Trip Start Sep 12, 2008
18Trip End Dec 19, 2008
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
Right now we are in Coban, heading to Quito on Monday, and have done a lot of travelling in the last week. We went back to Antigua for a few hours, to pick up plane tickets, on Wednesday and it seemed so familiar compared to the rest of the country that I almost felt at home.
We arrived in Antigua really late the night before we were to start our spanish clases, after a gruelling 12 hour bus journey across Guatemala (and across every mountain in the country likely). The streets of the inner city are all original cobblestone and there are church ruins everywhere, covered in moss and flowers
In the morning we were acquainted with our host families who lived just outside of the main centre of the city, only a 10 minute walk to school. On the walk to school I could see 3 volcanoes.. what a way to start the day!
My host family consisted of: the mother, Ava, the father, Cesar, and the teenagers Mariela and Samuel. Ava was warm and motherly, but with an incredible efficiency around the house (she somehow managed cleaning, 3 meals for 4 students and her family, going to the market, and lots of time to sit and chat with us around the dinner table). Cesar was also warm and liked to speak with us students, and spoke very slowly luckly. Even though Joseph wasnīt living there he took to him strongly and would ask about him at every meal :)
Mariela and Samuel loved music, computer games and laughing uproariously at their own inside jokes. After they warmed up to me they sometimes imparted wisdom such as bad words in Spanish.
Spanish clases took place at our school, one on one with my teacher Maria. She was strict but it did the trick and I learned a heck of a lot of verbs in 10 clases! My learning curve was huge, but I seemed to absorb words and language through my pores while I was there. Part of the reason was my usual routine: Wake up, eat breakfast, 4 hours of class, read The Alchemist in spanish, eat lunch, study for most of the afternoon, eat dinner, quiz myself on verbs and read some more, sleep. I studied A LOT.. but it has paid off in spades since I can now converse to a certain degree with locals.
Other perks of the school were the field trips. One day we went to the village of San Andres de Itzapa, a small Mayan village near Antigua. There we visited a Catholic church and a Mayan shaman ritual, which consisted of a shaman smoking 2 cigars at once (!!) and burning candles, food and other things as offerings. Somehow the two religions coexist peacefully and complement each other in fulfilling the localsīspiritual needs. They seem to mix them as needed, such as using Jesus and the saints to protect the statue of Maximon, one of their gods.
My favorite field trip was to the local coffee, Mayan instrument, and traditional clothing museum (3 in 1), where we could see how coffee is grown and processed. I asked our guide how much they received for 1 lb of coffee and he answered that for 100 lb they receive about 35 Quetzales (about 5$!!). To add to this, the coffee plantation is owned by Germans. I just donīt know about the world sometimes...
On the weekend between our classes, we took a tour up Volcan Pacaya, the closest and most accessible active volcano from Antigua
Other highlights of Antigua: hanging out and speaking spanish with other students, such as my roommates from the US, Switzerland and Saskatchewan. I also enjoyed going out a few nights and meeting other students, though it wasnīt really our scene.
Seeing church ruins every day was incredible, and visiting them was even better. Joseph and I managed to be in the right place at the right time for the caretaker of a ruined church to let us in to take a look and a few photos. We also visited an old monastery, complete with a circular courtyard bordered with cells whre the monks would put themselves in solitary confinement. In the basement was an echoing chamber (which we saw on our way out after being told to leave because the building was closing.. so we unintentionally escaped the guards to tour the echo chamber, and arrived in the lobby to our search party of confused guards.. but we didnīt mean it I swear :)
Some people stay months in Antigua, but we were happy with our 2 weeks. It seemed short and we could have used more spanish clases, but I think we got a good base and a bit of home to last us a couple more months.
And I may go back someday... like many others Iīm sure.
Next update will have pictures, and details of our trip to the beautiful Lago de Atitlan, and the limestone bridge of Semuc Champey (this is one happy geolgist!)