Thoughts on week 1

As of yesterday, I have been here in Antigua for 1 week. I don’t know whether to say I can’t believe I’ve been here this long already, or I can’t believe the 1 week mark has already arrived. Time has seemed to move slowly from day to day, but looking back I feel like it’s gone by really quickly.

I don’t really know how I feel about all this yet. I am definitely comfortable and I’m not homesick. The organization has been wonderful, and the food is great. I’ve made some friends in my house, and today met some people from the other house who I can hopefully connect with more this week. I’m not feeling as enchanted as I thought I would though. I just feel kinda…meh. I think that it’s because I’m alone a lot. No one in my house has been going out in the evenings, so I end up just sitting and reading for hours. Also, having a designated meal-schedule is a little limiting, because you have to always get back to the house for a certain time (you can stay out, but then you lose the money you already paid for those meals). Hopefully we’ll be going out and doing more this week though.

The one disappointment I’ve had here is the host family. Because we were told this was a host family, I was expecting to be welcomed with open arms as a member of the family. This is definitely not the case. It is clear that for Mary, this is a business. I asked one of the people at Maximo about this, and they said that it’s that way for most of their host families. They do have some that are not quite like that, but I don’t want to move into a house where there’s no other people, or then I’ll REALLY feel lonely. One of the biggest disappointments is that I don’t feel that I can trust Mary. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think she would ever STEAL from me, but other volunteers have told stories of her recommending them better places of “someone she knows”, and they turn out to be way more expensive than the place that the tour company suggested, for things like hotels etc. I guess I was a little naive coming into this. It was a bit of a shock for me and it took me a bit to wrap my head around it. Once I started thinking of it as a business, rather than a “home stay”, it became easier – she was just like every other Guatemalan, taking advantage of tourists when they can because their livelihoods depend on it. This isn’t to say I don’t like Mary, or that I feel cheated – I just got something different from what I was expecting. Also, her husband is hilarious and so adorable. I talked to someone at Maximo about the way I felt (only the part about it not being what I expected) and she said she would look into changing the wording on the site.

Apart from that – this weekend has been good. On Saturday, Nicole and I went out to try to find the open-air artisans market, but failed. We ended up going to McDonalds, so that I could see how beautiful it is – and it is GORGEOUS! I’ll have to take a camera one day – lovely garden and people actually come up and serve you. Prices are the same as in Canada though. After lunch, we wanted to go out again, but it was pouring rain. We ended up going out for dinner, but didn’t go out afterwards because Nicole wasn’t feeling great. On Sunday, I went to church with Mary in the morning. It was nice, lots of singing, but I didn’t understand most of it. It was most interesting to me that there were SO many people, of every age, in the church. There were almost no seats left! Afterwards, they had some guy doing a radio show or something…he had a mic and was dressed in a clown costume. Not sure I understand what all that was about. In the afternoon, we went to Cerro de la Cruz, one of Antigua’s landmarks, with my conversation partner, Alex and a friend of his, Karen. It was gorgeous and I got great photos of the city and the volcano. Then, Alex and Karen took us to two pastry shops, where I made the beautiful discovery of cheap, delicious pastries. And when I say cheap, I mean CHEAP! – One quetzal (aka 1/8 of a dollar) for a palm-sized pastry filled with strawberry, pineapple or fig. 6 quetzales for a chicken empanada. mmmmmmmmm I predict fat-ness in my future! Then, at night, Nicole and I went with Mary and Leo to San Pedro, a neighbouring town, for street food. I had delicious tortilla with cheese inside, and tacos, and a drink that was basically hot rice pudding. All total it only cost 25 quetzales (about $3)!! So good! And I was happy to be able to try the street food at a reliable place (usually you shouldn’t eat street food as you don’t know how clean they’ve been in the process of making it).

Today I’m taking a little more of a relax day. I was hoping to find group classes to take for spanish, but no one else is at the same awkward level as me, so I’m just sticking to private classes for the next 3 weeks. I’m finding I need it a lot at the clinic, so the more I can learn the better! I’m also going to try to pass by this church/hospital, where I may be able to volunteer – I thought it would be interesting to see something different! Looking forward to the weeks to come, I’m excited for what is next!

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