Thursday, September 1, 2011


Written on August 29th...

It is our last night in Europe, which is probably a good thing as we all smell terribly, the entire continent has almost completely run out of kebabs, and we seem to be forgetting English as is evidenced by Eli's very natural use of the word "brang" earlier today (past tense for "brought"). This would be more excusable had he actually been learning other languages along the way but sadly he can't really claim that that's true.

We made it safely out of Slovenia several days ago, catching a 6:30 AM bus to do so. We were much more considerate than our hostel-mates of the night before who got up earlier than sin and stomped around the room for several hours speaking something that we are pretty sure was a made up language consisting entirely of the most obnoxious sounds the human voice can create. But the noise didn't bother us quite as much as the smell, as they were most definitely the stinkiest backpackers we have encountered. And we have encouterned stinky backpackers from everywhere. (For those who were wondering, we are probably about average to slightly-above-average backpacker-stinky right now).

We spent a few hours in Venice waiting for our next train, which took us all the way to Florence that evening. We found a great little hotel in Florence where a very elderly man walked us to our room and then proceeded to give us a 10 minute speech about how to use the AC. Unfortunately we only understood about .2% of this speech because it was all in Italian (The .2% comes from the use of some sounds that sound like Spanish words we were probably supposed to learn in the 8th grade had we been listening in school). We think the speech was probably unnecessary, however, because the AC seemed pretty basic and we were able to use it without problems after he left the room. We are hoping, however, that his speech wasn't about how the AC leaked poisonous gases and we should avoid using it all costs. I think we're probably ok.

Florence was wonderful. We saw the David statue (which is amazing!) and wandered through several beautiful streets and churches. We also bought some clothes in hopes that someone will later ask us where we got them so that we can respond, "let's see . . . oh, you know what--I got this at that shop on Via Del Fabio. You know, the one in Florence." (We have practiced this several times, saying it in a voice like everyone should know where that street is). The most exciting part about Florence (other than the great art and blah blah blah) was that for the first time since before the war, we actually stopped sweating because it was quite cool out. Due to the sudden decrease in perspiration, our entire bodies immediately dried up and cracked from head to toe. But it was so worth it. This also helped us not want gellato quite as much, which is definitely a good thing right now as Eli calculated today that he has probably had somewhere around 70 scoops in the last month (mostly in the last 3 weeks). 50 year old Eli will curse 27 year old Eli later for the things he did in 2011. the rest of us have also eaten mass amounts of Gelato but not quite as much. (It's just soooo good!)

We made it back into Rome yesterday (for the 1,000th time) to say goodbye to all of our favorite sites including a second (third for some of us) visit to St Peter's Basilica and Vatican city (where Eli was pooped on by a pidgeon) and get ready to fly out tomorrow morning. It's been another great couple of days in Rome and we'll be sad to say goodbye.

We can't believe the trip is coming to end. The time has flown despite the days and days of adventure-packed experiences that have worn us out. We will be glad to get home to clean clothes, air conditioning and our own beds! But will also be very sad to leave Europe! We have had such a GREAT time!


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Exodus to Slovenia

Since we last left you, we have spent somewhere around 1200 hours on trains. No wait, that can't be right. However many hours it is, it feels like somewhere around 1200. We bought tickets in Rome to Venice several days ago after being told that all of the trains were full until 2075 but that we were welcome to buy "standing" tickets, which train-station-man seemed to think would be a perfectly fine option for us. We didn't like the sound of "the train is full but here are some standing tickets" but we also didn't think we had much of a choice, so off we went to find out what "standing" really meant.

