Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Week 1 - Antigua, Guatemala

After lathering our translucent skin in sunscreen, we are ready for our first day.  Our first breakfast at Patsy and Joaquin's is beautiful strawberry, mango, and canteloupe with homemade granola and yogurt. Of course, we don't eat the strawberry - Traveller's Diahhrea Prevention, Phase 1.

Our host mother is Patsy, our host father is Joaquin, and their children are Samuel (8) and Andrea (18). They are from El Salvador and have lived in Antigua 2 years.

"You are family. This is your home," says Patsy. She's so sweet and we are so happy to feel comfortable.

Rachel's trying to recover from a touch of strep throat, so I find the rooftop terrace of our home and bring my book and camera. Surrounded by misty mountain valleys and volcanoes, I can't believe I'm here.

After a nap, Rachel's feeling better. We immediately feel the heat and potential dehydration from this near equator sun, as we step outside. It's amazing, and 4 quetzales for a big bottle of water is nothing (just over 50 cents). We venture out into the uneven, crowded streets, and being here still feels surreal. We withdraw money, and guard each other one at a time. We are clearly gringos.

Today is our orientation at Maximo Nivel, the local organization we're volunteering with. Until then, we  roam the streets and play cards on the roof. As Semana Santa (Easter week) approaches, people pour into Antigua. The roof offers a great view. Day 1 in Guatemala is perfect.

March 31 - Welcome to Guatemala....via Texas...

We pack our bags with anything and everything that our little mountain girl minds can think of; excessive amounts of Polysporin (not used once), waterproof knick knacks (including playing cards, now worn), and dense, maleable, cumbersome protein bars jammed into every nook and cranny. We downsize as much as possible: "Rachel, I really think you are going to regret packing around that 2 litre bottle of TreSemme conditioner".

After a sleepless night in Calgary we make our way to the airport, miraculously we do not weigh over the limit,  and then we make our way to Texas, where we wait and wait and wait, and then fly again. Long journey, but well worth it.

We arrive in Guatemala in a daze. We desperately try to locate the man with the "Rachel and Leah Maximo Nivel" sign, among throngs of taxi drivers and hotel owners. We can't find him. Then he finds us - names misspelled, nothing official about the guy, not a word understood between us.... we follow him to the Guinness Tours shuttle and ride off into the night. A fellow volunteer from Wisconsin joins us, so we feel safe.

After 45 minutes we arrive. Cobblestones, lengths of stucco buildings with doorways every 12 feet, and a few dim lights. Entering one of the doorways we are instantly relieved. Stained wood details, burlap seat covers, shiny, beautiful faces smiling and waiting and welcoming us.... Our homestay feels safe. We gather bits and pieces of information from Patsy (our host mom), brush our teeth, and fall into a deep sleep in our upstairs bedroom.

We can't wait for the sunshine in the morning !

Friday, March 30, 2012


It's been a year since my last post - I never finished blogging about Europe, which is too bad because the memories are not as clear a year later. However, today is the start of a new adventure. One of my best friends, Rachel Abdallah, and I are leaving for Guatemala tomorrow morning ! We fly out of Calgary and will be staying there for 4 weeks.
We are doing 2 weeks of volunteering and 2 weeks of roaming. I am excited, anxious, and curious.... ready to get there and feel the sun and meet the children and see new things ! I hope to be able to blog a few times while I am there but this could be difficult. When I return I will recap our trip on here and post a bunch of photos !! Wish us luck - we have everything organized and are hoping for a safe and meaningful journey ! Here are a few pictures of us in England and Wales last year.
More to come....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I hope you are all enjoying the pictures.

Now, a very FUN and immature thing we have been doing our whole trip is started in Nice... after getting a little screwed over by the Avis car gang we were over tired, frustrated, and in funny moods. We were the only ones in the airport and we were laying over the chairs, I think i was pretending to sleep and then it went from there. Everywhere we have been going we have been taking pictures of ourselves pretending to sleep in really funny places and positions... i know it sounds sooooo silly but when your exhausted and frustrated with cranky, stuck up people its a pretty hilarious way to annoy them and to crack ourselves up.

The rest of the pictures are on Brens camera hahaha and they are way funnier than this. Karoll must have thought we were crazy at first, but believe me, she joined right in.
So in all the CInque Terre was in the top favorite places of my trip so far. The people, besides the stuffy old rich ladies, were very welcoming and the villages were very charming and quiet. The food was awesome and the weather was sunny... it all felt like a dream really. The way the villages just perch on the rugged, rocky coast is so beautiful and feels fake.
From there we went to Florence for a night. Here we stayed at a hostel that felt like church camp -there were way too many rules and there was a curfew... however, ironically this was the place we decided to perhaps overdo it on the wine and have a very funny intoxicated dinner. Here is just a picture of the view from the river that runs through the city and of the bar we were at.

The next morning Bren and I went to church , where the music was beautiful, then we all walked to quickly look at the biggest gothic cathedral in europe. After this rainy morning we got on the train for Rome. I will write about that in my next post. xo

italia continued...

Here are a few more pictures from the Cinque Terre


"Happiness, hit her like a train on a track.
coming towards her, stuck still no turning back.
She hid around corners and she hid under beds.
she killed it with kisses..."

