It’s all downhill from here. I did it – the last, hard push through of the mountains of homework and credits, and my last classes as an undergraduate student at SPU. Now I look forward to weeks of Spanish language school and my internship with Students International working with rural community development in the nearby villages of Magdalena and El Gorrión.
However this weekend was a time of transition – from the full force of intensive classes (fitting in an 18 credit senior quarter into two weeks) to the more Guatemalan pace of language school and community building. What better place for a relaxing, get away weekend than the Caribbean shore? No better place, is what I say.
Thursday morning, all fifteen of us students piled into a van headed for the capital, Guatemala City, where we then loaded onto a double-decker bus headed all the way across the country to the small section of the Caribbean that Guatemala claims: Puerto Barrios. After the 6 hour journey, we head in a smaller, sweatier bus to our next mode of transportation: a boat. There are no roads that connect with the Christian retreat center we are headed to. We skim up on the water to the palm leaf covered dock of “El Faro”, The Lighthouse (no lighthouse in sight, by the way, it’s more the idea of Christ being the guiding light, etc., etc.). I am instantly in heaven. This bright, humid shore steals my heart as I unload and walk straight into the 80 degree water. The sand is soft and welcoming under my feet and I have to let out a squeal of pure delight (or two, or five…). It had been one of my life goals to swim in naturally warm water, where at night its warmer then the air around me. Goal status: Check.
The whole weekend that followed was blissful: air conditioned apartments, meals cooked for us, hammocks in the shade, beautiful tropical forest all around us, fireflies in the evening lighting up the grass, parrots greeting us with “Hola” in the mornings, and hours and hours of nothing planned other than to be in and enjoy nature. I held a monkey for the first time, learned how to machete open a fresh coconut, drink the milk, and scrape out the sweetest meat I had ever tasted, and laid in the close, bright, hot Caribbean sun. It was a dream sharing this all with my friends, practicing my Spanish, playing ukulele in the palm trees, singing praise by a bonfire under a star-filled night, and swimming in clear, crisp pools of water fed by slowly cascading waterfalls. Butterflies the size of my face were commonplace. Shrieks of joy were heard loudly and often as we flew skyward off the water trampoline and blob. Sunrises at 5:20am set the morning clouds ablaze with passion. An evening rainstorm pounded on the dried leaf roofs and robed us of electricity for the night, letting us see more clearly the fireflies, and hear more clearly the jungle insects and birds.
As you can imagine, it was hard to leave. Yet coming back to Antigua made this cobblestoned old city feel even more like home. I loved walking in the door to hug a hello to Doña Christi and excitedly tell her about my weekend adventures. Today started the first week of Spanish classes, one on one teacher conversations that are fit specifically to the areas I need to address and practice. This is one of the best ways to learn a language: focus on the areas you know you need help in, study, and be able to walk out the door and immediately use it around the city and in the house I live in. Immersion and study complementing each other perfectly. I am excited to see how much I grow in my language ability, and even more excited to use that knowledge to work with the internally displaced people of El Gorrión in just two weeks’ time. I just know my next two months here will fly by, filled with learning and new experiences. Like tomorrow’s adventure: watching a futbol match between the Guatemala “Cremas” and the Seattle Sounders in the Capital. I can whole-heartedly say, “Life is Good.”