A Travellerspoint blog

A Quick Look Back

Some final thoughts

Well, I have been back three weeks now. Feeling fine, lots to do at work. Foster dogs back in the house, and Miguelita scheduled to arrive the weekend of May 2. One very interesting development is that the local public health office contacted me to ask lots of questions before reporting my campylobacter to the CDC. I was very impressed with their speed in reaching me (notified by the lab that did the identification). C is a reportable infection, so now I and my trip are "on the record" forever I guess.

I have posted some of my photos. Unfortunately, my little disposable camera was just not able to handle the strong light very well, so many of the photos taken in the sun are a bit too bright, but there are also many nice shots in the group.

In thinking back about the trip, I am very happy I planned it as I did. Traveling alone, I was able to make instant contact with very nice people and find a home where I could settle in for a while and get a good sense of how the local people live. Of course it would have been wonderful to have been able to conclude my trip with a leisurely visit to some of the other towns and the Maya ruins. But the last thing I wanted was a "It's Monday, it must be Rome" kind of experience. I will save the touring for my next trip when I have the contacts AND the time to wander.

My Spanish has improved remarkably. I am able to converse much more, especially on specific topics. My real progress is in being able to comprehend more. I can now watch the Spanish channel on TV and understand a lot. Victoria was the perfect teacher for me. :)

Pueblo a Pueblo is a wonderful organization. The group is doing fantastic work supporting the hospitalito and the families that have suffered since the mudslide in 2005. They are always looking for volunteers, as is the hospitalito. So if you think you might be interested, go to the Pueblo a Pueblo Web site and contact the volunteer coordinator. Through my experience with Meguilita, I had the opportunity to discover Mayan Families/Healthy Pets, another wonderful nonprofit, but located on in Panajachel, on the northern side of the lake. They can probably also use the help. You can find them on the Internet as well; just google "Mayan Families" on Lake Atitlan.

Many of the gringos (outsiders) have come to this area and have jumped right in to develop programs to help the people. These gringos love living here and also want to give something back. We met a number of folks from all over the world (Great Britain, New Zealand, the States) who have initiated very interesting projects to help the people live better, healthier lives. For example, in one very poor town on the lake, all of the residents have received modern stoves for baking their tortillas. These stoves use much less firewood and produce much less smoke, which means improved health for all, especially the children. Many of these projects also involve or employ local people, so the Maya are helping themselves and the economies are growing. Many of these efforts will bear fruit long term. Of course, you can still find the typical pot head gringos, many of whom came here back in the 1960s and 1970s and never left. Certain towns on the lake are actually known for their ability to attract these types of folks.

One last thought on this unbelievably beautiful lake (look at the pictures I posted if you don't believe me). During my entire time there, I saw only one large sailboat, no waterskiing, no sport motor boats, no jet skis. I just wonder how long it will take before the monied tourists discover this amazing spot and spoil the lake with their modern entertainment. I hope that doesn't happen, but I also can't believe it hasn't happened already.

Would I do this again, everyone asks me. Absolutely! In fact, I am already beginning to think about my next adventure. I'll keep you posted :)

Posted by Derrne 04:24 Comments (0)

Finally Home

And recovering!

April 2008

Well, I am home a week now. Spent a bit of time at the doctor's before they could diagnose campylobacter—finally on the right antibiotic! It has been quite a couple of weeks, weak, dehydrated, but now I am feeling much better, and beginning to settle in.

I plan to post some of my photos once I have them ready, and will post some last thoughts on this amazing trip after I have had a bit of time to think back on it. I can certainly say it has been amazing, exciting, challenging at times, but, mostly, unbelievably interesting.

Posted by Derrne 11:56 Comments (0)

Almost Home

March 29, 2008

Heading home today, got bumped to first class all the way!! Wow what a welcome break, as I am not feeling very well. Still suffering from nausea and digestive problems. Am looking forward to getting home.

Expect to arrive in Baltimore about midnight. Will go through customs in Atlanta.

