Updated: Sep 7, 2019

Adrienne Hawkes

After a full week of teaching university students and other high schoolers, Libby, Isabella, and I were all very eager for a short vacation. Packing our bags, we headed over to the beautiful town of Antigua for three days.Because business was not quite over, our first stop in Antigua was the sister school of our own Institute. We had the chance to speak with one of the hermanas about the history of the “Bethelemitas” sect of the Catholic church associated with our school. We learned just how expansive the Bethlemitas secondary education schools are; they have locations in India, Colombia, Dallas, Texas, Spain, and many other places all across the world. More specifically, we learned that all the hermanas from Central American are trained in Costa Rica, and though many do not plan on being teachers, most of the nuns end up working at schools. My favorite part of the tour was the magnificent grounds of the Institute: 450-year-old ruins incorporated into the architecture of the school, large expanses of impressive landscaping, a chapel from the 1600’s, and classic Antigua architecture were absolutely breath-taking.

To start our vacation, we hiked up to the Cerro de la Cruz, a hill with a cross that looks out over all of Antigua. For the first time in 6 weeks it wasn’t raining. So, we sat under the beating sun, looking out over the expanse of the old city that sits at the base of three volcanos It was humbling and incredibly peaceful. For the next two days, we toured the city. We snuck into three hotels for some of the best views of the city and the largest ruins in Antigua. We saw two real skeletons in these ruins…that was not my favorite part, but it’s a cool story I guess. We stopped at what felt like every possible site that had ruins and we saw every historic church. We went to the Spanish cultural center, one of the four that exist in the world. We stumbled upon undiscovered, but amazing restaurants and coffee shops. I have been to Antigua four times over the past four years. As I was walking around, I realized I barely knew anything about the place. Many of the places that we stopped, I didn’t even know existed. It was fascinating to see such grand, mystifying ruins that give the city its unique character. Leaving Antigua, full of amazing coffee and delicious food, I felt that I had finally had a better taste of the city.

Throughout the rest of the week, cloudless, rainless days persisted. We stayed at the Institute to work on lesson plans and enter data into Excel. During the majority of this time we relaxed and worked in the teachers’ lounge, but we did have one particularly interesting day. Waking up, we knew the hermanas were going to be gone. What we did not expect though, was to be locked in the convent for an entire day…Due to a small lack of communication, there was some confusion surrounding whether we were going to have lunch. Making the best of the situation, we found a bag of pasta, garlic, salt, dried basil, and oil – the perfect ingredients for a delicious bowl of pasta that was quickly devoured by Isabella and me. We did receive lunch, but the pasta was a good supplement for us as we sat down by the teachers’ lounge to work (that we were also locked out of).My favorite day of this week was the day I decided to stay at the school while Isabella and Libby took a short trip to Panajachel for some coffee and lunch. Though I missed them, I found out that the school had chickens. With a student who stayed at the school for the past two weeks, I went to the chicken coop and held one of the chickens. It was all fine until the student said, “And here is the part where we get the breast meat from!” I was only slightly traumatized that I was holding this Christmas’ dinner meal.

Though it was nice to have time to work, I felt the absence of the girls very strongly throughout the week. It was weird to walk from our room to the teachers’ lounge without seeing girls milling about in their purple sweaters or track suits. After this week of writing lesson plans and the prior week’s learning experience, I am looking forward to teaching and seeing what the girls have planned for their flashlights!


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