Antigua Guatemala

Trip Start Sep 12, 2008
1
5
18
Trip End Dec 19, 2008


Loading Map
Map your own trip!
Map Options
Show trip route
Hide lines
shadow

Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Monday, September 22, 2008

I hope Iīll be able to summarize our 2 weeks in Antigua in the 9 remaining minutes I have in this hour of internet, using a foreign keyboard.  Weīll see.  Also, I said I would post pictures but this place doesnīt have the capacity for this so Iīll try later.
Right now we are in Coban, heading to Quito on Monday, and have done a lot of travelling in the last week.  We went back to Antigua for a few hours, to pick up plane tickets, on Wednesday and it seemed so familiar compared to the rest of the country that I almost felt at home.

We arrived in Antigua really late the night before we were to start our spanish clases, after a gruelling 12 hour bus journey across Guatemala (and across every mountain in the country likely).  The streets of the inner city are all original cobblestone and there are church ruins everywhere, covered in moss and flowers.  Itīs a bit surreal.  Downtown we found fancy restaurants with even fancier waiters serving food way out of our price range.  There were also many bars catering to the gringo spanish student crowd, serving local beers at twice the price and expensive mojitos.  I wasnīt a fan at first, but after 2 weeks I kind of love Antigua.. parts of it.

In the morning we were acquainted with our host families who lived just outside of the main centre of the city, only a 10 minute walk to school.  On the walk to school I could see 3 volcanoes.. what a way to start the day!
My host family consisted of: the mother, Ava, the father, Cesar, and the teenagers Mariela and Samuel.  Ava was warm and motherly, but with an incredible efficiency around the house (she somehow managed cleaning, 3 meals for 4 students and her family, going to the market, and lots of time to sit and chat with us around the dinner table).  Cesar was also warm and liked to speak with us students, and spoke very slowly luckly.  Even though Joseph wasnīt living there he took to him strongly and would ask about him at every meal :)
Mariela and Samuel loved music, computer games and laughing uproariously at their own inside jokes.  After they warmed up to me they sometimes imparted wisdom such as bad words in Spanish.. very useful!

Spanish clases took place at our school, one on one with my teacher Maria.  She was strict but it did the trick and I learned a heck of a lot of verbs in 10 clases!  My learning curve was huge, but I seemed to absorb words and language through my pores while I was there.  Part of the reason was my usual routine: Wake up, eat breakfast, 4 hours of class, read The Alchemist in spanish, eat lunch, study for most of the afternoon, eat dinner, quiz myself on verbs and read some more, sleep.  I studied A LOT.. but it has paid off in spades since I can now converse to a certain degree with locals.

Other perks of the school were the field trips.  One day we went to the village of San Andres de Itzapa, a small Mayan village near Antigua.  There we visited a Catholic church and a Mayan shaman ritual, which consisted of a shaman smoking 2 cigars at once (!!) and burning candles, food and other things as offerings.  Somehow the two religions coexist peacefully and complement each other in fulfilling the localsīspiritual needs. They seem to mix them as needed, such as using Jesus and the saints to protect the statue of Maximon, one of their gods.
My favorite field trip was to the local coffee, Mayan instrument, and traditional clothing museum (3 in 1), where we could see how coffee is grown and processed.  I asked our guide how much they received for 1 lb of coffee and he answered that for 100 lb they receive about 35 Quetzales (about 5$!!).  To add to this, the coffee plantation is owned by Germans.  I just donīt know about the world sometimes...

On the weekend between our classes, we took a tour up Volcan Pacaya, the closest and most accessible active volcano from Antigua.  After a hike up through dense forest we reached a place described as hell by one of the other students.  Not a bad description given that it was completely barren of vegetation, the slope covered in rough black volcanic dust and rocks, with mist swirling around and obscuring our view into the valley.  We arrived at the lava through the pouring rain, with hot air blowing from a huge lava chamber in front of us.  I was basically extatic and in a state of disbelief and exhileration the whole time we were there.  As we walked over the rocks we could see lava in the cracks below us glowing red.  Around the corner of the lava chamber, we saw more lava running (slowly) down the mountain side.  I canīt even describe it, but hopefully my pictures will do it a bit of justice.  After a too-quick tour of the lava we had to climb down the mountain in the dark of the forest, drenched but happy.

Other highlights of Antigua: hanging out and speaking spanish with other students, such as my roommates from the US, Switzerland and Saskatchewan.  I also enjoyed going out a few nights and meeting other students, though it wasnīt really our scene.
Seeing church ruins every day was incredible, and visiting them was even better.  Joseph and I managed to be in the right place at the right time for the caretaker of a ruined church to let us in to take a look and a few photos.  We also visited an old monastery, complete with a circular courtyard bordered with cells whre the monks would put themselves in solitary confinement.  In the basement was an echoing chamber (which we saw on our way out after being told to leave because the building was closing.. so we unintentionally escaped the guards to tour the echo chamber, and arrived in the lobby to our search party of confused guards.. but we didnīt mean it I swear :)

Some people stay months in Antigua, but we were happy with our 2 weeks. It seemed short and we could have used more spanish clases, but I think we got a good base and a bit of home to last us a couple more months.
And I may go back someday... like many others Iīm sure.

Next update will have pictures, and details of our trip to the beautiful Lago de Atitlan, and the limestone bridge of Semuc Champey (this is one happy geolgist!)
Slideshow Report as Spam

Use this image in your site

Copy and paste this html: