View the trip on Google Maps as recorded by my SPoT satellite tracker:
Click here for the trip south. (finished 31May10)
Click here for the trip north. (finished 18Jun10)

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Thursday, September 5, 2013


I safely arrived home on 18 Jun 2010, and never finished the entries for my last week and a half of riding up the Pacific coast of Mexico. Mostly because it was rather anti-climactic after those last few days in Guatemala. After re-entering Mexico, I immediately felt safe and bored.

Oh sure, I still had some adventures on the way back, but it took only 10 days and not a whole lot happened, relatively speaking. I couch-surfed several times, rode through a lightning storm (it was striking the ground on fields next to the road), fed horses at a ranch I stayed at, poked my head in the exit of Chorreodero cave, jogged along the beach in Puerto Escondido and had a room that opened onto the sand for $20, watched the cliff-divers in Acapulco, took a 14hr overnight ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz (and gladly paid $60 extra for a personal state-room instead of the open seating), rode through 110 deg heat in Baja, and so on. But it was nowhere near the excitement and sense of adventure I experienced in Guatemala.

One happening of note: I was selected for 'secondary inspection' at the border crossing when re-entering the US in Tijuana. The border agent asked me what I did for a living and I couldn't remember. I told him I had just ridden up from Guatemala. He immediately called security over. The secondary inspection guys were really cool though and said the other guy usually drives a desk, and they were really intrigued and impressed with the trip.

This was the greatest trip of my life and I dearly hope to repeat it someday, only extending it and riding all the way to the end of the earth in Tierra del Fuego, "Land of Fire", at the southern tip of Argentina.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Almost caught up now -- just a week behind...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 60 - "South of the Mexican border lies a country so breathtakingly beautiful, one would think upon entering it that he had been transported to Paradise. This land of mist-veiled mountains and lush, verdant jungles bursts with a profusion of rich and brilliant color from the riotous waterfalls of its tropical flowers to the shimmering plumage of its rare Quetzal birds. The country, of course, is Guatemala. And far from being a Heaven on Earth, it is a turbulent land that has been plagued with years of unremitting tragedy and a decades-long civil war."

A quote I found on the web, which couldn't be more true about what a fantastic experience my travel in Guatemala has been. And thus I headed out of that amazing country, back into the relative safety of Mexico. I didn't get to see the lava flows of Pacaya while I was there (which the picture above is of, though disappointingly not taken by me), and passed by a lot of other things, vowing to return to see them someday.

I made one quick side jog 8 miles out of the way to see my inspirational photo spot a final time, and then headed back to San Cristobal de las Casas, in Mexico. The border was very easy to cross back into, no bribe had to be paid, and once in the relative safety of Mexico I instantly felt like it was boring -- lacking the raw primitive nature of Guatemala. And also a lot more expensive...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 59 (afternoon) -

M I N D - B L O W I N G.

I have already used up all the superlatives I know, so I have none left to adequately describe how my last day riding in the mountains of Guatemala was. I just... have no words. I laughed (maniacally), I cried (very nearly), I screamed in frustration, I pounded my fist on bike, I swore at the country for keeping me a prisoner within... I stood in utter awe at the sights before me, I experienced things like never before...

I spent those last 45 Quetzales I had on a gallon and a half of fuel for the bike, and headed out in what I thought would be an easy, paved loop back to the border to Mexico. I didn't make it. Not this day, anyway.

The road wound higher, and higher, further north and away from the border, (and the road that my GPS showed). Then the pavement ended, and I rode for hours on graded dirt, through remote alpine forest. Eventually the dirt gave way to rough rocky cobblestone. For HOURS. I was so low on fuel and had no money left! There was no other traffic out there. The air was freezing cold and the wind howling -- I had the bike near 12000' and it was gasping for air. I was alone, on dirt roads, along mountain ridges with 6000’ drop offs on both sides. Dropoffs so intense I was getting vertigo. VERTIGO.

From time to time I would come across someone walking, and with EVERY person I stopped to ask if "this was the road to Nenton", the nearest large town I'd seen on the map. Two of them outright ran away from me into the woods. Of those that stayed to answer me (with the ones holding machetes I kept my hand on the throttle), I couldn't be sure with the answers they gave, if they were telling the truth or had no clue what I was saying and were just trying to be helpful. I tried to mix up the questions -- intentionally pointing the wrong way, etc., just to make sure they weren't automatically saying yes.

