Monday, May 24, 2010

Guatemala Adventure in Rio Dulce

Our last adventure in Guatemala and Belize was Rio Dulce which means sweet river in Spanish. It took us a long time to get there from Copan, Honduras by bus. And there was actually a live chicken on the bus which was sitting quietly in an old lady’s lap not knowing that it was probably going to be dinner. We got off the bus at the town of Rio Dulce which was hot and sticky, and there were no sidewalks and the big trucks were too close for what I like. We quickly got on a water taxi to a beautiful and amazing lodge beneath a leafy canopy. Now that was really relaxing and we stayed there for a week.

At the lodge we got up early one day to go on a river cruise. First we went up the river a little and saw a little mangrove island covered with cormorants and egrets. They were making a big racket. We got a close look because they weren’t spooked by the boat. Next we saw a Spanish fort which was right on the river and over 400 years old. And to think our last house in Washington was only 10 years old. Then we went back down river and soon we were in Texas Bay. Texas Bay had more tiny bird covered islands. One of these had egrets nesting and we saw some little white fluffy babies. We then crossed some lily pads and there was a little girl in a little canoe selling sea shells. She was really nice and had a big smile so we took a photo of her. We then pulled up to a little store right on the river. The store had a palm thack roof and we bought come green cocos and the water inside was really refreshing. Our next stop was at a hot spring right on the river and we went swimming there. This was special hot spring because the water on the top was hot and the water on the bottom was cold. A type of fished called a cichlid was swimming in the cold water and one big one even had hundreds of babies which would not survive if the swam into the hot water. We traveled a bit farther and the river went through a canyon which was very large and spectacular. Then we went to the town of Livingston which was on the Caribbean Sea. We ate lunch at a seafood restaurant called Happy Fish and it was excellent. We went back to the boat and I can’t tell you much more because I fell asleep and when I woke up, we were back.

We also went to another special hot spring a few days later. This one had a waterfall which you could swim behind into caves but you have to be careful because the waterfall is very very hot. These caves were beautiful with calcium carbonate rock stalactites and it was very steamy inside. When we were done in the caves, I held my breath and dove out of the caves and underneath the scalding hot waterfall which I could still hear underwater. It was cool under there the hot water floated on top.

Finally we had to start back to Washington. It took us four days to travel with stops in Flores, Guatemala then Belize City by Bus. Then we flew to Dallas Ft Worth by plane and the following day to Seattle. And finally another bus to Port Angeles. And that was the end of the longest adventures of my life which I think I will remember forever. And it was AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think I will now have to change the name of my blog to homeschooling in St. Thomas because a moving the Virgin Islands this fall. So stay tuned to the nudibranch network for the next blog.

Enjoy this video of Texas Bay.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Copan Adventure

We heard about a beautiful Mayan pyramid site in Honduras named Copan so we decided to check it out. Honduras is the next country over from Guatemala and Copan is just a half an hour over the border. This part of Honduras was a lot like Guatemala. The buildings and temples of Copan are made out of a harder stone than other Mayan site we visited. This hard rock is more difficult to carve but that means it does not erode as fast as softer limestone rock. So there was very beautiful detail on the carving work. We saw very fine detail on the dozen stelae and statues around Copan. A stele is a large stone marker made for a king or ruler and it gives their history in carved pictures. They were also very large and almost twice as big as my Dad. They must have laid the stones down to carve them or use a ladder. It was fascinating looking at these stelae and seeing the way they used to dress.

The beautiful site was very compact so all the temples were very close to together. These pyramids were medium sized and one of them had a large carved staircase filled with lots of hieroglyphic picture stories as well as statues in the middle of the staircase. Imagine if you had a staircase like that. Growing out of one of the temples in the back was a giant beautiful ceiba tree. The ceiba or kapok tree was sacred to the Maya and I can see why. They believe that the ceiba was the axle for the world. Copan was pretty hot and muggy but was a really cool experience and left me feeling amazed.

