These past few days have been eventful. My friends and I had Friday off for 4th of July, so we decided to take advantage of the long weekend and visit Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful colonial city in the Sacapetequez region of Guatemala, a three-hour chicken bus ride from Panajachel. If you don’t remember what a chicken bus is, refer to my Third World Problems Checklist article. We did a walking tour of the city where we learned so much about its history, culture, and Spanish, Roman, and Arab influences. So many buildings incorporate all three styles making for really interesting architecture. The food was some of the best I have had in Guatemala. Overall, I find Guatemalan food a little bland. I am not a spicy food person, but I do prefer some flava. And let me tell you, food in Antigua has it. I stuffed my face the entire weekend. Speaking of flava, the first night we went to a live salsa bar, which was pretty exciting. People in Antigua can really friggin salsa. I like to think of myself as capable but I was too embarrassed to even try and be judged against these experts. Nightlife in general is pretty thumping in Antigua and guys love buying Gringas tequila shots. Fine with us!! The only downside is that bars/clubs close at 1:00am – Poo, I know.
The way back from Antigua was a little hectic. There were no direct buses, so we had to transfer a couple of times, the first being in Chimaltenango, which apparently has a reputation for being the Newark of Guatemala. Well, the city definitely held up to its rap when two of my friends were pick-pocketed as about six men were trying to “help” us find our next bus. It was stressful and frustrating and put a damper on the weekend, but at least we were safe.
I started tutoring Sofia* this week. She is the most adorable little girl and so smart. I am learning a few things about the education system in Guatemala from her and her mom. The only children that go to kindergarten are those from families that can afford to pay for it. This means that for those who can’t, they start 1st grade not knowing much. And even those who do attend kindergarten don’t seem to be much more advanced. It’s interesting; I am hearing a lot about different education systems from friends I have made, and it has made me appreciate the U.S. education system (if that’s even possible). I will be the first person to complain about our education system, but it seems like maybe we’re not the only ones that haven’t gotten it right.
I also visited another community this week and observed a family-planning training. I love these because it is fascinating to me to hear the women’s opinions on birth control methods. Some concerns for birth control methods are: your body doesn’t digest the birth control pill, they build up in your esophagus; when you do get pregnant and give birth, your child will be born with pill-sized bumps on his/her face, etc. It’s funny, but also sad how misinformed these women are. There are of course religious reasons why they have so many children; they believe God wants them to reproduce as much as possible. The training attempts to inform them on birth control methods and the risks the women face if they have many children. The trainings usually end with at least one woman saying that it’s too late for her but she will pass on the information to her children and that’s exactly what I want to hear. I hope the information we are feeding them is impacting their families.
Well, now it’s the weekend and we’re thinking of hiking up the San Pedro Volcano. Yikes! Eventful, eventful week. I’ll let you know how it goes!