As I stepped onto the bus at 6:30am with my sock covered feet shoved into my tight chacos I plopped my bags next to me and took a breath. I watched the frozen air leave my lungs and cloud up the window. I was going on my Christmas vacation adventure to the beach with my volunteer friends. I had gotten a call from Chavela at 6am, to make sure I was awake, and I was meeting Ashley in the Xela terminal at 7am and then we were off with our snacks of junior mints and PB & J’s to Antigua.
People were getting on and off the bus and the sun was just rising and my little town tucked away in the mountains of Quetzaltenango looked so inviting, normal and cozy. I was going on vacation. I was alone. I was in Guatemala. I was living the life that I wanted. I thought back to the U.S. and how so many people always say “Oh I would love to do this….or I would love to do that…” and then it’s always followed by “but…” I am so glad I never let a “but” hold me down. I realized that these are the days of my life. I think I can say that I am successfully integrating when I get a wake up call at 6am from a Guatemalan friend. I am completely free and independent and I was going on a vacation to the beach in Guatemala! Its easy to get wrapped up in time and schedules and forget that life is absolutely amazing.
After a sleepless night in our Q15 hotel with visible ticks on the bed we boarded a microbus and were off to Montericco! I slept the whole way until we realized we were utterly lost and we pulled out the map the land lord had given us and realized the house was not on the map. But thankfully we were in Guatemala and everyone knows everyone. We found the house and froze in excitement. This was not Guatemala anymore this house looked like a doctor’s getaway retreat on the beach or a senators summer home…needless to say it was amazing. Complete with a pool, hammocks, kitchen, showers, mosquito nets…and thatched roofs.
There were also scorpions, bats, beetles, and giant toads. I tucked my mosquito net under my mattress and used 2 for extra protection; I also probably still stink like deet. And on Christmas day I was describing the beautiful backyard to my parents and Ria and told them I had just seen 2 chicken of the trees, which are like iguanas, and then there was a bright yellow bird in the tree in front of me…and then I looked down and there was a caiman, a little crocodile, hanging out in the swamp in our neighbors yard only 2 feet away from my naked foot!
We watched as baby sea turtles scrambled to the ocean and once they reached it they would be thrown back on shore by the waves. Only 8 % survive…and they released 30, so that’s less than 3 little guys that will make it. I also was told by the man who worked at the tortuguario that if I wanted to volunteer with them we could do anything we wanted together. Mind you he was about 40 years old and had just finished telling me about the female, German, 20 year old volunteer who had just left who liked personal massages all over her body….
While we were watching the sun set and playing in the rays of pink water a sting ray would jump out and dive in, jump out and dive in. Drinking margaritas, watermelon daiquiris and treating myself to fish and chips with a wonderful view. We also made pancakes every morning and hung out in the hammocks and swimming pool until going to the beach, reading trashy magazines and sleeping under the sun.
The beach was so strong I only went to the waves once and I did three summersaults in the water before finding air again. We all got sand in awkward places and some of the girls looked liked they were hiding a little something in between their legs.
We went on a 5:30 am mangrove tour and saw a fish with 4 eyes…supposedly he uses two to see above the water and two to see below. We also saw the sun rise over the misty trees with their roots so firmly planted in the water. We had a great view of 3 volcanoes in the distance and up close there were birds sitting on floating lily pads.
Christmas morning I woke up early, wrote in my journal and opened my gifts from my family. I love them and appreciate them so much. Then I went outside and cleaned the kitchen and the outdoor sitting area, then napped in the hammock until Dan and Ashley woke up and we made pancakes and hot chocolate for the 10 of us. On Christmas night we had a great American fish out! We bought 10 local red fish, already gutted, and smeared garlic, butter and lemon inside…and grilled them over 4 bags of charcoal that we lit by a little free bottle of hair gel….well that’s what I think it was. The man in the store took a liking to Ashley and I and gave it to us for free after putting his face so close to us he could have puckered his lips and kissed us. We also had 2 pounds of shrimp that were cooked stove top with butter, garlic and lemon....Garlic mashed potatoes, steamed veggies and brown rice. We were in Guatemalan heaven. I also had my drink of red wine mixed with 7up. We have named it a wine spritzer and it’s delicious. After dinner we did a white elephant gift exchange and I got to steal a wonderful traditional apron! And we passed around a box of mixed chocolates from sees candies and candy cane Oreos from trader Joes.
This year Christmas was different. But with the humidity and friends and excitement of vacation I don’t think anyone got too home sick. I made the decision to leave my comfort zone in Arizona, to live in another country, and to aprovechar of all the opportunities there are in the world. So this Christmas was bound to be different and its one ill remember my whole life.