Guatemala 2020 - Days 6-8 (Antigua)
Updated: Feb 20, 2020
I woke up Wednesday morning feeling fine - tentatively optimistic that eating a whole head of broccoli for supper had not sentenced me to a day of gassy discomfort. After another yummy breakfast at Casa de Stela, I headed off to school.
I loved my morning walk to school. It was still early enough that the cars weren't out in full force and the air was crisp. Each morning, I took a different route to school, seeing new sights each time. It was quite impressive to see Volcan Agua in the distance.
Angela and I set off as soon as I arrived. We were heading to Cerro San Cristobal which would likely take more than two hours so we went on our excursion first, and would fill the rest of the 4 hours for my class once we got back to the school.
Cerro San Cristobal is a very peaceful location with beautiful views of the surrounding area. There are small foot paths to walk among the plants, and the place was almost completely empty when we were there.
As we wandered around, I found myself feeling sicker and sicker, until I finally had to make a beeline for the bathroom where I threw up. Apparently, the problem with the broccoli wasn't all the fiber, it was how I washed it. I always thought the reason we aren't supposed to eat raw vegetables in tropical countries is because they might have been washed in unsafe tap water, so I thought I was safe since I'd washed the broccoli in filtered water. Wrong! The broccoli comes with its own bacteria and/or viruses and to kill them, you need to add a bit of of bleach to the water when you wash it. I did not.
We headed back to the school, me feeling woozy and my stomach hurting. I quickly decided I wouldn't be able to focus on the rest of the class so Angela helped me find a taxi to take me back to my AirBnB. A few hours passed and I thought maybe I had gotten off lightly, but by late afternoon my stomach was in pain and I threw up 3 more times. Still not too bad - I had a much worse time of it on a trip to an all inclusive in Cuba. In the evening, I rehydrated with small sips of water and took a Gravol which knocked me right out for the night.
By Thursday morning, I was feeling better and started the day filling my empty stomach with yet another beautiful breakfast at Casa De Stela.
Since I was still operating on a mostly empty stomach, Angela and I headed out to nearby Santa Clara for our excursion of the day. Santa Clara is a convent that was destroyed in an earthquake. We pretty much had the place to ourselves so we wandered around exploring the ruins and gardens.
Somehow, I still made it to my salsa class but by necessity it was a more subdued lesson. At 3pm when it was over, I was ready to crash so I picked up a bag of nachos and a jar of salsa at the grocery store and headed back to my AirBnB to snack and call it an early night. Sidenote: the nachos sold here are So. Much. Better. than the nachos sold in Canada. They're like restaurant style nachos right out of the bag.
Which brings us to today, my last day in Antigua. For our excursion today, Angela and I headed to the luxurious Santo Domingo hotel to take their shuttle up to Cerro Santo Domingo. There is a tunnel inside the hotel that takes you out to the shuttle pick up area. It's a long tunnel and lined with historical artifacts. Apparently, there were tunnels throughout Antigua connecting the different convents and monasteries, since the monks and nuns were not allowed to walk around in public. This tunnel seems to be the only one that survived the earthquake and it's quite impressive.
Cerro Santo Domingo is very different from Cerro San Cristobal. It's more polished and has works of art from Guatemalan artists throughout the grounds. Although I enjoyed looking at the different pieces, I actually preferred the gardens at Cerro San Cristobal.
After a quick Spanish lesson when we got back, I had lunch at the school: 50Q (roughly $8 CAD) for a decent spaghetti and some fruit and all the money goes towards supporting a group of kids in the community. San Pedro de Alvarado Spanish school does a lot of fundraising to support these kids. In addition to a weekly fundraising lunch, they offer Spanish classes via Skype, where half the money (roughly $10 US/hr) goes to the teacher and half goes towards the program for the kids. Over lunch I got to chat with other students at the school, some of whom are staying there for 2, 3 or even more months learning Spanish.
In the afternoon, I attended a trip with the school to a mariposario - a butterfly sanctuary! The mariposario is studying threats to butterflies and works to educate the public. There has been a large decline in the monarch population, and butterflies, along with bees, bats, and hummingbirds, are important pollinators. Unfortunately, people kill butterfly eggs because they don't know that's what they are (they appear as small dots underneath leaves) or they kill the caterpillars, thinking that the caterpillars will destroy their plants. However, caterpillars have some benefits for the plants, so we should leave them be - you can differentiate them from worms or larvae by the fact that they "appear" to have many feet, even though they only actually have 3 pairs of feet. Butterflies need two different kinds of plants - one plant has leaves that are eaten by the caterpillars, the other has flowers whose nectar is eaten by the butterflies. The plants may not be the prettiest options for our gardens, but it's worth having them to help butterflies. And that's just part of what I learned during the roughly one hour lecture on butterflies, all in Spanish, at the mariposario. We saw very few butterflies while there but the information was interesting and it was nice to support the sanctuary given the important work that they're doing.
At the end of the day, I made it back to La Casa de Sopa for a pepian soup, a traditional Guatemalan meal that is more like a stew than a soup. I'm still full 4 hours later and I didn't even finish it. Shuttle at 8am tomorrow to the dock at Panajachel in Lake Atitlan where I will take a lancha to San Pedro. I received a message tonight from Wachalal Lodge ($15 CAD/night) where I will be staying, inviting me to attend dinner for the guests at the lodge tomorrow night. For $13 CAD, I get a 3 course vegetarian dinner (the lodge only serves vegetarian food) with a glass of wine and musical entertainment.