Krishelle later pointed out that she was impressed that the train station was able to sell 4,000 tickets for only 400 seats. This was probably very little of an exaggeration as we boarded the train and were immediately forced to stand with our bulky backpacks and luggage in the incredibly narrow corridor outside of many six-seat compartments that lined the train. And we were not alone. The entire corridor from end to end was totally packed with panicked looking people who each had a minimum of 17 bags and had apparently also encountered the same greasy salesman in the train station who made the standing option sound like a pleasant stay in a 5 star hotel. The packed corridor somehow did not stop cart-man who miraculously pushed his way through, back and forth, for the entire day selling warm drinks and stale cookies, making us suck in our stomachs, stand on our luggage, and guard our appendages from being run over. This was like a very tricky game of twister most of the time. But Eli had bigger troubles to worry about than cart-man because Heather and Jonathan asked several times how long the train ride would be and he repeatedly lied to them and then had to engage in some very tricky mind-games and manipulation to keep them from finding out the truth. He told them it would just be a few short hours. Truth: we were scheduled to arrive in Venice no sooner than 6 and a half hours after take-off. I'm sure they were strong enough to handle the truth but he figured that after the Naples experience, he shouldn't risk it.

And so we rode. And we rode. Through the hot Italian deserts while hairy, sweaty, stinky, Europeans walked the length of the cabin back and forth for no apparent reason, occasionally stopping to rest on top of us and on our laps. This misery continued until we finally arrived in Ferrara. Never heard of it? That's because the place is a dump. And we know that it is because that is where our train practically exploded. Well, we think it probably practically exploded because we can't understand what else could have caused a scheduled 2 minute stop to take 2 and a half hours. This is no exaggeration. Every 20 minutes or so the conductor would announce that we would be leaving in another 30 minutes, which we optimistically believed, over and over, like the abused in an abusive relationship (and believe me, we were the abused in a very abusive relationship with the entire train system of Italy by this point). Unfortunately for all of us, the tiny bit of air conditioning that had been coming from a couple of unclogged vents completely ceased for the duration of the break, leaving us to continue to bake in the 100 or so degree conditions.

The train finally moved on and arrived in Venice several hours later, pulling in about 9 or 10 hours after we had initially sat on the corridor floor in Rome. We think that we can relate to the pioneers now. Or some other group that has suffered. We will likely share this experience in a church lesson later mid tears (while also making up a few facts so that it actually relates to the lesson).

When we got to Venice we never wanted to climb aboard any transportation again. So we found a great apartment in the center of the city for a good deal and camped out for a couple of days. Venice was wonderful and we all felt it was well worth the trauma above mentioned to get there. We wandered from end to end of the city, visited St. Marks, ate our weight in gellato, and explored many incredible churches.

Yesterday we put our brave faces on (for the kids) and decided to make our way to Slovenia. While Venice and Ljubljana, our desired destination in Slovenia, look to be within walking distance on a world map, one finds that the train from one to the other takes literally 9 hours. This is because the train goes through Arizona to get to Ljubljana (ok so Arizona is an exaggeration, but it actually does go all the way through Vienna, which is nowhere near either city at all. For comparison, imagine taking a train from Provo to Logan and having it go through Denver. This is actually a pretty accurate comparison). So we instead took a train to Trieste Italy for a little over one hour and then found 2 hour bus tickets to take us the rest of the way. When our bus tickets were sold to us, the four of us stood in shock, staring at one another, waiting for the catch, because we were positive that something had to go wrong since we hadn't had a seamless travel experience up to the point yet. But alas, the trip to Ljubljana went very well and we arrived safely.

We found a hostel near center that seemed like a good choice. The four of us were immediately placed in a room with 6 other strangers. We welcomed the adventure. Until night came. Four Indian men came into the room around 3:00 AM and marched around, taking things out of their bags loudly for about one hour as they prepared to go to bed. None of us can figure out why on Earth it took them so long to get ready for bed, or why they needed to be so loud about it, but they did. We sighed a major sigh of relief when they finally climbed into bed at 4:00. But the peace did not last as all of their alarm clocks began to go off in 4 minute increments starting at 6:00, which they each responded to by pressing snooze over and over again until Heather finally sat up and screamed "SHUT UP!" at 7:00. This is a true story. Any of you who know Heather are probably very shocked right now because she is so mild-mannered and typically very patient. But we found her limit this morning at exactly 7:00 AM. In her defense, it took an awful lot to get to that point. And to her credit, it worked like a charm because the whole room immediately fell silent at her request and stayed that way until she was ready to get up.

Ljubljana is gorgeous and clean and sans tourists. We love it here. Today we took a bus to Bled and swam in a gorgeous lake that sits in the mountains. Unfortunately we didn't think to bring anything to swim in, but the water was so clear and beautiful that we couldn't help ourselves so we made make-shift bathing suits with whatever clothes we brought (which may or may not have involved extensive amounts of forest nudity to get to something workable) and just hoped that we would dry off in time to climb aboard our bus back to Ljubljana at the end of the day. It all worked out very well. We swam and hiked and never wanted to leave. It truly was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.

Tomorrow we'll head back into Italy. Not totally sure where to just yet. Probably Verona or Florence or wherever we can go that doesn't require "standing" only tickets.

Wandering In Italy

Trip update from a few days ago...

We had a great couple of days in Rome, checking out the Vatican and several incredible churches and ruins. All of this amid drinking from every fountain and puddle of water in sight, including some that looked like they were meant for human consumption, and others . . . not so much.

Then we thought, "hey, let's go to Naples City, where the grass is green and the girls are pretty!" (Reference for you rock stars out there). The pictures we saw online looked great (although we think most of them were actually of Naples Florida, which probably is nice). So we boarded a train that must have just arrived from hell because it was hot enough to roast a kabab in there. This was likely most miserable for Heather, who, for reasons we still don't understand, was dressed like we were heading to Siberia in the winter for the entire day. So we arrived in Naples hot and sweaty. After about 35 minutes of wandering Naples looking for our hotel, which happened to actually only be about 2 minutes away, Heather informed us that "this place must be the Harlem of Italy." And she was right. Or the landfill of Italy. Or the Harlem landfill of Italy. But we dropped our things off at the hotel and asked hotel lady where the beach was, who then told us mid-cackles that there are no beaches in Naples but then pointed to a green spot on our terrible map and said that we could find something there that "looks kind of like a beach." And so we walked for another 2 or 3 hours until we reached that place and found that her description was actually pretty generous. Let us help you imagine this place. Think of a beach. Now make it the size of your bedroom. Now take away the sand and add mud and cigarette butts. Turn the water brown and put garbage in it. Now add 200,000 naked Europeans.

The next day we took a train to Sorrento where the beaches were supposed to be lovely. Sorrento was a cool little town and really pretty. the beaches were about one step above the "beach" of Naples, but the town and area was really fun to see.

We decided to head back north since it was too difficult to find ferries out to Croatia on such short notice. We made it back into Rome this afternoon and wandered a bit more and recovered from yet another train that had just come from hell (where it's summer right now so it's even hotter than just normal hell). Tomorrow we'll train up to Venice and stay for a night or two and figure out where to go from there.

We're having a great time.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

My First Project!

I bought a fancy new sewing machine with my tax refund. I LOVE it! Here is my first finished project, a Valeintines Day Table turned out soo cute!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


So I'm sitting here playing on Netflix and thought I would check out the movies that Netflix recommends based on movies I have ordered and my taste preferences...

The first movie that pops up is Troll 2...really??? Troll 2??? Wow!

(FYI...I have seen this movie listed on several websites as the worst movie of all time...and the youtube clips I have seen are absolutely ridiculous!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Part Three: "Well That Explains All The Spanish!"

Hello, again, family and friends... from Quetzaltenango (a.k.a. Xela -- pronounced "Shella").

Every town in the northwestern part of Guatemala ends in "nango" and so we feel very lucky to know where we actually are... we've passed thru Chulatenango, Huehuetenango, and a place we're pretty sure was called Chimichangatenango. It's all very confusing, so we didn't get off a bus for two days because we were never really sure where exactly we were... but, then, we saw a sign saying 12 kilometers to Mexico to which Eli said, "Well that explains all the Spanish."

We are exhausted and fried and have sooooo many stories to tell about the last five days, but this internet cafe is about the worst, slowest technology we've ever experienced so you'll only be getting the cliff notes in this email.

A few days ago we decided to leave Antigua for the beach -- a beach that the Lonely Planet guide assured us was another little piece of "Paris...dice..." So, thirteen bus rides, a few up-chucks out the window, and some very questionable cab rides later, we rolled into a town called Tilapa (a.k.a. Hell on earth) during what was certainly the biggest rain storm on record since the time of Noah. The beach town we intended to get to was only accessible by boat, we were told, so our only option for shelter was the one hotel that doubled as the town prison. It was WAY overpriced at $6 per night. The mattresses were made out of straw, the toilet had no seat and was in the middle of the room, and the shower was a bucket of water with cockroaches swimming in it. Additionally, an array of insects and animals you only see on the Discovery Channel ran across the dirty concrete floor, walls and ceiling all night long. When the power went out, we were kind of relieved, and terrified (relieved that we couldn't see the room anymore, and terrified that chupacabra had come through the open window -- cuz there was no screen or bars or anything -- and that one of us would be missing once the lights came back on). So, we lay in bed wide awake all night, moaning for the heat, laying on top of the one sheet they gave us for a blanket, scared to death of bed bugs, and we put on every piece of clothing we had so our skin wouldn't have to touch anything. There was a pig that kept visiting our rooms. Megan got bit by a cat. Uncle Will got up no less than 50 times during the night to investigate gunshot sounds and blood-curdling screams, while Megan was on his back like a piggyback ride because she was so freaked out. Eli took three hours to build up the courage to use the toilet and he only had to go number one and he kept saying aloud "I've done worse things...I've done worse things...i've done worse things..." Because the rooms were so small and the toilet in the middle, Krishelle just sat there and covered her eyes. We have all grown much, much closer over the last few days.

So, the second the sun arose, we had our backpacks on and were walking down the road to nowhere in particular. We accepted a ride on an outboard motorboat through croc-infested waters to get to the one hotel on the beach that the Lonely Planet Guide promised was "nice." We have several bones to pick with the Guatemala Lonely Planet Guide. So, we felt as if we had just left a prison but, when we got to our new hotel, it was as if we had just been transferred to a Maximum Security Prison, in a third-world country, something you'd see in an episode of Locked Up Abroad on the National Geographic Channel. The people were nice, so we decided to give it a whirl, plus, it was $4 a night, and we had a beach view! We immediately put on our swimming suits and walked to the beach and tried to find a place to spread out our towels in between all the driftwood. this beach appeared to have never been visited in the last two decades, so that seemed promising. except that the foam in the waves was brown and not white. During beach time, the following wonderful things occurred:

1. Uncle Will, a fairly seasoned bodysurfer, face-planted it quite forcefully into the bottom of the ocean and now wears a beautiful scab above his left eyebrow.

2. Eli lost his bathing suit in the waves - the Lonely Planet Guide did warn against the unpredictably strong rip tides and no lifeguards within 100s of miles.

3. Megan and Eli did an interpretive dance of the entire vacation (we have this on film for those interested in seeing it later - they will charge you $5 a viewing, and it's worth it)

4. Megan developed strong bonds with several stray dogs, one which we are positive had a severe case of pink-eye (this less than 24 hours after she was convinced she had rabies from the stray cat that bit her hard enough on the hand to draw blood)

5. Krishelle worked so well on her tan that her back looks like it's at stage three of the beef jerky-making process

6. The currents were so strong that we were all tossed and turned against our will so many times that we are now afraid of the ocean

After our day on the beach we went back to the hotel/cinder-block prison and were served fish for dinner, with the heads, eyes, gills, fins (the whole shabbang) still intact. The site so gruesome that we almost opted for starvation; however, we were so hungry that we ate every bit of those fish. We spent the remainder of the day lathering in aloevera, calamine, Neosporin, and downing any form of pain killer we could bum from strangers, and avoiding stray dogs and pigs (except for Megan, who wanted to adopt one or two or three). Then, nighttime came and we were really happy because we thought it might cool off a bit. Wrong. We think it got hotter. Megan kept Krishelle up the entire night flipping the light on and off convinced that there were bats flying around in their room, and lizards in her bed. Krishelle just moaned and humored Megan, because she had experienced this same thing a few years ago when Bridgette (Megan's older sister) put her through the same thing night after night on a similar trip through southern Mexico.

