Today, our time in Guatemala comes to an end.
Looking back, I'm amazed at how far it feels like we've come already. Only a month has passed, but it feels like much longer. Time is slower when it can't be judged by the passing of a schedule, week after week.
One month down, eleven to go. The trip has only just begun, but already it is changing me, showing me things I didn't realize just four weeks ago.
Like how much I need friendship in my life. I knew I loved my friends and family before, but to suddenly be without them, in a strange, unknown place has at times felt like being thrown overboard. I've found myself clinging to my cell phone like a life preserver, savoring every chance to chat with someone back home.
Making new friends will have to keep me going. So far, it has. The Spanish school we attended helped with so much more than the language barrier. It has provided a place to make friends from all over the world. In just 3 weeks we have met so many great people doing remarkable things with their lives. People with whom we could be lifelong friends, if the crossing of our paths were not so short. I look forward to hearing their stories, as we all continue our lives in other places, and hope one day at least a few of us can meet again.
Equally important for my well being, I have learned, is being outside away from crowds and civilization. Just two weeks in a city without respite was enough to make me feel like something wasn't right. It was on Lake Atitlan that I realized what it was.
The following weekend, in Semuc Champey, I was truly refreshed. Swimming in turquoise pools, jumping from rocks and climbing waterfalls. It was more adventure than some in our group had ever experienced, but to me it felt like home. When we returned to Antigua, a friend commented that I was visibly in a much better mood I had been the week before.
On my final full day in Guatemala, I got the chance to do something that I've wanted to do my whole life; Climb an active volcano. About an hour drive from Antigua is the volcano Pacaya. For the last 50 years, it has been spewing lava down it's slopes onto the valley floor below.
The tour took us straight up the side of the volcano to a field of lava boulders on top of the magma itself. We carefully worked our way through the rocks, glimpsing lava beneath the cracks, steam and heat rising up from below. Only the strong, cool breeze made the temperature bearable.
We eventually made our way to where the lava broke free from the ground, a 2000 degree stream of liquid rock. It was quite a sight to see, and the perfect end to my stay in Guatemala.