Another fun place we went after the hot and sticky ruins was a bird rehabilitation park under a shady canopy. We got there by a very bumpy slow tuk-tuk which had trouble going up hills. So what is a tuk-tuk? Let me tell you. A tuk-tuk is a cross between a teeny weenie car and a motorcycle and they are everywhere. I think they call them tuk-tuks because their horns make that sound. Anyway, we arrived at the bird park safe and sound. We entered through a gift shop and Dad got tickets for us. Inside the park we soon heard a lot of squawking and saw a big cage. Inside the cage were two big noisy scarlet macaws. We visited with these two macaws then walked on a bit. Soon we came to an open area with lots of cages and parrots and toucans were perched on sticks outside their cages. I got to hold two of them. They were pretty heavy but well behaved. And don’t think the term light as a bird fits these guys. One of them tried to eat my Dad’s sunglasses and apparently they have a taste for plastic. There were toucans which had been capture for pets and were no longer wanted so they were sent to the park. We had a nice relaxing time and the adventure there was a lot of fun but time to go back to Guatemala. See you next time on the Nudibranch Network. PS: a nudibranch is a type of sea slug that lives in the ocean.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Guatemala Adventure in Lake Atitlan

Our next stop in Guatemala was Lake Atitlan. We got on another shuttle bus in Angitua for about 2 hours and it was a very bumpy ride. Lake Atitlan is a crater lake which used to be a really huge volcano before it exploded. The lake looked like an ocean and we took a boat across it to a town called San Marcos. Usually San Marcos is the quietest town on the lake but there was a festival the day we arrived. They were continually lighting off fireworks some of which were as loud as a quarter stick of dynamite. I felt like I had to hold my ears the whole time I was there so we decided to go to San Pedro the following day.

In San Pedro was much quieter but it was a much bigger town. We stayed with a nice family and they had a house right on the lake shore. The family had parrots called loros in Spanish. I liked them and fed them pieces of banana. Whenever I went over to their cage they would say hola which is Spanish for hello. We went to another Spanish School in San Pedro and we could walk there along the lakefront. The walk was really nice because you could have a view of the lake between the trees. We saw of birds and plants and lots of people in the water. Our school was also on the shore. The San Pedro Spanish School was really nice but not quite as nice as La Union in Antigua, but I liked it still. The grounds were really pretty with lots of plants. The classroom was outside and there were days when our desk was right on the waterfront. It was beautiful. I also saw a bird called a roadrunner but it did not go ‘beep beep’ like in the cartoons. It sounded more like a squawk. After a while, we needed a break from Spanish school so we went back to San Marcos which was now a quieter town since the fireworks stopped.

San Marcos is a little like San Pedro b
ut smaller. There was a center of town with only one road through it for cars. There are many little dirt trails leading though the forest surrounding the center of town. And I have to tell you it is very rural here with lots of woods which I really like. It was very peaceful and tranquillo with is calm in Spanish. Lots of buildings there were made out of cob which is made from clay. They also have palm thatched roofs on many buildings like the hotel we stayed in called La Paz which means peace. La Paz had amazing gardens.

On our first day, walked to the main square and heard some marimba music. We walked over to see what w
as up. There were a bunch of dancers in bright colorful costumes who were wearing masks and big feathery hats. This is the conquistador dance which is tells the story of when the Spanish came to Guatemala. The local indigenous people perform the dance and their families and friends were watching. We were the only people in the bunch that did not live there but they were very nice us anyway. I met lots of local kids and let them try out my camera. The dance had been going on for over 8 hours and the conquistador dancers were very hot and tired. Imagine if you were dancing for such a long time. I had a lot of fun watching and took a lot of photos and want to show you some.

