Sunday, November 15, 2009

Poco a poco

Oh dear blog, where to start?

I am in Antigua. Sarah left this morning for Honduras. I will be here for another week and a half studying Spanish. We didn't exactly part well, things are kind of unresolved. I feel like I've been through a bad breakup, but instead of being able to curl up in bed with ice cream and my best friend, I am all alone in a completely foreign place.

Instead of ice cream, I grant myself as much internet time as I can stand. This is about the one thing keeping me together right now.

I don't really know what I can say here, anything I write is obviously from one perspective. I have already been reprimanded for sharing too much here. Suffice it to say, I suppose, that things have profoundly changed. In our relationship, and in our traveling situation. I will rejoin Sarah in about a week and a half, but I don't know what that's going to be like. Yesterday I woke up and the question actually passed through my mind, "What if I just go home now?" I hate that I thought that. I worked so hard for this trip. I expected so much from it. I was brave. And now I'm thinking about giving up? Well, I'm not giving up yet. I also seriously thought about the possibility of traveling alone-- I honestly don't know what Sarah and I are going to feel upon our reunion.

Maybe I'm jumping to ridiculous conclusions here. I certainly hope I am. But, undeniably, things have changed.

I am trying hard to put myself back together here, because this is still my life-altering adventure I'm on, and I will be damned if I regret losing a week to emotional upheaval. I do wish I wasn't tied to Antigua at this point, I think new sights and new people would be good for me at the moment. But I paid ahead of time to get a reduced price, so Antigua it is until the 25th.

I am trying hard to meet new people, and forge a new idea of what this journey will be for me.

So. Antigua. It is a beautiful colonial town. I was actually really surprised upon driving into it because it is so different from the rest of the country I've seen, which is in general a very poor one (though rich in aforementioned natural beauty). It feels old and established and european. It's a very romantic town. And apparently somewhat dangerous. My spanish teacher scared me quite a bit the other day when she told me never to go out past 8, and ABSOLUTELY never to go out past 10. The Guatemalans don't. But every social backpacker knows the action doesn't start until 10. So. I am now paranoid that a pack of armed men will rob me if not worse on the way back to my Guatemalan family's house which is in the southern end of town-- the more risky end of town. Great, I'm alone and I'm scared. But let's not get dramatic here, I will just have to find someone to walk me home every night. Perhaps that will be good for me-- I'll have to befriend a guy enough to ask him to walk me 15 minutes away.

Living with a Guatemalan family is also not quite what I anticipated. I thought there would be a lot of family time, a lot of practicing spanish time. My family, however, is very small, and they house students like a bed and breakfast. They provide a bed, and meals when I want them. No family meal time. But Elder and Marina are very nice, and I didn't want to offend them by switching to a different family. My fellow student boarders are old people. Who are not that interested in interacting with me. So my hopes of finding new friends there died immediately. My food is traditional and simple. And prepared with plenty of oil. But tastey and plentiful. I will probably be gaining a few pounds here.

My spanish teacher, Cony, is great. She's 26, and since all we do during our 4-hour lessons is talk, we're getting to know each other despite the language barrier. I'm impressed with how much I can understand already, even if my own communication is still slow. We had a great conversation the other day about the traditional Guatemalan woman's place in society, and exectation in the home and in life. She got married at 17 (something she regrets), and is no longer married. She is, apparently, very lucky to be able to have a career outside of the home, and she is definitely one of the more feminist Guatemalans out there.

I am planning on spending time at El Gato Negro, the hostel I stayed at my first night here. It's one of the most popular, and has a great little restaurant, so I hope to pick up new friends there. I am, of course, spending a great deal of time with the lovely Eva, whose pateince, independence, and maturity continues to impress me.

The big touristy thing to do here is Vulcan Pacaya. It is constantly erupting, so tourists make the strenuous hike to the top to roast marshmallows over the lava. It's supposedly AMAZING. I think I'll do that next weekend, I was too immersed in my internetting to make it to the tour today.

I have also only recently gotten over my extreme soreness after Semuc Chempey. The day after our trip to the falls and bridge, I decided to hitch a ride back to the falls so I could take all the pictures my heart desired, and then walk back to town and the hostel-- a 9 km hike through the mountains. Brilliant. Yes, it was beautiful. Yes, I think I got some great pictures. Yes, I loved meeting, greeting, and conversing with the indigenous people I met on the road. Yes, I was so sore. Yes, it was EXHAUSTING. I think it was worth it though. I mean, I am pretty impressed with myself, and everyone at the hostel was too when I walked (limped?) in at 3 in the afternoon. Good training for Macchu Picchu, perhaps? And a quarter of the way down the last hill, I hopped on the back of this guy's bike for the remaining km back to Lanquin. I did, unfortunately, miss some of the best photo opps that way, but who can say no to a motorbike down a steep mountain road? Not I. Thank you mystery Guatemalan guy on the motorbike-- if only I had the Spanish to have a conversation with you. So the soreness, particularly in my left thigh, only intensified the day after, and the day after that. Today was the first day it was completely gone. My knee continues to recover, though I think that's going to be a long process.