We had initially planned to stay in this beach town for the remainder of our trip to work on our tans, But, we lasted 24 hours and decided to high-tail it out of there and never go back! Ever! And, to never, ever, ever recommend it to anyone. It was perhaps the biggest hole we've ever visited. Walking out of there was so hot that if your foot slipped a quarter inch off your sandal and touched the sand, you were immediately convinced that the burning fires of hell were one inch beneath the sand. The locals weren't even walking around during the day it was so hot. And, by locals, we mean, all four of them who lived in this town. Enough said about that place - it was called Tilapita. Don't go there. Ever.

So, we decided to head back into the hills, which is why we are now in Quezaltenango. It's a beautiful mountain town of about 140,000 people. We spent the first five hours here wandering from farmacia to farmacia to find the right concoction of pain killers and anti-anxiety drugs to permanently kill the part of the brain that contains memories. we never want to think about Tilapita again. We then had a meal that would have seemed sub-standard on any other day, but after eating in Tilapita, this meal seemed like a feast for royalty! Of course, two hours later, Megan barfed it all up, in addition to everything else she's eaten since she was 13. If you can believe it, Megan was the one on this trip who got dehydrated first. And, this is why - On the way to Tilapita, she almost wet her pants on the bus, so on the way back, without telling us, she opted not to drink anything at all for about a day. Eli took the opposite approach, terrified that he would dehydrate (like he did on our trip to Egypt where he passed out on the plane and nearly caused us to divert to Madrid), and he drank everything in sight. After a few hours on the bus, he leaned forward, on the verge of tears, and begged Uncle Will to plead with the bus driver to stop so he could get off and pee. The bus driver just mumbled and kept driving for about another hour, until there was a traffic jam on a mountain pass and then Eli sprang out of the bus and pee'd on the tire, along with another passenger - We are all so shameless and immodest by this point of our trip. Well, Eli pretty much has been quite an exhibitionist since he lost his swimming suit in the ocean and has been walking around in his underwear ever since. Megan still wasn't saying a word about having to pee, which was unusual and we should have picked up on that, but we were all so focused on keeping Eli from peeing inside the bus, which he was actually considering.

So, we finally arrive to Quetzaltenango and get a taxi and told the driver to take us directly to the nicest hotel in town which he immediately pulled up to the first Hostel full of stinky backpackers to which we all, in unison, screamed "NO!" from the backseat and he drove on, as he told us that he had been an illegal alien cutting lawns in Beverly Hills for six years and that he crossed the border near Nogales using one of those "human traffickers" that we hear about on the news. It was all very enlightening, but we didn't care because he was our ticket to a nice hotel, we hoped.

So, we finally get to the Hotel Bonafiz, which, according to our Lonely Planet Guide is actually the nicest hotel in town and it's probably true and it costs about $80 a night and is worth every penny, except for the constant noise that begins at about 3 a.m. every day as they are trying to get the swimming pool repaired.

After we checked in, we went to dinner and ate like pigs and it was so good (as mentioned above). Then, we walked back to the hotel and all sank down into our beds and then looked at Megan who suddenly looked like the living dead and said she was just really tired. Then, the uncontrollable shaking began, which Eli immediately recognized as the tell-tale signs of severe dehydration (which he has experienced in every country of the world he has traveled to). We force-fed Megan about 78 gallons of Gatorade and water until the puking began, at which point we started all over with the force-feeding of liquids. Rest assured, the next morning, Megan was back to normal and has already taken a walking tour of the city with Uncle Will, looking for gallons of aloe vera to fill baths for Krishelle and Eli who are looking more and more like beef jerky with every passing moment.

No worries, seriously. Everyone is fine. We are sooooooo tan, but fear it may all be left behind in one big pile of flakes when we leave on Saturday. We are having a BLAST! We are laughing our heads off at every turn, except for when the Evangelical preacher got on the bus yesterday, during Eli's near pee-his-pants experience, and yelled at us about heaven and hell for two hours and then wanted some money (we didn't contribute to this guy because he was just annoying), and then he blessed everyone on the bus, individually, by laying his hands on each person and saying "Bless you." except for when he got to Krishelle he laid his hands on her and said, "Bless the woman." She got a special one. Everything is just a little strange down here.

