Tag Archives: volunteer

Day 4 – Arrival in Sibilia

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(more pics below)

7:30 am – breakfast at Casa de los Amigos
8:30 am – drive to Sibilia
11:30 am – stop at outdoor market
1:30 pm – arrive at Bueno Vista in Sibilia
2:00 pm – lunch in the school, presentations and speeches, English games, soccer game
6:00 pm – coffee with the mayor of Sibilia (Juan Francisco) and vice mayor
7:30 pm – night time pick up truck ride to our homestay. Sang into the dark night with Isabelle, Na, Steph, Derrick, Julie, Yuki
8:30 pm – dinner

After a couple days of relaxing and travelling for ourselves, we finally made our way to Sibilia.

The drive there was something special. The scenery was absolutely stunning. It was unlike anything that I’ve seen in Guatemala so far. According to Sheily, we were in the actual countryside. Totally explains why I love it so much right? The landscape and natural elements looked more similar to Vancouver. Instead of rolling green mountains like in Guatemala City/Rio Dulce, the mountains were much taller and more sharp. Layers and layers of evergreen-like trees and tall jagged mountains fell behind one another and extended into the the distance.

As we wound down one curvy road after another, I saw Guatemala’s country side in every angle possible. While everyone snoozed away, I stared in awe at what I couldn’t believe to be the most beautiful scene I’ve ever seen. I know I get lost easily in any landscape and all landscapes but this one was truly truly unique and it just took my breath away. 

The scenery only got better when we arrived in Sibilia and neared the community that we will be working in. The community is actually called “Bueno Vista” and it literally translates into “Beautiful view”. One look around and you’ll understand why. Hills upon hills layered each other as far as the eye can see. There was a medley of forest and small neighbourhoods. Clusters of vibrantly coloured houses studded the narrow dirt roads. Here and there amongst all the natural lushness, you could see faces of the hills evenly ploughed and tamed into nice straight lines. Horses, cows, chickens and goats roamed the place. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I coudn’t help but feel my heart yearning to stay here for more than just a week. 

When we go to the school in Bueno Vista, we were greeted with the warmest welcome. Traditional festive music was playing. Balloons of every colour were neatly hung in the order of ROYGBIV. The moment we got off the van, elders and other important people came to hug us and give us kisses our cheeks. Everyone was so amiable and greeted us like we were old friends whom they haven’t seen in a while. 

We had a fantastic lunch of rice, tamales and beef stew. Then we watched the ceremony that the teachers and kids planned for us. You could tell that the entire community put a lot of work into this. There was AV equipment, an adorable dance performance by the girls (Yessica, Jenifer, Stephanie and Julie) and boys (Calvin and others). Even the mayor (Juan Francisco), vice mayor (Aldof) and district mayor (Senor Daniel) made an appearance.  Of course, I had no idea what anyone was saying but I was so appreciative of everything that they have done for us. Everyone made us feel like a huge deal

After lunch, we played some games with the kids to teach them English. But honestly, I felt like it helped me more to learn Spanish (ha!). 

Later in the evening, we had coffee with the mayor and vice mayor of Sibilia. The mayor personally invited us himself!! I wish I knew more Spanish because he made a great effort to have a conversation with me but I just didn’t understand! He asked each of us for our names and what we were studying in school. Then… he recorded it all in his notebook! He is the sweetest person ever! 

The ride to our homestay will probably be one of my most unforgettable memories. I got to live my country dream of riding in the back of a red pick up truck and winding down old back roads underneath the stars. Let me tell you about the sky. It was gorgeous. The stars burned big and bright above the purple twilight and the silhouette of the mountains. I couldn’t have asked for a clearer night. If I could listen to one song during that ride it would’ve been “Golden” or “Tim McGraw”, but I didn’t bring any music playing devices with me.

What happened next was better than listening to music though. Me, Na, Steph, Isabelle, Yuki and Derrick were riding in the pick up together… and we spontaneously broke out into song. We sang “Part of Your World”, “Tale As Old As Time”, “I Want It That Way”, “The Jungle Book” and other songs into the night sky all ride long. So nice to be in a truck full of people who like to sing and have beautiful singing voices. 

I really really didn’t want that ride to end. It will probably be the highlight of my trip.

Now if only they liked to sing country and we got a banjo-guitar duo going… 😛

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Day 3 – The Tikal

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tikal

The Tikal was so surreal. It’s so hard to believe that Mayans once walked in those jungles. The podiums that the Mayans used for sacrilege were still intact and in place. It was kind of eerie knowing that human beings used to select one of their peers to die on those but at the same time it was SO COOL. The podium was still covered in ash and even though I’ve never seen or experienced anything of the sort, it was so real that I could almost see it happening. My imagination was supplemented with scenes from the movie “The Road to El Dorado” even though it has nothing to do with Mayans or Guatemala. 

From zee journal:

6:30 am – breakfast in the car
7:30 am- arrive at the Tikal!
1:00 pm – lunch at Mundo Perdido Restaurant
2:30 – 11 pm – drive back to Guatemala City (butt pain, need to urinate, motion sickness)
8:20 pm – pit stop at sketchy gas station
11:30 pm – dinner at Casa de los Amigos (pollo plancha, bread, mashed potatos, steamed veg)

Tikal Sites Visited
Templo 1
Templo 2
Acropolis Norte 
Acropolis Central

Templo V
Plaza de los Siete Templos
Mundo Perdido
Acropolis Sur
Templo 3

Palacio de las Acanaladuras
Grupo G

Tikal Day! I’ve been waiting for this day to come! I love history and it’s a been a while since I last had a “history field trip” and the history nerd in me just really needed to be fueled again! Plus, it’s the freaking Tikal! There is no better place to travel back in time!

It was such a surreal experience. The thought that kept running through my mind was “I can’t believe I’m here.” Honestly, I never thought I would visit a place like this, knowing how unadventurous I am.

Everything was so breath-taking. Some of the architecture has been around since 4th century BC! Isn’t that crazy?! Some of the templos are super high and made entirely out of rock/stone that are of the perfect straight-edge shape. How did they build everything?! 

Steph and I tried to get to as many sites as possible. We went to most of the sites except for some around Templo VI and one of the palacios. All in all, I think we did pretty great at hitting as many templos as possible. Even though it was at the expense of our knees and legs.  there were a heck of a lot of stairs to climb! 

I can’t express in words how beautiful the park is. Tall jungle trees. Exotic bird calls. Monkeys. Coatimundis. 

The best view was from the top of templo IV. Steph and I were nearly crippled from walking up the 10 flights of narrow and tall steps that led to the top. Yenno what made it worst? My extreme fear of heights. The stairs were study enough but it was made from thin pieces of wood just nailed together and it made me nervous because a) there were 30 other people climbing on these at the same time b) I could see through the steps and look down at how high up I was. 

By the time I climbed the 3rd flight of stairs, I was shaking and sweating. Not from exhaustion but from trying hard to stay calm and telling my feet to keep going when all they wanted to do was turn around and go back to solid ground. 

In the end it was all worth it. The tip of templo IV rose above all the trees in the entire park. At the top, I could see templo I, templo II, and templo III just peaking through the tree cover. The view was absolutely gorgeous. 

Oh, back track. When we first arrived at the entrance of the park, one of the staff was selling maps to the park for 20Q. Once I opened the map, I saw A GIANT PICTURE of a jaguar. And I mean GIANT. The picture took up like a quarter of the map. I guess he noticed my slight anxiety attack  so he quickly explained that the jaguars are nocturnal and so we won’t see them around. Even after that, I could not rest. My heart was racing just from the thought of running into a jaguar. If it happens, there is no escaping. Jaguar > Connie. I’m terrified of ALL animals, so how in the world am I going to outrun or fight a jaguar?! I was so freaked out that I almost wanted to quit the trip all together. 

So glad that I didn’t let my fears get to me though. It was definitely one of the best experiences of my life

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Day 2 – Flores and Rio Dulce

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For our rest days, we decided to visit the Tikal!!! Since it’s 8 hours away from Guatemala City (where we stayed at our hostel), we had to drive out to a city that’s closer to the Tikal to stay for one night. The city we stayed at is called Flores, which is the capital of Petén (a department of Guatemala) and it is located about 1.5 hours away from the Tikal. So we drove, for 8 butt-numbing hours, from the south-centerish region to northern Guatemala. 

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From my journal:

6:45 am: Breakfast
7:30 am: Left Guatemala City for Flores
11:00 am: Traffic jam/block because apparently there was a protest. Some of us got out of the car, walked past the block to a bridge that overlooked the Rio Dulce
1:00 pm – lunch at Jocelyn Restaurant, boat ride along Rio Dulce
3:00 pm – on the road again, butt-numbing 8 hour ride continues
7:00 pm – arrive at Saint Helena (?) for dinner at a mall complex
9:30 pm – arrive at Jaguar Inn

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Finally, this country-girl-at-heart gets to experience the real country side. Even though I’m tired, I want to keep my eyes open for as much of this road trip as possible. There is so much to see (and smell, ahah). I just know I’ll miss this place when I get back to Vancouver.

The rolling green hills seem to never end. Studded with old barns, it adds that rustic touch that I love so much about the country side. All along the road, there are clusters of tall and towering palm trees that can put LA’s palm trees to shame. At first, I thought that they were papaya trees since the coconuts had an orange skin, but that’s the unripe stage of a coconut!

This 5 hour road trip (so far) is actually making me feel so nostalgic. Guatemala smells just like China. It’s crazy how after 12 years, the thing I remember most about China is the smell.

***Couple hours later***

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We stopped for lunch at a restaurant along Rio Dulce. After that long car ride I was starved! It wouldn’t have taken so long if there wasn’t a protest happening at the other side of the bridge (This is a small detail that I will leave out when I tell les parents, they’ll freeeeak out). It was well worth the wait though because the restaurant and the view of the river was absolutely gorgeous! The restaurant was small and cozy with its straw roof and rustic wooden furniture. There is nothing like this in Vancouver, which is a city made of glass, polished mahogany and chrome metallics. 

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Lunch was going to take awhile to cook, so we took a boat ride to pass time. I love love love rivers/lakes/any water body. I like the way they make me feel. I love seeing ripples rise up in peaks then soften out again with every wave. I love feeling the breeze that blows off of the tide. There was so much activity on this river. Along the banks, women were washing their laundry on the rocks. Oh and we passed a bunch of cute homes which have me convinced to move here for retirement.

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Best part: Castillo de San Felipe. It was a little piece of history that stood unwavering over decades of  change. That’s why I find historical structures so fascinating, it provides a glimpse into the past. You can deduce how people used to live and how things were back then. (Danggit, should’ve been a history or anthropology major.)

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To have had this experience in an entirely different country with a bunch good spirited people was such a privilege. Two days ago, these people were just strangers, but now they’re more like family 🙂 I don’t think I’ll ever get over how lucky I am to have met them.

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