My alarm went off at 2:30 this morning, and my dad and I were on the road by 3:10. The drive to Dulles, getting through the airport, and the first flight were all easy and pleasant; I had the entire exit row to myself on the flight and slept the whole way. I arrived at the Huston airport with three hours to kill, and only one mission—to find a gift for my host family, as the gift I had brought, homemade jam, was confiscated by Security. I walked around, bought some toys and chocolates, and then settled in at my gate. Maggie showed up about an hour later. We chatted about our breaks, and how excited we are for the next three weeks. We got food and waited for Daniel. He came, sporting a new haircut and a guitar, and we boarded the flight to Guatemala soon after. I sat with Daniel through the uneventful flight; the most exciting part was seeing the mountains of Guatemala from the air. The mountains are beautiful.
We landed, got through customs, and called Manuel, who runs the hostel we are staying at tonight. After we found him, he introduced us to a blonde woman at the airport as “the people camping out in our living room tonight.” This was clearly the start to something amazing. He drove us back to the hostel, all the while telling us about this city—the biggest in Central America at 3.2 million people—about who he is, and about what he’d heard of El Nahual, the language school and community center where we’ll be working. He is young and Guatemalan, started this hostel 9 months ago with his Aussie girlfriend, and never says no. The hostel has already achieved the highest ratings of the hostels in Guatemala City, and for good reason. Since there were no more dorm beds for us, he gave us a room—more like a hallway—with a bed and an air mattress, for the whopping price of seven dollars—including breakfast. The hostel is in the financial district, surrounded by large glass buildings. The city, though known to be dangerous, is clean and very pretty, with trees and parks lining the streets. It was hot and sunny when we arrived. We settled down, made and drank some smoothies, spent a long time at the bank because I had some issues, and then hung out on the roof of the hostel for a while, talking to the other travelers. Around six we asked for a dinner recommendation, and were taken by a friend of Manuel to a restaurant called “El Club.” We were offered steak or fish, and were then served a delicious meal of beans, rice, fish, and steak, with a cup of soup to start. Over dinner we talked about the possibilities of this trip, spoke some Spanish, and got really excited for all of the adventures to come. After paying the equivalent of ten dollars for the three of us, we took a cab back. Manuel sat us down when we got back and outlined what he thought we should do in our spare time these next three weeks, showing us the places we need to see, and the routes, hostels, prices, and all other pertinent information for us to travel on our own. We are now planning on traveling a lot more than originally planned, although that is all subject to change. We played some cards and dice, and I spoke with the volunteer coordinator at el nahual, where we’re going tomorrow.
I am going to attempt to keep up this blog, although I am not sure if I’ll be able to, due to internet access concerns. I will do my best to update as often as possible, and hopefully pictures will come soon as well.