Well. It’s been a month since Stu gave that final wave, wedged between 2 locals in the front cab of a shuddering/falling-apart pickup truck. I’m still in San Pedro on the beautiful lake of Atitlan, still illegally working at the Italian restaurant, still watching streams of backpackers come and go, and since his departure I have experienced 3 natural disasters for the first time in my life. I still miss him.
I moved. Instead of babysitting daredevil children up in the hills for $2.25 a night, I am now on the lake with a private room, bathroom, and hammock for $1.75 a night. I went in with some friends, and we rented what was supposed to be a private get-away for travelers but wound up an abandoned paradise full of decaying TeePees for a month. It’s hard to leave that hammock overlooking the water when work time rolls around sabes esta.
2 weeks after Stu left, the rain started. True, it is technically the rainy season, but C’MON! I’ve never seen rain like this. Every day it rains. EVERY DAY. I don’t own a single dry article of anything. I would take some clothes to the lavanteria to dry them, but then how am I supposed to get it back home? It’s RAINING. Thing is, I have seen rain like this, but the other thing is, I’ve always had a car or dry mode of transportation between destinations before. I walk everywhere here, which means I arrive soaked to the bone, and I can’t describe my hatred for walking around in soaked jeans and wet socks, can’t stand it, so I basically live in my bathing suit and flip flops and my lack of coping to wet clothes has earned me a nasty cold.
The other day, during Spanish class (1-on-1 for $4 an hour + free kayaks and horseback rides haaaaah) the earth started acting funny. My teacher was talking about god knows what and suddenly we were dancing the Rumba in our chairs, the palm branches from our grass hut started shedding all around, and I asked “is this an earthquake?!” My teacher smiles, braces the quaking table with his hand and says “Si, entonces, no anglais por favor.” As if it’s nothing, as if it’s not my first earthquake, as if my outburst in English was more incorrect than the solid earth shaking. Forgive me for not knowing the difference between por and para (both mean “for” by the way) because my notes are soaked in pee.
About a week later, Thursday May 27th to be exact, a volcano an hour from here erupted in a town called Antigua. Pacaya, as the lava oozing ash spraying thing is called, was climbed by none other than Stu only 1.5 short months ago while I was sitting on the jon battling a particularly nasty bout of Montezuma, and now Guatemala City’s international airport is closed until Friday. We have refugees! When Alfredo (the amazing Italian chef) hollered, “Alex! It’s raining stones!” I thought he meant the torrential downpour had turned to hail, “NO! Real stones! A volcano over there has erupted!” I thought he meant one of the three volcanos on the lake and I nearly started making out with the closest girl to me not wanting my mummified remains to be forever remembered serving a plate of pasta. “No you idiot! In Antigua, lava is shooting a km high! When are you going to learn Spanish?!” Some hostelers and expats attempted to form a rescue committee, and I considered making the trek but it was dissembled after learning that all the roads were closed, due to 5 inches of ash.
2 days ago, (Saturday May 29th) marked the second day of Agatha, a tropical storm that turned the rainy season into flood season, and mudslides devastated all of Guatemala. Something close to 100 lives were lost, and now all main roads (that were only covered in ash) are now closed due to the mudslides scarring all visible landscapes. We had a mudslide here about a 5-minute walk outside of town, amigos and amigettes, it is horrifying. I’ll attach pictures as soon as I meet someone with compatible camera/computer parts. Raw freaking mother nature devastation. I’m surprised only 2 people (both children) died in it, because at least half a dozen homes were ripped in half and buried under the mud and massive boulders. A VERY drunk (and I don’t blame him) man named David was telling the weekly sunday BBQ his story of escape.
He heard something, looked outside, saw a river of mud, trees, and boulders spilling and tumbling straight for him, he dove under his pila which is a concrete sink type thing where you handwash clothes, and then his house disappeared, his world filled with mud, and he nearly drowned. None of his 3 pets survived, and insurance doesn’t exist here. There has been a digging party at least a hundred locals strong for the past 3 days clearing out the mud, digging out houses, searching for bodies. The vibe here is pretty sad at the moment, no more “buenas dias” when you pass in the streets, only “hola” or nothing at all.
Despite it all, this place is still truly amazing. Somehow the natural disasters only emphasize and heighten the life here. Everyone comes together digging with shovels, pick axes, and hoes instead of massive earth moving machines. The funerals last for a week each and are attended nonstop by dozens and dozens of people from all over the lake. Food for volunteers is heaped up at churches, songs are sung, hands are held, tears are shed by the entire town. It’s incredible.
Anyway, I’ve booked my flight for Buenos Aires the 15th of June. I’ll be spending my birthday (June 9th I’ll be 25!) surrounded by short-known yet long term friends surrounding a massive bon-fire in my front yard amongst scattered teepees and most likely scattered showers. And after visiting distant relatives (Paul’s as in Hale and Paul’s Nephew John and his wife Sybil) who live just outside of Antigua for a couple days I’m finally off to South America! Who would have thought that 6 months was not nearly enough time to go from Mexico City to Buenos Aires by land? I only made it to 2 countries! I’ll be meeting my mom and sister down there the first of July, then a stream of friends are making their way down one by one trickling in over the next year!
You guys are great, thanks for keeping up,