Saturday, March 21 - Guatemala City, Guatemala
And so it begins, a week of travel. I am so excited. Today was such a great start. My Tican mom called a taxi for Eric and I to take us to the airport. We hung around the airport and took the short 1 1/2 hour flight to Guatemala City. My mom reserved a night for us at the Crowne Plaza which offered a free shuttle service to the airport. After unloading our backpacks in the room and withdrawing the proper currency we headed out to town. We got in a taxi and just asked to go to a place to walk around and shop. The driver ended up being able to speak English. He had lived in Chicago for a few years, but just lost his immigration case and had to come back to Guatemala. He showed us around the touristy part of the city. We walked around, grabbed lunch, and then took another taxi to Central Market. One thing about Central American travel is that you should always find Central Market, it can tell you so much about the city, food, and people. Their central market was four floors and made San Jose's market look rediculous. It was so big in size and had so much more to offer. We also stumbled upon alot of really pretty government buildings. It's so weird to walk around here, there are people with guns everywhere. This is obvious different from Costa Rica as there we don't have an army. Aside from guns, the city is covered with these trees that are in bloom right now with little purple flowers. It's really pretty. After dinner we were going to go out, but we are enjoying our big comfy beds so much that we are just staying in and watched a movie. We haven't had beds this soft or pillows this thick in two months.
As our plane took off for Guatemala City I had a pit in my stomach. It wasn't nerves for the unknown, but rahter a sort of emptiness. I was leaving home. I have been saying the past few weeks how much Costa Rica felt like home, but it wasn't until I left that it all sunk in. I looked out the window on the country I have fallen in love with and tears welled up in my eyes. I don't even want to think about how bad it will be come May 16, when I have to return to the States.
Sunday, March 22 - Copan, Honduras
What a long day! We woke up at 3:45am to catch a bus to Copan, Honduras. Our taxi driver from yesterday picked us up just like he said he would. The bus was so nice - wide seats that reclined, burger king for breakfast, blankets, air conditioning, and TVs. I was a bit nervous about crossing the border because I had never done that before, but it was easy. We just stood in line, paid some fees, got our passports stamped, and were done. We really didn't have a plan for the day once we got to the bus station in Copan. We ended up chatting with a guy from our bus, Lance, for a bit. He was traveling alone and wanted some company. The three of us then ran into a Tuc Tuc (their version of a taxi) driver who spoke English as well. It turns out the driver, Daniel, had traveled to North Carolina. It really is such a small world! Daniel showed us a hotel that costs only $10 a night, so for me and Eric it was only $5. We dropped off our backpacks then headed out to the ruins. The walk to the ruins was gorgeous little path along the road. You could see all of the mountains and horses just walked whereever. The Copan Ruins were gorgeous. It was incredible to stand amongst the huge buildings that were built thousands of years ago. We found a sketchy worker who let us in the tunnels for half the cost which was exciting. This just added to my amazement; not only did they build big buildings, but the buildings were filled with an intricate tunnel system. I can't wrap my mind around an idea of how the Mayans were able to construct such structures with their techonology. It makes me think what people hundreds of years form now think of us and how we live our lives.
Monday, March 23 - Copan, Honduras
It's crazy how one city can be so similar and yet so different from another. We woke up a later than usual, 7:30am, and went out into town to get breakfast. There was hardly anything open! In Costa Rica, we get up with the sun - everyone does. We did find breakfast which was great before we headed off to swim in the waterfalls. Daniel, our Tuc Tuc driver from yesterday, took us up the mountain a good ways. We hiked this trail, crossed a suspension bridge he helped make, climbed over rocks, walked through a stream, and then swam in waterfalls! It was gorgeous. Out of no where I heard the water cascading down. Daniel told me the water that was in the waterfall was the same water the nearby towns drink. It was so clear and felt so nice. After splashing around for a while, Eric and I climbed the rocks that filled the area. It was so much fun; I felt like I was a 7 year old little boy. Once we were down playing, Daniel drove us back to the city. We took WARM showers and headed out to Central Market. This on had more essentials than touristy items for sale which I actually enjoyed more. I ate rice and veggies at the bus station for lunch. I'm now the bus which this should get us back to Guatemala City around 7pm. We are catching a 9pm bus to Flores. This ride is 9 hours which is why we are taking the overnight bus. I hope this won't be too bad, it's saving us a lot of time in the long run.
Tuesday, March 24 - Caye Ambergis, Belize
The bus ride last night from Guatemala City to Flores was worse than I thought it would be. It was much more of a public bus. The seats were small and it was mostly full. Eric and I were in the back and luckily the two seats next to us were empty. He ended up sleeping on the floor of the bus and I laid across the few empty seats. It was freezing for most of the ride and I woke up about every 45 minutes throughout the night. We arrived in Flores about 6:30am, this gave Eric and I the chance to take a 7am bus to Belize City. I had no desire to get on yet another bus, but we had to. We took that bus for 5 more hours. Once in Belize City, we had to take a water taxi for an hour and a half to Caye Amergis because it's an island. The water is so blue and the sand is so white. Our hostel isn't what we were expecting, but I am sure we can make the most of it. We did have delicious pizza tonight, which was a nice treat. I think tomorrow we are going to go snorkeling and maybe go to the other island.
Wednesday, March 25 - Caye Caulker, Belize
We went snorkeling in the morning. I haven't ever been real snorkeling before and I was completely blown away. We got to swim with sea turtles, all sorts of colorful fish, eels, eaglerays, and sharks! Our guide threw dead fish off the boat while we were swimming around and the sharks came up right beside us to eat. It was a bit scary. Then a few eaglerays that were probably 3 feet wide swam up to us and we got to pet them. It was such a great morning. Afterwards, we headed to Caye Caulker - the island next door. We wanted to try something new for the rest of the day and tomorrow. The hostel we are staying at tonight is amazing. It's full of backpackers and is so colorfully decorated.
