RecapOf course you'll remember that a little while back I left Xela to attend a sailing meetup in Rio Dulce. You might also remember that after the meetup I was a bit uncertain about what I was going to do next. Too many options and no strong inclinations. At the time I thought I might help out with a project to install some solar panels for a computer lab at a local orphanage. I was able to help them a bit by reviewing some proposals and solar quotes, but in the end the work really wasn't well suited for me.
|Sailing on the lake near Rio Ducle|
|Life on the river in a dug-out canoe|
That sent me back to the drawing board so to speak. I was half-heartedly looking for a sailboat heading south on which I could crew, in hopes that I could take some more Spanish lessons once I arrived "somewhere south," when the aforementioned bacteria made itself at home in my intestines. This allowed me a couple long days of sitting around the hostel with nothing more to do than think and read. In addition to finishing Oryx and Crake (pretty decent book, by the way), I also conceived and sketched out a plan for my next few months which I've outline below. But first I'll bring you all up to present day.
|Magic in a bottle.|
After I had mostly dealt with the bacteria, I decided to head back to Xela for more Spanish lessons. I could have made the trip from Rio Dulce to Xela in one day, but that would have been about 11 hours in a bus. Instead, I stopped over for two nights in Antigua. Antigua is a very pretty city; clean and quite by Guatemalan standards. It was nice to spend the day there, and I met some other travelers who were really nice, but that's the problem - it's not real Guatemala. At any given time there are probably more Gringos in the city than there are Guatemalans. And it's far to easy to get by without speaking a lick of Spanish. I'm glad I spent a short time there, but I was very pleased to be heading back to Xela the next day.
|New friends in Antigua.|
|Impressively well manicured lawn and colonial style architecture (or so I was told) in Antigua.|
Now I'm in Xela. I reconnected with the friends I made during my first five weeks, and I've signed up for three more weeks of Spanish classes at a different school, PLQ. Not that I had any problems with my last school, ICA. I really learned a lot and had a great time there. I just figured why not try something new? And I've gotten great reviews about this school from other students.
Also, I'm no longer staying with a host family. Same story - I really enjoyed my host family, but I wanted to try cooking and shopping for myself while I'm here. I have a nice room in a guest house with 5 other people; shared bathrooms and kitchens and very close to my new school.
I have also found some appropriate volunteer work to do while I'm here. The original volunteer group I had identified before leaving Alaska finally emailed me back with a project they could use my help on. I'm going to be reviewing equipment and requirements for connecting micro-hydro systems to the utility power grid. I don't want to count my chickens before they hatch, but this seems like something where I can be of real benefit and learn a bit at the same time. More info on their website: Alterna.
I updated the map to show my trip to Rio Dulce and back and my current location in Xela. I encourage you to zoom in and virtually browse around in Guatemala. The topography is incredible. Here's the link: http://e2thex.blogspot.com/p/track-my-progress.html
Now for the interesting part: what is Thomas going to do after language school? Good question. My original plan was to stay here or in another Spanish speaking country and volunteer, putting my new language skills into practice. I still want to do that, and I might if this volunteer work turns out to be as good as it sounds, but I would also like to visit my brother in Jakarta. He is stationed there with the Marines, but only for a couple more months. I haven't seen him in a while, so it would be really nice to visit him. Also, sometime in the last couple years I casually promised him that I would come visit if he got the post in Indonesia. Now I feel casually obligated.
|Facebook kindly generated a map showing the location of all of my friends.|
So hypothetically, if I were to visit my brother, I wouldn't want to just jet across the Pacific and jet right back. It would be a waste of a very energy-intense airplane ride. I should do something more while I'm there; especially since I have a bit of free time. Then I started thinking about all of the places where I have friends whom I haven't seen in a long time. One thing led to another, and after a bit of feasibility research this is the very rough, pie in the sky, idea I came up with:
- Ride buses from Guatemala through Mexico to California, taking the ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz across the Gulf of California. (1 week)
- Briefly visit some folks in CA, then take a plane to Japan.
- Visit my friend in Japan and get a small dose of the culture. (1 week)
- Fly to Indonesia and visit my brother. (1 week-ish)
- Take a boat or short flight to Thailand. Hopefully cross paths with a couple friends in Thailand, then bus and train my north toward Beijing. (a couple weeks)
- Hop aboard the Trans-Siberian railroad and head toward Moscow with a couple stops along the way to visit friends in Russia. (2 weeks with stops)
- From Moscow, head for Central Europe via train to see friends in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, the UK, and Ireland. (3 or 4 weeks; I hope I have time for all of the Europe stops I want to make)
- Take a ferry from Norway to Iceland and then fly toward New York or Montreal.
- Take the train across Canada from Montreal to Vancouver. (1 week)
- And finally, take the ferry from Washington back to Alaska. (1 week)
Pros: I get to visit a lot of people I haven't seen in a long time, minimal air plane travel / maximum public transit, I get to learn a lot about many different cultures, and at the end I will have crossed every line of longitude.
Cons: I will feel guilty about not spending more time volunteering and long distance travel is inherently wasteful.
Alright, there's my idea. The alternative option is to stay in Latin America and really dive into some volunteering, which would be rewarding, fun, and educational (and closer to my original intent). What do you think? What would you do? Suggestions, comments, advice? If I go the long way, will any of you be crossing paths with me somewhere? Would anyone want to join me for a leg or two of the journey? Would I be passing close to anyone or anything that I should really make a point of visiting?