Day 1 New York City 

The crisp ocean air blew into my face and as the boat drifted towards our dock. The night had been magical. We watched fireworks crack over the Hudson river in the one and only New York City. I was up on the balcony as we lazily drifted a shore. The light from Brooklyn bridge kissed the fog of the night sky where, not even the brightest stars where anywhere to be seen. It had been empty on the balcony because everyone went down stairs once the rain had started. Covering my camera with my raincoat, my arms got drenched and the rain slipped through my hood and down my back. Dripping of my face and my smiling mouth. I felt the rock of the boat as we docked for the night. Sliding my hands down the railing I pushed past the crowd of people who where getting off. The booming of the fireworks echoed in my mind, load and thunderous. The rain blocked my eyes as I felt my blurry way. I met back up with my parents outside of the boat. “Cigarette Daydream” blasted through my headphones as we trudged along the streets of Queens. The rain had long ago drenched my tennis shoes, but now I was starting to feel it in slushing between my toes, like little river rushing into my heel than back down to my toes when I walked.

Day 10

 I hear a knock on the door: -el desayuno es lista (The breakfast is ready)

-Un momento, Gracias! (One moment, thank you!)

I slide down from my bunk and there’s a thud on the floor. The four of us exit single file to the dinning room. We sit down to the blaring TV and a radio coming from the kitchen, like always.

It was the morning where we got to spend time to just walk around in Antigua with our teachers. Antigua’s cobble stone streets don’t always line up; the rocks are never in any sort of organization just put down as if they where all pieces from a different puzzle. But still they all looked in place. Wherever you go some volcano or another is viewed in the distance. From our host family’s patio we could see volcano agua in distance, with clouds covering the tip. There are modern women and women who dress traditionally in pastel skirts with tassels to blouses in flower fabrics. Little kids and babies are draped over there mothers back in a another fabric, asleep while the mother carry them through their day. The little stores look like holes in the walls but the second you go in they go so far back I’ve been lost in them multiple times. Surrounded in touristic charms to the hand painted owl magnets. We asked our teacher to take us to her favorite store. We arrive at hundreds of stalls set up selling touristic bracelets to stuffed animals. They shops seemed to be set up around two fountains forming a box around each. The smell of wood and fabric clung to the air. Soon enough we lost track of time and walked as fast as we could back to the school.

Day 9

The humid smell of Guatemala crept into our room, tip toeing and making its way all the way up to my bunk. It was hot. You could feel the density in the air. Outside I could here people from stores shouting to people passing by: “Good clothes!” or “Ice cream!”. I could imagine the little girls balancing the baskets on there heads, or the shoe shiners crouched over shining a customers shoe. The hand made tortilla sent drifted into out room from two doors down also. Every morning and every evening we’d pass by there. Little kids with dirt on there faces would sit in the door way while women (I supposed their mothers) where hand making tortillas in the back. Even in the heat I can’t the women in Antigua had on their traditional outfits. It’s still a mystery to me how they don’t get overheated.
Earlier when we met up at our Spanish school a surprise was set up for us. A fiesta, with a DJ, food and colored lights. We where awarded with tee shirts, certificates, smiles and hugs all from the behalf of our teachers. The tables where set with a yellow table cloth with sparkling glasses and silverware. By the time we where done eating, it was dark and the sun had already gone down. We had dined alfresco so we got to see the ablaze salmon sun set into the Guatemalan horizon of Antigua for the last time. For the rest of the night we danced like we where home. While we where sitting at the tables and eating, I noticed somethings. Whenever the lights would shine on someone at a certain angle, it would turn them into a silhouette. But not a normal one; a silhouette that was rimed in flashing colors.

Day 8

During this trip I never described my room, so I thought you would like a description. The walls are brick and cold to the touch, there’s a huge dresser to your left when you first open the door, and two bunk beds pushed into the far right and left corners. It’s dark and smells dingy. Bug replant still clings in the air from the time that Sophia showered the room in it at her first mosquito bite. I claimed the top bunk in the left bunk bed, Sophia sleeps under me, Isabella at the top bunk across, Zoriana with bunk underneath. Fun fact: Zoriana’s bunk “almost killed her” (she stated) the first day. The pegs connecting the beds broke. To be honest thinking about it still makes me laugh. I watched the catastrophe happen from my bunk; the look on there faces was priceless. 
Any way what we did today was a little different. Someone came to the school that we had Spanish every morning at and taught us merengue and salsa. I was assigned to a certain side of the room where there was a bee hive; I tried my best with my alternating partner. Following along until we had to duck so the coming and going bees could pass. The dance sure looked, well, different, between all of the ducking. I can almost swear I saw the dance teachers laugh though.

Day 7

On the way to Volcano Pacaya I saw a rusty old pick up truck with a dozen piglets in the back clumsily slamming into each other. They were moving like sardines packed in the ocean, in confused circles. A kid younger than me was holding on to the truck with a grim expressionless face. A dirty T-shirt hung loosely on the his body, and his old shorts looked out of place. They were dirty, stained and scattered with holes. His eyes looked older, as if he had already seen more than me and suffered more in being half my age. It told me something, that a child, could have so much to them.
   When we got out of the bus we saw the volcano, standing tall in the distance. Little girls held big baskets over their heads selling cigarettes, gum, and candy. They held out packs of cigarette, pushing them at us like they were going to cry if we didn’t buy something. One of them looked particularly desperate. Tears lined her eyes, and through her orbs, I could tell that she looked like she had already seen the worst parts of life. It was like looking at a grandparent about to tell you a war story from their youth. I moved on, not particularly wanting to bear it all. Up ahead, there was another family, whose babies were cradled in the mother’s arms. The babies looked like they came straight out of a poster for world poverty. Their eyes looked like huge wells of sadness, despite their young age.
   Those thoughts pounded through my head for five hours, which was the whole hike up the volcano. By the time we were in the valley of the Pacaya, volcanic rock surrounded us for miles. Some of the rocks were so hot that we used the heat to roast marshmallows.

