I am going to stop apologizing for these being so late, as much as I want to be the “multiple posts a month” guy it just might not happen. Isn’t it a bit more special if we have one on a monthly basis??? It gives you a chance to completely forget I even exist only to be like, “oh yeah, Hunter isn’t dead yet!” and check this scene out. Maybe??? Anyone???
Anywayyyyyyyyyy, I spent the last glorious month with Spanish school and lovely host family in Xela, Guatemala. The real name of the city is Quetzaltenango, but it is nicknamed Xela for some reason. There’s a ton of Mayan influence around here and I overheard someone talking about an original name stemming from that. Also cool note, there are something along the lines of 25+ different native languages in this country alone stemming from that Mayan influence. Guatemala is a pretty small country by our standards, so imagine maybe the state of Arizona (which is around the same size) having 25+ different languages throughout the state. Difficult to communicate widely to say the least.
Back on track: the month was spent at El Mundo en Español, which is one of many many Spanish schools in Xela. I sort of chose it on a bit of a whim; walked around to a few schools the day after I arrived in town, most seemed just fine for what I wanted and very nice to boot, but here at the school there were a few other cool guys I hung out with after my tour, so I just decided to do it. For around $160 a week, you get room and board totally covered, along with four hours a day of private one-on-one lessons. I went through a little more of my money than I would have liked in the time I was here, but I think it was money pretty well spent. At the end here, I can ask most questions I need to and have a good conversation if it’s just with one person and they are, well, extremely patient. Whatever jerk told you to go to an immersion program and you’ll be conversational in three weeks no problem is a liar, and…yeah a jerk. That jerk might have also told that Spanish is really easy to learn, which is also a filthy lie. It’s probably much easier than other languages, but still verrrrrrrry hard.
All that complaining said, we’re in a good place with Spanish. I wanted to take a break from classes to go back and really set in stone what I’ve learned and move forward from there. I think additional months of Spanish lessons may be in order in the months to come, but I’ve got a good foundation right now to keep me afloat.
“So Hunna, how was living with the host family??” Really not bad at all. Definitely kind of hard, most of the time, but there is a nice feeling that can’t really but put down on paper (though I guess I’m going to try right now…) that can be found after an hour of sitting around the kitchen table cracking jokes, explaining points and learning all kinds of new facts all while none of it in English. There were so many awkward times when I would get the whole family’s attention for a question only to find out it doesn’t make sense at all then I have to try and restructure it again while everyone somewhat patiently but annoyingly stares at me. It’s actually a little worse than it sounds lol. But then, like above, it all comes together once or twice and you are motivated to try it all over again.
One bit of advice to those of you looking to learn a new language, there is absolutely no getting around totally embarrassing yourself over and over and over again in front of complete strangers. Sorry, no other way, just have fun with it.
On a quick note I’ve had more black beans in the last month than you and all of your friends have in a month. No lie, not uncommon to have it with all three meals everyday. Gotta push through…
Most days were: wake up, four straight hours of Spanish, some lunch back with the host family, one of many afternoon activities the school puts on (visits to neighboring pueblas, cooking classes, tons of Bananagrams) back to dinner w/the host family, two hours of homework and rinse/repeat for a solid month.
Three main side trips of the month to go over, all, well, killer:
Primero: Who would ever guess that the best waterpark north of the Equator is in rural Guatemala??? Plans to go check out Xocomil were being thrown around here and there since I came. I said to myself, and out loud multiple times, “motherfuckers, I’m from Florida, none of you shits know shit about waterparks…” Jesuscristo, it blew everything out of the water in the end. One ride sealed you standing up in a tube and dropped the floor out from under you at a nearly straight-down angle, another had you face forward and head down a ramp where you caught some air on the way back up and another, maybe the coolest one, which I will save for the video below.
We actually went twice in the end, and it was perfect both times.
Segundo: A last minute, zero-planned trip out to the Pacific coast with my new best friend Fyfe. I sort of said it as a joke during the break Friday and after a few inquiries to our teachers we were headed out there Saturday morning. This was only my third trip ever to the Pacific Ocean (East Coast or dieeeeeeee) and well over a year since the last one wayyyy up on Vancouver Island. But what ended up being perfect about this trip was that Fyfe is a major beginner speaker, which put me in the driver’s seat for asking all the questions where ever we went. I was terrified of this walking in, and kind of continued to be the entire time but we just figured it out, yeah?
