jueves, 30 de junio de 2011

In which I become a Page 3 girl, go green at the gills and get dual nationality

Here I am in another airport, waiting for my flight out of Barbados. Once again I am sad to be saying goodbye, I have had a brilliant time here- this is such a special place and I have met the kindest, friendliest people.

My last week has been a fun and busy one. The weekend was full of surfing in the blustery, violent Caribbean. The waters were the biggest I’ve tried and gave me a good work out but was fun. My instructor even spotted a turtle swimming in the waves beside me, so I tried extra hard to stay up and not fall on the hard-shelled cutie.

I also had a brilliant Friday night out when the gang from the newspaper took me out to Oistins, a fishing port town on the East coast. The town is the place to be on a Friday. Along from a beautiful sliver of golden beach are a little village of take-away huts each offering all kinds of grilled and fried fish. I made do with macaraoni pie and chips and we all settled down in the bustling courtyard to chat and eat our hot food. I also had my first taste of local Banks beer, which was yummy.

Next we headed into the town of huts and found a clearing where a group of dancers were practicing their ballroom dancing moves. We hung around watching the couples glide around the square. Then the music changed to upbeat soca and the dance floor filled with people ready to line dance! I got involved and just about managed to keep up- line dancing to Soca… brilliant! The girls also taught me the Bajan art of the “wuk up”, basically a hand on the head and girate your hips while slowly crouching to the floor and back up again. Like the twist meets the hula…. At least the way I do did. It was a great night and so nice of my workmates to take me out. And once I'd shown them my wuk up skills they crowned me an official Bajan. I'm sure immigration will be cool with that.

I will really miss my work colleagues, I feel like I really settled in to work at the paper and have really loved my assignments. Except that is for Tuesday when I had to wake up at 3.45am to go out on a fishing boat to write a story for “Fisherman´s day”. Problem is… I had kind of forgotten how sea sick I get… within 15 minutes I was green and groaning, my head on my knees hiding in the cabin. Not the best in-the-field reporting job ever but I got a good first person account out of it and it was an interesting experience at least.

I was given a lovely send off with a massive card, cake and wine and I tried Claudia’s recipe and made a pound cake as a thank you. It feels far too soon to be going, I have really settled into live here. It is a wonderful island and great way to live! Plus I really love reporting, the chance to go out and about, meeting people and hearing their stories is right up my street.
But, it is time to move on. Two days back in London then off to meet Han in Vietnam! Ah life is good.

Lessons learnt:

So it seems kind of patronizing or superior to go on about how long the people in a foreign country are but I have been overwhelmed by the kindness and friendliness shown to me in Barbados. I have genuinely learnt a big lesson about acts of kindness to strangers. Lorna let me into her home on the just plea of a mutual friend. She looked after me, included me in her family events and left me to stay in her place for two weeks un-supervised. Her kindness and openness have really inspired me and I hope I will be as generous to others in the future.

Lazy, seasick vegetarians should not go out on fishing boats. And if they do they should make sure they do not let someone take a picture of them groaning on the floor, because said picture will almost certainly end up in the national paper!

I got to work on some great stories and even got a front page and lead Page 3 article. So I am now technically a page 3 girl. Ha.

sábado, 25 de junio de 2011

In which I become a Pirate of the Caribbean, look for Nemo and boogie in a tent

The past week has been full of firsts for me so I thought I'd share a few.

Last Sunday, after lounging around through a torrentially rained off Saturday, I made my way up to a town two thirds up the island called Holetown. It is a tiny little hole really but has a lovely beach, which is part of the reason I was there. I had decided to spend my Sunday morning on a glass bottomed boat ride. After a quick breakfast of toast on the beach (while reading some Sherlock Holmes... suddenly felt very British!), I made my way aboard the little boat.

At first I had the place to myself as we set sail along the glorious white-sanded bordered coast. Our first stop was at a sunken ship where I, alone, being the only one on the tour, donned a snorkel and slipped into the warm water. The sight was breath-taking. So was the being underwater with a loose snorkel. I have never seen so many fish in one place, the sea was teeming with them! I mean hundreds per square sea metre. Sergeant Majors and Blue Chubs engulfed the boat looking for food. It was all I could do not to hit them as I trod water. Absolutely stunning but a bit disconcerting too, especially for a girl who freaks out when seaweed brushes against me.

Things go more frantic when the boat guy/ sailor/ imaginary pirate asked me if I wanted to feed them. Still in the water I threw little chunks of white bread out in front of me and watched the ocean scramble as hundreds of fish jumped, slapped and fought their way to the morsels.

