Xela Summary

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Saturday, January 6, 2007

Hard to believe we have been in Xela for 4 weeks learning Spanish and living with a local family. The family were great, middle to upper class Guatemalans so we´ve had very comfortable living conditions apart from when the municipal council decided to replace all the water pipes in the city before Xmas.
We got a bit grimy between the lack of water and the very cold water, but all´s well that ends well and the family now has a shower with a wee bit of pressure AND heat, so long as you don´t risk electrocution by touching the shower head, all is OK!
Like most places in the world, there´s a big gap between rich and poor. There are a few beggars on the street with horrific injuries, maybe from the years of civil war in Guatemala but at the same time there are people driving brand new SUVs or 4 wheel drives, nearly everyone has a cell phone and there are internet cafes everywhere.
The economy here is mainly cash-based. The government doesn´t really collect enough taxes to provide decent infrastructure even though theoretically education and health care are free. Most locals we speak to don´t trust that their taxes go towards infrastructure but think that is goes into the pockets of greedy politicians. It´s a vicious circle, really.

Learning Spanish has been challenging to say the least, 20 hours of classes a week plus homework is much tougher than any 40 hour week we´ve ever worked! Although we´ve improved a lot and are speaking more confidently, reading and comprehending a lot better, we realise that it´s just the start.
We´ve had a few things amuse us during our lessons e.g. the spanish word for nostril is ´ventana de nadiz´ literally ´window of the nose´. Handcuffs are called ésposas´which means wives and you have to be really careful about how you conjugate verbs or instead of saying you dropped something in the street you could be saying you pooed in the street. Ed told his teacher that he is 36 years old, but the words for year and anus are very, very similar - oops, another red face!

Apart from the family who we will miss and who were wonderfully hospitable over Xmas, we´ll miss our smiley lady from the laundromat, the lady who cooks corn in the street with salt and lemon and the woman who makes the killer hot potato chips, or french fries for our American friends.
However, it´s time to move on...to MEXICO! Bring on the mariachi bands and the spicy food...
P.S, we slept through midnight at New Years as we got up at 5.30 the next day to hike up the Santa Maria volcano. Our 6 hour hike was great, especially as the volcano next to Santa Maria errupted regularly with clouds of ash! Great way to start the year. Happy New Year to all!
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