’t get us home until after midnight. The only exciting thing was that apparently Kate Hudson was with us in the Delta Sky Lounge. When we were leaving a random guy started telling us that he had gotten off of the elevator with her. After he described what she had been wearing, one of my co-workers finally said, “oh yeah, I think I saw that woman…” #areyoulivingunderarock?
My heart is so full from this adventure. I may not be very well traveled yet, but I feel like I still knew how to appreciate the experience and what I have back at home. One thing is for sure, there is SO MUCH beauty in world, and I am so thankful that I got to explore a new part of it. Again, if you made this far, thanks for reading through my travel journal.
By now I’m home from Guatemala, the trip just got too busy between work and fun to get my updates up. But I’ll still be sharing, today is Day’s 3 and 4, and next week I’ll do a post for 5 and 6, as well as a recap of pictures.
Contrary to my family teasing me that I was just there to have fun, that certainly wasn’t the case. Day’s 3 and 4 were both full of meetings and presentations. It was a great experience though. With 15 offices around the world, in addition to our two U.S. offices, there are a lot of people that I talk to, email and work on projects with that I had never met in person. I now feel like these people truly are my colleagues, and it was great to get to know them. There is so much that I still need to learn at my job, and this conference gave me an increased sense of purpose and motivation.
I said this in my previous entry, but the resort was beautiful. It used to be a convent and includes 5 different museums. There were lots of statues, water features and plants everywhere. There were also lots of birds, including a few different types of parrots that sat out during the day, but I always missed them when I was out with my camera. The staff and service was also great, even though there was usually a language barrier. Between the resort and going out into Antigua for lunches and dinner, I was surprised how many words and phrases in Spanish quickly came back to me from my few years of high school Spanish. The only issue is that now that I am back in the States, I keep responding with “Gracias” and “Si,” out of habit.
We ate breakfast every morning at the hotel and the evening we had a hospitality suite, but our lunches and dinners were on our own. I usually tried to mix up who I went out to seat with and what kind of food I was trying. On Day 3, a really big group went to a restaurant right next door to the resort that looked that it would be really good. The menu was significantly harder to interpret than others had been and the staff didn’t know any English. I ended up ordering something that I thought had beef and green salsa in it, and my boss order the same with red salsa. Almost an hour later we still didn’t have our food and had noticed that other tables of our colleagues had already gotten theirs even though we had ordered first. When we finally got our food mine was in a salty green soup/sauce (not salsa) and the meat was long white strips with a few different weird textures and was very chewy. At first we thought it might be some sort of seafood, and I like to try, new and different things, but this was just too much. Others in our group got food that was meant for other tables or didn’t get anything at all. All things considered, it was the only meal that was a complete fail. Later on that evening I was chatting with one of my colleagues from Mexico City about it and we eventually figured out that my dish had been tripe – beef stomach! I’ve had things like beef tongue and pork brain that I enjoyed before, but the stomach is not one that I plan on getting on purpose ever again.
A few more highlights:
-The water pressure at the resort was ridiculous, how is it that a country like Guatemala has that more figured out than the United States? #priorities
-My legs hurt SO BAD from the hike. The part of the resort where our meetings were at was a good 5-8 minute walk from my room, including stairs. I got on the treadmill every day for a short jog to try to keep from getting too stiff, but I don’t know how much it helped.
-Our trip was during Guatemala’s wet season, so the rain came in almost every afternoon, but that also meant it was a bit cooler there, probably averaging a high of 80 degrees or so each day. Where the meeting was held was across a large courtyard from the entrance and the restrooms… so while it was raining, there was a huge umbrella that they used to get us across.
-Our rooms did not have AC only a fan and windows. It was nice to be able to leave the balcony doors and windows open, except that there were also mosquitos at night. I haven’t even tried to count how many bites I have on my legs.
-On Day 4 I figured out that you could get up on the roof in one area of the resort, which gave me a wonderful view.
-All over the resort there were basins of water with red rose petals in them. Like every other well-attended detail, each day the gardeners would scoop out any petals that looked even the slightest bit bad and replace them with new ones that they very carefully plucked.
Thanks for checking out my travel journal. Have a wonderful Labor Day Weekend! I’ll be back next week with my last two entries!
As I sit down to write this I feel overwhelmed. I wish I could just hard wire people to my brain, so you can absorb every exciting thing I am experiencing.
Let me back up a little though…
If you don’t know, I am in Antigua, Guatemala for my job. Aside from two U.S. offices we also have 15 other offices around the world. So every other year we have a World Staff Conference for most of us to meet together. We are also joined by farmers on our board of directors, a few staff members from our state commissions and a few other industry guests.