Back on board we popped back to land to pick up a late-arrival couple (from Tottenham!) and together we set off again. Cruising along the coast our guide pointed out the sea front houses of Andre Agassi and Roman Abramovich (which I had thought was a luxury 5* hotel, it was mahoooosive!) I am quite ashamed the pirate in me didn´t take advantage, I didn´t plunder any booty (monetary or otherwise).

We soon came near a catamaran full of tourists and were told to get in to the water. This is what I had been waiting for.... the sea turtles. Lost for a while I swam round in circles but then there, between the thrashing sunburnt legs of several tourists loomed a large, green sea turtle. Soon more appeared and suddenly I was swimming with about 10 of the beautiful beasts, so serenely slow and graceful under water (me not them, they were alright too I guess.) One of the guides was feeding them fish and they swam nonchalantly past us, so close we could and did reach out to stroke their large, fuzzy shells. It was a truly truly magical experience. To see such beautiful creatures so close up was just mind blowing. Forget swimming with dolphins, turtles are the new black!

After that we headed back to the shipwreck and explored the coral reef next to it. The tornado of fish had dispersed by then and I was confident enough with my snorkel to dive down and see the beautiful jewel-like little fish swimming in the reefs. And the eels, which, old though I am, made me a little nervous Ursula the SeaWitch was around somewhere.

That evening more treats were in store as I was off to a calypso concert to write a “first-timer´s impressions” piece for the paper. I had been told about calypso tents and so was expecting some sweaty, UK festival style wobbly circus-tent. Instead it was a pretty swanky affair, plush seats, hostesses offering chocolate, cheese and icecream samples (!), and everyone dressed up in their best. I had come dressed for sweaty tent. Oh dear.

The music was great. Caylpso is this fun, swinging beat with either party lyrics or songs about political and social commentary. There was a 10 piece band and two great backing singers and one by one a host of calypsonians came on to do one or two songs each. I´d heard a lot of calypso on the radio but it was so great live, it is all about audience reaction and people went wild whooping and cheering clever lines they liked! The show was closed by my favourite Barbadian artist Biggie Irie who sang this song, which I love and is my theme song for my time here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=scdi_NFauFs
Afterwards we popped back stage to do a few interviews and then headed home.

Re-energised after my aquatic experience and calypso catch up I went back to work with renewed vigor and had a good week which often involved popping to the beach in between or for assignments.

We have moved offices but just to around the corner. Now Lorna, whose house I am in, has gone for meetings in Paris I get 2 buses in in the morning which takes about 2 hours. Gives me time to study my Journalism course though and see the beautiful sites. The second bus´s final destination is a place called Jackson so every morning I have Johnny Cash in my head.... unless I get the bus driver who´s favourite radio station is blaring reggae interrupted EVERY two seconds by the announcer either singing along or making random comments. Drives me nuts.

I´ll sign this one off now but have lots more firsts to write about.

Lessons learnt:

Screaming underwater is not a good idea.

Saying hello in the street does not make you weird. It is a lovely sensation to smile and say hi to everyone you meet. Sounds all rainbows and buttercups but it is, so there.

Today I got commented on in the street by a guy. He was 6 years old and said “You are pretty. You have very nice skin.” It is the sweetest heckle I have ever gotten.

miércoles, 15 de junio de 2011

In which I meet a notorious BIG, go deeper underground and have food glorious food.

I've been meaning to update this for a while but it turns out the real world of work is significantly more time consuming than being a laze-about student. Used to my three hours of classes followed by hammock naps and guacamole it has been something of a shock to the system to be doing 10-12 hour days. Work is really interesting though and I may have discovered a new style of traveling: journalism tourism. The best way to see a place is to work as a reporter and go and interview everyone while seeing the place. Today, between meeting UNICEF reps and talking to a guy making a band for the huge carnival here I wandered down by the turquoise sea side and once again thought how lucky I am.

I am getting to learn all about Crop-Over, which is Barbados’ biggest festival. It has been fascinating talking to people involved and finding out just how much work goes into the country’s biggest party (those glittery bikinis don’t just make themselves!) Things are cranking up in time for the main events in July, which is, massively frustratingly, just after I leave. Still I got a taste of the party atmosphere when I covered the launch of a “band” (one of the groups of party goers- there is so much vocab to learn here!) There were some seriously glamourous outfits and a lot of flesh on show, plus I met one of the country’s leading calypsonians Biggie Irie (more vocab lessons- calypso is a form of music, often with witty, political messages. Musical story telling.) Meeting a big, fat musician called Biggie was cool. I felt like Tupac.

