As I haven’t properly blogged since arriving in Guatemala, and as I am currently trapped in a flooded apartment in Xela, I thought I would take the opportunity to blog about life in Guatemala…
We survived an epic 28 hour journey from Mexico City, crossing the border into Guatemala and continuing South to our final destination, Xela (Quetzaltenango). The trip included 2 coaches, 2 taxi rides, 1 tuktuk, and 2 “chicken buses” (old US school buses, painted bright colours and used as local long distance buses)… It was on this trip that we discovered why the local buses were known as chicken buses… Put it this way, there is ALWAYS room for one more passenger on a “chicken bus”, whether it be a human, dog, pig, gringo, chicken, it doesn’t matter, all are welcome on a chicken bus!!!
We arrived, tired, hungry, dirty, smelly and happy to finally throw down our backpacks knowing that we had arrived at our new home 🙂
To be honest I didn’t know much about Guatemala except it was a poor country, that one of the previous presidents’ was recently on trail for war crimes, and crimes against humanity, and that like most other Latin America countries, there was a lot of unexplained disappearances during the civil war. Other than that a lot of people had warned me that it was a dangerous country, and I’ve heard some bad stories, so I did enter the country on guard, though (touch wood) so far I’ve only been brutally attacked by some form of invincible ‘bedbugs’ which I still haven’t been able to get rid of :@
Since arriving I have learnt a fair bit about the recent and sad history of Guatemala, particularly the genocide in 81-83, where thousands of Mayans and Guatemalans raped and murdered. I also learnt about the extent of the influence that other countries and companies, in particular the US and CIA, had on Guatemala. It’s a very sad and shocking history, and I recommend to anyone that wants to know more to watch the documentary “When the mountains tremble”.
Our original plan was to take Spanish classes and stay in separate home stays with local families for the entire duration of our stay in Xela, however after a week we were both a bit over the home stay. Going from total independence, to having to be home at certain times, every day for meals as well as having to report all plans, was a bit of a shock. It felt like I was 14 again, only worse because it wasn’t my family, so I didn’t get away with half as much as I did when I was actually 14. On top of this I discovered that after spending 4-5 hours studying Spanish the last thing I could be bothered doing was going home and attempting to speak more Spanish. Having said that it was still a positive experience, the family was lovely, and I met some interesting people, and heard some interesting stories… And it’s likely I’ll try the whole ‘home stay’ experience again in the future – possibly when I need to escape Michael again!
So, Michael and I decided to move out of the home stay and share an apartment with another couple, for a total of $18 each per week. Not a bad deal I think. I also started working at a local language school a few hours a week, teaching English to some locals. I get paid about $3.50AUS per hour, so it just about covers my weekly rent.
Xela is one of the cheapest places in Latin America to study Spanish, it’s also safe, and there are some pretty awesome places nearby to visit, and good restaurants. Though the weather is not always that great, and it is a lot cooler and wetter than we were expecting (hence the flooded apartment I’m currently trapped in), and there is a fair amount of pollution which makes running and walking a lot less enjoyable, but I suppose that’s expected in any major city within a developing country, and Xela is after all the second biggest city in Guatemala.
I’ve listed a few of the highlights that we did in and around Xela;
– The highest point in Central America (4220m) volcan Tacajumulco (just make sure you’re climatised and take lots of warn clothes, the hardest thing for us was definitely the cold, but well worth it)
– lake Atitlan – we stayed in Santa Cruz at the infamous hostel, la iguana perdida, where on Saturday nights they have a fun cross dressing party (and where Michael decided to take a vodka shot out of a disgusting, manky shoe)
– The Indian restaurant in Xela, YUM! Best Indian food I’ve had outside of India
– Santa Maria Volcano – a pretty steep volcano you can see from Xela. From the top we watched another Volcano erupt which was awesome!
– Spanish study!! I studied at 2 different schools, El Portal (I wouldn’t recommend), and Kamalbe (I definitely would recommend).
We have been in Xela for 7 weeks now, and we were planning on staying another few weeks, but in all honesty we are getting the travel ‘itch’ again, and ready to hit the road once again. So on Monday we will say ‘adios’ to Xela and spend 3 weeks traveling in Guatemala before heading back to Mexico, where I’ll be meeting some amigas in Cancun for some party time!! Much needed after all this bloody Spanish study!!
Well the rain has finally stopped, so I’m going to make a quick escape!
Hasta luego amigos!! Hablare pronto!!!