Monday, August 20, 2012

Guatemala, for real this time (to be updated soon with pictures)

Hopefully soon I will intersperse some pictures into this post.  I'd add them now but I'm tired after waking up every two hours all night to go wake Chloe up to make sure she didn't get a concussion from climbing over the arm of the couch yesterday (she seems fine).

The flights to and from were fine.  We had a layover in Dallas each time, which is a fairly nice airport, though really big.  There were some areas to run around in that the kids liked.  We flew American Airlines, which was nice, much better than our previous flight experiences of various other airlines.  The Jacob's Ladders that I had made for the kids fell apart the first time they tried to play with them, possibly because Aiden insisted on me showing them to him before the glue was completely dry.  I'll have to glue them back together sometime.  The mini dinosaurs I brought were a big hit, as were the toy airplanes.  I think Aiden played with the iPad almost the entire time we were on the planes.  The boys didn't really touch the notebooks full of coloring and dry erase activities that I painstakingly put together for them.  Oh well, now we've got them for them to do at home sometime.  Nobody got sick on the plane, we didn't have any blowouts, and everybody liked eating the snacks I brought, particularly the applesauce pouches (Best. Airplane. Food. Ever.).

It was so nice to see my parents again.  It took the kids a little bit, but they got used to them pretty fast, and soon were playing with them quite happily.  The girls were a little clingy for me, but then again, they usually are right now, so that wasn't anything out of the ordinary.  The weather was amazing, nice and comfortable and cool compared to the Arizona heat.  It only rained hard on us once, which my parents said is fairly unusual.  We went out to eat several times, and had yummy steaks, Guatemalan black beans, fried plantains, Pollo Campero fried chicken, a typical Guatemalan breakfast (more black beans, more plantains, eggs), and of course, yummy food my mom made.  I thought the black beans were interesting, they're like refried beans in that they're mashed smooth, but they're also kind of...fluffy, for lack of a better term.  Everything was tasty.  I got to play Scrabble, which was delightful, even if my mother did trounce us, and we learned how to play Mexican Train dominoes and Chicken Feet dominoes, which were very fun.  The boys got to play with Legos and PlayDoh and all the toys my mom borrowed from her friend, so they had lots of fun whenever we were at the apartment, and the children got their first bath with all four of them in the same tub at once.

On Monday, we went to Kaminaljuyu, which is a big grassy area in the center of Guatemala City with some partially excavated ruins.  It was a good choice for our first day there, since the boys got to run around lots after having to sit almost the entire day before as we traveled.  That afternoon we went to Antigua, the old capital of the country, which had lots of beautiful colonial style buildings, a neat jade store/factory that we got to tour, and a restored cathedral that the boys particularly enjoyed seeing the large fountain in the middle and running around on the roof.

On Tuesday, we went to Lake Atitlan.  The road there was extremely windy and up-and-down in elevation as it went through the mountains, but the views were beautiful.  Mike and I went on an 8-leg zipline, which was awesome, while my parents took all four kids on a nature hike.  We saw a monkey swinging by its tail, and some other sort of animal that I really don't know what it was.  We could see the lake from many parts of the zipline, which was beautiful, although I was more focused on making sure I started braking with my hand in time to avoid crashing than I was on the scenery.  What can I say, the ziplines were really fast.  At the end of the zipline adventure, they had a little ropes course thing.  The first part was walking across a suspended board while holding on to some ropes above you (and being harnessed onto a center rope above for safety), and that wasn't too bad.  The second part was leaping from swinging suspended wood plank to wood plank, each far enough from each other that you had to take big steps, which of course sets you swinging.  It was extremely difficult, and I fell down twice (harnessed to the top, so I only fell to a sitting position even with the wood planks, but man is it hard to stand back up!), and got a pretty nice looking rope burn on my arm from a misjudgement as to the best way to grab the ropes for the next plank 2/3rds of the way through.  But, we both made it across without serious injury.  After that, my dad was very nice and drove around for quite awhile until we got to a point where we could walk Aiden and Caleb down to a little dock at the lake and they could see the water.  Three points of note about Lake Atitlan: 1, it is huge, 2, it is beautiful, surrounded by volcanoes covered in greenery, and 3, it is stinky.  I realize many lakes stink, especially when you factor in pollution, sewage runoff, and fishing, I just wasn't prepared for it, just as I wasn't prepared for how big it is (lakes in Arizona tend to be kind of small).  It was extremely beautiful though.

On Wednesday, my mom very kindly watched all the kids all by herself while my dad flew with us up to the Mayan ruins at Tikal.  They were really amazing.  Photos simply don't do them justice.  These pyramids and temples are huge.  Really, really, really huge.  And steep.  Very, very, very steep.  Our tour guide was great, he took us on a several-hour tour full of interesting facts about the ruins, Mayan civilazation, and once he noted we were interested, he pointed out interesting trees, animals, and bugs for us.  There were bright orange centipedes everywhere which were cool, a big black centipede or millipede or something that is the dangerous sort, a very beautiful big spider in a web stretched across a doorway, a giant tarantula that one of the Guatemalans had caught in a water bottle to show to tourists, some butterflies, a small gray mountain fox, monkeys, termites, ants, beetles, and loads of mosquitos.  If you ever go to Tikal, I recommend taking bug spray and sunscreen.  It was very hot, so when it started pouring rain in the afternoon, Mike and I both enjoyed getting totally soaked, while my dad and our guide waited under various overhangs for the rain to disperse. We got up at 4:30 to get there, and didn't get back until about 9:30, but the trip to Tikal was one of my favorite parts of the whole week, it was really amazing.

On Thursday, we went to the Relief Map, which was much larger than I was expecting.  It's a 3-D representation of all of Guatemala, with all of the cities having little flags with their names.  The vertical scale of the mountains is not the same as the scale of the horizontal area, so the mountains all look super-steep, but it's really amazing overall, especially when you consider it was made in 1905.  Then we went to the Central Market, which the kids didn't really enjoy, but I thought it was fun to browse around.  We bought a tiny toy marimba for the boys, and some brightly colored dresses for the girls.  On the way home, we stopped by a large playground near my parents' apartment, that had large cement slides, which the kids enjoyed.

On Friday morning, my mom watched the kids again while we went to a temple session.  It was my first time in one of the smaller temples, it was nice.  Friday afternoon I spent packing to come home while the kids played.  My mom quilted some beautiful quilts for the girls, and my parents both seemed to like the Scrabble blanket I made for them.  Aiden got car sick a couple of times during the trip, and the girls both got sick also on the way back from Lake Atitlan, and we had one potty accident, but overall, the kids all did great, and didn't come home with any illnesses or anything.

It was a fantastic trip, and I'm so happy we went.

Hopefully pictures will be coming soon, I have some editing to do and I have to acquire over half of them from Mike still, and check if my mom has some that we lost off our camera somehow.