I had a break from work at the weekend, though thesis work took over most of Saturday. After hours of correcting footnotes I couldn’t take anymore and went for a quick walk and discovered my local beach five minutes down the road. Oh and sorry did I mention, it is one of the top 10 most beautiful beaches in the world. Five minutes away. Awesome.

On Sunday I took two looooong buses to get to the Harrison Caves, a series of incredible underground caverns filled with waxy looking stalactite and stalagmites. There is a tram that carries guests down down down into the caverns to see the stunningly architectural calcium formations. The rooms filled with protrusions reminded me of the rows of tall, tapered candles lining the floor of a Mexican church, or a magnified image of microvilli in the intestines. Quite appropriate seeing as were in the bowels of the earth.

However if I thought this would be a nice cool activity I was wrong, even under ground the caves are 26oC! Plus I managed to get sunburnt waiting for the bus home. Only I could spend a day underground and come out burnt and sweating.

In the evening Lorna took me out for a drive to the East coast of the island. It is much less developed over there and covered in wild, rolling green hills and rugged coastline. It was just stunning and the sunset over the choppy blue Atlantic was glorious. The spectacle of nature was given a final conclusion when turning into Lorna’s road a group of three monkeys calmly walked the tightrope of the telephone wires stretched across the road.

Finally I just wanted to write something about the food…. Because it is delicious. My new favourite is a Saturday delicacy called pudding and souse. The souse is meat which has been marinated in lime, salt and chile, (so I can’t have that,) but the pudding is the texture of sticky toffee pud but made of steamed shredded sweet potato, onions and spices. A savory pudding. It is just delicious!
Other delicacies include: vegetable patties, coucou (cornmeal mash with okra in), macaroni pie and roti (wrap with curried veg inside). I also ordered a cheese cutter thinking it sounded like a tasty addition to my Bajan diet…. Turns out it wedge of carefully cut cheese, delicately placed in the folds of a white, bread bap…. A cheese sandwich. Well you can’t win the all. I am also constantly being encouraged to try flyish fish, pig’s tail and fish cakes which are all considered tasty treats here. I’ll stick with the cheese buttie.

Lessons learnt:

It may be having spent a year without addresses in Costa Rica but the road names here seem really beautiful to me: Small land, Industry Road, Clammy Cherry Avenue,

I am slowly learning the Bajan dialect as well as the art of sucking one’s teeth when frustrated or annoyed. It is a great noise and something I may have to bring back to the UK.

lunes, 6 de junio de 2011

In which I track creatures from the deep, go with dead bodies over sheep and power-walk the island

My time in Barbados has been brilliantly odd right from the start. After dragging my recently acclimatised body to Gatwick airport I found my flight had been canceled as the plane was stuck in Barbados having hit a bird! So on top of feeling guilty about carbon emissions now I have bird murder on my conscience! This does not bode well for my hippy credentials. Luckily they got us on the next flight and soon I was touching down to the balmy heat of Barbados.

 I am staying with a friend of a friend, a woman called Lorna who is very well known and respected in the island due to her work with the Coastal Protection Agency (Barbados is mainly coast and Lorna is a real high flyer in the global discussions on marine conservation). Now having a coastal expert as a landland has some interesting consequences. Lorna and her sister Claudia met me at the airport and quickly informed me that, before going home, we would quickly pop to a beach to see a weird, unidentified, white, gelatinous creature that had washed up on the shore and been freaking people out. Worried that the white, jelly-like creature appearing on the shores somehow related to my arrival and crossed messages we headed off for my first peak of a Bajan beach, and a creature from the deep.

 The news of the sea creature was top of the agenda when I arrived into the newspaper office where I am interning (it turned out to be whale blubber and not some pale, British girl)  so we moved on to other stories. Barbados Today is a national, online newspapers and with its relatively small team is a great place for me to get some hands on journalism experience. My first day was suitably random, at first I was asked to contact the sheep farming organisation to ask if a new calypso song about “taking my sheep to town” was good for the industry or if it was in fact sheep exploitation. Yup you couldn't get much more Craggy island! But that was interrupted by a colleague asking me if I wanted to come and investigate a dead body in a car. “Wanted” was maybe not the work I would have used but off I went and got my first taste of reporting on deaths. A bit unsettling but oddly not as creepy as I thought it would have been.

