Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Español and Guatemaltecos

So here I am still in Guatemala... not yet able to say much in Español, but having an adventure of a lifetime.

I love the colours and simplicity of the markets. I`m not wild about seeing (and smelling) the dead chickens and meat, but the fruit is a real treat. It`s super cheap and delicious. The other day I bought a watermelon for less than a dollar and two canteloup for 50 cents.

Other than fruit and veggies, the food overall isn`t great, especially compared to Mexican food. The tortillas and dishes in restaurants are kind of bland. However, I manage to eat avocados, corn on the cob, and beans pretty much everyday. Yummy!

Through school, I found some gringo friends to tour with. They`re all younger and fitter than I am so keeping my wind is a constant stuggle.

We came across this guy on the way down from one such grueling hike. These people are so little and cute I can`t stand it!!


Lago Chicabal was formed however many thousand years ago by a volcano. The nearby volcano is still active and, according to another tour group, we just missed seeing it erupt when we got to the view point. By that time the fog had rolled in, but it burned off later so that we could see the holy lake (while catching my wind). There are several prayer points around it and the Mayans consider it to be sacred. Going in it is completely forbidden. Every so often we came across flowers, that I assume were used in prayer service. (The guides here aren`t very good so none of us know for sure).
It looked a little like places I`ve seen near the rocky mountains of Canada, but there was a certain mystism here. I tried not to think of the hike back up the hill while taking in the peace and serenty of the lake.

A school tour of the cemetary proved to be very colourful. From a distance, it looks like some type of amusement park, but up close one can see the affection given the multi-coloured tombs with a lot of hand-writing and flowers.

One famoso tomb is said to provide wishes of those who write their ideal marriage partner´s name on it. I didn`t have a name, but took a jab at writing on it anyway. God (and spanish-speakers) only knows who is inside.

In this part of the world, the Mayan dress is more common than western dress, particularly for women. Some of the weaving is absolutely beautiful. And they truly do walk with loads of stuff on their heads or within blankets on their backs. I`m still in awe everytime I see them, which is every five minutes of so. Especially so when they carry huge loads of wood on their backs, along with a machete, coming up a steep hill that I can barely hike empty-handed. They must have the strongest legs in the world.


Now this is farming. I have yet to see a tractor in any of these fields. Apparently the soil is quite fertile and one can always see the farmers labouring away with hand-tools or bare hands. It reminds me of being back home in Saskatchewan. Mom always had a big garden, however, the children weren`t working quite as hard as these ones seem to be. In fact, these people could even give MOM a run for her money!

Chicken buses and pickup trucks are the main methods of transportation in this area. I can`t say they`re very comfortable, but it`s certainly an authentic experience to be squished up against a local with her baby in a blanket on her back. I haven`t actually seen any `chickens`on the bus, but there is a lot of everything else.

The upbeat latin music is always going strong and it`s impossible not to have fun. Today, I watched the ticket collector exit the front door, while we were in full motion, and come in through the back exit so as to let some of us out at the next stop. Very efficient.


We built another partial stove a couple weekends ago. The family was lovely and greeted us with buns and a rice tea (can`t remember the name of it...uti?) and later provided a delicious meal of soup, squash, carrots, potatoes, corn, and fruit juice. They seemed to go all out for us, which makes me wish I could do much more for them. Education and doctors would be nice.

After our less-than-three-hours of work was completed, seven of us `gringos` took 54 kids and parents in two microbuses (10 seater vans) to a ´hotsprings` an hour away. Some of the kids didn`t even get in the water, and most appeared to not be able to swim. The place actually seemed to be used more for bathing than for swimming. People there were all scrubbing eachother and watching us out of the corner of their eyes. It`s possible that it was where they go to bathe once per week.

I find most of these Guatemalans quite reserved, particularly compared to other latin americans I`ve met. They are kind, but not overly friendly. However, the niños seemed to really appreciate the cheetos we passed around while heading home.
To the market we go. Zunil was actually just a stop to catch a pickup after we were dropped off by the chicken bus on the way to beautiful Fuentes Georginas. The ride was mystical and I seriously can`t remember the last time I`ve been in the back of one... probably at my ´Parnitsky´ cousins´ farm in Saskatchewan, but with more hills and a less crazy driver.


My buddy, Sara (who also skipped out on her host family and joined me on the hostel) enjoying the idyllic springs Fuentes Georginas. This is a really nice spot and hard to believe it`s only half an hour from Quetzaltenango with the lush jungle-like setting.
A partial view of Xela (Quetzaltenango) with other gringos from my school. The deforestation makes it always seem overcast, but it was actually a pretty nice day. At the top of the hill we came across a park where locals were having barbeques, walks in the woods, and a children`s party with a piñata.

My real purpose for being here is to learn Spanish. It`s pretty challenging. Other phrases from different languages I`m familiar with kept popping out at first... like ´da` and ´excusez-moi´, but I`m starting to get the hang of it and, despite the headaches, it`s quite enjoyable.

My maestro, Mario, in the back of the pickup. He truly rocks. He`s the only person that I can converse with in Spanish, so far. It`s really fun, at least for me. Mario says his second name is `paciencia´ and I`ve witnessed that to be true.

Quetzaltenango, although rugged, certainly knows how to cater to tourists. There are at least 50 spanish schools here and numerous places to eat and sleep. I got really lucky with a beautiful hostel for $10 per night. They even provide robes and change the sheets. There`s a room with gorgeous, big plants and birds where I can do my homework.

This city is highly elevated so it doesn`t seem to get too hot during the day and cools off quite a lot at night, keeping me pretty comfortable. There are frequent earth tremors, I think I heard 4.6 of one that woke me up one morning. Kind of freaky, but cool. I`m told they don`t do much damage and the locals don`t seem to be concerned. Better than civil war, I guess.
Will finish off lessons at the end of this week and do some more exploring of Guatemala. I`m off to a salsa lesson now. Hasta luego!

4 Comments:

At Thursday, April 17, 2008 11:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ilsa, I will presume there was less swearing in the back of their truck than what there ever was on the Parnitsky farm!!! Oh I miss the crazy days of cousins and adventures on the farm.
I am so proud of you,going out on these grand adventures, even if I am a little jealous!!!
Love Gerri

 
At Thursday, April 17, 2008 10:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an adventurous soul you are!

Earthquake temors???
Volcanos errupting???

Thanks for keeping us posted with great pictures and comentary...I can see the jounalist in you...

Enjoy every precious moment!

Take care,
carlos

 
At Friday, April 18, 2008 8:53:00 AM, Blogger Clem & Chandra Schraefel said...

Another great read - thanks! Wishing I was there, especially as we bunker down for the impending BLIZZARD! In April!

Take care. Miss you.

 
At Sunday, April 20, 2008 3:04:00 AM, Blogger Loes said...

Oh my God Lisa, what a great blog.... I wish i was there woth you, but I've made up my mind.. we will definitely go to there one time.. Soon!!! Miss you so much...

 

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