Arriving in Antigua, Guatemala, the final destination of our tour in Central America.
Antigua has a lot of colonial buildings throughout its city.
There’s a beautiful park in the center that seemed to always be filled with people.
The Flag of Guatemala next to the Flag of the city of Antigua.
Guatemala is known for its Salsa Dancing!
My mom and I hiked to the top of a hill to see a view of the entire city. Behind is El Volcan de Agua. (Water Volcano)
The cross sits at the top of the hill.
Last group dinner together. So sad!
The Guatemalan natives selling food and hand woven materials.
Reunited with my family at LAX once again after a long time abroad!
The day after Christmas we hopped into our van with our tour group to go to our final destination of the trip: Antigua, Guatemala. Once again we had to get up at around 5am for our early departure. As we left Honduras, I think we all started to acknowledge the fact that our time together was almost over. Technically, that was our last official day together. The next day was “Departure Day” so there was no planned meeting time/event to see everyone again. During the ride over to Guatemala, some people were becoming frustrated with the driver. I even started to become a little restless. If there was an award for “Slowest Driver of the Year,” I think our driver would be a very competitive candidate. You couldn’t count all the buses, trucks, and cars that sped past our crawling vehicle. Though we probably arrived a couple hours later than normal if the driver had just driven at the pace of the road, we were all happy once we made it to our final destination. The appearance of Antigua, Guatemala reminded me of Cusco, Peru. My English friend Gemma actually commented that to me as well. When we arrived, we checked all our bags in and then 30 minutes later, our group left the hostel for an orientation walk of Antigua provided by our guide. She showed us all the places that we could go and see on our own since some of us would be staying a few extra days in Antigua after the tour was officially over. My mom and I had booked one extra night so that we could have a full day to explore the city and rest before we traveled home on Saturday. After our orientation walk we all went to a Greek place for lunch where they served Pita Wraps and Falaffel. My mom and I shared a Chicken Tandoori Pita Wrap. It was incredible. I have now decided that Greek food has become one of my favorites. After lunch we perused the markets and then headed back to the hostel to rest before our final group dinner. I have to admit, I felt a little sad during our dinner as I thought about the likelihood of ever seeing any of these people again. We would all be departing to our own countries within the next few days. During dinner a couple of people made a few speeches/toasts to the time we experienced together. Our guide reflected on her time with us as well. After dinner, everyone wanted to go out for a few drinks for one final “hurrah!” A couple people weren’t super interested in going out that night, and said their farewells right after dinner. My mom and I should have joined them, but we thought that maybe we could talk with everyone a little bit more since it was our last night, so we decided to go to the bar as well. Apparently it was “Lady’s Night” and girls got in for free along with 3 free drinks. The guys had to pay both for their entrance and their drinks. I started asking my friends how that wasn’t gender discrimination? I don’t know if that’s how bars work in the United States. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to that. Anyways, we went in and the minute I stepped in, I wish my mom and I had just left with the other two people who went back to hotel. It was super crowded, and the music was blasting. The only way you could communicate with someone was if you screamed in their ear. I just plugged my ears. I had read a little bit ago in my morphophysiology book about the limit of decibels your ears could handle before damage would be caused. I knew that the decibel limit had been shattered by the volume of this music. My mom and I looked at each other knowing that we both wanted to leave even though we had only been there for less than a minute. We weren’t going to have “drink,” we hated how loud the music was, and we couldn’t even talk to anyone. So after 5 minutes, we told everyone that we were going. It turned out that everyone would still be there the next morning, so we all planned to go to breakfast. When they told us that we didn’t have to worry about saying a proper goodbye since we would have the opportunity after breakfast the next day. As we left the bar, I absolutely could not understand what was so attractive about going to a bar was. It was terrible. Seriously, it is beyond me how anyone could call that “fun.” As my mom and I were walking back, we realized it was 10:30pm and no one was in the streets. It is never a good situation when you are in a Latin American country and it’s dark out without any people around. My mom and I started to get a little apprehensive as we walked the streets back to our hostel. While we were hurriedly walking, a group of people a little ways in front of us got into a car. If the car had just driven away, we would have become so anxious. The car was literally just sitting there with its head lights on pointing towards us as walked closer to us. I think I might have held my breath as we walked by it, as I braced myself if the people jumped out of the car at the last second to attack us. A few moments later, we had passed the car and nothing had happened. I guess you can get a little paranoid when its late at night and no one is around, but I would rather be the most paranoid person in a situation like that than to be ignorant of my surroundings. Because of our current circumstances, the walk to our hostel seemed longer than normal, but when we finally got there and entered the door, I think both my mom and I took a giant breath of relief that we had made it there safely. We both looked at each other and let out a little laugh as all our anxiety disappeared. We then headed to bed for a peaceful night of sleep.
