Thursday, September 13, 2012

Volcan Fuego

Today the most amazing thing happened, I saw a volcano begin to erupt!  Volcano Fuego is only 8 miles southwest of Antigua and looking out across the skyline during my break in class, I along with many other people noticed clouds of smoking piling up in the sky.  We ran out into the street and for the next half hour we stood in awe as billows of smoke were pushing out of the top of the volcano.  Listening to the news, I found out that there is smoke and ash coming from the top of the volcano along with streams of lava and rocks shooting into the air!

No worries, I am safe in Antigua.  Although the volcano is only 8 miles away, the shape of the volcano guides the lava and ash towards the opposite side of Antigua so it affects multiple towns miles away from me.  The lava will not flow towards Antigua, but the seismic activity caused by this eruption could cause small earthquakes.

I've never seen a volcano before until I came here, and I now I can say that I had the chance to see a volcano erupt!  It is amazing to see the amount of smoke and ash that can come out of the top of a volcano and stand in peace knowing that I can't be hurt directly from it.  It is a little unsettling to not know what effects may come from this eruption, but we are all hoping that the volcano slowly leaks out rather than explode.  I've been told that its a good sign to see smoke constantly billowing out because it means that the volcano has no chance to build up pressure and suddenly let it lose.

Here are some pictures of the volcano.  The volcano shouldn't be too hard to pick out :)

I LOVE Mail :)

In case anyone wants to send me letters (no packages) or email me, here is my information :)

Jaimie Kilbourn
49a Calle del Espiritu Santo
Antigua, Guatemala


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Let The Semester Begin

Today was day 2 of Spanish classes at La Union and I think that I will leave the school with a headache every single day.  It is amazing how I am able to have a one-on-one tutor for the next 15 weeks who wants to have a friendship with me,  but right now I am on information overload with the amount of Spanish I am needing to correct from past Spanish classes.  I feel like I am starting over at square one.  I literally spent my first day learning the Spanish alphabet for 2 hours and on day two I learned my colors and salutations.  I want to move ahead to where I am at after three years of college level Spanish, but I guess my teacher knows best and will put me where I need to go.  I am grateful to have this opportunity, but I want to feel like I am actually learning something new and not simply reviewing the Spanish classes I have already taken.  I have found, though, that learning the language is much easier in Spanish than in English.  What I mean is that as my teacher (Patty) is teaching me how to conjugate verbs in the present tense, she talks using multiple examples of present tense conjugation and I can hear the examples in Spanish while learning it.  I'm glad I am learning this way!

I think the most frustrating part for me is that I have to go from 8:00-12:00 without speaking any English.  It is much harder than it seems because in English I sound like an educated senior in college, but in Spanish I sound like a six year old who is still learning basic vocabulary.  Whoever reads this, I dare you to spend 4 straight hours talking to someone in a second language.  You might think it is easy, but after you describe your day and your life back home you have pretty much run out of your vocabulary list and simply sit there and nod while saying "si."  My teacher told me I look like a dog because I either nod my head constantly and say "si" or I cock my head to the side and give a very confused look when I don't understand what she is saying.  My goal is that my the end of the first three weeks I will be able to hold a conversation with my host mom and actually understand what she is saying.  I want so badly to just have a casual conversation with my host family and attempt to fit in with their culture and language.

Well tomorrow is day 3 of classes and people always say that the third time is a charm, so we will see how it goes.  I'm hoping to gain a lot from these Spanish lessons.    

Sunday, September 9, 2012


It has been only 3 days since I have been in Guatemala, and I think that I have been called or heard the word gringo at least 10 times if not more.  As I walk down the streets with the group I can feel eyes staring at me and I'm sure people question why 16 Americans are in Antigua, Guatemala.  I'm don't feel offended, just exposed.  People on the streets watch every move I make and I feel as if I am in a zoo and put on display for the locals to check out.  This is the first time I have been in the minority of a group of people, and after 3 months, I'm sure that I will be able to relate to many minority groups who are in America feeling the same way I do.
The culture is different in Guatemala from America, and it is simply something I have to get used to.  The people aren't worried about time, and "hola" has become a common word in my vocabulary.  As I walk down the streets, I pass children selling blankets and jewelry on the streets, and in the central park Mayan women are weaving scarves and blankets to sell.  The atmosphere is one of genuine friendship and concern for family and friends; whereas back in the United States, the watch controls the lives of people and many wouldn't take the time to stop and talk to someone on the street if it meant being late for an appointment.  This laid back environment was difficult for me at first as I hate being late for anything and I always have to know what time it is, but looking back, I only looked at my watch 3 times today, which is a record low for me :)  I'm starting to like the environment in Antigua.  Even when I moved into my host families house, their saying is "Mi casa es su casa"  How many people in America would open their homes to complete strangers and serve them as guests for 3 months with no complaints?  I don't know many people who would.  My host mom and sisters decorated my room for me and gave me the best blankets and furniture in the house.  With the little they have, they gave me the very best and this shows a lot about their humility and willingness to serve others.  This is the sign I saw when I first walked into my room :)

Not only is the culture different from the United States, but the view is as well.  Living in Michigan, I'm used to farmland and maybe a couple rolling hills, but not much.  Flying into Guatemala, I see mountains, volcanoes, and oceans!  In Antigua alone, there are three volcanoes that surround the city and one of them is currently erupting, (which is really cool to see at night).  When I wake up, I can see volcano Agua in the distance and to the north of the city are two more volcanoes that just make the view spectacular!  Even the climate is different.  Every day the temperature is in the 70s with a rain shower in the afternoon, but it makes for a tropical feel.  Every house has courtyards in the center as if half the house was built outside.  It's normal for a house to only have a roof over the main rooms with wide open courtyards and spaces for plants.  It's very pretty!!  Below is one of the most photographic spots in Antigua.  It is the main arch used by nuns in Antigua with volcano Agua in the background.  This just takes my breath away!

The people of Guatemala live a very simple life, but it's one of joy and love.  My host family has taken me in and mi madre treats me as one of her own daughters.  With what little some of these people have, they make up for in service and generosity.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


The other day as I was talking about my Guatemala semester, I opened a dove chocolate and found the most comforting message; two simple words "be fearless." going out of the country is a huge step for me...something I never would have imagined doing before, but those 2 little words gave me comfort. I may be nervous now but I am going to be fearless in this experience and hope for the best