Sunday, January 27


(t) Our school is a non-profit organization supporting impoverished children in the area. On Friday night they had an event for the kids at our school. The teachers put on skits and they gave all of the kids a bag with books for school, socks, dolls, etc. All of the kids were so well behaved and grateful. I am glad we were here for the event.

After, we had our first night out on the town with the other students and teachers. Here is a shot of the tienda where we started out. Imagine going to 7-11 and having tables where you can immediatly drink your purchased beers. Next we went to a salsa discoteca but we quickly realized we need some lessons!

Saturday we went to a place called Fuentes Georginas. It´s a natural hot spring heated by the volcanic activity in the area. It was nice to get into the hot water as I have been cold since we got here. Guatemala is not the warm Central America you typically think of. The below shots are of us riding a pickup from the town of Zunil up to the hot springs.

The hot springs are a couple towns away. We successfully utilized the chicken bus system to reach it. The drivers take a lot of interest in decorating their buses. We rode in a mini bus (basically a mini van) for part of the journey back. We started out with just the two of us and by the time we got to central Xela there were 25 people packed into the van.

Today we are back in town getting ready for the week. Below is a snap taken from the hill we live on.

Wednesday, January 23


(t) We are continuing to re-learn espanol. Like Mike said, it is painful. Today I had to describe the plotline and characters from one of my favorite books. I know it was ugly.

Yesterday we hiked into the hills above the city. We saw indigenous women working their small flower fields. The hills are covered with small farms and even the steepest grades are used for fields. We had to pass through one farm with dangerous dogs and the leader asked several people in the group to carry large sticks. Fortunately, nothing happened.

This afternoon we are off to a soccer/futbol game with the other students from the school.

Tuesday, January 22

1st Day of School

(m) Woke at 7am, breakfast of pancakes and mosh (kind of like oatmeal). Five minute walk to our Spanish school, Escuela Juan Sisay. I was paired up with a 19 year old guy named Fernando and Trin was with Jose, a student from the universidad. Each day consists of five hours of one on one tutoring. We sat on the second story roof on a couple of plastics chairs, a small table seperating us, and went through the basics of Spanish. Some of my high school spanish is coming back albeit slowly & painfully! After 1pm, went back to Veronica's for a lunch of chicken and brocolli where I attempted to comment to Veronica on the nice Marin mountain bike I saw in the garage and how that was something I did at home as well. Trin and I strolled back to Parque Centro to complete a couple of hours of homework and then explored the town on another walk. Back at home we enjoyed a spagetti dinner where Veronica's husband mentioned something about his bike, and I think he said he will take me next time he goes, but I'm not sure as all I heard was "we" "bike" "mountain". Off to bed.

Sunday, January 20

1st Day in Quetzaltenango

Woke at 7:00, breakfast of pancakes, watermelon, and banana with coffee. One of Patricia's sons drove us to the bus stop to catch our ride to Xela where we plan to attend three weeks of Spanish school. I had thought we would be on a second class "chicken bus" (retired US school buses painted bold colors) however it was a first class "pullman" style which would take a direct route without stopping at every bus stop or picking up any interested locals. From what we've read we definitely need to experience a ride on a second class bus at some point while here. It took about 4 hours to travel from Guatemala City to Xela (also referred to as Quetzaltenango, located in the "Western Highlands" of Guatemala). The terrain is mountainous with non densely populated forest. Roads are in decent shape, there were some areas of construction where we'd stop on the road for 15 minutes and local street vendors carrying various fruits, nuts, etc, often on their head, would peddle their wares to the waiting vehicles. We passed several small towns which consist of cement block constructed buildings with tin ruffs spread across a wide area. None larger than two stories. One town, assuming Chimaltenango, had a very busy market with dozens of temporary style booths with fruit, vegetables, crafts, etc. Many inhabitants wear extremely colorful woven outfits which we read are customary of the indigenous Maya population. Arrived in Xela on the parameter of town at the Minerva bus terminal. Several taxi drivers approached immediately and without much trouble we were headed towards an atm for "Quetzals" then in ten minutes arrived at 16 diagonal where our host, Veronica, and family live.

Veronica and family live in a orangish plastered compound style home comprised of two seperate three story buildings slating up a hill. We met and received a quick tour from Veronica, a middle age, very kind woman who made us feel at home though we only understood every 10th word she spoke. We share the lower house, three bedrooms, with Veronica's daughter Maria and another mystery person we have yet to see. As today is Sunday, all of her extended family (4 kids + their kids and spouses) is also here for lunch which ended up including twelve or so people along with several kids. Everyone was served a big piece of beef along with mash potatoes, salad, corn tortillas, onions, and salsa as gravy. It was quite good! As none of them speak English and we barely speak Spanish, we basically sat at the table and ate silently while the familia discussed topics well beyond our ability to understand. After lunch Trin and I excused ourselves, awkwardly I'd guess, and headed out to explore Xela.

We are about a ten minute walk from Xela's central square "Parque Centro America" which is surounded by the city's banks, a large Catholic cathedral and a couple of government buildings. The streets are narrow and cobblestone style and it certainly doesn't feel like there are 300k people here as we have read. Also pleasently surprised to see very few gringos. The weather was in the 70s when we arrived but as soon as the sun dipped I'd guess it was in the 50s. Returned and went to bed early to rest up for school.

Saturday, January 19

SFO to Guatemala

(m) Flew from SFO to DFW to Guatemala City arriving around 9pm. Pablo from Patricia's bed and breakfast met us at the airport and drove us a quick five minutes to her home. Patricia's place was a compound style home with a small well manicured interior courtyard of grass and fruit trees. The room was clean with cement walls and tile floors with a bathroom down the hall. The shower had an electrical heater built into the nozzle. We were in bed around 10pm but woke up often to the sound of airplanes landing or taking off.

Thursday, January 17

In Los Angeles - Packing

Well, we're packing up our backpacks and some how it is all going to fit. Here is a photo of what we are taking. Our clothes, towels, sheets and rain gear are in the bright orange and purple compression sacks. Those things are awesome, provided you don't care about wrinkles.

  • Trin's bag - 24 lbs.
  • Mike's bag - 35 lbs.