Bruce the Builder

Trip Start Sep 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Friday, January 25, 2008

From Antigua I headed to San Pedro on the shores of Lago Atitlan.

I got a bus to Panajahel on one side of the lake then took a boat across to SP. It was late and dark when I arrived there. When that happens I usually take the first accomodation I find and change the next day if itīs bad. Rather than sitting in my room and feeling sorry for myself I headed out for a wander round the town. I came across a bar, The Allegre, showing a movie so headed inside to check it out. I never got as far as watching the movie. I ran into a Dutch couple, Hamish and Agnes, that I met in Mexico. They told me that the owner of the bar is Scottish. It wasnīt long before I met Simon, from Dundee. He came to San Pedro 6 years ago and never left, heīs married to a local now. I canīt blame Simon for emmigrating, I would to if I came from Dundee.

The next day in SP I went hotel hunting. I knew I was going to take Spanish lessons there so I wanted to find something cheaper than the 3 pound I paid for the first night. I came across Hotel San Francisco. It was pretty basic with cold showers but the view over the Lake was pretty cool. It was 25Q a night but I told the woman I would be staying for a while and managed to get it for 15Q a night. Thats just under 1 pound, the cheapest Iīve ever paid for a hotel.

I enrolled in the San Pedro Spanish School and took out a months membership at the local jim for a fiver. The classes started at 8am (8am!) for 4 hours, 1 - on - 1 tuition with a teacher. My teacher was Manwella. If my Spanish serves me correctly she is married with two weans, her husband watches them in the morning. It is not like home, the teachers are not on any sort of contract and they only work when there is demand. It can be a hit or a miss whether your teacher is good or not but Manwella was good even if her uptake on Scottish phrases was a little slow.

The two guys that "worked" at the jim, Winfred and Ventura (not Ace Ventura), were cool. Apart from me, Iīve never seen two guys work so little. They spend at least half of their days sleeping on the weight benches, but to their credit they did wake up and move when I wanted to use the benches. I met Sergi at the jim, a Russian bloke that was studying Spanish at another school in SP. Sergi was the beholder of probably the nicest pad in SP, he rented out the top floor of a hotel, the roof was ideal for BBQs and other social gatherings with the dramatic backdrop of the lake. Sergi is a bit of a dab hand when it comes to taking photos, all the cool shots posted in this folder should be credited to him.

Normally in the afternoons iīd play basketball, mainly because I was at least a foot taller than everyone else.

I lifted a wee kid up so he could slam dunk the ball but he proceeded to grab the ring and climb over the net taking no note of my safety first warnings in Spanish.

THe first Friday night I was in SP was St Andrews day. Obviously massive parties prevailed. Simon had a big party for it, there was at least me and 3 other people there.

Simon offered a free drink to anyone wearing tartan. I was devastated because I off loaded my kilt in Mexico and it is currently residing in California (thanks Gered). An amicable comprimise was reached and a frre drink was given because I was fashioning a Scotland shirt and the St Andrews flag.

After two weeks in SP I got word from Yorkshire Steve. He was absolutely heart broken that he hadnīt seen me in so long and decided to visit me in SP. When Steve arrived Iīm glad to report that normal belly flopping services resumed.

The photo demonstrates that Iīve been passing on my wisdom to the youngsters of SP. Steve bought a chick in the market for 1Q (not alot). Iīve since been informed that the chick has travelled to Honduras and El Salvador. Steve says that if he gets bored of caring for it heīs going to eat it, I wonder what itīll taste like.

Daihi is an Irish lad I met at the school. He shares a house with Matt, an English lad working in SP. Daihi was leaving SP for a week in Coban. He invited me and two girls from the school, Lara and Kate, up to see him the night before he left. He was crashed out fast asleep on his bed. He had to leave at 6 the next morning so I imagine he was just wanting a goodnights rest. The only way into Daihiīs room is through the door, there is no window. Like most houses in Gutemala, Matt and Daihis was a house in progress, there was building blocks

to build another level, presumably when the owner could afford to. A moment of inspiration struck me. I built a wall outside his room, blocking him in. He only realised this when he woke up the next morning. He still made his boat in the morning but wasnīt best pleased. The moral of the story is donīt invite people up and then fall asleep because they may build a wall. The one thing I did learn from this is to build walls at least three deep in the future to ensure it is much more difficult to escape.

From SP I took a few day trips. San Marcos, not far from SP was great for cliff jumping. Solola, a 20 minute bus ride from Panajachel, is the capital town for the region.

