First off, a belated thanks to the following people for their help in finding other, non-Honduran options: Paula and Brian Cook, Steph Jarem, Grandma Heinhuis (including Denise Moore), Julie Rodakowski, and Lauren Asay. Looks like we´ll be headed to Leon, Nicaragua to work with street kids. But, back to the blog…
We are nomads. We have been bouncing from town to town, hotel to hotel, and restaurant to restaurant, searching for good deals and authentic Guatemalan experiences. We have come in contact with both, but, fear not, we plan to forge on and have no illusions of taking up permanent Latin American residence…yet.
Our first major landing spot since leaving Guatemala City early Saturday was Rio Dulce; a town filled with extremes. As the name implies (sweet river), it’s a beautiful town on a river that meet the Caribbean sea but it has a community struggling to keep their heads afloat. The most unique aspect of the town is the use of boats (ranging from yachts to dug-out canoes) for transportation. We stayed in the jungle in a bungalow, reached only by boat (see picture of Joe lounging). We had an interesting couple of days admiring a castle, mansions and yachts and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, haggling for non-gringo prices in the town’s market.
Heading northward in Guatemala, we reached towns just south of the Mayan ruin city of Tikal (our main destination). After another couple days searching for the true Guatemala and a good deal, we decided to splurge on a tour guide and visit the ruins. The ruins were breath-taking; towering above and below the jungle. Apparently, due to a lack of funds, a huge percentage of Tikal remains unexcavated. We spent several hours walking approximately five miles to see the old Mayan ceremonial center. Tikal is a huge site where only royals and priests lived, so it’s filled with monuments, stories, and celebratory structures. While our tour guide didn’t pan out to have the wealth of information desired—he rambled aimlessly without providing the depth of information we were after (see Juleen soaking it all in from the tour guide next to an stela in photo)—our video (of the many buildings surrounding the Grand Plaza, but also featuring impressive jungle sounds, found below) attests to the beauty and majesty of the place.
Well, now that we’ve seen the Mother of Mayan ruins (anyone want to dispute this claim?), where are we now? We are still 30km south of Tikal. We have taken a slight detour (figuratively, as we haven’t moved, just changed our plans) to volunteer at a clinic/community center. We are running a two-hour class for town kids in the afternoon, hoping to instill a little knowledge about reading, and eating and living well. Yesterday, our first teaching day, was a success. We had approximately ten kids show, and everyone (including us) was still smiling and laughing at the end of the day (see photo for the dream job mobiles we made with the kids). We even heard some kids practicing their English introductions after class at home!
As a cultural aside (and a feeble attempt to get you involved in this Blog): Does anyone know what’s up with all the guns here in Guatemala? Juleen informs me that there are a lot of guns in Peru also. Here in Guate, any private, random security guard is able to leisurely tote an AK-47 or sawed-off shotgun, and these security guards are everywhere--in front banks, hotels and even fast-food chains. The owners of the hostel in Rio Dulce confessed that acquiring their own sawed-off shotgun was painfully easy. Pictures of the arsenal to come in a later post.