Later Dec 1, 2010
I arrived in Guatemala after sleeping for most of my 8 hours of flying. The time I didn't spend sleeping were spent playing Puzzlequest on my DS, which is an awesome game and I can't get enough of it.
It took awhile to sort out which immigration booth to go through, where my bags were, and how to find the entrance to customs, but after that was solved I was let into the country with way more ease than I ever received in the UK. A little disoriented, I finally found my group of Save the Children people waiting for me outside the airport, got into our shuttle, and began the forty minute drive to Antigua. It was dark out when I arrived so I didn't get to see much of the scenery along the way (except for a ton of fast food chains including a Domino's Pizza that had a sign claiming it to be "the Dominator!" - which made me giggle). I am really looking forward to staring out the window tomorrow when the sun's out; I'll be doing a lot of that, as our drive is apparently something like 6 or 7 hours.
Everyone on the trip so far is really nice and really easy to talk to. It was all girls for that shuttle so we chitchatted and bonded over all being between 5'9" and 5'11" in height whereas most of the people we'll be working with and talking to on this trip are probably more like 5'.
The hotel that we're staying at is called the Santa Domingo and it's INCREDIBLE. Again, I didn't get to see much of it, as it was dark outside, but it's built around a monastery and a site that's still an active archeological dig, and there are artifacts and museums all over the place, and everything is crumbly and weathered and older than anything we have in America.
There was some music playing off in the distance so Mary Beth and I (she's my main contact at Save, the one who invited me on this trip) decided to wander in the direction of the music rather than turn in for bed right away. We were led along this little bridge path until we found some tables serving hot chocolate and Christmas cookies. After graciously accepting a snack, we continued walking until we found this giant outdoor chapel where there was literally a HUNDRED PEOPLE SINGING AND PLAYING CHRISTMAS MUSIC. We had no idea if these were famous Guatemalan musicians or what, but there were at least a few hundred people in the audience, and the atmosphere was amazing with the high ceilings and the ancient statues of saints behind the performers and the silk banners floating in the night breeze -- and all this was just happening right inside our hotel past the courtyard!
I'm aware none of this trip seems to have anything to do with Save the Children yet, but we're waking up at the crack of dawn tomorrow to head out to the more remote areas where Save has people working, so the philanthropic part of this trip really hasn't begun yet. For tonight, I'm just a girl who's absolutely tickled pink by this beautiful hotel. My room has a fireplace! With wood and matches and kindling sitting out for me! But I don't want to burn down this ancient landmark from the 1500's so I'm not going to use it!
So the thing about traveling in other countries is that you can't always just assume everything is going to be "normal"; specifically the tiny things you take for granted at home might be completely different in another country, causing not so tiny repercussions. Case in point - the "C" on the handle in the bathroom for the sink does not in fact mean "cold" like I assumed, like it was always does at home. I can only imagine it stands for "caliente", because I nearly burned my face off a minute ago while getting ready for bed.
I have to wake up in about six hours so I'm going to call it a night, but I just had to gush about how much I love seeing new places and how I am actually setting my alarm for a half hour earlier tomorrow morning so I can go wander around my hotel a bit. So, to put that in perspective, I am WILLINGLY setting my alarm for 5 AM. Oh traveling. How I love you.
the talking problem
20 hours ago