Spanish School Part 3: Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Saturday, October 13, 2007

So our 2 weeks of Spanish school turned into 4 weeks.  I have heard that Xela can do that to people (Central America: Leave if you can...).  But after this weekend we are off to another part of Guatemala, Lago Attilan. 
We started the second weekend by visiting a lake that formed in the crater of a non active volcano (over 300m deep at the centre), it was called Chicobal.  The hike was pretty easy not too long for this one, a couple of hours up and then we got to a look out point were we could see Volcan Santa Maria (one we hiked in the dark) and then the lake in the volcano.  Pretty awesome views; the lake is used for a ceremonial site for some Mayan cultures so you can't swim in it.  When we got down to the lake there were 2 ceremonies in progress.  They use this interesting sounding flute that sounds like a duck (yes, we bought one at the next market), some drums and lots of home made fireworks.  Its not a real Mayan/Central American celebration without homemade fireworks and the occasional lost finger or arm.  So the celebrations lasted for a good hour and a half.  In the meantime our guide told us some stories of how his father was tortured in the civil war fled the country to Mexico and the other hardships of the war in Guatemala (36 years long).  After our guide, Ronaldo, finished and we got up to leave the coolest thing happened.  All this fog/clouds rolled in over top of the trees and covered the entire lake.  It was almost as if the natives called in the spirits to the lake, really neat.  It happened so quickly it made it seem that much more spiritual...
The next few weeks of Spanish passed very quickly, mornings we would study and then in the afternoon we do homework.  We generally went to all the school planned trips with the school guide Ronaldo.  If you didn't go on the trips it could make for a boring weekend or weekday. 
Another trip we went to was a natural hot spring called Fuentas Georginas.  Took about 45 min in a microbus and didn┤t really cost that much (Q15 entry and Q25 for the transportation, about $5.00 CDN)  The hot springs were really relaxing and really freaking hot, a nice change since almost all the showers in C.A. are at most luke warm if you are lucky.  The place really smelt of sulphur, because of the natural spring but it was one of the best/most relaxing springs I have been to.  We spent about 2 hrs in the hot spring and got wicked pruned then headed back in the micro. 
Thanksgiving weekend we visited this cooperative community located close to the border of Mexico.  This community was a group of people who left during the war because of persecution and then returned in 1996 once the peace accords were signed.  This community is the home of our guide┤s father (Ronaldo┤s father).  Here there are about 180 people that sustain the area by farming, running a honey business and also a furniture business in which the finished products are sent to the U:S.  They have limited support from the Guatemalan govt and are funded by NGOs and the school where we study.  Ronaldo's father spoke for about an hour of his family┤s exile, working in Mexico, his return and then building of the community.  Ronaldo┤s father was a leader in his community and as such subject to military questioning, force and torture (3 weeks), and he was just one of many.  Many people did not speak Spanish either - they spoke their own indigenous language - and therefore the military was able to make them agree to their accusitions, after which they were killed.  After his dad escaped alive, their family had no choice but to flee for Mexico, crossing the border in secret.  Once Ronaldo grew up (from 8  years to 19), he returned to Guatemala to help stop the oppression and exploitation of it┤s people...During the civil war Ronaldo, our guide, was a guerilla fighter (compa˝ero) and after the peace accords were signed the guerillas formed a political group called the URNG (Unidad Revolucionaria Nacional Guatemalteca, Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit) .  They are a really leftist social party, in this election that just passed they got 2 people elected a little worse than the last election.  Just last week, we hear Ronaldo┤s story of his 5 years in the┤s so hard to relate to and amazing to hear what these people went through for basic freedoms and justice...    
That Monday we went for a fried chicken Thanksgiving dinner, complete with roll and salad.  Mmmmmmmmm there's no Thanksgiving like a fried chicken Thanksgiving. 
The following week we went to the cemetery in Xela.  Man this was the wildest place I have ever seen.  Lots and lots of colours for the tombs and then they have walls and walls of single tombs for the less rich.  There were old gothic style mausoleums, this one that looked like an apartment building, one that looked like a pyramid and then numerous ones that had huge angels and other types of religious figures. 
At the end of our fourth week we had to do a presentation for our graduation.  At the end of a students term at the school they have to present a poem, song, play, game or translation of anything they find interesting.  We decided to play a game.  The school is mainly made up of American and Danes.  Strange combination, I have never met so many Danish people in my life.  They are really down to earth and the majority of them at the school work for a Danish NGO, they are at the school to improve their Spanish.  Not too many Canadians so our game consisted of funny Canadian words.  We used the following: Inukshuk, Dildo (NFLD), Sasquatch, 2-4 (buying beer), Pogie and Mountie.  Our prizes were a magnetic chess board and a schwack of Canadian maple leaf and flag pins.  It was pretty fun most people had a good time then after we went to a wine bar and then finally to one of the local clubs
I must say that Latino girls are very forward. At the dance club it was myself, Sarah, Sarah┤s teacher and another student (Thompson).  I wasn┤t drunk enough to dance, so Sarah and her really cool teacher decided to dance (I was so excited when Sean Paul came on!! haha!).  Thompson and I drank at one table and then about 30min later he took off.  Not to brag, but literally 2 minutes alone 2 Latio girls approach me, talk me up for about 15min (I would like to interject that I think Nik is bragging...).  Then Sarah and Brenda came back from the dance floor gave both girls really dirty looks (this is not true, I introduced myself to both of them, I really didn┤t care) and then the girls took off.  Brenda (Sarah's Teacher) said that both sexes are really forward and love to flirt, she didn't think too highly of the girls.
We have met so many awesome people in our Spanish school and I would highly recommend if any one wants to travel S.America to go to one in Xela for a few weeks as a minimum.  You could probably meet a friend that you could travel around with for your trip and at the very least, have fun for a few weeks singing commie songs at the graduation.  Forgot to mention too that for Che Guevera┤s 40th anniversary since death, the school had an acoustic singer come in to sing revolution songs and songs dedicated to Che.  Very cool and appropriate for our school.
It has been raining non stop here for 4 days now so that has delayed our travel plans.  We have heard that there are landslides and road to the capital and the Lago are not that great.  So we are going to wait a few more days here until the place dries up a bit then head off.  We will probably have to cut out El Salvador now because we took more time studying.  I am really exited for the next few weeks.  We are heading to Honduras in about a week to go to the Bay Islands (Utila).  We can get our dive certification here pretty cheap and then dive all over the world, plus Honduras has the second biggest barrier reef next to Australia. Stoked!!!!!!!!!!       &a mp;a mp;a mp;a mp;a mp;a mp;a mp;a mp;a mp;a mp;n bsp; 

