¡Bienvenidos a Guatemala!

By Jake Anquillare and Anna Parker

¡Hola! Es Jake y Anna aqui estamos veniendo de Xela, Guatemala ahora. Pero antes de nuestro viaje nosotros tuvemos un noche al hostel de Costa Rica. For all you amateurs out there we will break it down for you.

Early Thursday morning we caught a ferry from the Nicoyan peninsula to Puntarenas and began yet another travel day. When we got off the ferry some of us were able to get a quick snack like street meat or fresh fruit before our next bus ride to San Jose. It was a short ride and we got to our hostel just in time for lunch. We settled into our cozy rooms and then headed to a nearby mall which was pretty shocking to most of us. The mall was well developed and had many shops including an American-style food court. We broke off into small groups to explore the city further for the next few hours. PJ and Jimmy made a spur-of-the-moment decision to spend their afternoon in a barber shop. When we all met back at the hostel for dinner it was a surprise to most of us when we saw PJ’s short hair.

We had a little bit of downtime while Jimmy, Cate, and Ellie prepared dinner. Jimmy had the great idea of cooking us his famous chicken alfredo which was indeed heavenly. After dinner, we headed to the rooftop where we reminisced our prime middle schools days with an awkward dance to the greatest hits of the 2000’s (shoutout to Cate for the great idea!) This activity was meant to be awkward but we soon realized we are all too good of friends for it to be weird and it ended up being a blast. After singing and dancing for hours we were blessed with Tori’s return. We ate cake in celebration and enjoyed catching up with her. The owner of the hostel asked to hear the song our group had been working on so we performed Ho Hey for him. Of course, this turned into a full-on showcase of everyone’s different musical talents. We all really enjoyed our one night stay at this hostel.

After a good night’s sleep, we caught a taxi to the San Jose airport. Soon after our arrival, the group caught our first flight to the Managuan airport in Nicaragua. The flight was short and gave us some time to read and journal while in the air. When we got to Managua we had a five-hour layover which consisted of a meal—or some of us two—our group meeting, a mid-trip reflection, and a nice break for some shopping. The next flight we took was to Guatemala and luckily our hostel was close by in Guatemala City. We had dinner and watched the Matrix and got to talk to some fellow travelers. The next morning we headed to Xela, Guatemala via alamo bus. We got to our new school, PLQ, and had some time to grab lunch throughout the city. We went back to the school to wait to be picked up by our new host families. This homestay was in groups of two, coincidently Bradley and Jillian’s family never showed up so they had to get assigned a new family. For the next week, we will stay with these families and eat all of our meals with them.

The next morning we had orientation and a brief history lesson on Guatemala. We started our one-on-one Spanish classes at two and got to have tons of bread and coffee during class. On Tuesday we went to a huge market where they sell animals, fruits, vegetables, handcrafted goods, and meats; it was a cool cultural experience. Before class we had a short costume contest; the best has to be awarded to Jake and Maggie (credz to Maggie for the great idea!) who dressed up as the conglomerate object known as Dillion (Dylan and Jillian).

That night we headed to the Central Park for the celebration of Dia de los Muertos. Here we ate street food, saw some cool dance performances, and listened to some live music. The next day we went to a beautiful cemetery covered in flowers where people go on the Day of the Dead to celebrate the lives of their loved ones. After we got to go to the baths that are heated by volcanic springs. Later that afternoon we had cake in celebration of Tori’s nineteenth birthday. Thursday was a busy day for the group which included a presentation on Guatemalan human rights violations, spanish class, and a soccer game that night. The soccer tournament was with students and teachers and gave us a nice break that everyone seemed to enjoy. Bradley was the leading goal scorer with four goals total.

The next morning on Friday the group headed to the main cemetery in Xela near the center of the city. The history told us about specific graves and Jon did a good job translating for some of us. During Spanish class, Cate, Maggie, and Anna walked with their teachers to a bakery to get some sweet treats for Anna’s birthday which was a great last day of class. We had another cake during our break which was the third cake in one week.

That night we had a graduation held at the school for all the students and teachers to attend. We had a great meal and many students gave speeches and performed songs in gratitude for all the school has done for us. After the group got together and performed Ho Hey for everyone at the ceremony and they loved it. The best part of the day had yet to come. After cleaning up from graduation the group headed to the closest karaoke bar. Here we sang and had a great time for the rest of the night. Dylan surprised us all with his rapping of the song “Rap God,” which is almost impossible to do. The experience was awesome and we all had a great time.

Saturday was our last day in Xela, Guatemala. In the morning we headed up to a guerilla radio station where we got to talk to a first-hand survivor of the war. It was really interesting and we learned a lot about his personal experiences. After the lecture, we were given a tour around the radio station and during our walk, we experienced a minor earthquake. We ran outside and waited for the aftershock that never came. When we got back we had free time before our group meeting that afternoon. Dylan led a great meeting that ended with a game of shuttlecock. That night we enjoyed walking around the park one last time and hung out with our families after dinner. Xela was a great city and we have enjoyed our time exploring it.