This past June I had the opportunity to travel to the Central American country of Guatemala. I was part of a group of twenty-eight people from my school that took a long, seemingly endless flight to Houston, and then another flight into Guatemala City, which is the capital of Guatemala. From there we took an hour-long bus ride into the small city of Antigua, where we met our travel guide and host families.
We arrived at our houses at around midnight, and had to be up for breakfast at around six-thirty. I ended up staying with two of the four other guys on the trip, both of whom are my friends.The next day was a Sunday, which meant no school. Instead we met the rest of our group at our language school just a few blocks away, and then took three vans to Lake Atitlan near the town of Panajachel.
The ride was long, but it was definitely worth the wait. The lake was one of the largest bodies of water in the country and seemed to glitter an unnatural shade of blue. We took a boat ride across the river to the small area called Panajachel.
There was a church in the town, along with plenty of shops and stores. We even got to see part of some religious parade through the city. After we toured the city a while and had some dinner, we headed back home.
I remember thinking to myself how much we had seen in just this one day, and how we still had a week and a half left. We got home around eight or nine at night and headed home to spend some time just relaxing and talking to our host family.
Over the entire time we stayed there, we learned how things usually happened around the house, where everyone liked to go, and what their days usually consisted of. The father ended up being a salesman for a mattress company, so our beds were nice and comfortable.
On Monday through Friday, we went to school from eight until noon, with a half-hour ‘siesta’, or break, at ten o’clock. After school we did various activities. On some days we would have time to walk around the city and shop if we didn’t have a group activity planned.
On Tuesday, after school we got to take salsa lessons, which were interesting. I did learn something, though. No matter how hard I tried, I could not coordinate my dancing between the foot and hand movements and the spinning.
The next day we went to a coffee plantation and learned about how coffee is grown. We also saw a museum about the Mayan culture when they inhabited the area of Tikal. I bought some coffee for my parents at the gift shop and then we headed home, with just enough time for me to call my parents on the international phone lines.
The next day our group got shuttled to the ‘Volcan Pacaya’, an active volcano. We actually got to go up by the lava, which was very exciting and very hot. It got a little difficult to breathe because the air was so thin and hot, but it really wasn’t too bad since I was so high on adrenaline.
After we trekked back down and got bussed back home, we went to a restaurant and had some fine Guatemalan food, along with a sort of lemonade that had way too much sugar in it, but tasted great.On Friday we went to a daycare and had fun playing with the kids there.
On Saturday, we traveled to Tikal to explore the Mayan ruins and learn some ancient history. During the night in the bungalows we heard the howler monkeys screaming at each other. After leaving Tikal, we went to Monterrico for the final two days to relax on the Pacific coast.
My advice to anyone taking an out of country trip is to try as many new things as possible, especially when it comes to food. The food we had on our trip was beyond delicious. Also, be open to everything around you. Everything has something to offer, no matter how boring it looks.
I learned so many interesting things at the ruins, like how the Mayan rulers would build temples to their wives and fathers, some higher than 200 feet, using nothing more than manpower. I really think that any trip that exposes you to a new way of life is worth taking.
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