3. GUATEBUENA: The one with the birthday!

24 Apr

Hello! Helen here again! Fresh off the trail, literally, we went exploring for the perfect place to spend the night and to wake up on Patrick’s birthday. We had one set birthday goal: Hike a cloud forest in search of Guatemala’s national bird for whom their currency is named: the RESPLENDENT quetzal. If you’re not using the word resplendent in your day-to-day vocab, I recommend throwing it in your rotation.

RESPLENDENT, adj.: attractive and impressive through being richly colorful or sumptuous.

The word you didn’t know you were missing in your life. We first learned it in Spanish when we were reading about the quetzal and it was described as “resplandeciente.” After a quick Goog, we learned “resplandeciente” was Spanish for “resplendent” which, I’ll remind you, was English for “attractive and impressive through being richly colorful or sumptuous.” I’m using the full definition twice so you feel comfortable using it, too. Go ahead! Try it. You might like it. Here’s an image from Google of the quetzal as a visual aid:

Shining, shimmering, resplendent.


We found a place to stay near the cloud forest and ventured into the nearest town, Purrulha, to find snacks and supplies for the night. If there’s one thing we love, it’s matching. If there’s a second thing we love, it’s going on a quest. We knew what we needed for the night: Snacks and a few birthday Gallos. After finding FREE PARKING(!!!), we took to the streets of Purrulha, exploring the stores for ice cream (always), snacks to take to the hotel, and Gallo.


Little town, full of little people, waking up to say……. Hola.


She’s the leader of the pack. Vroom Vroom!


First, we found a stand selling CDs and games. We were so excited because we had been wanting to pump some jams in our perfect rental truck and had only been using whatever music was downloaded on our phones and a wee bit of radio. We each picked out 2 Spanish language CDs (which had 100+ songs on each), and spoke in Spanish to the store’s owner. We told him we were visiting from the United States, staying nearby and going hiking in the morning in hopes to see a famous Quetzal. He immediately said “You can’t hunt them. It’s illegal to kill them.” Apparently, we Americans have a reputation. We assured him we just wanted to look at them and had no interest in killing them. He was thrilled. Glad we talked that out!


Continuing on our quest, we popped into another Comedor to give it a shot. This time, we were the only people there. We asked if we could order a meal, pay in advance, and come back in 15 minutes to eat it after we ran through the grocery store on a snack mission. They were confused, but they decided that would be fine. We meandered through a grocery store on our timed side quest and found all sorts of delicious snacks. Our ever-wise Sammi told us it was important to pick snacks with funky shapes and she was right; the more unique the shape, the more delicious it somehow tasted. Two women who worked in the grocery store followed us around and started speaking to me in Spanish. They told me they wanted me to teach them English. I spoke to them in English and told they responded in Spanish. It was very sweet.




Hen’s pic of hens.


SNACKTRICK, n.: Our best friend who is always on the hunt for fun, interesting, and delicious snacks. Keeper of the Snackpack (n.: a backpack full of snacks) and distributor of the snacks. Happy birthday, Snacktrick! #alwaysbesnacking

Patrick saw one of these baseball-themed gumball machines from his childhood and scored a gumball homerun!

I scored an out! Does that count as scoring? Negative points? This is why we prefer cooperative games. #pandemicforever


Come once more to the Comedor! (We actually don’t recommend them.)


We made it back to our hotel which was beautiful. It was rustic and cozy, with wood-burning fireplaces in the corner and private huts for sleeping. There were wild birds that were allegedly turkeys, but they looked even more terrifying somehow (am I the only one who is afraid of turkeys?) and squawked at us as they roamed the property. One thing you may not know about Guatemala is that 40% of the people are indigineous. There were parts of Guatemala that spoke in tribal languages, rather than Spanish. There was a traditional dish called Kak’ik, which is a spicy turkey soup. Our resort served its own, homemade Kak’ik with the wild turkeys they raise right there on the property. As a vegetarian, I didn’t try any but Patrick and Sammi said it was delicious! This random place we found to stay for the night served some of the best food we had in Guatemala (except the Macadamia Nut Farm #neverforget). We put on our matching Gallo hats (reminder: WE LOVE MATCHING!) and had a few birthday Gallos outside.



Birthday feast-esta (This is a fiesta pun. Is that coming through?)


Kak’ik-ing up with the Kardashians


Never been more thankful for a window.


They’re simply the best. Better than all the rest.


