Guatemala for Gringos
Trip Start Nov 05, 2007
10Trip End Nov 29, 2007
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Antigua is a gem of a city. Lonely Planet calls it "Fantasyland," and perhaps it is. Surrounded by three volcanoes and blessed with perfect weather, the city is full of hidden surprises. If you looked straight ahead, all you would see might be the multicolored walls of the houses, the stone-paved streets, and the friendly people. Turn your head to the side, though, and other worlds open up with every doorway. The hotels, restaurants, and stores which make up the majority of the central part of the city stretch way back; almost all are open inside (remember the perfect weather), many with garden patios, flowers, and even fountains. The cathedrals are even more impressive - not so much the chapels (which are nice enough), but rather the ruins, hundreds of years old, which lie among the grass. The city is extremely walkable, with most sights stretching just six or seven blocks in any direction from the Parque Central. Add to all this Antigua's safety, and you can see why so many foreigners flock here!
I got my first taste of "foreigner culture" this evening, when I joined a Guatemalan family for dinner. It's quite easy to arrange this - language schools provide families for students for around $10 a day, with all meals included. (After two hours of class Sunday morning, I guess I qualified as a student.) Nelson had left to go back to work less than 24 hours before, but already I was tired of eating alone. Not quite ready to give up my rooftop balcony, I nonetheless was given the name and address of a family who could feed me.
Maritza was a wonderfully friendly woman who welcomed me with open arms. It turns out she was also welcoming ten other foreigners at the same time! (Not content with working for one language school, she had signed up with three.) Dinner conversation quickly drifted into English, for many of the students were beginners. Among the dinner guests were three Americans taking a break from missionary work in Honduras, an older woman who loved the fact that I talked to her in Spanish and corrected her mistakes (simple ones), a couple of young girls, and a guy from Connecticut who seemed intent on telling me all the parts of Ecuador he knew.