Since then I have met the Minister for Education (who was super relaxed and chatty) and have written up a few articles. I may have also have discovered an new tourist mode: the tourist reporter. There is no better way to get to know the island better than racing around investigating the news. Of course not being able to tell the Minister of Education from Adam makes things about bit harder but I am doing my best to catch up.

When I am not interning, coming up with stories, finishing my MA thesis, starting my Journalism Diploma or applying for jobs I have managed to see a bit of the island. My weekend was actually uncharacteristically athletic. I spent Saturday morning on a 2 hour swimming session on a beautiful white sand, turquoise sea beach. Unfortunately, even going early in the morning didn't mean I escaped coming out of the sea as red as a lobster (beats white, gelatinous blob I guess). Breaking news: The sun in Barbados is hot!

Sunday brought more fun. I went to a big Sunday, family lunch with Lorna and her family. With twelve of us squashed round her sister's big dining table we scoffed down delicious food: cornbread, sweet potato, rice and peas, chayote and other goodies. It was all soooo good and was really lovely to be part of this big, typical Bajan lunch. (It is strange, every now and then the Bajan accent sounds a little Northern Irish, (other times West Country) and in a big group of sisters talking to their mum I feel like I am back visiting the grandparents in Ireland. Comforting in many ways!)

However the gluttony was soon to end as I headed off on a National Trust Sunday hike. Now this was advertised as the easiest of the walks, and if it was then I dread to see a hard one! We started out by one of the two remaining sugar factories and set off (virtually at a run) through the intense afternoon heat (we're averaging mid-30s here!). The walk/jog took 3 hours and we traveled about 8 miles, through forested gullys, hacking our way through dense undergrowth and clambering over hurricane-felled trees. Scrambling through the forest and up steep hills I was reminded of my childhood days of playing “freedom-fighters in the forest”, that classic children's game. A great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Sweat drenched but happy I finally arrived home having had a fascinating tour of the low flat, green fields of sugar cane, the damp, cool forests and the wide-sky sunsets that this beautiful country has to offer.

The main thing that has struck me about Barbados, other than the stunning postcard scenery, is just how lovely people are. And I don’t just mean smiley, I mean go-out-of-their-way-for-others lovely. The first example I found was Lorna and her sister Claudia who have been so sweet showing me round and making me feel at home. Lorna is a real gym buff and Claudia is a professional baker.... you can imagine whose skills I have been drawing on. Claudia and I had a huge baking session where she taught me to make pound cake- a delicious, dense sponge with raisins and essence in. We now have a fridge full of cake so instead of taking advantage of Lorna’s home gym I am just sat stuffing myself with delicious treats!

 Another example of kindness is when, coming back from Bridgetown, I managed to get on the wrong bus. As we got to the end of the line and I realised I hadn't found my stop I looked bewilderedly at the bus driver who calmly asked where I had been trying to go. When he didn’t know the directions to point me in he instead drove his big, empty bus around for 10 minutes until we found my house! Now that is service!

So yeah, if things keep going this well this is going to be a brilliant month! I am going to try making more cakes, go surfing a few times and check out the start of the huge festival called “Crop Over”. So stay tuned.

This is Maeve McClenaghan reporting for The Year of Jam Times, Paradise.

Lessons learnt:

Number one: Barbados is paradise. Seriously. I always thought it was a bit of a cliched holiday destination but wow is it beautiful!

I am one of the fastest walkers I know and have endangered many friendships because of it. I have nothing on Bajan hikers!

Pound cake involves a pound of sugar, a pound of eggs and a pound of sugar. And I have two of them in my fridge. Calling to me. Constantly calling to me. As a result I will plan to stay away from beaches when reporters or easily spooked fishermen are around.

jueves, 2 de junio de 2011

In which I nip home, worship beans and remember there is just no hiding from the “London weird night out”

It was with a blurry head and bloodshot eyes that I arrived into London having made the now all too familiar flight back from Costa Rica. With a year´s worth of luggage to drag onto the tube and into a taxi I didn't have much energy for mopping over leaving though. I managed to haul my Tica life possessions all the way to Kings Cross on the tube then gave up the fight and dragged them to a taxi. Driving through the drizzly, graffiti covered streets of East London, retracing the cab ride that had taken me from my London life on the way out, I was so excited to be back home! New bars and galleries called to me from the fogged up windows while the streets were full of the most interestingly dressed people I had ever seen! It was a feast for my sleepy eyes.

