The Adventures of April

We shall not cease from exploration - And the end of all our exploring - Will be to arrive where we started - And know the place for the first time. -- T.S. Eliot

Monday, August 28, 2006


Sometimes I do more than one post per day, since I usually have catching up to do. Scroll down or look at the listings at the right if you are interesting in reading all of them!

Weekend at Lago Atitlan

After my parents left on Friday, Andrea and I headed to Lago Atitlan. It was wonderful! The lake was one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. Unfortunately, for some reason, Blogger will not let me upload pictures. I hope to be able to share them will you soon!

We went on a boat tour around the lake to visit various villiages and sites. It was wonderful. My favorite village was Santiage de Atitlan. We visited a church there that was a hotbed bed of activity during the 30 year civil war that ended in 1998. There was a memorial for a priest who, much like Oscar Romero, was killed by the government for his anti-war views. He was from Oklahoma. I am so interested in the people of faith who stood up for what was right against tremendous adversity. I hope to learn more about this.

On Saturday night Andrea finally convinced me to go out dancing. I love to dance, but enjoy impersonated Elaine, thumbs and all, rather than trying to master salsa or samba. We had a great time and danced the night away. We made friends (see It´s a Small World After All below) and also had a nice dinner with a woman we met on the boat tour.

We also went to a museum to learn how the lake was formed, but spent most of our time eating nachos and drinking fresh juice on decks beside the lake. No complaints about that!

I´m so looking forward to showing all of you my pictures!

Last night Andrea and I stayed at a really creepy hotel. It was perfectly safe, but if any place I have ever stayed was haunted, it was there. It also didn´t help that I caught the last hour of the Skeleton Key in our hotel in Panajachel.

Andrea, please feel free to elaborate on our weekend in the comments section!

¿Se Habla Espanol?

Bless my parents. First, they take a family vacation, not to Orlando, but GUATEMALA. Then, they try to immerse themselves in the culture and experience new things (see ´Mama´s on a Horse.´)

But like all people, they make mistakes. There have been a few notable ones with the espanol. My parents know a few words here and there of spanish, but were trying to pick some up... hilarity ensues, naturally.

When you meet new people, a common greeting is mucho gusto, or nice to meet you. We had been hearing this a lot. At the same time, many people had complimented my parents on how `fuerte', or strong, Gloria is, a compliment similiar to the word ´gusto´ or energy in english.

So when somebody pointed out how well Gloria was doing climbing the volcano, my dad flexes both of his arms, and proclaims proudly, much gusto!! The other person must have thought him strange, flexing and yelling ´nice to meet you!´in reply! Yeah we mocked him for a good couple of days about that.

Another: Instead of asking how much something was at the market (cuanto cuesta?) my mom effectively asked how old the sellar was, which was a bit awkward (cuantos anos?).

I´m sure I´ve been goofing the same... and will more in the future.

It´s a Small World After All!

Is that song in your head now? Ha ha ha... I think we should use that to ward off the aliens when they invade (my dad is confident there is a UFO hovering above Pretty Lake).

Two short stories about how small the world is.

1.) Our tour guatemalteco tour guide, Abraham, in Antigua, had lived in Hamilton, Ontario, for 9 years. (Hamilton is only 45 minutes from Toronto).

2.) In Panajachel on Lago Atitlan this past weekend, Andrea and I met a gringo who goes to Redlands in California. The same school that my cousin Sam´s girlfriend, Anjale, goes to. He lived in the same building as Anjale and has met my cousin Sam when he came to visit! Crazy!

More to come like this, I am sure.

Thank You!

Thanks to everybody who has kept myself and my family in their thoughts and prayers! My parents and Gloria returned to Michigan on Friday and I think that we would all agree that our trip was a great success in many ways.

Also thanks to those who have emailed me... I have enjoyed reading your emails greatly, even though I haven´t been able to give a lengthy or speedy response!

I´m also very thankful that I have been able to correspond with two of my contacts from Sister Betty in Mexico, a nun who runs a women´s center in Colon, Panama and man in Honduras outside of the capital. I hope that visits with them will teach me more about the struggles the vast majority of the people in Central America face daily. I´m still praying that those connections will be fruitful.

Right now I am missing Canada and Toronto a lot, along with all of my wonderful friends. Sigh.... I´m coming back to visit soon, right?! It´ll be like I never left, right!? But I am so thankful for this opportunity.

I´m also thankful that I have been meeting people and making friends. Praise God! There is a student at my Spanish school who recently graduated from law school in Arizona and I´m hoping that we can hang out! All 6 of the students at the school are very nice. I do feel as though God is taking care of me. Amen!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Mama´s On a Horse

So I´m going to back track a bit since I was so busy when my family was here. This morning I said goodbye to my parents and Gloria, which was sad considering for the rest of the trip I will be alone (except this weekend with Andrea). But I am very excited to start LEARNING some Spanish!

On Tuesday we climbed Volcan Pacaya. We decided to do the 6 AM tour since it usually rains in the afternoon. We drove for about an hour and a half to the base of the trail. They told us that the trail was about 4 kilometers long, with the first kilometer being the most difficult. And it was.

The trail was difficult because it was very steep and the altitude was very high, which makes you so much more exhausted. It hit my mom like a punch in the stomach about halfway up. Luckily, a little boy with a horse was behind the group yelling "taxi, taxi!" about every two minutes. Once my mom drifted towards the back of the group, he seemed like a vulture just waiting for her to go down.

So finally, my mom gets on the horse of shame (FYI we have been laughing about this whole experience every since it happened). She sat on it, following behind us, for the rest of the trip. She did not care because that was better than turning around. The funny part was when we got to a little resting place, they would go tie up the horse, and my mother, to a stake about twenty feet away from the group. So Lori is over there, sitting slumped on a horse, facing the opposite direction like she was being punished, while the rest of the group is chatting and whatnot. Poor Mama. We were laughing so hard about this later that evening! It was such a funny site, but at the time I didn´t take a picture.

She did, however, successfuly climp up the rest of the volcano, which was pretty amazing. First we reached this huge lava flow that was only three weeks old. We followed that to the volcano, which was still steaming and you could see bits of red lava in the rocks.

Gloria was such a trooper. When we first broke into the clearing where the volcano was, I saw these people on a very distant hill, very high up. I thought - we´re never going to make it up there! But we did. It was like climbing up part of the moon... only little spots of grass growing in the old lava rocks. It was amazing. I will post pictures next week. I´ve tried to add a picture to this blog that I found online of the volcano.

It was quite incredible... I´ve climbed a small part of Cotopaxi in Ecuador, but this was so cool to see the actual lava. In the distance, we could see two more volcanos, one of which had a small eruption when we were up there, and we could see the plume of smoke.

The environment here is a little different from west Michigan and Toronto!

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Arrival in Antigua

We arrived safely in Antigua last Monday and have been enjoying it ever since! Our hotel is wonderful... my Dad literally found the nicest hotel in the town. We walked in and there was live music, a buffet (me gusto) and a beautiful pool! The entire week we have been relaxing, doing outings in Antigua, and, of course, swimming. Gloria loves the pool. Everything has been going smoothly. I consider this part my resting up for the rest of my time here... I for sure will not be staying at such nice places!

I found a Spanish school where I will start next Monday. I visited a few, but this one was definitely the most lively. I walked up during a salsa lesson and ended up dancing for half an hour before arranging my classes! The school is a cooperative which means that the teachers receive a fair salary. After I travel to Lago Atitlan this weekend, I will start next week. I will be living with a host family as well. I am glad to have that set up!

Next week I will be hopefully posting pictures and video!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

How do you say "awkard silence" in Spanish?

Hello friends and family!

We arrived safely in Guatemala City yesterday. Our flights went fine - the inflight meal was quite a thrill for Gloria who was very excited the entire way to 1.) see Olegaria (her foster mother) and 2.) swim in the pool at our hotel.

On Friday we basically hung out at La Casa Grande, the hotel my parents stayed at when they came to visit Gloria and then to pick her up. Every family at the hotel is in the process of adopting, so it is quite a sight to see all these people holding their little Guatemalan children, trying to get to know them. For one couple last night it was their first night with their first baby!

Gloria has been making friends. One family is Israeli and lives only miles from the Lebanon border. They came here over a month ago to visit their new child and have stayed ever since the war broke out. Every family here has a very interesting story.

Today was our big day to see Olegaria and her family. Gloria was very excited, and then very nervous, which was probably how we were all feeling. The day went great! Olegaria came with two of her daughters and her daughter-in-law whom had all been close to Gloria (they all live in the same house/apartment). Two of daughters brought their own children whom Gloria had played with.

Within a short while Gloria was playing fine with the other children and later on Andrea (my cousin who is also here) let them in a game of tag and hide-and-go-seek (con tee-tay). We had a translator with us to talk with Olegaria and learn more about Gloria´s childhood and their family. It is difficult to speak through a translator for so long... hence the awkard moments of silence that I began to joke about with Andrea. But everybody was very thankful to be together since so few families keep in touch with the foster families who took care of their children. We have a special situation since Gloria lived with Olegaria for so long (a year and a half, the average is 8 months).

Andrea and I walked around our neighbourhood tonight. It was nice but became apparent that Andrea is much better at being sauve with the hombres latinos than dorky/slightly awkward me. I anticipate there shall be more stories along these lines in this blog... and some deep thoughts on concepts of beauty and hegemony on my part.

Tomorrow we head to Antigua. I´m excitd to see where I will be studying espanol!

Buenos tardes, amigos.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Prayer Requests

As you can imagine, I have many prayer requests when undertaking a trip like this. I think one of the things I will miss the most is being in community.

Prayer Requests:
* Safety and health.
* That I don't get too lonely and that God places people in my journey that I can connect with.
* Meeting up with my contacts.
* Safety and joy for my parents, my cousin Andrea, my sister Gloria and I in Guatemala City and Antigua.
* General wisdom and discernment for the multitude of daily decisions I will need to make.
* That I can have a genuine glimpse of life for those in Central America and avoid becoming a disconnected tourist.

Please let me know if anything comes up in your life that you would like me to pray for. Since I am alone, I will spend a lot of time talking to God, so feel free to send it my way!

P.S. For some reason, a recent post got placed at the bottom. Scroll down for my trip timeline.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Master the Geography

I've realized as I've been planning this trip that many of you don't have a darn clue where Central America is. Canadians especially!

Central America is a geographical region that is technically part of North America. While it is not its own continent, it is a distinctly identified region apart from North and South America. I have included a map below for you perusal.

Green Star: Where I fly in.

Red Star: Where I fly out.

Blue Loop: The Mayan route I am planning on traveling through Belize and southern Mexico. I lived in Belize for a summer and will visit the research center where I stayed, and I have always wanted to go to Tulum, Mexico.

Red Loop: My approximate path down to Panama. (Obviously I will not be swimming through Lake Nicaragua...)

Hope this is helpful for some of you!

Trip Timeline

So what will I actually be doing in Central America? Good question! Here is my highly tentative schedule.


August 18 - Bon Voyage to Guatemala City. Week spent visiting Gloria's foster family and touring in Antigua.

August 25 - Andrea (my cousin) and I travel to Lago de Atitlan.

August 28 - Andrea departs and I am on my own. Spanish School in Antigua.

September 4 - Spanish School in Antigua

September 11 - Spanish School at Escuela de la Montana. (Mountain School - scroll down to read about)

September 18 - Spanish School at Proyecto Lingüistico Quetzalteco de Español.

September 25 - Spanish School/traveling?

October to November - Traveling through Central America to Panama (???)

November 1 - Tentatively flying out of Panama City to return to Michigan. Might push back three more weeks to volunteer at a women's center in Colon, Panama.

Any contacts, inputs, or suggestions would be appreciated! Back to my preparations...

Succumbing to the Blog

While a book deal with the New York Times would be nice, the main purpose of this blog is to keep my friends and family - you! - up to speed regarding my travels through Central America. I anticipate posting a minimum of once a week, so check back often for pictures, videos, and plenty of stories! Maybe even a couple of deep thoughts sprinkled in there.

The main purpose of this trip is for my parents and my little sister to maintain the connection with Gloria's foster family in Guatemala with whom she spent the first year and a half of her life. Since I have no job, no rent, and no prospects, I decided to take advantage of my freedom and spend a couple of months down in Central America, learning espanol and traveling.

I also would love to hear from you! While I am hoping to make friends on the road, I am traveling alone and will be hungry for youe messages, encouragement, news, and anything else you either want to email to me at my Gmail account or post as a comment on this blog.

Pictures: Top: Me and my little sister, Gloria. Bottom: Gloria and my nephew, Marek.