#BringRandyHome episode 1
After nearly three years away from my beloved Ireland I had started to feel it was time to return or at least visit. The last 6 months of my life in Guatemala were full of extreme lows and extreme highs, a lot of laughter, smiles and wonderful memories but a lot of tears and confusion too. However in that time frame are some of the best days of my life, mostly during the 8 week adventure I had with my older brother. We left Antigua together after I decided I needed a serious break as I was an emotional wreck due to certain events that tested my character my mind and most of all my heart.
Our adventure started by traveling north to Semuc Champey, then to the coast, Rio Dulce, Livingston, and up to Flores and the stunning temples of Tikal. My god is Guatemala an amazing country. It is so diverse and has so much to offer. In three weeks we went from the chilly highlands of Lanquin with its misty cold sunrises and warm afternoons, to the hot tropical coastline of Livingston with its Garifuna influence giving you a rich taste of West African Caribbean culture. And after that we were submerged deep within the jungle of Peten, surrounded by the haunting calls of the Howler monkey and the unnerving constant rustling of leaves where anything from a tarantula to a snake may be lurking.
I couldn’t believe it took me nearly two years to venture out of Antigua and go beyond Lake Atitlan or El Paradon. I thought I loved Guatemala enough before seeing those places, but after that I was completely in love with the country.
We left Guatemala and went into Belize where we crossed from Belize City over to Caye Caulker, a tiny limestone coral Island off the coast, which measures about 5 miles in length. We had a lot of fun here. To be honest we had too much fun here and did outrageous things which we both agreed to leave behind on the island. But one of my favourite days from the tip was one of the 5 we spent on Caye Caulker when we went snorkelling. It’s one of the best places in the world for snorkelling and was one of the main reason we went out there. We had become lazy and been putting it off so when it was our last chance to do it, of course a hurricane had hit the barrier reef and all but one snorkelling shop was taking tours. We signed up regardless of the weather and it was far more of an adventure for that. The water below was crystal clear and an incredible turquoise, infested with an unimaginable amount of nurse sharks, spotted eagle rays, turtles and tropical fish. However above was like something out of the 2000 movie The Perfect Storm, and it was just amazing. I think the photos below will speak for themselves.
After Belize there was the incredible Mexico, which thankfully we gave a whole month too as that country needs all the time you can give it. From Bacalar’s blue lagoon up to Mexico’s answer to Las Vegas; Playa del Carmen, over to the Yucatan region, and through the regions of Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas and Oaxaca, where we stayed for the day of the dead, festivals city of birth. That was another truly unforgettable day, which involved having our faces painted on the side of the street and transformed into traditional Mexican skulls which were honestly works of art, and walking around a candle lit cemetery where families were sitting on their beloved lost ones graves eating and drinking and being merry.
Finished face paint at the price of $2
After that we returned to Quintana Roo to Tulum where we had one last week of relaxing and exploring the incredible cenotes, which I have previously written about, I think we managed to visit 10 and developed quite the obsession for.
My brother and I parted ways on November 16th, he returned home to Ireland and I returned home to Antigua where my beloved dog Randy was waiting for me.
Those of you that know me will know that outside of my Mother, Father and Brother, Randy is the most precious thing in my world. I adopted her somewhat spontaneously after a 10 day visit from my Canadian Indian friend Randy Ramdial. I met Randy during my three months in Kenya Africa. He is probably as far opposite from me as you can get; he doesn’t drink or smoke, he doesn’t like bars or night clubs or socialising too much for that matter. He likes to be alone and listen to tape cassettes of Harry Potter. However one thing we had in common was that we both liked the outdoors and so had reason to meet once a week for a hike or an adventure. We developed quite a lovely little friendship, he was witty, I was bonkers; it worked. I left Kenya and a year passed and I found myself working as a volcano tour guide in Antigua Guatemala when shortly after I received a message from my dear friend Randy telling me he had 10 days off from Medicine school and exams and was wondering if I would take him up the volcano. He came down to visit for 10 days and I tried my best to force Antigua’s toxic nightlife upon him, throwing him into situations that he would consider his worst nightmare. But I definitely got somewhere with him as I specifically remember being on the dance floor of Antigua’s biggest night club Las Vibras, strobe lights galore and smoke machines blasting off and looking over at Randy who was sipping on his straw from a coke bottle and I believing he was kind of dancing and actually enjoying himself.