I arrived at Ciara´s and filled her room with my junk (habit of a life time) before dragging her off for a good old English breakfast! Ahhh hashbrowns and beans! (Fran had come to visit a few weeks before which was awesome, and really warrants a blog which I may try and slot in somewhere. He had brought me 7 cans of beans as well as an awesome Will and Kate tea towel, so the taste sensation wasn't all new but it was good to be back in a greasy spoon.) Crashed out sleeping for 3 hours before dragging my tired butt out to meet Sho and Ella at The Reliance (my and Sho´s regular). First real pint in ages went down well as did catching up with these amazing ladies. I popped off to get a briefing on Barbados from Terry and his wife which was really exciting and certainly helped pump up the adrenalin. Just as well because I nipped back to see Ella and Sho again and ended up in The Macbeth, with my face painted like a cat dancing to Shaggy's My Boombastic. I don't know why I was surprised.

The next day I met up with Conor, Ciara and Dad and had a great chippy lunch and a walk round St James Park. I´d forgotten just how brilliantly odd my family can be, especially Conor who named the squirrels after dead comedians and confectionery... for a reason I can´t remember). Later Ciara and I re-enacted our infamous nights out on Brick Lane which start with “well just a glass of wine to accompany the curry” and end up with us stalking boys and dancing raucously in Cafe 1001 or 93ft East. Nothing has changed.

On Sunday I met up with a great range of friends for a Sunday lunch in Angel. So lovely to see all these amazing people from different walks of my life around one table sharing stories. Plus I love Sunday lunch. So win win! Next met up with Mum and Con and walked along the South Bank (uber London) then went to see Stewart Lee's curated comedy show at the Royal Festival Hall. A mixed affair but awesome to see a fair portion of The Young Ones casts and John Cooper Clarke.

That was all there was time for before I was repacking my faithful bags for the next chapter of the Year of Jam: Barbados!

Lessons learnt:

Four days is not long enough to see London/ catch up with friends/ recover from jet-lag.

Mushy peas are a taste sensation and should be added to more meals!

Squirrels do not eat Twix bars Conor. Not even a half.

In which I pack it up pack it in, realise it is time to say goodbye, and rip off other song lyrics to try and mop up the sop

It is strange to think that just under a year ago I opened up my computer to write a blog which word for word could describe my feelings now. Those feelings, stripped of their poetic elegance, go something like this: Noooooooooooooooooo I don't want to go!!!!

The last few days of my time in Costa Rica passed in a blur of numb packing and emotionally charged goodbyes. I dragged all my books and readers up to campus and lugged my heavy heart back home with me. Don´t get me wrong, I was seriously excited about heading back (briefly!) to see friends and family and for all my adventures ahead but over the months my Costa Rica life had become, well, my life. This was my town, my routine, my favourite foods and my new extended family, and it seemed totally incomprehensible that I should be leaving it all behind. Again.

As you may have gathered over the past few blogs this has been an incredible year. I haven´t mentioned my classes that much, and heaven knows I´m not sure I feel like an MA student, but it has been absolutely fascinating to study again and International Law and Human Rights was the perfect course for me. But my head is filled with more than just facts, I also have a cranium full of memories which I am truly grateful for. Like tea and cake on Marion's porch, the looks of locals faces as I did my lonely Santa fun run, sitting out on my porch playing guitar and singing to the evening sky with Ben, wild dance moves and eternal bus rides with Isabelle, hang-over market breakfasts with Rafa and green food-dye with Patrick and a hundred other people and places that made this a special time.

The only thing that really got me through it was thinking back to the very first blog I wrote, where I was sure I was making the biggest mistake of my life walking away from the people and place I love. I read those words again trying to make this girl recognise herself in that girl and reassuring myself that the future will bring more good times.

So I have decided to keep this blog going a while longer. It is meant to be lessons from Central America, but there are lessons to learn elsewhere too. I have made it to eight countries and 3 continents in the past 9 months... and the plan is not to slow down just yet.

So I´ll close this soppy chapter with a poem my Mum gave to me on my very first, fresh faced adventure (I went inter-railing at 17 and caught the travel bug... and miraculously not bed bugs!) I am trying to hold on to the words of this poem and keep my achy breaky leaving heart together for a while longer.