I have my nice camera with me so many of the ones in this post are either from my phone, or pulled off the camera unedited. When I get home I will do a couple of extra posts that feature the better pictures edited. But I also wanted to utilize my blog as a bit of a travel journal to better capture my experience and of course share with my friends and family. Aside from a family vacation to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, I have never traveled internationally. Not joining a summer or spring break study abroad in college is one of my few legitimate regrets. It is one of many reasons why I took this job, to have another chance to explore and experience more of what’s out there. I also want to throw a disclaimer out there, as a communicator and writer, I am WELL AWARE that there are lot of errors in the post. However, I didn’t have a lot of extra time to go through and edit, though I might later.
Day 1: August 29, 2015
The first day was mostly spent traveling. Most of us traveling from the headquarters office started out bright and early with a 7 a.m. flight. (Side note: one of our employees and his family who were joining us on the trip were involved in a accident in the taxi they were taking to the airport. Everyone will be ok, but one was hurt pretty bad, so sending some good thoughts and prayers that direction would be much appreciated.) Our connection was through Atlanta and we flew into the capital city, Guatemala City. This was also my first time flying first-class (insert 13 year old girl scream here)!! Now this isn’t something I should get used to for work, it was just a special treat because we had some points to use, but man that sure is the life.
There was some concern leading up to this trip. Guatemala can be an unsafe place at times, and is consistently toward the top of the State Departments list of dangerous places. But you know, some of our American cities can be just as unsafe too, so a bit of extra planning and a few talks about general safety (and common sense) and we were good to go.
Coming out the airport we were met by our shuttle driver. It was a little over an hour from the airport to our hotel in Antigua. The country of Guatemala is a week away from its elections, so propaganda is everywhere! Apparently they are also trying to impeach their sitting president at the same time (I’m a little confused by this so certainly don’t read this as actual news) so there are also a lot of protests going on, making it that much harder to maneuver through traffic. The drive to Antigua was a bit miserable. It’s common for me to get a little dizzy and nauseous in the car on windy roads and that combined with the down hill on straining breaks after a day of travel got to me a little. When I got to the hotel I took a short nap and felt much better.
Speaking of the hotel. Oh my goodness, it is beautiful! It is built in an old convent and everywhere you turn there are pieces of history, the entire place is considered to be 5 different museums. That first evening there was a wedding going on that passersby could view from a distance and the entire resort was covered in lit candles. So beautiful.
The evening was spent relaxing and venturing out to enjoy some dinner. One of our employees in our Mexico City office chose a place and ordered for the whole table. Mexican/Latin food is by far my favorite kind of food so I was in heaven. Unfortunately I forgot to take any pictures there besides the restaurant sign, but there was a marimba (?) band playing and you could watch the women making the tortillas. I think I ate at least 6…
Day 2: August 30, 2015
Let’s continue to talk about food…
When I vacationed in Cabo with my family a few years back I thought I had had the best meal that I would ever have at one of the Mexican buffets. But no…the buffet here was been better. Pretty sure we’re just going to stop counting how many tortillas I eat this week. And papusas! They are thicker corn patty, much like a dense pancake, that is stuff with I think sausage, chiles and other yummy goodness.
Because we have so many people coming in from around the world, those who got here on Saturday, an extra full day to enjoy. About 30 of us chose to go on a full day hike up the Volcan de Pacaya. This volcano is consistently active, but similar to the volcanos in Hawaii, so it doesn’t “explode” that often, just consistently steams and flows. It was an amazing experience. It took about an hour an a half to drive to where we started the hike. With a little ginger Dramamine, I did much better on this drive. The drive took us through a lot of Guatemala City. We’re told about 2% of the country has most of wealth so there is a lot of poverty. It definitely makes you take a step back for a moment. A couple of things I observed and information from the tour guide:
– They burn all of their trash and we saw that along the road.
– A lot of parts of the city did not have sidewalks. In a lot of places the homes and businesses are built above what I would call a ditch and so from the road there were a lot of small concrete ramps connected to the upper parts
– We continued to see lots of demonstrations, parades, etc. for the election, the tour guide said there was 12 candidates, including 2 women. This is significant because only 3 countries in Central America have had women presidents, but not Guatemala.
– There were so many little nurseries and beautiful flowers.
– There is so much color everywhere. Buildings, doors, signs and clothes, making even some of the really poverty stricken areas beautiful in their own ways.