I'm lying on a dock in Belize. The sun is shining, the crystal blue water is ripling below me, and the cool breeze causes the palm trees to sway. What? How is this my life right now? I almost don't want to journal about it all. I feel it's almost like a secret; if it ever gets out it will somehow become less magical. For magical is the only word I know to describe this. I am constantly finding myself at a loss for words in awe. Awe of the kindness of others, the places surrounding me, and the strength I am finding within myself. We have had only a vague outline of our trip and have simply followed our hearts. That sounds so cliche, but it's our lives now. Here I am a girl from North Raleigh living out of a single backpack, staying in whatever hostel has a room, and loving every minute of it. I feel at peace with who I am which I haven't felt in a while. I feel confident in the decisions i'm making and I feel confident in God and his plans for my life. Why shouldn't I? Look how special His blessings are in my life as of late.
Thursday, March 26 - Flores, Guatemala
Last night Eric and I tried to go buy our bus tickets for today, but the lady wouldn't sell them to us. She said there has been complications at the border between Belize and Guatemala and they have closed the border to buses. We didn't know what to do. We tried to find information on the internet, but couldn't. I asked our waitor, but he didn't know anything about it. However, a man overheard me and Eric talking about it and said he had heard the same thing on the news. We took an early water taxi back to Belize City early this morning in hopes that things had been settled.
I couldn't even look out the window, let alone write a journal entry while on the bus from Belize to Guatemala. My mind was numb, my heart was racing, and my stomach was churning. I had no idea what to expect during our travel or even worse what was to come upon our arrival in Guatemala. I had begged the ticket salesman to let me use his computer to send an e-mail to my mom that we were going to make it over the border. As soon as I saw the eight e-mails telling me not to go back to Guatemala I regretted it. My ticket was bought and I was skimming the last e-mail when the bus pulled up. I fought everything inside of me and got on the bus. The entire two hour ride to the border I fought back tears. It was weird to be in my position and know the dangers that faced us and observe all of the other travelers that hand't a clue. I felt obligated to tell them, but I also didn't want to stress them out.
Everyone piled out and formed a line at hte migration desk. As we got closer to the front I saw the sign "$37.50 Belize." Oh no, it was so much more money than it was to get into Belize.We searched our bags for all of the currency we had to trade fro Belize Dollars. It came up to $34 Belize. We were at a loss for what to do. The man we were exchanging with said he would give us enough to get one of us across to go to an ATM to get more money. Eric had to go because it was safer for him to get in a taxi alone. I sat on the ground outside of the migration station - the feeling of watching him walk across and being stuck is indescribable; I felt so empty and hopeless. Somehow at the desk, Eric got confused and the teller got confused - we both got across. Eric then got in some random man's car and went to the ATM five minutes away. He reutrned and we paid our dues. I was relieved to get back on the bus, but only until I realized that now we were in Guatemala; the country I wasn't supposed to be in. I knew Flores was in the North and away from the danger. But, I didn't really know. Two hours later, we made it to Flores. After finding a hostel, we went to an internet cafe to contact our families. I got Sherry to call my parents and tell them to get on skype. She let me know how bad the violence had gotten and how the people of Guatemala wanted a state of emergency delcared, but the president wouldn't do it. She said we had to leave. I found a flight out of Flores and $342 later, we had a safe way out. I was relieved to finally have a way home and to be in contact with my family.
Friday, March 27 - Tikal, Guatemala
Despite the stress of hte past 36 hours, we wanted to enjoyed today as much as possible. And that we did! We took a 7am bus to Tikal which was about an hour away. It was much different than the ruins in Copan. In Honduras the ruins were very much in the open, but in Tikal we were hiking in a forest and then all of a sudden come to these majestic structures. They were all such great surprises. It was also neat to see the buildings that hadn't uncovered yet, because they appeared to be ranom hills in the middle of the forest. I was once again blown away by the Mayans. I can't wrap my mind around the fact that they were able to build these structures with such little techonology. The pictures of these ruins don't do them any justice, but to stand there in person next to so much history was incredible.
We were worn out from the sun and hiking around the ruins, so we had an easy afternoon. We meandered through Flores, which is a little city on an island in a lake, to see what we could find. We saw the top of the church and figured it was in the center of town. Following the steeple, we found it and were right! Luckily enough, today the school was having a music concert in the middle of town square. We sat around with the parents and listened to the kid bands. It was great. I had the most amazing dessert from a street vendor as well. It was a layered shaved ice: ice, sweet milk, bananas, ice, sweet milk, pineapple, and then blackberry juice. It was delicious.
Saturday, March 28 - Flores, Guatemala
I am in love with Flores. I love the peacful nature of the land and the kind hearted people. I found a language school there that is pretty cheap and you get to stay with a homestay; I for sure want to go back and study. I woke up early and sat out on the porch, watched boats sail by, and wrote in my journal. Once Eric woke up, we went for a boat ride around the lake. Our driver told me all about the island near by and what each town was known for. Yes, he only told me and not Eric because he only spoke Spanish. He was surprised by how well I understood and spoke the language which made me feel good. After our ride, we went to lunch at a local pizzeria and then headed to the airport for our series of flights (Flores-Guat City-San Salvador-San Jose) home.
All of our flights went smoothly and I am safely back in Costa Rica. It was so nice to grab a taxi and see familar sights as we drove back home to Sabanilla. Overall, the week was filled with so many smiles and wonderful moments. I suppose even the moments that seemed less than wonderful only made the others so much more enjoyable. God was with me through it all which is the greatest blessing of all.