Saturday, May 5, 2012

2012 April 30 - May: Cobán, Guatemala with Sophia, orchids galore!

You may all rejoice because this will likely be one of my shortest posts EVER (well, writing, at least... tons of pics though!).

April 30th

We're in Cobán now, at the home of another of Sophia's friends. Her name is Tannya, and Sophia knows her because Tannya's parents (Ilena and Mauro) used to house students who were aspiring to learn Castellano and they hosted a woman who later lived with Sophia's family for like two years and was a nanny of sorts to her and her two brothers.

Yesterday, after a 2 hour + ride in the most packed microbus (different from a camioneta [chickenbus]) I have ever been in (Sophia and I standing for at least the first ¾ of the journey) we arrived to Cobán, where, after asking a couple people for directions, we navigated our way to a Plaza Magdelena, a mall that the family told us would be a good place to wait at until Tannya and Ilena got back from Guatemala City, where they had been for the weekend.

It is incredibly odd to spend time in a mall in Guatemala! 99% of the time (in Guatemala) you are pretty aware that you are IN GUATEMALA! But you go to a mall and it's pretty-much exactly like being back in the US.

A little culture shocked, we hung out in the mall for a couple hours and grabbed some dinner while we waited. There was a little band playing music that sounded vaguely oriental but I think was meant to be Peruvian? Or maybe traditional music that I just haven't yet heard here...? We considered watching a movie at the theater but decided against it because it wasn't the one we want to see (The Hunger Games).

Today, after breakfast (and like 5 cups of the best coffee I have drank since I left the US, and possibly ever in my life, in reality- Mauro works for a coffee plantation and thus can procure beans prior to export- yay!) we went to the (food) mercado and after that to the mercado de los artisanos (or something like that- Artisan's Market) and spent some time walking around looking at the fares.

May 4th

My time with Sophia is nearly over; I will be leaving tomorrow for Biotopo el Quetzal, a nature reserve where I hope to get in some hiking and maybe even see a quetzal! Wheee!

I have been terrible about journaling, as has become pretty-much the norm! We haven't done much of note, really... Sophia has been to the doctor several times for various tests, as she's been feeling pretty "off" for the last few weeks, and it turns out that she has really low levels of a bunch of various things, like cholesterol and many of her hormones. Her mother, who is a homeopathic doctor, told her she needs to eat more animal fats- something Sophia is not excited about!

The other day Mauro took us to meet his friend Helmuth Ibañez, who collects orchids as a hobby. He has converted the entire terrace above the hospital where he works to multiple greenhouses and has something like 30,000 different species of orchids! Even though I am sure he's a really busy guy, he spent at least an hour and a half talking to us about the different types of orchids, where his orchids came from, when they flower, the different parts of the flower, how they are pollinated, what types of bugs pollinate them, etc... It was fascinating and not something I will soon forget! Many of the species in his collection are so small, with flowers tinier than your pinkie fingernail! 

Inside one of the greenhouses

If you look closely you will see that there is water in the tube-looking part of the flower.  This attracts butterflies, who use their long tongues to sip the liquid out!  Cool!

Each of these flowers is about the size of my thumbnail!

Each of these flowers is about half the size of my pinkie fingernail!

Most of the orchids we saw have a long stem that the flowers sprout from, however, some have basically no stem at all and the flowers all grow right on the leaf!

How much does this flower look like a schnauzer in a pirate hat?!
Today I spent much of the day uploading pics for this post and backing up my journalling and photos, something I've been really bad about doing recently. I had intended to leave today but before I knew it, it was 4 pm and I had been very antisocial all day! I wanted to spend a bit more time with the family and especially with Sophia before we parted ways, so I decided to stay until the morning.

Sophia, Tannya and I went to this little park area near the house and Sophia and I threw the frisbee for a bit and then ran a little while Tannya practiced basketball. She has games both days this weekend. Sophia and I extended our run to Plaza Magdelene, where Tannya met up with us and the three of us went to a movie- Los Avengedores (The Avengers). I understood enough to enjoy it but I still am just not to the point where I can understand conversation at a rapid pace!  Though, Tannya made us feel better when she told us that it's even hard for native castellano speakers to understand because the translation is often incredibly poor and the accents are frequently terrible!

After the movie the three of us met up with Ilena and Mauro for dinner, which I had suggested because I wanted to pay them back for their hospitality. Ilena chose one of her favorite places, a little café that's also a hostel, where they make their own candles using leftovers from the local people.

Once we got back to the house Sophia and I finally put feathers in my hair (yay!) and Sophia put one in Tannya's hair as well. They look pretty cool, I think...

I will really miss Sophia. In our time together we've gotten comfortable enough with each other that we've occasionally become slightly annoyed with each other but that doesn't even come close to canceling out the good times, of which there have been so many that I struggle to think of times I wouldn't call “good times”. I'm not sure that there are many people I could spend nearly every minute with for an entire month, but we've done just that and I'll be shocked if we aren't still in contact in 10 years. I also don't know that I could travel with many people for as long as we have but she's been the perfect travel partner, or we've been perfect together, at least, as she's the perfect balance of opinionated and flexible that I feel like I “need” to be in constant company with someone for this degree of time. She is honorable and fair, generous in every aspect and the kind of person I can talk to for hours on end and know I'm going to laugh my ass off multiple times during the conversation! We've had incredibly candid conversations about everything under the sun and I'm fairly certain I could tell her just about anything and it wouldn't affect our friendship in the slightest.

Well, enough of this!  Time to pack my bag and move on to the next portion of my adventure!

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