The name of the beach town was Tilapa, which is again a nickname and on the map is named Tilapita. What is hilarious (always after the fact) is that almost no one even knows the real name, so there we were asking like fools which bus to get on for Tilapita and no one having even heard of it. We, as was the theme of the weekend, eventually figured it out and got where we needed to go, while, as was the theme of the weekend, everyone stared at us like the fools we are.
Once we were there though, puuuuuuuuuuuurfect! Because it is lagoon-ed off, we had to take a little motorboat there (which they called a…langua??) which was a nice cap for the traveling day. Once there, it was a scene from some rad short story about a secluded island unknowingly avoiding the confrontation erupting in the Pacific Theater. No paved roads, no cars, no shirts and no shoes. Just sand, tons of wiley chickens (as if there is another kind) and really old looking featureless houses. Oh, and one hotel which of course we rented a room in. Of course, this haven isn’t around for only those like Fyfe and I, people live here, function fully their entire lives like anyone you or I know. There’s a school, tons of churches (a Latin American theme…) and the rest of your amenities are a short motorboat ride away.
We spent less than twenty-four hours there but homeboy and I had some nice bonding it being just the two of us and I got to practice some Spanish!
Tercero: (I like the idea of giving little Spanish lessons here: so first, second and third are primero, segundo and tercero, respectively. knowledge!) Our hike with Quetzaltrekkers was the our/my third big highlight. The company is actually pretty cool, all volunteer run, all proceeds go to a school around here and they are essentially guides to various treks in the area. As a gringo, it’s one of the many highlights you hear of Xela as soon as you come into town from the other travelers in the hostel. After basically every single weekend of threatening to head out on a XT hike, a few finally got together for the four-day hike to a small town celebrating the Day of the Dead celebration.
It ended up being only a one day hike coupled with a two days of just chilling in town, but that was sufficient for my first real foray into “trekking”. Of course my first stomach issue had to come the night before we left, and for about an hour I wasn’t going to go, but I pushed through and it only sort of put a hamper on some of the aspects of the trip. We actually had a lot of down time, so I just took a few naps here and there. Day one was a hike up to the highest non-volcanic point in Central America, whose name I promised I was going to write down for this very sentence, but of course I didn’t and has been taken off the QT site so you’ll just have to take my word for it. That was about two hours up, maybe three down (“by why slower on the way down hunna??” b/c we ended lower than we started…) and then after a heavenly lunch we did another two hours into the town were staying at. About seven hours in all, which was right at about 75% effort for me, though I was having some little stomach problems for much of the hike so maybe that # would be a little lower with hunna at 100% to begin with.
After we hiked into town, it was just straight chilling for a good two full days. QT had rented out for us a very nicely built, but completely (and I mean completely) empty house to stay in. We all had sleeping bags and mats, so no problem, I was just very curious what a house like this does any other time and for whom?? Maybe it was cleared out for us? I meant to ask… Anywho, we hiked our way into Todos Santos, which has these famous horse races every year. I’m tempted to put races in quotes because in reality, some guys got piss drunk and just rode back and forth a bunch of times. Alcoholism is actually a major problem in this country and it becomes pretty evident on a festival day. It was actually pretty sad to me, but it was most of the older men who got reallllly drunk and staggered around, not the younger crowd, which points to a serious issue. Also, those horses aren’t being treated very well as drunk men race them back and forth. Several times riders slammed themselves into the side fences snapping sturdy logs with the side of a terrified horse. I had a good time in Todos Santos, but was a bit disappointed with this kind of town-sanctioned event.
Anywayyyyyyyyyy that brings you up to speed. Tomorrow I head to Lake Atitlan where I have two Couchsurfers lined up (hell yes to new friend and saving $$$$$$$!!) and who the heck knows after that? I only have a 90 day visa for all four of the countries here (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua) and I’ve heard enough about how expensive Costa Rica is to know I might just speed through that country. I’ve also heard enough about “maybe you shouldn’t go to Honduras or El Salvador if you don’t have a good reason” to just bus through and spend a little time in Nicaragua.
I also got ahold of the guitar at the school and did another little cover. Enjoy, hopefully 😛
That’s it for now. All my friends: past, future and present, i will see you soon, some much sooner than others…
More to come…