Posted by Derrne 11:54 Comments (0)

Antigua, Quite Beautiful

My last day

March 28, 2008

It is Friday evening. I spent yesterday wandering, and today, I got up and took the tour, given by Elizabeth Bell, who came here in 1969 with her father when she was 14 years old. The father fell in love with Antigua and never left. The tour was very interesting and very well done, and I do recommend it should you get to Antigua. The tour takes you behind the gates of some very interesting locations, the most fascinating of which was Casa Santa Domingo, an old Dominican monastery that was purchased in the 1970s and ultimately turned into a hotel/conference center/church. But this is not like any hotel/conference center you will likely find. In addition, the hotel owners continued to acquire adjoining land, by purchasing it from squatters. They have supported the archaeological exploration and digs at the site, in some cases down 12 or more feet to discover precolumbia remains (e.g., some relics that go back to 3000 BC) and a number of Dominican crypts. All of this is being preserved. The ancient walls and arches have been incorporated into the church, the (outdoor) conference center, and several new museums built to hold these and related finds. Discovery is ongoing. The site is just magnificent and the cost to stay here is only $119 per nite, not all that much when you consider what is going on here. In the evening one dines by candle light. Although, as I passed the restaurant (thinking I might eat there), I heard an American complaining to the Matre De that his party had already waited one hour and had not yet been served. Oh well, I ate somewhere else. :)

Still not feeling completely well. I have definitely been weakened by my bout at the beginning of the week and feel faint, cannot handle the sun, and have little appetite, which causes other problems. My intestines continue to churn, and I will be glad to get on the plane tomorrow and get home.

Posted by Derrne 11:53 Comments (0)


First impressions

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Monday and Tuesday simply disappeared. Sunday about noon, I began to feel absolutely awful. Yes, the runs, but what was worse, I felt so nauseas, that any smell at all was almost disabling. The short of it, you don't want to know the details, is that Monday and most of Tuesday were lost days. Tuesday, I did stagger into the office to finish up a couple of things, and I also managed, lord knows how, to make posters for the spay and neuter clinical (coming up this Friday) and hand them out/post them around the town square. Soooo, today is Wednesday.

Aklash (this is only a phonetic spelling), the Pueblo a Pueblo Number One (van) Man picked me up at 8 o'clock this morning, then we headed to the Hospitalito where we picked up Dr. Jerry's family's luggage. He has been the supervising doc at the Hospitalito for the last six months. He is here with his family (two boys), and we were to take his luggage to Antigua and drop it off at his hotel (he will be following us to Antigua after a couple of days at the beach, then returning home to California to start up a family practice). After loading his luggage, probably 10 pieces (!), we picked up Ken, Exec Director of Pueblo a Pueblo, who was heading into Guatemala City to get an early flight out tomorrow to Washington. Anyway, they dumped me and all of Dr. Jerry's luggage in Antigua (but at different hotels). So now I am here til Saturday morning, when Aklash will pick me up here again, between 9 and 9:30 to take me to the airport in Guatemala City. He will be coming back into town Saturday to get some more Hospitalito volunteers, so he volunteered to pick me up too—very, very nice of him (he will have to leave by 6
to get here by 9, cause it is a 3 to 3.5 hour drive here from Santiago Atitlan).

How am I feeling about Antigua? Well first of all, it is very different from Santiago Atitlan. The city was founded in the mid--1500s and destroyed by earthquakes/volcanoes several times over the next two centuries, so it is very historical with lots of old churches and monasteries, many in some state of collapse after not having been maintained at all in the last 200 years. It is completely cobblestone, surrounded by three volcanoes and mountains, and very touristy. I managed to find a very nice, very quiet (yikes no tuk tuks honking, not turkeys or roosters, don't seem to be too many kids around, can it be that I will have a genuine, quiet nite here?) little hotel for $22 per nite, just imagine, and I think I might be the only guest. They have a lovely roof top patio, as well as a main floor patio, where I ate my dinner and watched the sun go down. I spent most of the afternoon wandering around looking. There are some lovely museums, libraries, and art galleries, every one focused around an interior plaza—very much in the Spanish Colonial Style. Just beautiful. And what you see, is not what you get here. What I mean by that is as you walk along the streets you see closed gated doors, some beautiful, some less lovely, but when one is open now and then and you glance in, you see a lovely home surrounding such an interior plaza.

The streets are narrow, the houses low, usually one story, but a peek inside these gates reveals wonderful gardens and fountains, with rooms off the patio and chairs and tables set out, and you can see that here is where a family lives. Or, there may be a little café or restaurant dispersed around the interior plaza. Not too shabby. This is lovely living. Again, the beautiful warm sun all day, but as soon as the sun drops behind the volcano, it cools off, and often a breeze picks up and the clouds roll in.

Tomorrow, I want to sign up for a formal tour of the town. There is just too much to see, and a particular tour comes highly recommended.

Not to get completely ahead of myself, I must admit that the first thing I did after Aklash and Ken left me was buy some razor blades and body lotion and jump in the hot shower to shave those legs. Wow, six weeks was just too much of that look!!!

Posted by Derrne 11:52 Comments (0)

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