As it turned to night, we moved inside and continued our bestie fun by a wood-burning fireplace. Our waiter for the evening, Miguel aka Mike, was the sweetest. It was our entire experience that Guatemalan men are super polite and respectful. We were never catcalled, approached, or bothered in any way. Over the course of the evening, we grew to love Mike more and more. We were thankful he didn’t speak any English so we could practice our Spanish. And, with a few Gallos in us, we were feeling more confident than ever in our team’s ability to speak Spanish. “I feel like we know enough Spanish to ask questions, but not always enough to understand the answers,” Sammi observed. “Okay, team!” I declared before every interaction with Mike, “I’m going to ask some questions and I need all ears on deck for the answers!” Together, we could usually figure it out. Our Spanish was taken to new heights as we asked for wood (madera) to burn in the fire, and to arrange a surprise at midnight for Patrick’s birthday. We couldn’t believe the vocab words that were coming back to us. Thanks, Gallo!


What would Usher do? Let it burn.


Mike was sweet and helpful and got us everything we could ever ask for. He was on board for our midnight surprise. We told him our plan was to stay up till midnight to ring in Patrick’s birthday, and then we would go to bed. We sat around the fire for hours, laughing, chatting, translating, admiring Mike (and Guatemalan men, in general), and bonding. It was the best.


Fireside chats


Birthday boy’s birthday joy


After a delicious dinner, we had another round of Gallos and then were pretty exhausted. It was only 10 PM. We realized, unfortunately, there was no way we were going to make it to midnight. Patrick promised us he was not disappointed and was excited to start more birthday fun in the morning on his actual birthday. We pulled Mike aside so Patrick wouldn’t hear, and explained to him that we were not going to make it to midnight after all, so the surprise was off, and thanked him, verbally and financially, for everything he had done for us. On the way to our beds, Patrick made us promise we could sleep through the night and we wouldn’t wake him up at midnight. It would be his birthday all day (“It’s the day all day!”) and we had an early hike in the cloud forest to try to catch a glimpse of that sweet, resplendent Quetzal, afterall. We promised and went to bed.


Our home for the night.


“I’ve never slept in a room of this shape.” – Dr. Patrick Marti


IMAGINE OUR SHOCK, when we awoke to a knock on the door at midnight. We were all terrified. We had no idea what time it was or who would be knocking on our secluded cabin door. It was Mike in his pajamas with a cake and a crew, serenading Patrick in Spanish. It was jarring. We thanked him profusely, and realized our Gallofied Spanish was not as good as we had thought. He had not understood our request to cancel the surprise. But he had understood our request for a midnight surprise! Go team! We all went back to bed and fell asleep laughing.


The next morning, we awoke and gave Patrick our present! Those of you who know Patrick (and/or followed his viral #tayoftheday on Tik Tok — check it out @og_marti_parti), know he is #craycrayfortaytay. That is to say: The man is in love with Taylor Swift. (Aren’t we all?) As fate would have it, the one and only TAYLOR SWIFT had cryptically announced that she was releasing SOMETHING on April 26, 2019. However, she gave no indication of what it was. April 26th was just 2 days after our beloved Patrick’s birthday! We were excited to all be together in Guatemala for this exciting release! Based on Taylor’s Instagram messaging and colour-schemes, we knew it had to be one of two things: She was either releasing new music OR she was opening a boutique clothing store in upstate New York. Desperate for a new Taylor Swift album, we gambled on new music and got Patrick an iTunes gift card so he could get whatever it was. (SIDE BAR: IT WOULD TURN OUT TO BE LEADING US ALL TO HER 7TH ALBUM, “LOVER,” WHICH IS THE BEST.) Our girl Swift was SO good at Easter Eggs that she planned a new music video for her single “Me!” to be released THE WEEK OF EASTER. Are you kidding me? Easter eggs on Easter week?! The woman is a genius.


He never goes out of style.


After a birthday breakfast, we went hiking in the GORGEOUS cloud forest across the street. It was genuinely across the street. I highly recommend Ram Tzul as a place to stay if you’re ever in Guatemala! Ask for “Mike.” We chatted as we made our way up through the cloud forest, keeping our eyes open for quetzals and other critters. The cloud forest was called “Biotopo del Quetzal,” after all. We were optimistic.



On the top of the world, looking down on creation.


Not a bad way to start one’s 36th year, eh?


We only saw one quetzal, sadly, and it was the taxidermied one in the information center at the end of the hike. But even in death, it was resplendent as ever.


RIP: Resplendent in Peace


How do you top a birthday morning in a cloud forest?! A birthday evening in a bat cave, of course!


About to get batty,


2 Responses to “3. GUATEBUENA: The one with the birthday!”

  1. deekerson November 13, 2019 at 8:47 pm #

    ¡Junto con muchas otras cosas, ese es todo el quetzal!

    (Along with many other things, that is quite the quetzal!)

    • Sammi Travis April 6, 2020 at 5:08 pm #

      HAHAHAH this is probably my favorite comment you have ever made on one of my blog posts 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: