Thursday, June 9, 2005

Guatemala Day One

It is only 7:30 at night, but I'm ready for bed. It has been a long day. After my hour long internet session at the hotel, I turned around and saw two men reading an Earthwatch manual. I assumed they were the other two on our list, and sure enough, they were. We had a lovely conversation for a few minutes, wherein they informed me that another man, Chris, was joining the team. I told them about Ceil, and we all agreed to meet at about 1.00 to check out and go to the airport together.

In the hotel lobby while we were all getting ourselves situated, Ceil heard me speaking Spanish and said, "You didn't tell me you speak Spanish!" I said, “I never said that, and if I did, it's only because I was groggy, but I don't think you ever asked me either.” Inside I was thinking, “Because you wouldn't let anyone else get a word in edgewise, you big hog.”

At the airport, the father of the father/son team, Dave, needed to buy some postcard stamps and change some money. So I took him inside to help him. We successfully negotiated both activities, and when we got back downstairs, saw a young man holding an EARTHWATCH CHOCOLA crudely lettered cardboard sign. We also noticed that our other two members, Mike and Ceil, were nowhere to be seen. Fede, the young man, told us they were putting the luggage in the van and that we were waiting for one more person. I noticed an older woman standing next to him and introduced myself to her, Judy. She was here last year and so is an old hand at all this. I said, “Oh, we must be waiting for Chris, then.” No, they informed me that Chris was there and we were waiting for yet someone else. I asked if there was time, then, for me to use the restroom, and there was. So back inside the airport I used my calling card and called Linda. She conferenced in Cim, and even though there wasn't anything new to report on any of our ends, it was nice to chat with them before heading off to who knows where for two weeks.

When I got back downstairs, the other crew member, another Dave, was there. This Dave has also been here before and has some sort of expensive piece of equipment that measures stuff or takes radar pictures of stuff, or something, underground. He takes eight measurements per meter. I know this because our entertainment in the van was listening to him blab on and on about this equipment, how much it costs, how much the software for it costs, how important he is because he has it, etc. We also were privileged to hear about his other Earthwatch adventures in Romania, Poland, and I don't know where all else. Throughout all of this, Ceil was closer in the front of the van, so I was spared two people blabbing on and on about their trips to MesoAmerica and all their adventures and how important and well-traveled they are. I know it's not nice of me to be so blunt, but after listening to them both intermittently alternatively all day, it's really about all I can stand. At one point I was ready to just yell at Short Dave, “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!” But I didn't. I just watched the scenery and wondered about the people who inhabited this land so long ago that I'll be studying for these next two weeks. Is this really the place where the Book of Mormon takes places, as FARMS postulates? I kinda don't think so, but that's mostly because I still don't agree with how they try to take their view and force it into existing data, as opposed to sitting back and letting the picture paint itself. Perhaps more on that another day.

It was a three hour drive to Chocola. At about 3:00 p.m. it got very dark, but only because of the cloudburst we were getting ready to enter, complete with a very impressive, first day, welcoming electrical storm. Cim would really like this. But I'm pretty sure that she would not like the accommodations – especially the bathroom. I'm not sure I like the accommodations, especially the bathroom. The water is on intermittently through the day, which means no flushing the toilet until late at night or early in the morning. Not cool.

The floors are concrete, the easier to hose down each day, I suppose. The walls in the toilet stall and shower stall (two separate cubicles) don’t appear to be very sound. There are gaps between the boards, affording views of the rest of the house and the great outdoors. Both stalls look like they’re wonderful potential nesting places for all sorts of bugs.

The beds are cots, really, with a board for a mattress. At least, mine is. But I did manage to snag one of the two semi-private rooms. “Semi” because there's a cloth curtain separating me from four other cots. Judy has the other semi-private room. Hers has a fan in it, which I'm wishing mine had.

It's still raining. It’s also quite warm. I won't need my sleeping bag, other than for padding, but it probably won't help much in that area either.

Chris, the other man in our volunteer group, is a young surfer dude from Wisconsin. I don't know either, but that's the best way to describe him. He wears flip-flops, has carefully too-shaggy hair that he constantly touches in the back to see if it's curling too much in the humidity, and wears various surfer Quicksilver and other surfer accessory bracelets. He is a religious studies major, minor in anthropology with a specialty area of archeology, so he is getting college credit for this time. Very nice guy. Quiet, and that's good too. It's refreshing to have someone else who doesn't have to monopolize the conversation and brag in reciting-resume tones.

Dinner was delicious. Dona Maria is, indeed, a wonderful cook. They, the graduate students, threw us a little welcoming party on the balcony, but I don't drink, and I noticed that Ceil wasn't either, and Judy was ready to call it quits after one rum and coke, so the three of us returned here to unpack and see what we can do to make ourselves comfortable.

I fear that I will be unable to repack after two weeks. Everything that was so carefully crammed into a duffel and a backpack has now exploded everywhere, but it's all stuff I'll need during the next fortnight, so that's okay. Plus, I'm planning on leaving as much of it behind as possible.

Despite my somewhat negative descriptions and first impressions of these people, I really am happy and content. I plan to just soak as much of this up as possible, work hard, listen a lot and just try to enjoy this.

But for now, I have some postcards to write, and a foam-covered board that's calling my name. 5:30 comes early in the morning!

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