Please, overwhelm me with loving responses. Sometimes I feel bone-crushingly alone. I have met a lot more people so far than I expected. This is wonderful. And I am relying upon the expectation that I will meet more, even without the extroverted Sarah at my side. But new acquaintances do not quite make up for old friends with whom you have memories with. Friends who know you beyond the backpacker.


Sven said...

Yo! Good luck learning Spanish - it's a great language. Keep having fun down there - I just emailed you (sorry it's so long). Take care friend.

Sara said...

ah love. i wish i was there, even though sometimes i'm glad i'm not. maybe it is comforting to know that it is just as lonely in new york and you can often want friends who knew you pre-ny just like you can want friends who knew you pre-packing. I guess you need to have them all though. probably when you get back you'll want some friends who know this side of you. I guess it can be good to sometimes remember time flys. hours pass, then days and weeks- a few months and you will be here, by me!

So, be safe and follow your gut. I think you'll meet good people and have great experiences. I guess I would say I know it.


Rebecca said...

I know you feel really alone and awful, but honestly, from this end, it all sounds kind of cool and exciting. I know when I was in NJ I was lonely and bored a lot of the time, and Elizabeth would tell me that she pictured me sitting in the park, looking over the pond, reading and drinking coffee (which I often did after I dropped the kid at school), and my life looked pretty awesome from her perspective.

So. I'm just saying - you may feel kinda shitty, but you seem pretty amazing and exotic to the rest of us. Please feel great about that.

And in a few months you and Sara and I will be hanging in NY and you will be telling us all about your adventures and showing us your pictures over coffee and cheesecake.


voyageuse said...

Mmmmmmm coffee and cheesecake! Hm, eating my emotions perhaps? Yes, more nachos please.

Rebecca said...

I have no idea why eating your emotions is supposedly a bad thing. My emotions taste GREAT. Like cheesecake.

Elizabeth said...

Your trip sounds great. There are always highs and lows, yes? But what Rebecca says is true, from our perspective you're lookin' cool! So take a stroll. Sketch some stuff, read some stuff, eat some stuff. Be outside. People need to see you! Relax. You've gotta relax. And once you do that the good things will come.

I hope your reunion with Sarah is grand. Things have changed, but that's what things do - am I right or am I right? I think it's awesome that you're apart for a week. It takes off pressure - traveling with friends, for me, is hard. I can feel like I'm being steered by them or that I'm responsible for them. So getting some time to cut loose takes away that weight - and then I'm usually fine. Even if Sarah and you don't have the best reunion ever known to man - you are still friends.

I think it's great that you're learning Spanish. That's so smart! I wish I had taken that instead of Italian.

Your pictures are exquisite, I'm sure. I'm excited to see them (in a few months).

So sign off this dang internet and send me a post card from Antigua! DO IT! It'll give you something to do.

This trip was a great idea for you. And, I think, anything life changing and worthwhile has got to have its hard times.

Debbie said...

Laura _ I will overwhelm you with love and let you know as i follow your blog, most recently this one, I continue to admire your courage in the face of baing alone and without Sarah. It sounds to me like you are facing your deepest fears of being on your own.... this will serve you well.... i don;'t know too many people who are doing what you and Sarah are doing.... to let her go her way, to go yours is to trust that there is a higher power involved in both your lives. Dont get me wrong.... I wish you and Sarah were together.... its easier to trac her whereabouts.... she has alot of life to cover.... but for now admire yourself, praise yourself for the young womanof courage you are. with much love, debbie

D_Pain said...

You don't know me. I knew Sara in NY... But I just wanted to tell you that splitting up while traveling is total normal. In fact, I don't think I've ever met backpackers who didn't take some time apart. You learn so much about people, people you thought you knew everything about. Traveling can bring out everyone's best and worst qualities. It can emphasize your strengths but can also spotlight your weaknesses and insecurities. But that's also the beauty of it, you get to know yourself and the people you chose to spend time with more than you can ever get to know them in a setting back home. So whether or not you and Sara meet back up in your travels you'll continue to make fantastic friends and have the time of your life so long as you maintain an open mind. Trust me, traveling alone was the best thing I personally ever did for myself.

Also, don't skip those islands in Honduras! They're fabulous and a great place to meet people for the road.