Upon arriving in town you get a real sense of Guatemala, unlike the city it has a more traditional feel, the people are ever so friendly and of course you instantly fall in love with the breathtaking lake. I had sketched a bit of a map the night before to find my way down to San Pedro Spanish School so I didn’t have a repeat incident of missing the Presidential Palace in Guate City – note to self do not assume anything in Latin America will be well signed or the central bus route will just take you past there. However they must account for such people in San Pedro because there were English signs directing the way on every street corner. I checked in and waited for Rosa my host family mother to come greet me and take me to my new digs for the next 3 weeks, she spoke only a few words of English so this was going to be interesting. We walked back to the “casa” and I met with Sebastian her husband who spoke English quite well, and he explained how things work, when meal times were etc and just made me feel right at home, they have 2 sons Alex whom I couldn’t quite understand how old he said he was and now it seems too late to ask again… oops (I am guessing 21?), and Ivan who turned 15 while I was staying there.
The next morning was time to get ready for school, Rosa walked me back down to make sure I didn’t get lost, she was such a sweetheart. I was introduced to my new teacher Clemente – he was quite the character, by the end of our 5 hour lesson my brain was starting to ache though. I really forgot how hard learning can be, to restructure the way you think about putting a sentence together before you can even remember the words, especially in a new place your brain is just constantly switched on. Even with things we take for granted back home – don’t put toilet paper in the bowl – it goes in a bin beside as otherwise the pipes get blocked. Back at the house it was more Spanish practice with the family, I was exhausted, I actually had to take a nap, something I am not accustomed to.
I would study from 8 to 1pm, 5 days in the week and then head home for lunch. The comida (food) here is not that dissimilar to what would we eat back in Australia, lots of fresh produce, mainly chicken, salad or vegetables with rice sometimes frijoles (blended black beans) generally a bigger meal in the middle of the day and something lighter – even vegetarian for dinner. One day Rosa even made Nutella crepes for breakfast, god damn they were amazing. In the house the rest of the family don’t seem to use knives to eat though, its a tortilla in one hand and a fork in the other. As I love to cook I was constantly asking what’s in this? Can you teach me how to make? We had a couple of trade offs, one night I helped make the tortillas, then another dish typical to San Pedro “Tamales” filled with “Chipilin” and then I taught Rosa to made the most ridiculous Chocolate Peanut Butter Cheesecake French Toasts for breakfast – which they all seemed to enjoy.
It is the wet season here at the moment, so in the afternoons (after I’ve done my homework of course) if it’s not raining it’s the perfect time to go for a walk around town and just take in the atmosphere, the street vendors grilling up meat, the smell of wood fires is just so refreshing. I laid pretty low for my first week, I wasn’t brave enough to attempt the school conversation club, but hey why not try the free salsa classes? Haha well lets just say I am going to need more than one.
Come the weekends I was pretty stoked to get out and about and get stuck into all the nature, first stop hiking San Pedro Volcan. I did a little googling beforehand to see how challenging it would be, and thought it would be fine, I’ve only been off crossfit for a couple of weeks and before that I’d hiked Mt Larcom back home, which was a little smaller but still manageable. Well there was myself and an american couple that set off – plus our guide Ningo and lets just say she made it 45 mins in and turned back…. it was tough. A good 3 hours of solid incline through coffee plantations, avocado trees, stairs, rock, mud, then some more stairs, towards the top I had to take a quick break every 15 mins or so just to catch my breath. It was a good excuse to take some pictures though because it was absolutely amazing and green with sunlight peeking through the trees. When we reached the summit we were on a pretty big high, to have made it and to be up above the clouds at 3,020 metrs above sea level – buena. We were lucky enough to avoid rain, and catch a quick glimpse of the villages below through the cloud and it actually put into perspective how high up we were. The hike down was just as challenging oh-my-calves but the heart rate got a break this time and it was only 2 hours to descend, most definitely worth it. I was in need of a rest before heading out and being social for the evening.
The thing I love most about travelling so far is the people you meet, everyone is on their own little journey and are just so interested in sparking up conversations with anyone who is doing the same. I had a great night with an Australian couple who were travelling down from Mexico, we consumed mannnnyyyy beverages in this cool little bar just down from my school, even met this lady from the future…. thats when things seemed to escalate….. I woke up in their hostel at 6am and thought shit I need to sneak back home before my family see and get ready to go to Chici markets by 7am……
Well I was in quite a fragile state for that 2 hour drive in the shuttle bus, I met this nice Canadian guy who I explained my situation to and he gave me some ginger tablets to make me feel a little less like death. Bless. I started feeling a little better by the time we stopped moving and ended up touring around the markets with a girl from New Zealand who was also travelling solo. It is definitely not something to be afraid of doing I think it actually makes it easier to make friends, you are more willing to try new things and be open to meeting new people. Another afternoon after school I went over to one of the other villages San Marcos and met with an Israeli chap who showed me around the gorgeous little hippy town, (family stop reading here) we shared a joint with a girl from California who was studying at the sister Spanish school to mine over there, and just had a great time. I need to thank him for the list of music to download actually, very much enjoying the chilled vibe.
By the end of my second week I was finally starting to pick up the language and participate in conversations without looking like a stunned mullet. That look I recognize well on my new roommate Paul, his first day bought me right back to how I felt just 2 weeks prior, it was nice to be able to translate for him. He was taking a gap year before heading back to the Netherlands to start university, and similar to me wanting to learn the language before he set off, I was just doing mine about 10 years later – feeling slightly old right now It was nice to have some company to wander around town though, play pool with with a random 60 year old local Guate woman, grab some kayaks and head out onto the lake, and tomorrow we are off to Panajachel for their yearly fair – what good timing.
……to be continued