– Corn is their main commodity and its grown in every little available patch of ground, even in the city. It was also amusing to hear our people from the PNW, who are using to farming on hilly terrain, to see grain crops grown on such steep grades, much like you would see done in vineyards.
– Other top commodities include coffee beans, bananas, beans, and many other fruits and vegetables.
– Once out of the city the drive up the mountain had insane switchbacks and curves, making mountain driving in Oregon look a bit pathetic.
Once we made it to the starting point of the hike we were swarmed by little kids selling walking sticks for a dollar. Now I am not a very coordinated person, plus I had my camera around my neck, so I really thought that a stick would just make it worse. PEOPLE, always buy the walking stick. About halfway up I took one from someone who had two, and while I could have made it without it going up, going down it was a lifesaver. The hike was REALLY hard. I’ve gotten back into running lately and was pretty optimistic, but it was really steep and pretty rough, not to mention the altitude. I took comfort in knowing that just about everyone, including those who were pretty fit, found it challenging at some point. Surprisingly I only tripped and fell once, getting a nasty bruise, because saving my camera meant breaking the fall with my leg. There was the option to ride a horse for a small fee, which I thought would be fun, but I really wanted to push myself and do it all on foot. The men with the horses followed us the entire hike and anytime you stopped or looked to be struggling they would yell “taxi?” I was a part of a group bringing up the rear, both because it was easier to go slow and steady, and I stopped a lot for pictures. It was kind of neat though because the guide that stayed with us would stop, with the help of one of our people translated, and share about some of different plants we were seeing.
The highest point that you are allowed to hike is at 75,000 ft., up to the start of what they call the lava fields. Last year in 2014, was the last time that the volcano had a really big flow/explosion (from what I understood.) The hike took us down into the fields, from where we had peaked and that by far the hardest part because the ash on the ground was very similar to sand (think running on the beach). I think I slipped and land on my behind at least three times.
Next was my favorite part… we got to roast marshmellows in a small hotspot hole that they found/dug that where you could see a bit of the lava. I know it goes without saying but it was SO HOT. In the picture, where you can see my hand holding the stick, I could only leave it there for a few moments at a time. We then stopped by the “Lava Shop” that sold jewelry and small woven bags, with much of the proceeds going back into education. I bought these three small rings made from the lava rock that came with bags for my mom, my sister and myself (Surprise Mom and Jancz!) The triangle represents the volcano, which Guatemala considers sacred in their culture. I was told that if you are feeling negative energy you wear pointing one way, and if the energy is positive, you wear it the other way. The circles represent the lake crater at the other volcano across the valley in many of my pictures. This is the “Agua” volcano, which is dormant. In 1541 (?) it rained so much that it filled one of the craters, creating a lake.
Side note: Has anyone seen the Pixar short film “Lava” that is shown at the beginning of the new “Inside Out”? Basically, its adorable. A lot of the jewelry had the phrases “I Lava U” and “I Lava It” on them, and apparently they’ve been selling those for about three years, but just this summer since the movie came out, those have become their most popular item.
I couldn’t get it to play for me so I don’t know if this is the whole video or not…
A few more highlights throughout the hike:
– The hardened molten rock, is really sharp, much like coral would be. We didn’t see any active red flows but the rock radiated heat both from the volcano and the sun.
– There were three dogs that followed us the whole hike. It is common to see dogs roaming around at various stages of health. These ones could not have been more than a year or so old, and though they were fairly clean, they were very skinny. Aside from the fact that they were begging, they were very sweet and most of us gave in at some point and shared a bit of our snacks.
– The guys at the Lava Shop told me that they had just celebrated their 1,500 hike, and that they usually opt to walk and not use the horses. One also said “it’s the best commute there, I can drink all the beer I want.” #priorities
– On the drive back to Antigua we stopped at a gas station. I was amused to see that the Coke products had Spanish names and phrases for the “Share a Coke with…” campaign.
– I put on sunscreen everywhere but my neck, and because of both my backpack and camera straps I have large, VERY red triangle covering one side of my neck.
Back in Antigua at our resort, we all rested until the evening reception. Like the wedding, our area was all candle lit. I thought it was a bit weird though that the servers were dressed as monks. Afterward, everyone broke into smaller groups for dinner. It’s interesting, because some of the restaurants have armed guards standing outside and some don’t. I shared a great filet mignon with one of my co-workers and since it was someone’s birthday, we had a round of tequila shots (so good!)
If you aren’t my family or close friends, I applaud you for making it to the end. I expect that this will be the longest entry, but we’ll see! It was a lot to write but I know I will be happy looking back later.