The next morning we met up with everyone for breakfast. This really would be our last time seeing them all, so it was even sadder than the night before. We went to the restaurant next door since a good number of people would have to leave for the airport within the hour. On a side note, I commented to my mom before breakfast that I was going to start eating healthier since my eating habits during the past few weeks hadn’t been the best choices. As we got the menu, I quickly changed my mind and within a few minutes I was telling the waiter that I wanted a nice fluffy nutella crepe. Haha, my “healthy streak” didn’t last too long. My mom laughed at me because whenever we go on vacation I always justify eating more sweets based on the fact that “we were on vacation.” Anyways, that nutella crepe was sure tasty, and I enjoyed every delicious bite of it. While I was in the middle of enjoying my crepe, a good portion of our group got up from the table. It was time for them to go. They had all scarfed down their breakfast in a rush so that they would be ready when their shuttle came to take them to the airport. This time we really said bye, and I gave them all hugs extending the invitation to anyone of them to come to California if they ever wanted to visit the best state of the USA. They returned the invitation to us if we were ever in their countries. It’s pretty cool have friends all over the world. When they had left, I was glad I had ordered my nutella crepe. Tasty treats seem to make sad moments pass by a little better. When the rest of us had finished our breakfast, my mom and I said our final good byes to them as well. Most of them were staying a day or so extra but they had changed hostels since our hostel was full. My mom and I were one of the few lucky ones that got an extra night at the same hostel, so we didn’t have to move. So we said our farewells and wished everyone the best as we all departed on our separate ways. It was sad, but we all had become friends on facebook so we can at least keep in touch with each others lives through that.
When we were on our own, my mom and I decided to go on a hike that led to a giant cross at the top of the hill. It was a beautiful walk, and the view from the top of the hill was wonderful. After our hike we went back to the hostel to rest for a couple of hours. We then decided to go to the Mayan Ruins of Antigua. There was also a museum that had been built alongside the ruins, so we had a lot to see and were there for a couple of hours. By the time we had finished there, we were pretty hungry. We decided to go back to that Greek place with the pita wraps that we had yesterday because it was just THAT good. We enjoyed every bite of our lunch. After lunch we walked to the city’s cathedral and the supermarket. We wanted to get some granola bars for breakfast the next morning since we would leave at 4am to head to the airport. When we got to the cashier to pay, we found out that they only accepted their local currency, the “quetzal” rather than US dollars. In every Central American country you could pay in US dollars despite the country having their own currency. Of course the one time we didn’t have enough local currency and could only use US dollars was the time they didn’t accept them. Oh well. No granola bars for breakfast then. We then headed back to our hostel because it was getting dark. We didn’t want a repeat of the night before. On our way, we stopped and got some frozen yogurt for dinner. We were so full from lunch that we just wanted some light and sweet to eat. We could pay in dollars there, so it was no problem. That frozen yogurt was incredibly refreshing. We didn’t do much when we got back to our hostel. I actually went to bed at around 8:30pm since we had to get up at 3:30am the next morning.
Which brings me to where I am now, sitting in my room in California after a long day of air travel. As I look back on all my experiences I have had, I cannot help but just thank the Lord for blessing me with it all. There were good times and there were certainly bad times, but I learned and grew from all of them. My life will never be the same after my time in Latin America. I have met people who have impacted my life, changed my perspective, and given me insight to things that I had never thought of before. I have seen the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. I have made countless friends from all over the world, lived in areas where no English was to be found, and have gained innumerous life experiences that are worth more than gold. But most importantly, may it all be to the glory of Christ, my Lord and Savior. He has given me an adventure of a lifetime, and I look forward to many adventures to come. So with that said, that’s a wrap my friends. My travels in Latin America have officially come to a close. Until the next adventure….hasta luego!