When the time came to drop Randy off to his shuttle back to the airport I saw the picture of Randy the puppy online saying she needed a home. Of course human Randy advised me not to adopt the dog and that I would probably end up killing it after three days of partying and forgetting I had a living creature that was locked up in my apartment. With that I said goodbye to human Randy and put him in his shuttle and got straight into a tuc tuc over to the adoption centre where I saw the little grey puppy, lifted her up in a Lion King-esque motion and said; ‘and you shall be called Randy.’ Since then Randy has been my volcano guide partner, roommate and every day companion for 18 wonderful months and I love her unconditionally.
The moment we met featuring crouching Rachel in background
Baby Randy’s first basket
Before I left for my 8 week adventure with my brother I had started the long process of getting Randy flight ready, in case I wanted to return home soon after getting back to Antigua, which was the case.
I had all her vaccines done, chipped, checked and after countless vet visits she had all her papers ready. The last process was organising cargo for her. I was expecting it to be around the same cost as my flight would be, somewhere in between $800, but I was quoted $1,790 which nearly gave me a heart attack as I had already shelled out $900 for her vet bill. By this stage I had already bought my own flight for the 18th of December and I got this quote about two weeks before hand so I didn’t have a lot of time to devise some kind of an alternative.
I heard of people getting their dogs certified as ‘emotional support dogs’, allowing them to fly on the plane under your seat, for no additional cost. I had thought about this before for Randy but I was put off by the idea of trying to get my 40lb dog to stay under my seat for 18 hours, plus trying to convince some therapist that I was off my rocker enough to need a support dog. However, I didn’t have much choice at this point, so I did it, I booked an appointment to see a Psychiatrist 4 days before I was due to fly out of Guatemal, “palms sweaty Mom’s spaghetti” style.
I hadn’t really thought too much about what exactly I was going to say to this woman, I didn’t really have time. It seemed as if every single night during the week before I was due to leave, there was some kind of social event on including my leaving party and the 1 year anniversary to the bar I had been working at. So my days were full of socialising, packing, socialising, printing documents, socialising, final vet visits and if I was lucky, a quick date with a man I met in my last three weeks there (of course).
So by the time Thursday morning came along, I realised myself and Randy had been on a three day bender, in the same outfit, without showering, sleeping on couches and in beds of friends who had me up late into the night drinking wine and sharing our last stories. But this was simply perfect, because I actually looked a little mental, unstable at the least. There was no way a brush would get through my hair, I probably smelt a little, three day old eye liner and mascara, skin that was dirty brown from too much sun and I was even wearing a girlfriends pair of jeans that were two sizes two big so it probably looked like I hadn’t eaten a good meal in a while too.
So, two and a half hours later and a lot of tears, shaking and flailing of arms, Randita Murtagh (as on the certificate) was officially my emotional support dog and I am now mentally unstable and cannot be on an aeroplane without her, and I have 8 weeks of antidepressants, 20 Valium and a prescription for a further 6 months of medication, in my handbag. This whole process cost me $110 and the certificate for Randy will never expire.
The last step of the whole process was to inform each airline that I would be flying with an emotional support dog, the apparent easiest fail proof step, but no. With less than 30 hours until my first flight I was told that two out of the four airlines I was going to be flying with, were not going to allow me onto the plane because they weren’t given enough notice. Panic. What do I do best when I panic? Phone Dad, Dad to the rescue. He made some phone calls and informed me that I had to scan and email each and every one of my papers for Randy to the airlines; Spirit, American, Norwegian airlines and lastly Aerlingus. Of course this wouldn’t have been such a tough challenge if it hadn’t been 7pm in Guatemala and all Internet cafes were closed, so I had to do all of this off my iPhone. I did what I could, but without confirmation I left it at that and prayed that my usual last minute Irish luck would pull through for me.
My last 48 hours in Antigua were hectic but magical, lots of crying, interrupted by stressful phone calls from Estonia and New York regarding the fact I would not be allowed on any of my flights, which I kept delicately pushing to the back of my mind in that god awful box which stares at you every time you close your eyes, *gulp gulp* drink some wine, “box not there”, I kept thinking. I was trying to enjoy myself and pretend that everything was going to be ok, knowing full well that I might possibly be returning to Antigua before my first flight has even left Guatemala City.
By then I had accepted there was actually nothing else I could possibly do, so I visited a few of my favorite bars and had a last catch up with some of my favorite people and then finished in my favorite restaurant with one of the best people I had met during my time there, then off to bed, bags packed and randy all prepped for her first flying experience, hopefully.