Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Memories to keep

It's been 52 days since my last blog.  52 days! Wow! It feels like years. They say time goes quickly when you're having fun. But when you see so many places and meet so many people in such a short time, it feels like so much longer. Since I have been super lazy by not blogging in this long, I will sum up my time with memories which I have the pleasure of calling mine; in tiny sentences or long stories, those that are funny and those that are intense, from places I have been to people I have met.

But first, here is a map on where I have been:

Meeting a man who travelled as a rock'n'roll hippie when he was younger and now has seven children all in different parts of the world.  I sat with him as he told me his adventures and listened intently as he philosophised about the rights and wrongs in his life and how they have allowed him to teach his children to live in a more meaningful way.

A lady who had been addicted to Crystal Meth for twenty years and saw the error of her ways when her son was imprisoned late last year.  She took control, got herself sober, and is now living in Mexico the way she wish she had lived her whole life.

The sixteen hour bus ride from Playa del Carmen to San Cristobal.  After only three hours, driving over a speed bump too quickly and puncturing two of the tyres.  Driving at snails pace for two hours in the middle of the night until we reached a small village.

Arriving in San Cristobal de las Casas.  All the beautifully coloured colonial buildings and old cobbled streets.  Not being able to take the smile off my face.

Finding out that Cati, a girl who I had been in touch with for almost a year, was living there.  After a few days together, renting an apartment with her.  All the laughing, all the coffees, all the meals I watched her cook (I did the washing up), all the stories we shared, that crazy messy cake she accidentally made which made us sick.  And everything in between.

Meeting Muffin Martin for the first time, a dread locked German.  The super deep conversation we had late into the night.  Then the wonderfully inspiring person I learned him to be as the weeks went by.

The super steep hills I went running up every morning.  At an altitude of 2100 metres it felt like I was breathing through a straw!

Bumping into Gihan, the super clever Turk, sat outside the coffee shop almost every day and chatting about everything from capitalism to running.

Sitting outside a cafe eating my dinner.  A lady more than twice my age stopping by my table and with desperate eyes asking for some of the plain tortilla wraps from the plate which accompanied my meal.  She lost no pride because she has had to do this her whole life.

The North American tourists who were lying on the ground to get a good angle for their photo.  All the Mexicans staring at them thinking "who are these insane people?!".

Austrian Martin, who I worked with on his new, broken down house; repairing the millions of holes in the walls, painting, and fixing the roof.  Randomly making hippie trousers with his wife Nikita one day.  Their toddler Noel giggling like crazy every time somebody helped him walk around the house.  The happiest boy I've ever met.  Shanty, their doggie, who had eight puppies early one morning.

My day trip to the awesome Sumidero Canyon.

Kate, the hippie girl from the USA who I clicked with straight away.  I think we both could have eaten another plate of the beer-battered bananas that Cati made.

Ron &  Marcus

Hitchhiking for the very first time.  From San Cristobal to Xela, 500km; with Ron, the Guatemalan who had hitched all over Europe for the last sixteen months.  Feeling strange standing at the side of the road with my thumb stuck out, but getting over it after five minutes and feeling so free.  Our first ride being in the back of a giant sand truck (minus the sand).  Marcus, who drove us a very long way and even bought us lunch.

Finding it easier than Ron to get into Guatemala.  I love my British passport!

Arriving in Xela and being super hungry.  Paying just 30p for a meal in the market!

The good news I got from home which I cried about for the rest of the day.

My first time hitchhiking alone.  Waiting less than ten minutes for my first ride, with Espy and Franklin, the super friendly truck drivers.

My second ride sat on the bed in the cabin of a lorry.  The drivers dropping me off at a bus stop, not at the junction I asked.  They thought I just didn't know where to catch the bus from when they picked me up at the side of the road.

My time in Panajachel, a village on Lake Atitlan, proclaimed as the most beautiful lake in the world; "It really is too much of a good thing" being one of the most famous quotes.

The boat ride across the lake being super super bumpy.  The lines the surrounding hills created and the three volcanoes perfectly perched on the south side of the lake, can only be described as sheer beauty.  I couldn't tell you how many times I gasped "Oh my god."

The amazingly hot shower at Hotel El Sol.  You know you're a real traveller when a hot shower is a highlight.

Emmanuel, the coffee-maker stopping to chat with me in the sun for hours.  Before he left, asking me to write down something that he can remember forever.

Hitchhiking to Antigua.  Hermino, who could speak English enough for us to have a great conversation.

Ron meeting up with me when I got to Antigua.  It was so good to see a familiar face.

Staying with Luis in his mansion of a house.

Having a huge impression made on me by a man who I spoke with for just twenty minutes.  The first thing everybody asks is where you are from and how old you are, but he always refuses to answer.  He said that before you even get to know the person, you make a judgement on the information they tell you.  Most of the time you have a preconceived idea of what people are like from the place they grew up, from other people you have met in the past.  If someone is younger than you, you automatically think that you cannot learn from them, so you are not open to their ideas or thoughts.  If someone is older than you, you don't open up or teach them anything because you automatically think you can't possibly teach them.  So he never asks or answers these questions.  He sees the person they are now; age, nationality, gender, race, all don't matter, it's the person's life and experiences that do.  To me, he was the perfect stranger.

Working a few days at Hot Road bar.  Ending a night out sat on a random street eating tacos made by a man sitting in the back of a pickup truck.

Getting a bus to Guatemala City and being convinced that my backpack was going to fall off the roof because of all the fast turns in the road.

Staying with Ron and his mum; possibly the sweetest, and smallest, lady in all of Guatemala.

Travelling south to the pacific coast.  The boat ride through the mangrove swamps to get to the village of Monterrico, which sat perfectly on a volcanic black beach.

Michelle, the North America girl who has lived one of the most complicated and heartbreaking lives I have ever heard.  Watching the sunset on the beach with her as she gasped "I'm so lucky.  I'm the luckiest person alive."

Sarah, the British girl who, after a few too many drinks, was so happy that she could finally speak Spanish, when in fact she was just shouting in English.

The group of guys who bought me tacos at 4 o'clock in the morning.  Using a mix of actions and words to speak Spanish with them.  And coming up with a story about not being able to see the moon or stars in England because of the clouds...!?! Think I just wanted something to say...

My time in Mexico and Guatemala ended there.  I'm now in El Salvador, but I'll save that for another blog post.  As I look back on all these memories, I realise more than ever how much I have done.  However, my most prized possession isn't necessarily a memory I have, but the impression the people have had on me.  I may not remember their names or even their stories forever, but I feel like a much fuller and more inspired person because of them.  So I would like to say thankyou and 'mucho gusto' if any of them are reading this now!

Peace out people!