Guatemala has the same beauty I anticipate Heaven will also have. There are courtyards and pockets of secret gardens everywhere. And from every flourishing garden, there are views of mountains and volcanoes surrounding. Also at every turn are fallen ruins, silently telling stories of history and destruction, but also of hope. Since being here, I have made chocolate from cocoa beans, taken salsa dancing classes, climbed mountains into the clouds, sipped wine while walking through an organic farm, and spent a lot of time working on my Spanish.
I'm really all about long-term travel now. (Not to say I would turn down a 5-7 day trip to, well, anywhere, but that’s not the point.) Already, I feel like an Antigua local. I'm staying in a sweet, old woman's home where I eat delicious (sometimes wonderfully questionable) authentic Guatemalan food three times a day. I step out of the front door onto a 10-inch sidewalk, right next to a tiny convenience store (which we tenderly call the snack shack). There are always these dudes standing in front of the snack shack, whose gross stares, which lack subtly, I always pretend to be too oblivious to notice. But the fact I see them daily makes me feel like Antigua is home. In the States, walking to my front door or drinking coffee on my couch would give such a warm feeling, but this will do.
I see people I know while walking down the streets already. Some of them attend the Spanish school (even though I've really only had in-depth conversations with the lady who mans the snack booth -- Pringles: the red can or green can?). Some of them are people who work in the markets. Some of them are people who regularly beg on the street. Either way, a familiar face is a familiar face, and that does allow some home-y feelings (which is probably more appropriate that the despicable guys outside the snack shack).
In addition to the sweet old woman, her family, and the family I am here with in Guatemala, some very sweet souls are staying in the house. I befriended two girls who are 20 as well. They remind me that I, too, am still a 20-year-old girl (despite the fact I feel 40). And I fantasize about going back with them to their lives of dorms and classes at NC State in August. I long for the securing arms that college seem to wrap around girls my age. SEU kicked me out after handing me my diploma, but maybe NC State will embrace me? I coo to that part of me that longs for comfort, "Sure, Liz, you can go back with them," as if I'm telling a child, “Yes, of course Santa Claus is real.”
Also living with us is a man form Brazil who lived in the Netherlands for five years. We talk in Dutch and reminisce about all of the Dutch foods until we can no longer stand the hunger for them. We talk geography, we talk customs, and again, there it is: that home-y warmth.