Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Spanish School in San Pedro, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

We started a month of Spanish classes in Guatemala Monday.  We’ll be at the San Pedro Spanish School on Lake Atitlan for the first two weeks and in Huehuetenango for the 2nd two weeks. 

Guatemala is so beautiful and cheap!  At least, here at Lake Atitlan.  For 20 hours of one-on-one Spanish lessons, activities at the school every day (a little more money for weekend excursions like a whole day of kayaking to a nearby community on the lake) and home stay with a Guatemalan family that includes a private room and bath and 3 meals 6 days a week costs only $169 per person!  I can’t live that cheaply anywhere in the U.S, let alone get classes on top of it!  
David, mi maestro
Our Spanish teachers are fantastic!  Here's a picture of David.
We have thatched roof pagodas to learn in - each teacher-student gets their own, with a small desk, two chairs and a white-board.
I’m thinking about that kayak trip – it’s only $14 and sounds like a lot of fun!  Getting across the lake on a public boat is only about $3 and takes about 35 minutes.
 I can see the lake and mountains from my room.  Going past are traditionally-dresses people, horses, and the little 3-wheel taxis called "TucTucs".
View from my window
Here in the rural areas people still wear their traditional, very colorful, hand-woven and hand-embroidered clothes.  When you see a whole group of them, you just go “WOW”!
The mother of my host family was in a “chicken bus” accident a few years ago and one arm is gone above the elbow.  She asked me to go to a store with her last night to help carry supplies, and it was my first time carrying a package on my head – I just never thought to try it before!  She let go, but I kept a hand on mine so I wouldn’t break anything.

Women wash their clothes the old fashioned way and men fish without a rod or reel.  People also bathe right in the lake.  Unfortunately, Panajachel has lost its water treatment facility and I don't know if any of the other villages even have/had one, so the lake water is unsafe to drink.
Local Guatemalan walking past my window

Gerry and I are staying in separate families right now so that we aren’t tempted to speak English to each other.  We haven’t seen much of each other the past couple of days, so tonight is our first “date”.  We’re going to have dinner at a local cafĂ© and then going to a basketball tournament – his teacher told him about it, and it’s a big deal here in San Pedro – a town of no more than 16,000 people.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Panajachel, Guatemala: Halloween, Kite Festival, Cemetary Visit

We left Vieques, Puerto Rico the morning of October 30, expecting to stay the night in Guatemala City before coming on into Panajachel on Lake Atitlan.  However, we were "picked up" at the Miami airport by a couple, Phyllis and Blaine returning to their home near Panajachel.  They convinced us to share a shuttle with them and found us an inexpensive place to stay ($25/night) right in town.  They took us under their wing, showing us around town and introducing us to many of their English-speaking friends at breakfast the next day.
Straight from the Ottoman Empire:  Blaine was Sultan  Mehmet and Phyllis was his favorite wife, Fatima.
Phyllis and Blaine's friend Jenny invited people to bring friends to her Halloween party, so we came as tourists and had a marvelous time, meeting many more people.

One person we met is Asrid, a Guatemalan woman who was traveling to Guatemala City on November 1 - the day of the kite festival and near to Sumpango where the kite festival took place - so we got a ride with her!  We stopped at the local travel company and arranged for our ride back - we have had angels guiding us all along!

The biggest kites stand but don't fly - but all of the rest were launched in a great kite competition.
The big kites are very elaborate and take the whole year for groups of people to make.  Launching the medium-size ones takes several people.  The food was great and there are lots of little kites in the air as well.  More pictures...

The ride back to Panajachel took us directly to the cemetery, where we watched families put flowers, candles, and incense at the grave sites.   We had a delicious meal in the cemetery as well.