The first time I ventured up there was with Mika and Kate, students from the school, there was some parade going on but iīll be honest I wasnīt entirely sure what it was in aid of. Tne second time I headed up to Solala on my lonesome for the big market that is held weekly there. Guatemala is cool this way because you donīt have to head far to get off the beaten track and get to know the country. Every time I sparked up a conversation with a local at the market more would swarm round, eager to talk with me. I remember walking along when somebody, or rather something bumped into the back of me. I looked round to see this diminutive figure of a man struggling with about one quarter of a cow on his back (the cow was dead). There was a restaurant near the market. I say restaurant but it looked more like a shack slapped together with bits of wood and metal. It was busy enough so I headed inside but when I did everybody stopped eating and started looking at me. Iīm still undecided whether it was because iīm foreign, or, much more likely, because Iīm gorgeous.

Trying to by new shoes is not the easiest thing to do in San Pedro, especially when you have size 11.5 and 10.5 feet respectively. The problem is that because the men are so small here they donīt have big feet so there is no great demand for big shoes. I run into the same problem in other places when I try to buy womans shoes buts thats another story. Anyway when my flip-flops flapped I scoured the entire village for a new pair. I could only find two pairs. One pair said England on them, with a big England flag printed on the sole and the other pair said France. I had no choice but to opt for the France shoes, the lesser of two evils, but customised them accordingly.

This was the first Christmas Iīve spent away from home. In the run up to Christmas there was loads of events in the town. The photo shows me dancing at an open air concert.

There is alot of people in the photo so it might be difficult to pick me out. Christmas day was had at Matt and Daihis. There was 13 of us for dinner. I built a table out of the now multi-purpose breeze blocks and wood. The table was big enough to sit everyone.

We all chipped in and bought a turkey. Itīs not the norm over here to have turkey for Christmas dinner and it was a bit expensive by Guatemalan standards but we couldnīt have dinner without turkey. Everybody pitched in one way or another and a feast was made!

We used some of the money we clubbed together for a pinyada (not sure about the spelling, sorry mum), that provided us with the evenings entertainment.

About 20 kids came round to the house and a near riot prevailed as they were all scrambling for a shot of whacking the pinyada.

I tried to ascend some sort of order onto proceedings and let the smallest kid start first making the way up to the biggest, that way they all had a turn. When the pinyada did finally give, and it put up a brave fight, a mad frenzy ensued as the kids dived for the sweets, I think a good time was had by all.

On Boxing day I climbed a mountain in the next village San Juan, but my view at the summit was obscured by low lying clouds. There was big parties in place at SP for the new year but I always felt that there was going to be one reason or another to stay and I decided to up sticks and headed to Xeli on the 28th of December.

In Xeli I met a group of lads in the Hostel. We were thinking what to do for new year. The main reason I headed to Xeli was because it is close to Takimolco, the highest peak in Central America. We decided to climb up the mountain on New Years Eve, and come back down the next year. The mountain is 4200m above sea level.

We camped at 4,000m and climbed to the summit for the first sunrise of 2008. It was absolutely baltic up there. This was the first time I have endured altitude sickness as well but the view was nice and it was something completely different for bringing in the new year.

In Xeli I enrolled in another school but this time I stayed with a local family because my grasp of the language was better. The Family I stayed with was Alberto, Lucila, the parents and Marcelo and Bella the kids.

The first Friday night at the school there was a "cooking lesson". This basically consisted of me and the other student making dinner for all the staff. Anyway we were all sitting in the school and I was half way down chomping on a tortilla when everyone in the room stood up and ran out the class. I said "que pasa", Whats up?.

The reply was "tremblor". It was an earthquake, but I didnīt move till I finished my tortilla, I made it after all. Its really annoying when an earthquake interupts your meal. It wasnīt a big earthquake, I would hazard a rough guess at 2.35454543426442642642642449879844316113035 on the richter scale. This was the first of two, the second occured when I was helping Alberto painting his house, iīm glad to say it didnīt affect the finish. I was getting some funny looks from passer-bys, I doubt they see a white, strawberry blonde hair, guy painting a Guatemalans house alot. When I was in Xeli I took in a football match, the local team is Xeli Super Chivos.

The stadium and the atmosphere was great but the game as a spectacle was probably about as good as any low scoring game can be with Xeli eventually prevailing 1-0. Pablo was my teacher at the school in Xeli. He is quite a smart guy and writes some political articles for local publications in Xeli. It was great to graduate from the school but obviously there was some mixed emmotions because my parents werenīt there on that historic day.

I think that is more than enough babbling on from me for one day.

Take care guys.
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