A pinnacle moment was when I had followed a dirt road for half an hour going down a ridge dividing two extreme mountain valleys, and came into a small cluster of houses. I stopped and asked a family sitting outside, if it was the road to Nenton. They stared at me for a second in disbelief, then started laughing. "No, the road to Nenton is over THERE" they said -- pointing 20 miles away at the other side of the valley, a 6000' deep chasm between. I had just coasted down the hill for 30 min conserving as much fuel as I could, and now had to throttle back up it. My rear brake had failed -- I guess there was some water in the line and it overheated.

Finally, after many hours, and just after twilight, I made it down into the jungly lowlands and stumbled into Nenton, finding a nice hotel for 30 Quetzales (~$4, which I paid using pesos). My last full day in Guatemala was one I'll remember for a long time.

Day 59 (morning) - In the morning I hiked out to the Pepajau waterfalls. It was actually slightly tricky finding them, only because I could only half understand the directions that Alejandro (the older guy whose house I slept in) gave me in Spanish.

On the way I walked by a house on the road where guy stopped me and told me to go back the way I came, that it wasn't permitted to go further. I asked why, and he said it's too dangerous -- many bad people in the woods. I said that Alejandro had told me it was okay. "Oh, well if Alejandro said it's okay, then go ahead!" he said in Spanish, seemingly without sarcasm. Ummm... so I kept walking, but with a bit of apprehension now...

I ended up missing a turn, and after 100 meters encoutered two guys, who told me I was going the wrong way. They also said it was very dangerous out here. I asked why, and they said there are packs of "javelins", little pig like creatures that hunt in packs of 6-8, and if you're alone, they'll attack you and eat you. But two or more people together are fine.

I said thanks for the advice, and walked back to the correct turn. They followed, and seemingly with a lot of concern for my safety, offered to show me the way to the waterfalls for 120 Quetzales. I didn't really like the idea of paying for a guide, but becoming increasingly worried about all the warnings I'd been getting, I agreed. However, I told them I could only pay in Mexican Pesos, because I had only 45 Quetzales on me. They said that was fine.

The waterfalls turned out to be only about 30 minutes away from there -- not too bad. However, most amazingly, I ran into another tourist of sorts at the base of the falls -- a French guy with his own guide (I think he was doing some university study). He said the story about the javelins was bunk -- there weren't any out there. Then he and my guides had a slight argument over whether or not it was true!

Regardless, we hiked to the top of the falls on a little used dirt path, where the stream is born straight out of the mountain. We all had a much refreshing drink from the nacimiento (spring).

On the hike back, all was well until it came time to pay my guide fee. The 120 Quetzales is around 180 pesos, at the current 1/1.5 exchange rate. However, my guide thought the current exchange rate was in fact 1/10. So he became furious when I gave him a 200 peso bill (around $16, quite high as it is!), telling me it was only worth 20 Quetzales ($2). What a pickle. I sure wasn't going to give him any more than the 200 pesos, especially since his story about packs of javelins was bunk! We argued for a bit, and finally I just walked away leaving him with the 200 pesos, hoping he wouldn't come after me with a machete. I made it back to the bike at Alejandro's without further incident, though, and headed on my way.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 58 - I said goodbye to Paul this morning. He is taking a shuttle bus back to Lake Atitlan, before leaving for home later in the week. I'm planning to head out of the country, hoping to be in San Cristobal, Mexico, by tonight. I'm going to make a small loop to the north, and hope to see some more mountains on my way. There are some 250 meter waterfalls on the way that I'll try to hike to, named Pepajau.

The guidebook describing how to get to the Pepajau waterfalls turned out to be pretty inaccurate on distances. In fact, the town it mentions starting the hike from, is many miles off the main road on a rough dirt track, at the bottom of a big valley.

I got to the bottom towards dark in advance of a large rainstorm, to find nothing else around but a few buildings. It was a good 45 minutes back out to the nearest town. A local guy VERY kindly offered me a bed in his house for the night! He is older, with a bunch of grandkids running around, so I felt safe. He actually kicked his father off the bed into another room for the night. The bed is absolutely filthy and there's no pillow, so I slept in my clothes on top of the covers. But it's better than the alternative, which is nothing. He said it's very dangerous here out of doors at night -- there are a lot of local guys who cause trouble, every single night. Hmmm...

In the morning he said I can hike out to the Pepajau waterfalls, which are a couple hours from here.

Thanks to the Cipro antibiotics (I think), the swelling on my elbow is gone, and it's now just red where the infection is. I'm not quite as worried about it as yesterday!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Day 57 - The infection on my elbow is now so bad that people on the street are asking me what's wrong with my arm. Thus I started a 10-day course of Cipro antibiotics today (bought OTC at the pharmacy). I am really worried, especially since hearing a story when I was in Lanquin of a girl who got a cut while vacationing in Africa, and had to have a doctor flay her arm open every day and debride the wound, or she would have lost her arm. :(

Paul and I went for a really nice hike today near Todos Santos, up to some small ceremonial caves. On our way back to town the skies darkened greatly and I kept thinking it would pour, but the rain held off.

We also snuck some extremely covert photos of the local Mayan descendants. It's really quite wierd seeing all the men with their pinstriped outfits. I mean that's all they wear! I kept trying to convince Paul to buy an outfit so he will fit in better (they sell the clothes to tourists too), but no luck :)

Tonight our innkeeper (a Swiss guy who has lived here for 15 years, married locally, and has two kids), told us the real story of the Japanese murder. It wasn't about taking a photo; it was actually even more crazy.

There had been rumors going around about a gang of "Satan worshippers" who were abducting children. Then, entirely coincidentally, a tour bus (painted black and grey no less!), full of Japanese tourists rolled into town. Out stepped a bunch of Japanese, some of whom were dressed all in black. They strolled around town for a bit sightseeing, and by chance a local girl tripped and fell next to one of them. One of the old Japanese men tried to help her up, and her mother, who apparently had been known for some mental instability, began screaming that the man was going to take her child and sacrifice her.

Of course the man let go, but some local guys stepped in and began roughing the old man. Then a young Japenese guy (30's I think), dressed all in black, tried to push them away from the older man. All the while the mother was screaming nonsense, but getting everyone riled up.

To make a long story short, the young Japanese guy got beaten to death, because they thought he was a "Satan worshipper" and wanted to sacrifice the girl. Then the townspeople wanted to search the bus for dead children, and the bus driver (a local Guatemalan) thought they were wanting to rob him, so he ran away. Unfortunately for him, they saw this as a sign of guilt and caught him and beat HIM to death.

A sad story, and the guidebooks don't tell it accurately. But it sure has cut down on tourists bothering the locals with taking photos!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day 56 - Paul and I stayed up last night discussing what we should do next. He suggested going to a small village in the mountains a couple hours from here, named Todos Santos. It is quite strongly Mayan, and is unusual in that the men also wear traditional dress, instead of only the women as most everywhere else in Guatemala. The dress of the men is exclusively red pinstriped pants, blue & white pinstriped shirts, and a bowler's hat. No kidding!

However we have to watch out for taking photos there -- both Lonely Planet and Rough Guide tell of a Japenese tourist who took photos of a young girl in the year 2000, and it upset the townspeople so much they beat him to death, and his bus driver too!

The ride up to the town was really beautiful -- cloudy and misty with just a very light drizzle. I also crested over 11,400 feet on the bike -- the highest elevation I've ever ridden it!

Todos Santos is exactly the town I had pictured Xela to be in my mind -- very small, on a steep hillside, with chickens running around, one paved street leading to the main plaza and just a few cobblestone streets leading away from it. And it even has a couple language schools! Hmmm... maybe next time :)

In other news, I am quite worried about a bad infection on my right elbow that is spreading fast. I got a cut there a week ago in the candle lit cave, and it was healing fine, but I think my recent intestinal illness caused my body to overlook it, and now the infection is spreading.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Day 55 - Today I rode back to the Huehuetenango in the west on the glorious road I had taken last week (see day 49). It was sunny today, as opposed to the mist and drizzle I had experienced last time. Due to the good weather there was a lot more traffic on the road, and also a lot of dust from that traffic. Furthermore I was able to see the views in their entirety, instead of glimpses through the mist as before. All this combined resulted in not *quite* the spectacular experience as I had previously, sort of like once you know the secret behind a magic trick, it utterly shatters the illusion. The road was still very beautiful though.

I also saw some results of recent natural disasters. The first picture above is of a MASSIVE landslide that happened a year ago (they have rerouted a temporary road through it), and the second is of a bridge that was lost just last weekend from the rains of Agatha.

I talked Paul into heading to Huehue with me. The poor guy took a local shuttle bus, which followed other trucks the whole way, and he was eating their dust for hours! Thankfully I'm able to pass other vehicles much easier, so I usually don't have to put up with the dust for too long.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Day 54 - I just spent the last 36 hours in bed, sleeping nearly the whole time. I got a really bad intestinal infection the night before last, starting with vomiting and diarrhea, and followed by extreme dizzyness, malaise, throbbing headache, and nausea. I couldn't even walk straight. I haven't been this sick in years.

This morning my head felt clear, and I really wanted to get back on the road, though I'm still a bit queasy. I've made friends over the past couple days with a Belgium guy named Paul, and we decided to rendezvous in Coban, an hour away from Lanquin on the way out of here. Well, an hour for me on the bike, and 3 hours for him in the shuttle bus ;)

So I said goodbye to the thatched roof cabanas next to the river, and pointed the nose of the bike north, to start the long ride home.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 51 - Semuc Champey is the furthest south I'm going on this adventure motorcycling trip. I was about to head back today, but decided to take a rest day and do laundry, and will head out in the morning. It is hard to turn around and point the nose of the bike north, because even though it's a long way back, mentally it means the trip is over.

It rained really hard last night, and while waiting for my laundry to be done, I caught a ride back to Semuc Champey from Lanquin. Click here for a video of what the shuttle is like. Wow, what a difference from yesterday. The river is now too high in volume for the cave to drink all of it, and the water is flooding over the tops of the pools. They are completely flooded and brown, unsafe for swimming, and quite unnattractive as compared to the beautiful turquise of yesterday. Compare the first photo above to the shot of the same location from yesterday. It was quite exciting being right next to the raging river, and what a contrast from the day before. Click here for a video the river at flood stage.

In other news, reports are starting to come in from arriving tourists of two separate natural disasters to the south: Pacaya has erupted! After 12 years of being a good little tourist friendly volcano to roast marshmallows in the lava, it erupted, covering Guatemala City in 2-3 inches of ash, closing the airport, and destroying the road where you hike from (in fact the whole town nearby is evacuated). It will be weeks or months before it is reopened to tourism, so that's a real bummer for me.

Secondly, the storm sitting off the coast became the named Tropical Storm Agatha, and flooding from the rains destroyed dozens of bridges in the country, wiped out a lot of roads with landslides, and killed over 170 people in mudslides. It's going to be tricky getting out of here.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 50 - I visited Semuc Champey today. Maybe it's time I describe exactly what the place is? There is a river, the Rio Cahobon, which is entirely swallowed up by a cave, where it flows for 300 meters underground, after which it reemerges again. The second photo above is of the river being swallowed. And click here for a video. This alone would be interesting to see, but on top, are a series of cascading pools filled with beautiful turquise water -- quite large and deep for swimming and diving. It's really a special place in nature and well worth a visit. And I was well overdue for a swim :)

The local tourism board has also hacked a trail through the jungle to get you a view of the series of pools from a mirador (remember that word?) about a thousand feet up. This is a really fun hike too, with narrow paths, wooden stairs, and rocky bits to climb. And the view is fantastic. Click here for a video from the mirador.

After spending a couple hours hiking the path and swimming in the pools, my group (yes, I joined a small tour) went on a cave exploration. Only this one was very different! You are led by a local Mayan resident, and everyone is given a skinny 12" candle. You enter the cave, which is filled with a flowing stream, and you must wade, swim, climb small cascades, and jump, all whilst trying to keep your candle lit. There was even a 15' waterfall we climbed up the middle of with a rope, while getting blasted with water in the face. Should your candle go out in the water, it's a group effort to relight it.

It was actually really fun and adventurous. When we first started I was regretting having left my Stenlight (uber powerful light for caving) at the hotel, but then I started getting really into the whole "one candle per person", the challenge of keeping them lit, and the flickering on the walls from only the few candles we had.

The only part I got frustrated with was when our guide announced it was time to turn around. All of our 12" candles had burned to about 3" left! My caving experience was screaming in my head, "don't enter a cave without 3 sources of light per person!" It was quite crazy really. We made it back out rather expeditiously, just in time, and some guys singed their fingers abit since they were holding nothing but nubs of candles at the end.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Day 49 (afternoon) - The bike finally met its match in the form of a steep grade on the way to Semuc Champey, which was solid mud due to the rain. The back wheel just spun and spun. Fortunately, it was an uphill grade (so I could turn around), and also only half a mile out of Lanquin, a town within 10km where most of the people going to visit Semuc Champey stay anyway. So I went back and found a hotel to stay at in Lanquin.

Just before entering the town of Lanquin, there is an extensive cave system which I stopped to explore. The first quarter mile or so is commercial, with a walkway lit with electric lights. The lit section was actually pretty long, and it took awhile to get to the end. The cave was quite muddy inside (even on the walkway, it was slippery) and I didn't go off exploring on my own. At dusk this cave is known for the thousands of bats that emerge from deep within. You can sit in the narrow entrance and feel them fly all around you on their way out.

Day 49 (morning) - Wow. Just... Wow. Today I had two, (and nearly three), laugh out loud moments while riding the bike on the mountain road to Semuc Champey. Laughing out loud because I just couldn't believe what I was experiencing (in a good way!) The last time I can remember having a laugh out loud experience was descending my second canyon (Dry Meadow), rappelling 5 feet away from a thundering waterfall, which immediately addicted me. Today I had two (and nearly three!).

I was riding on dirt roads, in the middle of nowhere, passing through tiny villages consisting of a few thatched roof buildings, amidst drizzling rain and fog that lay thick over the jungle but parted ever now and then to reveal either massive mountains towering around me, or deep, deep valleys far below.

This, truly, is the stuff dual sport bikes dream of when they go to sleep at night.

Yes, there were many small landslides, and one enormous (I mean, ENORMOUS) landslide where over a half mile of the mountain slid away, but nothing the BMW couldn't handle with ease. Splashing through puddles, pulling confidently up deeply rutted grades, bouncing over dirt speedbumps, purring along as schoolkids out for the afternoon cheered and ran alongside, what an incredible, incredible day. Click here for a short video enroute.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 48 - My plan from yesterday, to leave before the afternoon rains, didn't quite work out! It started raining at 8am (!) today, pretty hard. I looked at the weather radar online and saw that a large storm is sitting right off the coast and is going to hit tomorrow. So instead of going east to Antigua, I decided instead to head north, to Semuc Champey, which is "the most beautiful place in all of Guatemala". Then after the storm passes in a couple days I'll loop back south to Antigua for the ascent of El Volcan Pacaya.

I was sort of undecided -- a lot depended on the weather I encountered as I went north. Leti insisted that I NOT take the north road to Semuc Champet, as it is "muy peligroso (dangerous)", rockslides, muddy, very remote, hours between towns, blah blah blah (I mean, "etc.") Ludwig told me he tried riding the road once on a motorbike and fell, breaking his arm. So I placated them by assuring I'd be heading back to San Cristobal (Mexico) today, while secretly planning to make the decision en route. I left their house around noon, under a light drizzle.

At the decision point, whether to go left, returning to Mexico, or right, to unknown wonders in the remote mountains of Guatemala, it was not raining and the roads were dry. I went right.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 47 - Well my plan was to head out of Xela today, to Antigua where I will climb Pacaya, the active volcano with flowing lava that you can hike right up to, and roast marshmallows on sticks while the bottoms of your sneakers melt. I was going to stop by two places on the way: a glass blowing factory, and some pretty hot springs named "Fuentes Georginas".

However, it was getting too late to do those things and avoid riding through the rain which is coming every day in the early afternoon. And Ilda told me that Mishel was crying last night about my leaving -- "Mi amiga! Mi amiga!" she sobbed. So I decided to spend another night with the family -- go to the two places today, and head out first thing in the morning for Antigua.

I first went to the glass blowing factory, where I was told by the lady that they won't be blowing more glass until July. "Julio!" I exclaimed. Apparently they have too many items on the shelves to sell right now. So she showed me a 20 minute video on what glass blowing looks like instead. The whole time I couldn't stop thinking of my friend Jef (who works as a glass blower) ;)

Next I headed up the road to Fuentes Georginas. It consists of a series of pools, the topmost which has naturally heated, scalding hot water flowing into it from a hole straight out of the mountain. The outflow of this pool goes to a lower second pool, then a third, and a fourth. I only went in the topmost though, which was about the temp of a typical hot tub (except right next to the inlet, which was really quite warm!)

Mishel was happy to see me when I got back. In a store I bought UNO, the card game, and the two of us played most of the evening. Ilda even joined in on a game, and managed to win. Beginner's luck!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 46 - My last day of classes was today. I was awarded with a certificate for having completed basic level Spanish (woohoo!).

In the afternoon a few of us from the school went roller blading at an indoor skating rink nearby. One my new words to learn last week was "patinar" ("to skate"). I'd rolled my eyes at that one -- I mean how often do you use it? Who knew I'd have the chance within a week?!

I paid for Mishelita to come along and she had a great time. Plus it's good to know that I can still do crossovers skating backwards around the whole rink several times. I played hockey in high school so my forte is on ice -- I've only skated with wheels instead of blades of steel a few times, and it's a lot harder (with wheels). Incredibly it had been over 5 years since I skated! (Note to self: try to get to the year round indoor rinks in the Bay Area more often...) Mishelita and I skated around, dancing to the disco music hand in hand, and had ice cream cones afterwards. I'm gonna miss that kid...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 44 - After yesterday's wedding experience, I felt it was time to do something more in line with my interests -- so I climbed a volcano :) It is named Chikabal, and is about an hour outside of Xela. The volcano is long extinct; the slopes are thickly covered in vegetation and a lake now fills the cauldron. The shores of the lake are a popular place for local Mayan people to have small ceremonies.

I went with a tour group, and along with the guide, we had three young women from Connecticut who were volunteering at an orphanage in Xela, and an older lesbian couple from Oakland -- the latter two rode horses to the top.

The hike was pretty steep and strenous, so it felt good to be stretch my legs and work off some of those tamales! There was a nice mirador (observation platform) from the rim, and then we descended to the lake and walked on a trail circumnavigating it. Along the way I saw a small group of people burning something that looked like brownies and I asked what they were cooking. "It's a religious ceremony" one of them told me. "Oh, lo siento!" I whispered back.

Later in the afternoon, back at Casa Leti & Ilda, I filled them in my activity. They wanted to know how much I paid and I was embarrassed to mention it was 200 Quetzales ($25), which I knew was a lot of money for them -- about as much as Leti earns in a day as a teacher. In fact I was a bit upset myself at having paid so much -- I easily could have done the hike sola with the bike, and moreover we had passed two tourists from Britain who had gone alone. Oh well.

But the funny part came when I mentioned that the two older women were married to each other ("casadas juntas"). Ilda about had a heart attack. "A dios mio, a dios mio, aqui en Xela! Aqui en Xela!" ("Dear God, here in Xela!"), in reference to the fact that they were lesbian. Leti actually had to console her, holding her hand and soothing her! I was holding back laughter at Ilda's response -- it was, comical to watch. But truly sad at the same time.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 43 - Today was another great cultural experience -- I attended a wedding! One of Leti's students from years ago was getting married and she asked me if I wanted to come. I said sure!

It was an hour chicken bus ride out of town for the 3 of us -- Leti, Mishel, and myself. The ceremony started at 10:30 in the morning and was very Catholic with a full mass (the religious part that Catholics have on Sundays). I of course stuck out like a sore thumb, being 3 inches taller than anyone else in the room, and the only person without dark skin. I tried to be polite and stood and sat with everyone else, but I drew the line at kneeling before their god (I just sat). One thing Catholic mass's have is a lot of standing, sitting, and kneeling.

There was lunch afterward with chicken, rice, tamales, and tres leches cake. They were very nice and gave me a portion of food. I felt very awkward though -- especially since they asked me to sit at the head table! The bride and groom had finished and walking around greeting people, and I was sitting outside, For some reason they asked me to come in and take a seat up there. Needless to say everyone in the room was looking at me (about 200 people). I really didn't want to take any more attention away from the bride and groom on their day and I was happy when Leti said it was time to go home.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 42 - Incredibly, my week of classes has finished already! My goodness that went fast. I didn't quite get to cover everything I'd wanted to though, and decided to sign up for two more days next week. The other student that was here earlier in the week left for Tikal on Wed, so the school has consisted of only me the last two days.

My teacher told me today that the student that was with her before me, studied here for 4 months. She (the student) arrived knowing no Spanish (other than what everyone knows -- where's the bathroom, what's your name, good morning...). At the end of the 4 months, she is very nearly fluent -- speaking fast and comprehending very well. She's now found an apartment to rent in town with some local girls for a few more months. Wow! Hearing that made me really jealous, in a good way :)

After classes I accompanied Leti, Ilde, and Mishelita out of town to some public baths, which they go to every 15 days. It was a fun experience -- interesting for sure. You pay for a private room with a big tub sunk in the floor. Natural volcanically heated water, which is quite hot though not scalding, fills the tub. They sell shampoo and soap so you can, well, bathe. The three of them shared a room and I got one by myself. It was quite dirty inside actually. The once white walls were completely brown, the tile covered in brown, a plywood door for privacy, a grime coated window for light, and the guy working there quickly snatched a 2 inch beetle off the floor as I walked in. Riding the chicken buses to and back were fun. Mishel slept on the seat with her head on my lap.

I'm now at the point where I like the family. Everyone has their idiosyncroses, of course, and this is a real family like any other, not an ideal construct. In the photos above, from left to right, is Mishel, Ilda, Leti, then in the other Ludwig, Natasha (his girlfriend who arrived from Swiss), and Leti again.

The second was at night when the power went out, which has happened nearly every night. All the restaurants and banks on the street have diesel generators sitting outside that they fire up when this happens.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Day 41 - FINALLY! No pounding on my door this morning! I had just about had it and was going to ask for another family (yes, it was THAT bad!) My alarm actually had a chance to go off today at 7:30. Thank goodness!

Today the activity after class was free salsa dancing lessons. I wasn't really interested and skipped it. Ludwig instead invited me to a meeting of his poetry club in the evening. It sounded very "cultural" and I decided to come with. Well, cultural it might have been, but it amounted to listening to people talk in a foreign language for 2 hours, of which I couldn't understand anything. When it came my turn, they very nearly skipped me, but I said "Oh no, I have one, I can go". Thus my poem in Spanish (which I came up with off the top of my head): "No lo tengo. Por eso, es el fin." Very poetic I thought! Everyone clapped :)

Little Mishel had two hours with an English tutor today at home. He comes every Thursday. I hope they're not paying too much! It's a retired Swiss guy living in Xela with a VERY thick German accent. I tried talking to him in English and it was almost easier to use Spanish -- his vocabulary is very small. He referred to me as "the expert", haha.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 40 - Again, in the morning the pounding on the door! Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, I want breakfast in the morning! Only today it was worse. She had asked me last night, "Queires leche en la manana?" I had said yes, expecting a glass of milk. So what do I find waiting for me? A bowl of chocolate rice krispies with milk that had been poured goodness knows how long before. Completely soggy. That was all there was. I poked at it with my spoon. "Mishel, no te gusta la leche?" Ummm, no Ilda, not like this...

Today's activity after classes was a hike up La Muela, a volcanic rocky outcropping that also overlooks the city. We had a different guide and a few students from another school joined us. They were Canadiens studying here too. It was very foggy today and we didn't have much of a view, until the very summit when the fog parted a bit and we could see the city. The hike was quite fun -- very steep and even some Class 3 climbing on the rock.

I asked the other students how their homestays were going. One of them told me her family was great -- they made chocolate pancakes for her this morning, all she could eat. Grrr...