After class last Thursday, we took a trip to Fuentes Georginas–hot springs located in a secluded, forest covered mountain just outside of Xela. We took a windy, foggy road up the mountain, driving past radish and lettuce farms. Suddenly, we got a strong smell of sulfur, and we knew we were close to the springs. Once we got there, our bus driver parked in a small lot at the entrance and we walked down a misty path to the pools.
It was pretty eerie, but in a beautiful way, and was one of the most surreal places I’ve been. We got into the pool–which felt ah-mazing–and waded around. It was soooo incredibly relaxing.
Later we hiked about 10 minutes down from the main pools to an even more secluded pool that was extremely hot. The rocks and plants around the pool made me feel like we were in the jungle, but because we were actually high up on a mountain, the air was cool and crisp. There was a small waterfall nearby the pool, making the area one of the most serene places I’ve been. It felt completely removed from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, almost like we had traveled back in time.
Can I find a way to transport these hot springs back to USA?
So I’m almost done with my first week of Spanish classes! And my brain is a mushy overload of Spanish medical vocabulary and idiomatic phrases. Every morning, I have one-on-one classes with my teacher, Jessica for 5 hours. Five longggg hours of Spanish grammar, vocab, listening exercises, and just general chit-chat. So by the time class is over I’m mentally exhausted. But I really feel like I’m getting a lot better at speaking “con fluidez.”
The school is close to Xela’s central park, and is a quaint spot with a beautiful courtyard. From 8am- 1pm the students and their teachers sit at tables throughout the school and have their Spanish lessons. They have free coffee for students and teachers (#blessed), and bread during our 30 minute break.
I love love love my Spanish teacher. Jessica and I talk about anything and everything, and she is a fantastic teacher. I’ve learned so much about Guatemala and Mayan culture from her. Even though the days seem incredibly long, I can’t believe I’m almost halfway done with Spanish school. I’ll miss my chats with Jessica once I leave Xela!
Jessica, me, and Sarah (another UVA student)
Hopefully soon I’ll get used to the long classes and my brain won’t feel as dead once 1pm hits. (No, but I actually need that to happen pretty quickly, because some afternoons I feel like I can’t even speak proper English let alone Spanish.) Until then, I’ll just keep on taking these afternoon siestas to get me through.
Two days ago, after the longest day of my life I finally landed in Guatemala City. The trip here was pretty exhausting (largely due to the fact I had to be at the airport at 4am) but also incredibly fun (because we decided to turn our 9 hour layover in Miami into an adventure to get breakfast in Little Havana and a day trip to South Beach). It was great to travel with some of the other students in my research program, and although tiring, the trip was exciting.
We spent our first night at a small hostel in Guatemala City, and then the next morning, after a breakfast of pancakes and fruit, all 14 of us piled into a van. With our luggage tightly strapped down on top of the van, we headed for Quetzaltenango (Xela). The trip was about a 4-hour drive on a windy highway up into the highlands, with beautiful scenery. It was a cloudy day, and the clouds hung low over the mountains—absolutely breathtaking.
In Xela we had lunch at La Chatia Artesana, a restaurant with delicious sandwiches. The in-country coordinator for our program gave us the run-down of our first couple of weeks, and then we headed out to walk through the city for a bit. It was raining. Pouring, actually. But in the midst of jumping puddles I was still able to take in some of the beauty of the city and its European architecture. However, because “packing lightly” is something that just isn’t in my DNA, I had to leave my rainboots at home, so of course my poor feet were completely wet and sliding around in my sandals. Yuck.
Finally, we waited in the lounge area of our Spanish school for our host mothers to come pick us up, which felt pretty much like back in the day when you had to wait for your parents to get you from your after school program. My host mother is so incredibly nice. Already, she has cooked a delicious dinner of mushroom soup, chicken and tortillas and walked me through Xela to show me how to get to my Spanish school. We bonded over our love of OPI nail polishes. Love her already.
I’m excited to start Spanish lessons tomorrow and explore more of Xela over the next two weeks. But high on my priority list is finding a pair of rainboots because this rain is something serious.
So, now that I’m done struggling to “pack lightly” (as suggested by our program directors, and loosely interpreted by me) and finally coming to terms with the fact that I won’t be able to binge-watch season 4 of Orange is the New Black when it comes out on Netflix, I’m getting more and more excited for my trip to Guatemala this summer, where I’ll be working on a research project. And in this brief and fleeting moment where I am free of any responsibilities (except for getting myself to the airport in time), I am feeling a little reflective.
It seems like yesterday I was walking across the stage at my college graduation (nope, that was actually over a year ago), and the year ever since has been a complete whirlwind. I started medical school in August, met some amazing people who have become some of my closest friends, spent hours in anatomy lab, even more hours in the library, went to my first music festival, took a girls trip to Vegas, and watched my alma mater (almost) win the NCAA March Madness tournament.
And now it’s June. And a week ago I passed my last exam of my first year of medical school. And tomorrow I leave the country to do research for the summer. (What?!)
All that just to say that I want to do a better job of chronicling my experiences–both scholarly and, um, *extracurricular*–as I go through medical school. And what better time to start now, as I embark on a 7-week trip to Guatemala!
I’ll try my best to keep this blog updated and share some highlights of my first time to Central America with you! Here we go!