Going Home and Bits of Suggestions

Trip Start Oct 10, 2007
Trip End May 15, 2008

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Monday, May 5, 2008

Wow, how do I even begin the last entry for this trip!??

First- this was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Second- I keep saying things in spanish to people. Really simple things like gracias, mucho gusto, no gracias, yo quiero, perdon, permiso...It just slips out.
Thirdly- I am sooooo excited to see my cats.
Fourthly (is that even a word)- I am making constant plans to work on my spanish and telenovelas are still in my life.
FIFTHLY- Do not take any or all of my spanish in here to be correct. I did very little checking on spelling or fully correct meanings. In addition, I believe with a culture so rich as that of the Mayans that I need to update with the actual names of each group, including those in Mexico. Indigenous just doesn't cover it and has been used out of simple laziness and, well, those internet cafes add up. So I will be doing a bit of polishing up over time.

The Mayan people (Guatemala): Surrounding Lago Atitlan- Tz'utujil, Kaqchikel
Nebaj- Ixil
Xela- K'che'
Rio Dulce- Q'eqchi

Garifuna people: Speak language made up of 5 others Swahili and French

The Mayan people (Mexico): San Cristobal, Chiapas- Tzotzil, Tzeltal
Oaxaca- 15 different groups including Zapotec, Mixtec

My Quick Bits of Advice

My favorite things I brought:
Sarong for a towel- convenient, easily packed light weight and dries super fast
Steripen - purchasing water for 6 months can get quite expensive, plus polluting with all those plastic bottles and all.

What I wish I hadn't brought
My water bladder (the kind that go in hydration bags) - never used it)
Poetry book by Rumi (heavy, bulky - I sold it to get $ for my Mexico book)

What I'm glad I didn't bring
Warm Clothes - There are an amazing number of used clothing stores. By your sweater there WASH IT and wear it. Leave it when you head to warmer places

More clothes - 2 pants, 1 skirt, 4 under wears, 3 socks, 2 tanks, 2 short sleeve, 2 long sleeves, rain jacket, sneakers, sandals. I actually would have been fine with 1 pants and 2 socks.

What I wish I brought
Grapefruit Seed Extract - Cures almost anything, great for fighting colds, lasts a while

Choosing a Spanish School

Where do you want to study? How much do you want or have to spend? What type of Spanish do you want to learn?

Do you want to party or be super social and go out to bars with your teachers etc. or do you want a small school with fewer activities but a more personal atmosphere?

Check several websites for reviews and take them all with a grain of salt. Lonely Planet's Thorntree Forum is helpful, as well as, www.123language.com.

If you don't like your school, change it.

If you don't like your teacher change him or her

If you don't like your host family change them

At least in Guatemala you do not need to pay the frequently requested on-line registration fee. You can just walk into the school and sign up when you get there.

Always try to remember that you are having an experience

Take breaks. Do not study for 12 weeks in a row. Not good for your brain or soul, from personal experience I can guarantee that.


Most schools only have one or two volunteer hook ups. Expect to find your own. If you are at a lower level of spanish consider whether this will help or hinder you learning. Or, perhaps, add to your experience either way.

I found that volunteering did not help me with the language and, in fact, took away much needed time to study. However, my main goal was to learn the language. For others volunteering may be an essential part of their experience.

In Xela, Guatemala check out EntreMundo for volunteer opportunities

Preparing for Home

Expect some culture shock returning home, especially after an extended time in a developing nation. May not happen but, for me, has felt a bit weird. Good but weird. I want to find a market, the supermarkets are big, bright, cold and overwhelming. Just give me a lil market outdoors that sells all I need.

Stay in contact with those you met along the way.

I was, and am still, terrified about loosing my spanish.

This is what I am trying to do...

Find volunteer work to use my spanish
Find someone who wants to learn or improve their english and do a free language exchange.
Find work that will use my skills. My only problem right now is I have a hard time understanding people at regular speed talking to each other. Kind of puts a damper on the job part. Give me 6 more months though.

If traveling is your thing just make it part of your thing, find deals, go wherever the cheapest ticket takes you, try not to fall back into the old.

These are the things I am telling myself as I readjust to the states.

Day four is going quite well. I'm finishing my blog except I have loads of pics to add, that will be the true last of this trip. Yesterday my friend pulled my cat off her dogs face (no exaggeration here) so now we have complete and careful segregation in the house.

Love my cats (even the one who bit my friend in complete terror and left 3 claws in a big baby of a dog face) and after 180 days am just as glad to see them as I was to head out to Guatemala 6 months ago.

Believe me though, this is hardly the end of my travels. Wait for the next episode:)
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mikem on

Thanks much for blogging your experiences. My daughter (from Israel) is doing a very similar trek right now through Guatemala and you have helped fill in many of the gaps.
Muchas Gracias!

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