Sun, Jan 6
Wow, today has been a crazy/great day! First I got up and did a 30 minute yoga session out on the courtyard. Three (3) students joined me and it was really fun! Then after breakfast we went to church and that was really interesting. It was so neat to see everyone in their Sunday garb and hear the mass conducted completely in Spanish. We go there in the middle of it so that was weird, but really neat to experience it. Next as the best part of whole trip so far – “the hike”!
Ready to go??!!
We were to hike to the cross which we did, but there was also an option to hike up to “the nose”. The mountain looks like a profile of a face and the nose was the destination that some of the group was going to climb. The mountain is called “Rostro Maya” or face of the Mayan. When we started the hike I had not decided whether or not I would do the entire thing or just to the cross, but then I just decided “if not now, when?!” Just the hike to the cross was pretty rugged and steep. The view was absolutely beautiful up there. After a few pics with the whole group at the cross most of us decided to keep going to the nose.
Oh – my – gosh – this was the hardest thing I have ever done!!! Even harder than running the marathon! Seriously. The hike up was extremely steep, rocky and pretty dangerous actually!
Coffee plants along the way…
Rest stop along the way – this getting really pretty and hard!
We took lots of water breaks, but hiked up at a pretty good clip. At one point we thought we were going the wrong way because we were going down…on the way up! But, it turned out to be right afterall.
There is the nose…we are getting there!
Three of us were walking together at one point and we kept wondering how in the heck we would go down!!! I was so touched at the kindness of Dorcas, our Merge “mother” who is 47, by the way. She saw me struggling and offered to carry my backpack. Her husband, Walter, who is 48, offered to carry it earlier in the hike and I had said no. This time I gladly let her help me, however. She also let me use her walking stick which was very helpful to steady myself going up. She is such a wonderful and generous woman. This was her first time up this mountain as well! I wonder, would I do the same for someone else?!
Every now and then there were actual built-in stairs…but just don’t trust the “handrails” – yikes!
We finally made it to the top after many doubts that I could make it. The encouragement from all the students was so awesome and inspiring! We agreed that we could not have done it on our own. The power of the group was fantastic! We celebrated at the top with more water, rest and some snacks and took some really cool pics!
We did it!
Next came the really fun part – going down! It started off pretty good with students joking and laughing, but after awhile it was just quiet. Everyone was quiet and focused. Going down was maybe even harder than going up. I mean, going up was probably tougher cardio-wise, but going down was scarier and took forever. I threw away my walking stick (it was actually more of a hazard going down) and tried to come up with a strategy for coming down. Going down sideways seemed to work okay, but the gravel here and there was slippery and scary. At some point I just wanted to crawl in a corner and cry! It was so hard because at this point my legs were like jelly and I was annoyed at seeing rocks after rocks. But we made it finally and Steve (one of the student leaders) had bought us all sodas for when we came down! So refreshing and I never drink pop! What a great feeling of accomplishment!
It was about 6 miles up and six miles down and 2000 feet up – it took us 4 hours! We kinda missed lunch, but had a little bite at 3pm when we returned to the hotel. I just had a half of a pb&j and some guacamole because I’m never hungry right after working out – and this was one heck of a workout!! We all talked about our adventure and Mario (Merge leader) told me that I was the first “teacher” in any of his groups that has done it! That made me feel really good! He has hiked the mountain 7 times. I so wanted to tell Mike all about it and show him the pics, but I’ll have to wait and hope my journal about it translates. After a shower we are all just hanging out and playing games until dinner. Oooo – another dinner at Patrona’s – I can’t wait! Great, great day! I think I might have won the sweat contest too – my shirt looked like I had just gotten out of the washer. Go figure!
Dinner was amazing yet again tonight. This time it was a soup. It was served as a broth, but with a small beef roast and other veggies on the side. Thankfully Esau was sitting next to me and told me that you normally cut up the meat and vegetables and put them in the soup. The veggies were potatoes, carrots and this squash thing that grows in Guatemala that we don’t get in the states. It is called something like kuiquil. Them tomatillos were brought out – or called tomales. They are basically corn steamed in a banana leaf. I almost at the outside until Esau told me not to! It was yummy in the soup too!
After dinner we went up to have reflection. Tonight our question to ponder was, “Describe something that has happened on this trip so far that you expected and something unexpected”. My answer was that I expected the Merge staff and our new Merge family (Dorcas and Walter and fam) to be helpful and help us negotiate the trip, but I had not idea how kind and hospitable they would be. Just the offering to carry my backpack and provide me with help on the hike – when both of them were older than me and it was their first time up the mountain too was beautiful. Plus tonight Dorcas & Walter gave touching reflections about how they love us like their own and pray that God will protect and keep us from harm. I am so awed and amazed at their open hearts towards our group that they just met like 3-4 days ago. This is love – the kind of love that God wants us to share with each other. It radiates from them as well as their joy. This was also demonstrated at dinner tonight when their daughter, Keila, joined our group for dinner. She was traveling alone by bus from their home. When she came in she hugged her mother and father and then both her brothers who are 15 and 17 came up and formed this big group hug around her. It was genuine love and joy to see each other that we might not always see if the same situation happened in the states.
I kept thinking of the song I sang in Erie County Chorus when I was in 5th grade. I’m not sure what the name of it was , but I remember this part, “…I climbed a mountain. I saw the other side. And I can rest now, for I am satisfied…” Later the chorus says, “…and there was peace in the valley, there was hope in the land. There was joy in the children, there was love, beautiful love, in the heart of man.” I have no idea how that suddenly came to me tonight, but I think it is totally perfect for today and for my experience in Guatemala so far.
After reflection we went to get “papafritas” (french fries) that everyone loves. Then we came back and played “assassins” again – this group loves this game! Yoga is set for 7am again tomorrow. I can’t wait to see how stiff I am in the morning. Yoga will be good! Tomorrow we spend the morning picking coffee – should be another great day!
P.S. Things I’m amazed by: the lady walking up the mountain in her traditional dress by herself and a stick when we were on our way down. We were doing this for fun and she was probably doing it for work or for her family! I also saw men coming down while we were on our way up – with loads of wood on their backs. Also, Esau went up and down the mountain in flip-flops!! Amazing!