Written January 13, 2010
As you know I am in Guatemala traveling and trying to learn some Spanish. We, Jeff and I, arrived in Guatemala city with little incident and were able to find a hostel in a nicer, safer area of town fairly quickly, which apparently was a good idea. We have heard lots of stories of armed men robbing entire buses and mugging travelers...not to scare anyone but, I just want to take all extra precautions even if it costs a bit more. After only one night in Guate we headed to Antigua. We were dropped off in the cenral park by our very hospitable driver who offered to help us with any help or advice we needed for traveling in his country, all for free, a rarity.
We have spent the last week attending classes at a Spanish school, and I have to say, it was a wonderful experience. We were able to live with a host family along with 3 or 4 other students. They were wonderful! There was the mom who is an excellent cook, the dad who makes silver jewelry in his workshop, a 16 year old boy, and 19 year old girl. All were very talkative and very welcoming. We often spent meals lingering around the table talking and laughing. Although my Spanish is coming along I did have to have a lot translated for me. The school itself was a bit bare boned, but the teachers made up for it. We had one on one classes for 4 hours every morning. My teacher, Gloria was really sweet and a bit humorous. Every morning she would complain about how cold it was and how miserable she was being outside. (it wasn't very cold at all...70's) And as soon as she heard the 12 o'clock church bells ring she was gone before i could say Adios. She made me laugh. We spent the afternoons on various excursions offered free by the school. We would meet up with some other students and one teacher and take what they call a chicken bus, which is just the cheap bus system they have here, and go visit a different pueblo, convent, church, or even a macadamian nut farm. I stayed busy all day long and loved it.
Last weekend Jeff and I were able to hike up an active volcano. And I do mean active, lava, spewing rock, the whole bit. It was a 2 hour hike up hill to the lava flow. We were allowed to get as close as we wanted but I was smart and stayed at least 2 meters away :) At one point a large small car sized glowing red boulder started to come down the hill towards a large group of people standing below. Luckily another rock stopped it, but it sunk in how dangerous and powerful what I was witnessing was. It was truly a unique experience.
I left Antigua today to come to Lake Atitlan, which they claim is the most beautiful lake in the world. I have not seen them all so I can't judge, but it is very pretty. We took a boat to a pueblo across the lake called San Pedro, which is at the base of a huge volcano. The town has a very hippie feel, but I have looked past that to appreciate what it has to offer.
Tonight we were on a walk and found a dirt path leading towards the water. We followed it for awhile until I saw a horse tied up on a short rope standing in a heap of its own feces. He was so skinny it looked like he could barely walk. Three young boys came up a walk from an Eco Tour place offering horseback rides. They asked if I wanted to take a ride on their horses to visit the beach. I immediately told them no and that they should consider feeding the horse more before soliciting people to jump on the poor things back, or at least that's what I would of said if I could speak better spanish. What I really said was No, your horse needs more food. Close, right? It turns out that wasn't their horse and they showed me 6 or 7 horses who were all pleasantly plump and loads of food currently in front of them. So I think I may take a horseback ride tomorrow. It might be because I feel bad, but it should still be fun!