Everything is so beautiful and green, green, green. And, honestly, the people are perhaps the nicest we've ever met, with the exception, perhaps, of the people of Belize. There seems to be a direct correlation between poverty, humility, and niceness in the people down here. For as many warnings as the Lonely Planet Guide gives us to be careful and safe, we are experiencing the exact opposite. We love these people!!! Granted, we do not love their infrastructure (or lack of it).

We're heading back to Antigua today for a couple of days of final souvenir shopping and stuff, Can never believe how fast these little adventures go by!

Love you all. Krishelle, Eli, Megan, and Uncle Will

Monday, August 23, 2010

Part Two: "Why would ´they´ put a lake on an island?¨

Hello, again, family and friends.

Last we left you, we had just checked in to grandma and grandpa's crazy hotel/house/hostel/someplace-we-never-want-to-stay-again... LOTS has happened since... First of all, after walking the town looking for a restaurant (which we seemed to do a lot of in Belize), we stumbled across what we thought was a restaurant, only to find out it was a little store run by an American hobbit selling "underwears"... he told us he only occassionally had pastries and then looked at his watch and told us he didn't know who could possibly be open at 4:30 p.m. for food. I think we were more confused than he was... we really felt we had stumbled into a Tolkein novel or were on a hidden camera show.

Luckily we found a place to eat where we were hassled by "Feliz" -- a free-lance tour guide and quite possibly the most religious human being who has ever walked the face of the earth (details to follow)... by the end of our meal we had signed up for what seemed like was going to be a 17-day ultra-adventurous jungle excursion with promises of snakes, jaguars, white-water rafting, and no-strings attached.

Knowing now what we would do the next day, we went back to Hotel Grandma/Grandpa to cram ourselves into the four-by-four square room, where we had to sleep in spoons to fit.... BUT, before we went to sleep, we heard Megan whimpering and beads started to bounce off the tile floor. We looked over and Megan explained that she was trying to do a surprise for us -- a surprise of taking out her corn rows a short 24 hours after they had been put in, because they itched, burned, were falling out, and quite frankly looked like the head of an old naked Barbie long ago forgotten at the bottom of a 1980s toy pile. So, we all gathered around to undo the damage which had been inflicted on Megan's head on the shores of San Pedro Island. Three hours later, a giant chunk of blonde hair lay on the bed (looked like someone shaved twelve Troll dolls).

(poor Megan)

During the undoing of the hair, there was a shark special on TV -- which we were very happy to be seeing AFTER our shark-snorkling/spooning experience of the prior day. We're pretty sure none of us will be going back in the water (not even in our own bathtubs). During all of this we started talking about our shark excursion when Megan informed us that "there are a lot of things about those fish I didn't need to know." When we asked her what exactly, she said, "Well they pointed out all these beautiful fish and then told me all these TERRIBLE things about them!!! Like changing their sex!!! That means that all the pretty girl fish can also be men! GROSS!" Quite sure that Megan had a different snorkling experience than the rest of us we asked for more clarification and she explained that she has always just associated pretty fish and animals with girls and the ugly ones with boys... Her whole world has been shaken.

San Ignacio was hot! The room was well-equipped with fans and A/C, and thirty dirty sheets per person for a cover (grandma must still be doing laundry in the river...which makes sense because we think she was born in 1825, and she yelled a lot at grandpa -- probably still mad at him for turning her shower into a Broadway show when he led all of us in to meet her while she was naked). Anyway.... Feliz picked us up the next moring in his friend's tin can on wheels to haul us into the deep dark jungle...

We found out along the way that Feliz, who was sitting in the very back on the floor because there was no where else for him to sit, has a lot to say and that he was going to say it all that day and none of it was about the tour we were on. We did learn a lot about soccer, team work, sobriety, house building, service, the Amish, the river system in Belize, and more than we ever wanted to know about Central American Evangelical Missionary Songs. So, by the time we got to the jungle we were ready to climb into a deep dark cave and die or do anything he asked so we could get the day over with fast!

The first thing on the agenda was to go cave tubing (which Megan wanted to know if we only got to go once or if we would get to take our tube back to the top and go again, like it was a waterslide at Raging Waters), unfortunately Feliz was not a very good planner and after driving for three hours to get to the caves, they were closed and the only life found at this tourist spot were giant army ants which immediately started feeding on us. Felize ran around in circles for a while, then disappeared into a hut, then came out with four innertubes and explained that it "looked" like it was probably going to be safe for us to go afterall (even though the caves were closed because the water levels were too high and they weren't sure we could get through without scuba gear... but, Feliz informed us that he prayed and with faith the waters receded enough for us to scrape through... Then, we began our one-hour walking trek through the jungle carrying our tubes, in our flipflops (because Felize failed to mention we would need shoes to hike through the jungle and rivers with sharp jagged hidden obstacles and very strong currents), and we unfortunately made the mistake of telling Feliz we're religious as well... cue Evangelical Missionary songs. All verses. En espanol. Interrupted by Evangelical missionary sermons and the occassional side-hug and wink. Hallelujiah.

Finally we got far enough into the jungle, and four-thousand ant bites later, we were at the place to enter the river and disappear into the unexpectedly long, dark, horrific, bat-infested, hidden waterful, multiple-death-trap-corridors (but only one being the right one) caves, gushing with 90 mph waters. Though, never fear, we had four partially-inflated innertubes, and four flashlights (one which was still sort of working by the time we got to the cave entrance). Feliz had us get into the river one at a time and then cling for life to the perfectly smooth moss-covered slippery rocks in order to prevent being sucked into the cave, separated from the others, and lost forever (had this been Raging Waters, this part is the equivalent to the top where the worker holds onto you before letting you shoot through the tube).

Feliz got all four of us in and had us hook feet under armpits of the person in front of us (as you can imagine, none of us wanted anyone's feet in our armpits, even though we are all related, we had been walking around barefoot in the jungles for about a week). Felize was in the front so he could paddle us out of harm's way -- occassionally he would look very scared and would start a panicked paddling into the dark (because it was soooo dark in there) and that would freak us out so we would all start paddling, too, to try to help... except for once, when we noticed Megan was paddling the opposite direction... When we asked her about this later she told us she didn't want to go that way because it looked scary (which nothing looked like anything because our flashlights didn't work and it was just pitch black everywhere and the water was so high our heads were about scraping on the roof of the cave).

The cave tubing was cool if it was about one-tenth as long as it was... Naturally, after about 30 minutes, the fear innappropriately wore off and Eli started singing that song from Willy Wonka where that horrifying boat is flying down that terrifying chocolate river ("is it raining, is it snowing, is a hurricane a-blowing....the river must be flowing because the rowers keep on rowing!!!!!"). Then, we got out right after almost being sucked under the part where the water was definitely too high... at which point Feliz told us about a lady who had just drowned there because she didn't get out in time.

(the caves)

So, we were back on dry ground, once again being eaten alive by ants and Feliz passed out two sandwiches to each of us that his wife had made, we think in her church. Megan ate all eight of them, because Krishelle, Eli and Uncle Will would not eat them because they violated the following rules:
1) They were made in someone else's house,
2) There was an unidentified mayonaisse-ish substance on them,
3) Unidentifiable slab of mystery meat,
4) Everything was damp,
5) We didn't want to feel like we owed Feliz anything.
Megan ate them all because she was starving and she said they were delicious.... though, she is now the only one of the four of us who needs Immodium (true story). However, we're not sure it was the sandwiches -- it could possibly be traced to the public toilet seat/ledge she sat flat on in a rainy Guatemala city around midnight... the place smelled so bad we could smell it across the parking lot but she ran in, no questions asked... and, apparently, no one has ever taught her how to squat when you use an unfamiliar bathroom. We told her we will practice with her later. In her defense, she had been holding it for all nine hours of a miserable bus ride through Guatemala and it was a dire emergency.