Finally our trip led us to Italy - a place I have waited for forever. We took a train from Nice to a border town in France, where I enjoyed my first salami sandwich of the trip. Here we took a train to the Cinque Terre, which are a collection of 5 small villages on the west coast. The are on a very rugged coastline and quite amazing to see. Our first taste of Italy was a little strange because on the train we came across a bunch of Italian women who treated us pretty bad. Haha, either we stank really bad or they just really didnt approve of what we were doing... When people see our backpacks and everything they usually are either really friendly and awesome or they look at us like we are trash. Anyway, when we finally got to Monterosso, the first village of the Cinque Terre, we luckily got a hotel and managed to find a place open for dinner... where we enjoyed our first pasta in Italy.

Here is a picture of what we woke up to after our long travels into Italy. A quiet little seaside town, early morning sun.
Our second day in the Cinque Terre we went to the middle town called Corniglia. This was the most genuine little Italian town we visited, I think. A man from Monterosso told us to look for Mario in Corniglia, because he would have rooms for us. We literally went to Corniglia, asked one guy if he knew where mario was.. and he was like "mario ma papa" haha, so mario was his dad and he directed us. Then mario wasnt there so we got directed to lorenzo, who also wasnt home... we worked our way down the tiny ally looking for these people and eventually, after being physically led to the house, we found two rooms in this ladies house to stay. I think she was Cristiana Lorenzo. Anyway, this town was ridiculously charming and our rooms looked right out onto the mediterranean. We couldnt figure out the hot water or the heat, haha, but we spent hardly any time in our rooms. We spent the day exploring one of the other towns then drinking beer and reading on a sort of balcony area in Corniglia. Perfection.

This is the dining room entering the rooms we stayed in. Literally, someone elses house haha.
The beds, bedding, and decor reminded me sooooo much of my Nanna... it was nice.
Karoll and i talking from our windows haha. Soooo stoked on the place we are staying... or at least its view.

We took the train to the other village, Vernazza, for the afternoon, then enjoyed the sun in Corniglia. We got to walk around lots, up and down many hills, and all to the smell of wood smoke. Someone was burning something nearby and it smelt wonderful.

Corniglia from down the road

Boats in Vernazza.

Im goin to post this now so i dont lose it, then ill continue on.

Barcelona , Montpellier, and Nice continued

Hello everyone. im finally writing again , from Switzerland now at my cousin Margarets. She lives here with her husband, who is Swiss, and their son Luca.. its been so amazing to meet Luca and catch up with Margaret. Im happy to be here for the next week and explore some small villages and mountains, and be garunteed a very comfy bed and clean shower. haha. Margaret and I Just ate soooo much bruschetta I can hardly move, so this is a good time for me to update these posts.

Barcelona was very good. Karoll and I stayed there for 2 nights and on the second night we had to share a bed because everything was booked up for valentines day haha it was funny. On our first night there we went to see a classical guitarist play in this chapel on the side of the huge cathedral. She played spanish guitar and it was just amazing. We went to bed early and tried for a full day of touring the next day... unfortunately we ended up loitering at a pawn shop, or cash converter, for about 3 hours then getting separated and searching for eachother for 2 hours then lost trying to find these boots i wanted for the next two hours. hahahaha so our day in Barcelona was pretty funny. We ended up reviving ourselves with some tapas, russian salad which is our favoriteeeee, and then went to the Segrada Familia, which was absolutely amazing. There are pictures in my last post of that. It feels like a long time ago now and I can hardly remember.
Our second night in Barcelona we went to a traditional flamenco dancing performance. It was very ama<ing and well worth our money. The singing was very angsty and interesting but it went along with the dancing.
Barcelona was amazing and id say that in the summer the parties are crazy. we went for a few drinks at this small sort of punk rock bar and admired all the other bars around. Lots of cool looking places but we were exhausted from being lost all day and called it a night early.

After Barcelona we went to Montpellier where we met Brenna at the airport and rented a car, which as i wrote earlier was a big rip off.. but sort of worth it haha. It felt like freedom.
In Montepellier we spent a long time looking for parking and then finally eating pizza and beer. Brenna was very overtired at this point and just funny . We stayed in a damp hostel, on the top floor, that reminded me of someones house... someone who had very bad, stinky taste in decor. Needless to say I didnt sleep this night because I was convinced someone was coming for us hahaha.. Again, t^hank you Code for the knife, i slept with it by the bed.

From Montpellier we drove to Cassis (courtesy of mr nelson, he told me to go here), which was one of my favorite places so far. We looked like grubby girls , obviously, especially compared to all te posh southern french people who have tattooed lip liner. haha our boat ride was a huge highlight and our valentines dinner hehe.

The last of france was our visit to Nice - i wrote my last post from there. It rained and we dealt with a few cranky french people haha but in all our hostel was unreal and we visited the modern art museum there. We spent a long time browsing through there and i thouroughly enjoyed it. Also, I will always remember NIce as the place that Brenna ate the hugest hot dog of our lives... even bigger than the weird american bbq ones. It was actually 2 hotdogs in a huge long baguette.. hahaha aside from the cuts in the corners of Brennas lips from the baguette, id say it was her best hotdog ever.

Im having a hard time remember everything, at least remembering it in an entertaining way, so im going to move on to the next part.