Six members of the university community are spending their Spring Break in Guatemala as part of FIU alternative Breaks. They will help construct a school in the San Juan Comalapa community, working alongside local workers and other volunteers in re-using trash to develop the school’s infrastructure. FIU News is following the team’s journey through updates provided by the group members.
We woke up bright and early, eager to start our adventurous weekend in the beautiful city of Antigua. Amigo, one of Long Way Home’s dogs, entered our hotel in Comalapa as we all sat in the lobby. We knew this meant someone was coming over. Sure enough, Gen (a Long Way Home staff member) followed Amigo. Gen had come over to say goodbye and give us more than 400 pictures she had taken throughout the week. We all said our goodbyes and were on our way.
After an hour and a half drive through the winding turns of mountains and hills (which made most of us nauseous), we finally arrived in Antigua. We settled into our hostel and then went to grab a bite to eat. With our bellies still full of tortillas, most of us opted for the most familiar food we could find – McDonald’s. This McDonald’s was different from any we had ever seen in Miami. It had new sauces, including jalapeño sauce and guacamole. More surprisingly, it had a beautiful patio with a garden, fountains and benches. We ate our food and then headed to the market where we put our haggling skills to the test.
The market was a collection of tents where locals display tons of souvenirs and other goods. From t-shirts and purses to mangoes and apples, the market had everything. We spent about an hour browsing and buying, then headed back to the hostel to get ready for our biggest adventure yet.
We all hopped in the van and drove another hour and a half to the Pacaya Volcano for a hike. The hike was difficult at first because the path was so steep. We had to stop often to catch our breath and some of us doubted whether this hike was even do-able. Luckily, there were men on horses offering rides up the volcano for those too weak to hike, and this motivated us to keep going. We found the most odd things on the volcano, including dogs, shops with water and snacks, and small unattended children. After an hour, we were at the top with a breathtaking view of the line of volcanoes that surrounded us. At this moment, it was all worth it.
We then slid down the gravel to a magma crater in the volcano. An opening in the ground revealed the red lava that flowed beneath our feet. We used the heat from the lava to roast marshmallows and made the most delicious s’mores before heading back down the volcano.
When we got back to the hostel, we all showered and got ready for dinner. We walked the streets of Antigua until we found a cute restaurant called the “Monoloco.” We indulged in quesadillas and sodas before ending the night in our hostel.
The next morning was spent strolling the streets of Antigua and buying souvenirs for our friends and family. We explored the city’s Central Park, which was a lovely plaza buzzing with locals and tourists alike. A band played marimba for tips and another man looked and acted exactly like a robot. Local Guatemalans had their hands full of jewelry and fabrics as they sold their merchandise to tourists passing by.
Too soon, we went to the airport and began our long trip back home. We were excited to get back home to our cell service, hot showers and comfortable beds. But we were sad to leave, feeling like we didn’t have enough time to truly enjoy the beauty of Antigua.
When I got back to my home, the first thing I did was take a warm shower. I realized that small things like a consistent warm shower, water pressure and clean water are things I tend to take for granted. After thinking about how I’m so lucky and grateful to live the life that I have, I concluded that this trip was truly an incredible and humbling experience.
March 10, 2014: The journey begins
March 11, 2014: ‘The adventure begins’
March 12, 2014: Four hikes and a ‘tuc-tuc’
March 13, 2014: ‘Permanent impact’
March 14, 2014: English class
March 15, 2014: Last day in San Juan Comalapa