Away and See- Carol Ann Duffy

Away and see an ocean suck at a boiled sun
and say to someone things I’d blush even to dream.
Slip off your dress in a high room over the harbour.
Write to me soon.
New fruits sing on the flipside of night in a market
of language, light, a tune from the chapel nearby
stopping you dead, the peach in your palm respiring.
Taste it for me.
Away and see the things that wordsgive a name to, the flight
of syllables, wingspan stretching a noun. Test words
wherever they live; listen and touch, smell, believe.
Spell them with love.
Skedaddle. Somebody chaps at the door at a year’s end, hopeful.
Away and see who it is. Let in the new, the vivid,
horror and pity, passion, the stranger holding the future.
Ask him his name.
Nothing’s the same as anything else. Away and see
for yourself. Walk. Take a boat till land reappears,
altered forever, ringing its bells, alive. Go on. G’on. Gon.
Away and see.

Lessons learnt:

Costa Rica is paradise. UPEACE is a weird and very special place. The students there are the most fascinating and brilliant student body around!

Rice and beans doesn´t get old!

I am an unattractive crier (but I knew that already)

martes, 17 de mayo de 2011

In which I refute Aldous Huxley, play the Virgin Mary and walk on flowers

A fair few weeks have passed since I rolled into Antigua, Guatemala one dark, misty night, but it has taken me that long to process all that went on there. After another epic 10 hour bus journey we squeezed our way into the busy, dark, wide streets of Antigua. As our big rucksacks were bustled by the throngs of people crowding the streets we realised just how silly we had been to pop to a legendary festival town on the busiest weekend of the year without hostel reservations. For a while it was beginning to look just like a biblical story, no room at the inn anywhere.... and just to add to the confusion as we went to cross a street in search of a manger our path was blocked by the eery apparition of a huge Jesus Statue being carried along in a procession of trumpets and swinging incense clouds.

Perhaps I better explain about Antigua. You see the small town is renowned in Central America for its Easter Celebrations. Every year the town fills with people, statues and processions fill the streets and the roads are adorned with beautiful carpets of dried flowers and coloured sawdust, destined to be trampled under pious feet. 

So within 10 minutes of arriving in the town all our expectations had been confirmed! Miraculously we managed to find a place to stay (one step up from a donkey’s pen) and we went out for a better look around.

The whole town had a feel of a Dan Brown novel (but better written). Everyone taking part in the procession wore long, purple robes and carried cross-topped staffs. Clouds of incense hung in the air long after the floating effigies had passed. Each Statue base was the size of a small car and involved lines of people either side lugging the weigh on their shoulders like coffin bearers.

We spent the next couple of days taking in the dramatic displays. On Good Friday things stepped up a notch and we were disconcerted to have just bought lunch at a busy little food market only to look up and see an effigy of Judas hanging from the trees. After 3pm, the time Jesus was crucified, everyone changed to black robes, making things even more eerie and giving the place a sense of mourning.

It was particularly interesting to watch the almost masochistic precision with which people took to making the carpets of flowers which lined the routes and were trodden to dust under the procession’s feet. Something interestingly cyclical and re-birth-like about that. But, for the short time they existed they painted the streets with glorious colours and patterns, offset nicely by the moving, constant sea of purple robes.

Easter Saturday Ben I am decided to head to Lake Atitilan, which Aldous Huxley described as the most beautiful lake in the world. Now Huxley was pretty smart and all but he clearly hadn’t been to the lake on Easter weekend. Instead of the pristine, natural beauty we were expecting we were welcomed with hoards and hoards of Guatemalan party makers. It was actually great to be away from the tourist crowds and we had a great time exploring. It turns out Lake Atitilan, on Easter weekend at least, is Central America’s answer to Blackpool! We made chip butties, took a bumpy boat ride out onto the rainy lake (my scenic seat meant I got very very wet and caused the other passengers no end of delight), watched the ring toss, fairground games and Ben got his wallet robbed. It was the whole deal! A very bizarre day out, not at all what Huxley had promised us but a strange new world at least!

On Easter Day itself I accompanied Ben to the cathedral for 5 minutes of mass before my atheism got in the way and I headed to the artisan chocolate shop and the comic book store for some decadence.

The next day we were up at 4.30am for a flight back to Costa Rica, and we got back just in time to catch the bus up to uni! Many coffees later and I was home at last after a fantastic Easter holiday!

Lessons learnt:

Whether in Guatemala or Mexico- always always always try the spicy sauce before slathering your food in it.

Dyed sawdust may not be a smart business career path but for one weekend in Guatemala you could make a fortune!

No matter how much you know it is not the point, big, pointy white hoods can’t help but scare the pants of me with reminders of the KKK!