The looks of the villagers faces stayed on my mind even when a classmate was constantly trying to make me laugh, with no knowing consent of what was on my mind.

Day 6

I woke up with throbbing pain in my foot. The night before came rushing back to me. I had felt pressure in my toe and by trying to cut out what I thought was an ingrown nail, I tore the tissue connecting my nail to my skin on one side. Gross, I know. Last night was a blur. The medication I took made the pain go away for the night, but apparently it also made me loco. I kept everyone up until 10. Doctor Sophia had helped me by using every single wound healing toiletry my mom had insisted I bring. I remember feeling sick and getting dizzy the second it started to bleed. That’s when Sophia put Neosporin and a band-aid on it and sent me to bed. It wasn’t so much the pain that kept me up, the throbbing and the constant beating sent through my whole body, is what didn’t let me fall asleep. I managed my regular 4 hours of Spanish every morning none the less, but by lunch, I sat the rest of the day out. Just walking to a cafe, to spend the afternoon with Miss Caroline and an another classmate who decided to sit the day out too, made my whole foot throb. It was worth the conversations we had though. Later instead of going back to my host family, I went to the place Miss Caroline was staying and soaked my foot. (And took advantage of their hot water by taking the hottest shower I’ve taken this week). By the time I got back to the host family it was already dark. I climbed into bed and fell asleep.

Guatemala Day 5

After lunch there was a whole mango, sitting next to our four plates; skin and all. The host family told us to peel it like you would peel an orange. I’ve never peeled a mango before, an adult did it for me. But I’ve watched my parents, and other people cut mangos many times. I pick it up, take me knife, and cut it at the top, just above the pit. I do the same to the bottom underneath the pit. The host family sitting across from me was looking at me like I had just broke the silence by saying “Luke, I am your father”. Continuing with my mango, I took each half (sort of half) and drew lines vertically and horizontally in until I could pop both sides up and eat the most delicious mango I’ve tasted, scored into perfect little diamonds of orange delight.

Smooth and sweet but still a little tart. The remaining three mango halves,  eaten and dripping everywhere where disposed by my fellow roommates.

We went to a chocolate factory in the afternoon. We went through the process of making chocolate. By the end it looked like there was dirt on my hands, but it was actually the cacao powder sticking. The chocolate was so dark, that when we got home, all of our stomach hurt from the 100% cacao samplings. We started with toasted cacao beans, peeling them hand by hand. And we ended with our very own, very chocolatey, patty.


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Guatemala Day 4

The falling apart tortilla was awkwardly slammed between my palms, over and over again. Laughing at me sloppiness, my classmate was on their sixth. In my frustration I slammed it harder till it fell on the floor, again. Not giving up, I took another one, and took a deep, muttering under my breath “why can’t I get this?!”.  Rubbing it into a ball, then flattening with my fingers. The flour stuck to me, wet soggy. Gross. Still not giving up, I looked up at one of the women in “the women’s cooperation” and watched them do it easily and flawlessly. Her colored dress looked like it had a blanket of smoke over her dress coming from the perfect tortillas cooking. Like the sun of Guatemala, bright colorful, but with of layer of pollution (to my disappointment after thinking it was fog). She slapped them palm to Palm, until it got to her fingers, done and even. Replicating her actions, I formed a relatively acceptable tortilla. I got the motivation especially after Sophia said she wouldn’t clean her side of the room if I gave up.

The women’s cooperation introduced us to their culture. They could balance 50 pounds on their head when back home I can barley balance my books in my hands going to class. From a welcoming smoky smell, we spent the afternoon learning about a traditional dance to tortilla making to an actual Guatemalan wedding.


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Day 3 in Guatemala

In the afternoon of our third day in Guatemala, we went on an outing, that I was the most taken back by this whole trip.

We pulled up in our luxury school bus in front of a public school, in a neighborhood a lot worse than the one we are staying in. One the dirt road we ambled single file. As our counselors explained what we had brought to share with the school with the money we had raised,  I was the first to notice kids lined up on the balcony above. My fellow classmates and I stuck out in this atmosphere like a sore thumb, and I can’t imagine how alien we looked in fancy Nikes, fully accessorized with hats, sunglasses, water bottles etc. to these kids. As they came down we where each assigned to a few children.   What took me the most by surprise is that when we where asked to escort the children to the school yard, people took their hands, or put an arm around them. Hand in hand with our assigned kids, my classmates have never surprised me more. For the rest of the afternoon we played games and ran around like we where born there and had lived there for our whole lives and never known anything else.

Only a few of the children had celebrated their birthdays, so with the money we raised we brought two piñatas, two cakes and drinks. In the end none of us wanted to say goodbye. We were late getting back to our host families.



Day 3 my classmates in the streets

Day 3 afternoon shadows and another bodega
Day 3 dogs of the Guatemala


Day 2 in Guatemala

Today we took a bus to the house of music. It was a sort of museum that captures life of the Mayans and their culture. The Mayans fascinate me. They where such a prosperous civilization that all of a sudden disappeared. And like all things mysterious the little kid in me was drawn to their disappearance, like Dill is drawn to Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mockingbird”.

Lunch today was a cooked banana with cinnamon and sugar caramelized on it, it was amazing!

The dusty atmosphere has an exotic feel to it. The vibrant colors of the houses and peoples’ clothing are not even close to their vibrant smiles.  The dust clings to the motorcycles and cars of Antigua like the babies cling to their mothers on the street. The mothers desperately selling ice cream or what not with a new born swung in cloth over the mothers stomach.

On to day three.