After the cave tubing extravaganza, we were marched over to the zip lines. Not much to report here, other than it was really cool and well worth it, but Megan is probably the reason it costs so much -- she caused a lot of manual labor to be involved by getting stuck half-way through every zip line because she was a little premature on the brake... even though the "braking" process was the majority of our lesson and how to NOT brake too soon because then you back up the whole process as you hang above the jungle and wait for someone to come and fish you in. There were seven zip lines that you go on to get through the canopy and she got stuck on six of them... so, our zip line tour lasted about five times as long as it should have, but the views were nice.

(zip line platform)

By this point of our day with Felize we were ready to go back to grandma/grandpa's for some homemade cookies and milk, or perhaps some pastries at the "underwears" store, but Feliz had a different plan which involved the Belize Zoo... which, we were excited to go to before we ever flew down here, but we'd seen so much wildlife and jungle by now, we just wanted to sit somewhere and ponder what we were really doing down here and why.

Between Evangelical serenades we drove to the zoo... Megan hadn't said two words for about five hours, then all of the sudden there was a shriek from the back seat that said in English, "DON'T HIT IT!!!!" We noticed a dog sitting in the middle of the road about 100 yards ahead. The driver slammed on the brakes and we all flew forward... the driver, who already looked confused just in general, now looked confused and terrified... Megan explained that she was NOT going to be part of any animal massacre.

We get to the zoo and immediately started looking for the exit sign. It was not at all what the guide books say, except for the part where monkeys are roaming freely... there were signs everywhere saying basically that if you touched a monkey it would likely be the last thing you ever did... however, Megan walked up to the first big black monkey she saw, wrapped her arms around it, named it, and put it in her purse. The monkey protected her later when she was saying "here kitty, kitty" to the jaguar and putting her hands into the cage. We saw jaguars, crocodiles, birds, etc., etc., etc.... most of the same stuff we see at Hogle Zoo, except for the giant guinea pigs (Tapirs) which we had to stop Megan from climbing in with... Though, all in the all, the zoo was cool but we'd skip it next time. Zoo's are just sad...

That night we were on the move again. Not interested in another night with grandma and grandpa, or across the street from the Hobbit's "underwears" shop, we high-tailed it for the border. Basically, we walked right into Guatemala, passing a 12-year-old immigration kid who stamped our passports in an open field and told us to have fun. We took a three-hour van ride to Flores, an island on a lake in northern Guatemala. It's a very quaint village on an island, on a lake... after a while of walking around, Megan inquisitively asked "Why would they put a lake on an island?" All of us individually tried to figure out how this could possibly make sense and each came up with the same answer -- it didn't. So, against better judgement, we asked for clarification. Megan pointed at the lake and said, "Well that's the ocean, isn't it?" We explained that were a good 15-hour bus ride into the mountains from the ocean. We then wondered what the lake was that she had referred to if she thought that was the ocean. (She is still trying to explain her logic to us, as we type.... it still makes no sense.)

The next day we went to Tikal and, of course, didn't go on a tour... and, of course, still wore our flipflops to hike through the jungle and up thousands of steep, narrow stairs to the tops of giant, cascading pyramids, where we were told two tourists recently slipped and stumbled to their deaths. The ruins are very amazing and very, very, very worth making the trek! These ruins are smack dab in the middle of virgin jungle and are still quite buried with lots yet to unearth. The jungle is thick and high and you can feel like you are lost in there or actually living a scene from the Jungle Book. Being the low tour season, there aren't many people wandering around so the animals are thick! You see and here all sorts of monkeys, wild cats, and other things just through the bush... The howler monkeys make a horrific sound and when they started, Eli said, "What the Jurassic Park?!?!?!?!" And, then, we ran for the exit, which was about four miles away...

The next morning we were on the move again. We caught a bus to head to the beaches on the Pacific side of Guatemala, but so far have only made it to Antigua, where we have found the rainy season that we were promised... and, there is a volcano within eyesight that we can see spewing smoke and ash. More details on Antigua, volcanoes, and interesting bus rides in our next email. Though, Antigua feels more like somewhere in Spain than Central America -- it's beautiful here!

Krishelle, Eli, Megan, and Uncle Will