A bit sad to leave our nice family - they have been so great to us for one month and they have promised to come visit us in Canada once we are back and settled as well.  We got a cake and some photos printed for them and in return, they (mom and daughter) knitted me a poncho (that┤s right Pigtails!! I finally have one!!) and a touque for each of us - so useful down here!! It gets bloody cold!!

More later, lots of love!! Niko y Sarita

____________________________________________________________ _____
Read on if interested in political note of Guatemala...

I just finished this book called ┤The CIA in Guatemala┤ by Richard H. Immerman and it is shocking.  Moreover, it is not an isolated case specific to Guatemalans, so that is why I would like to mention it.  So, as I mentioned earlier, when social change was occurring down here, the US labeled these reforms as Communistic.  As this book explains (with information all readily available and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act), the US had their conclusion and also had their desired course of action, intervention.  They only did not have the sympathy of the watching world and therefore the right social atmosphere to warrent this attack.  Over the next three years they (the CIA) manipulated the world media (newspapers, radio - including blocking out local stations to broadcast their own propoganda - , tv...), trained rebel fighters, bribed and bought out international committees, used the catholic church and other media to reach those who were illiterate in Guatemala, and so on, all to further their cause.  The cause was to fight Communism and the definition of Communism was ┤...anything that went against US interests...┤.  Guatemala, knowing that an attack was imminent, made the following statement...

Pan Americanism would become an instrument exclusively in the service of monopolistic interests and a weapon of coercion to strangle any attempt at political and economic liberation of the oppressed peoples of Latin America.  They (the USA) wanted to find a ready expedient to maintain the economic dependence of the American Republics and suppress the legitimate desires of their people, cataloguing as ĘCommunism┤ every manifestation of nationalism or economic independence, and desire for social progress, and intellectual curiosity, and any interest in progressive or liberal reforms...any nation which expreses these desires will be accused of being a threat to the continental security and making a breach of continental soliderity. 

Food for thought.
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