Sunday, July 1, 2012

Goodbye Guatemala

This will be my final post from Guatemala; in a few hours I am getting on a plane back home to the US.  Sorry for the lack of pictures right now, the SD card reader on my laptop got jammed on Friday so I haven't been able to upload any since then.  Luckily, this happened at the end of the trip, so you already got to see all of the cool stuff from Estanzuela and the experiment in action. 

The past few days have been fun, as I have been mostly surviving on my own and getting to know Guate better (aka Guatemala City).  On Friday, I went on a day tour of Antigua, the top tourist destination in the country that also seems to have the highest volcano and earthquake activity in the area.  The guide told us that Guatemala usually gets a really big earthquake every 30-40 years, and the last one was 35 years ago, so that made it more interesting.  In Antigua, I saw some of the ruins and old Spanish churches, and also took a tour of a workshop where they make Jade replicas of Mayan masks/figurines, which is a booming industry in the area. 

On Saturday, I traveled into the historic district in Zone 1 of the Guatemala City.  I was warned before I left by the hotel staff not to venture out of the "safe zone", which was only the main plaza downtown and 6th Avenida, the main street with tons of shops, people, and heavily armed security.  I followed their advice, and since it was raining I spent most of the time in the entrance to the National Palace, which is the main government building in the city. There is really not that much to see in the historic district, just a bunch of shops/street performers and the main plaza.  The entire time, I was mostly trying to survive and avoid getting mugged, because there are a bunch of sketchy-looking people in the area and scam artists trying to hustle tourists.  I only stayed for about 1 hour before I called the hotel taxi to be picked up. 

For meals, I have been able to try out a bunch of excellent Guatemalan food in the Zona Viva district, all within 2-3 blocks where I am staying.  Thursday night, I went to Tamarindos, which is an Italian/Thai fusion restaurant where I had a plate of Guatemalan/Italian fried burrito wraps followed by a Pad Thai  (they also have strawberry butter for their bread, which I highly recommend). For Friday/Saturday night, I went to Tacontento, a restaurant with low-cost tacos/burritos located on the same street as the discotecas, so it is a cool place to hang out.   In addition, while visiting Antigua I had probably the best meal of my trip at restuarante Posada de Don Rodrigo, which was a spicy beef dish covered with 2 eggs sunny side up. 

Overall, I would say that my entire trip to Guatemala has been very successful.  The past two weeks in Guatemala have been an excellent experience for me, and I have had fun while doing this volunteer work for The Full Belly Project.  We were able to achieve most of our goals with aflatoxin research in Zacapa, and also have formed many connections with the town of Estanzuela and the Mani+ organization.  For the future, I am planning to stay in contact with Carlos, Robert, and Luis, and do more research on our aflatoxin project while I am back in Wilmington, NC for the rest of the summer.  I will post again when we get back the results of the aflatoxin lab testing, and also try to post a few pictures from Antigua when I get the chance. 

Goodbye Guatemala, it has been great. 

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