There were lots of people from all over the world living together with the indigenous people in San Marcos. One of these people is an amazing one of a kind person named The Real Toothfaire. We just call her Toothie for short. She is a friend from California I met 5 years ago at my Aunt Barbara’s house. Toothie now lives in San Marcos with Anha who is a little Kaqchikel Maya girl that she adopted. She is 3 years old and is very energetic and strong. Anha was very fun to play with. We went swimming together at the Lake and had a good time.
We also took a sid
e trip to a town called San Juan (Saint John). We went there to see a woman’s cooperative for natural dying of threads which are then woven into cloth. Many different color threads are woven together to make beautiful designs. The different towns around the lake have their own patterns and designs. The natural dyeing does not use lots of nasty chemicals that pollute the lake. This was their old traditional way of dyeing fabrics. These colors are not as bright and vibrant but they are just as pretty. They gave us a tour and we learned about which plants made which colors. I will show you these in a video clip. We bought some pieces of fabric there what we will make into other things when I get my sewing machine back. This finishes our stay on the Lake. See you next time on the Nudibranch Network and enjoy the videos.

Guatemala Adventure in Antigua

My family and I took an adventure to Guatemala. But where is Guatemala? It is in the middle of Central America right between Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador. It was the center of the old Mayan world and you can still see many of their descendants today still living a traditional lifestyle and still speaking different Mayan dialects. There is also a very big Spanish culture and Spanish is Guatemala’s official language. The landscape is amazing because there are volcanoes, lakes, mountains, rainforests, and even dry places there. I had a wonderful time and I am going to blog about and share it with you.

Did you ever think you could be on boats and buses for 23 hours, that’s almost a complete day of 24 hours? We left Blackbird Caye in Belize about 8:00 in the morning and said goodbye to our little island. Then we arrived in Belize City and got on a shuttle bus us across Guatemalan border to a city called Flores. We had been there before and knew where to get a good dinner. This was not our final destination. Then we got on a big fancy bus at 9:00 at night and we traveled all through the night to Guatemala City. The air conditioning on the bus was freezing so I didn’t get a good night’s sleep because I was shivering. It was probably to keep the driver awake which is a good thing. Then we got on a third bus to Antigua which was the end of our journey for now.

The city of Antigua is over 500 years old. It used to be the old capitol of Guatemala so it had some really fancy buildings. The city went through a couple of bad earthquakes so the capitol was then moved to Guatemala City. So there are lots of ruins of the old city and some have been restored. We visited a few of those ruins like old churches and monasteries. The streets are still cobblestone which is when they use stones for paving instead of tar or cement. We found a busy beautiful town square called the Parque Central. It was more of a park than a central square with lots of live music and listeners. We saw many Mayan people in tradition dress who were in the park and all around the town. We also had lots of fun in a big big market where many people sold fruits and vegetable, as well as flowers. There were butchers and many many many more things like clothing.

We went to a Spanish language school for 4 hours a day over two weeks. My teachers name was Maria. She was really nice and very patient. We played games and learned lots of different Spanish words and how to use these words. I was really interested in the names of the plants and animals. So we spent lots of time in a beautiful courtyard learning them. My parents were at the school learning too, I had lots of fun going to school with my parents every day. The school also had activities and we went to an organic macadamia nut farm which was a lot of fun because we got to see macadamia nut trees as well as seeing the machines they use to crack them. Not was only was it an organic farm but the machines used no electricity. The used gravity to separate the nuts and cracked the nuts with a bicycle contraption. Another activity making tortillas from scratch and we cooked them over a wood fire. That school was a lot of fun!

One day after Spanish class we went to a 500 year old monastery which is now a restored 5 star hotel with beautiful grounds. There were lots of big trees, nice flower gardens a
nd beautiful fountains. My favorite part was the big scarlet macaws which are a type of parrot which were perched all around the place. They were really cool to watch and take photos of. They weren’t afraid of me and they even posed for me. I took photos for hours while my parents had a few cups of tea. It was one of my favorite places in Antigua.

Enjoy the videos....