From May 19th to June 6th we locked up Pedro and settled into a small studio apartment in the quaint town of San Pedro. We found the family run school, Corazon Maya, after reading a blog and hearing their rave reviews. Everyone there was very kind and helpful. They were patient with our Spanish and we were introduced to a bit of traditional Mayan culture as well, as it was their primary language and the women wore the traditional dress. The teaching and lodging were super affordable and the school was located on the quiet side of town, giving us the perfect chance to rest and absorb some Spanish.
While having only one real thing to do every day doesn’t normally count as having a “schedule”, it was the first time in a while that we had to be somewhere on a daily basis. And it was nice. The illusion of a responsibility was a refreshing change to the absolute freedom we have been experiencing. Our schedule for the few weeks was as follows:
8:00-10:15 – Class
10:15-10:30 – Break for coffee and bread
10:30-12:00 – Class
12:00-??? – Market, exercise, homework, nap, study, and repeat every day
Eric’s teacher, Ventura, had lived in California for three years and his teaching style was to talk about the differences between Guatemala and the United States for 4 hours every day. My teacher, Vilma, was more organized and focused on grammar and note taking. The combo of the different teaching styles and the almost opposite skills Eric and I have in learning a new language were great when we brought them together.
Every Thursday all the staff and students gathered, anywhere from 5-10 people, to make a traditional Guatemalan dinner. We made tamales out of potatoes, stuffed with chicken and salsa, tamalitos made of corn with a plant filling, and chuchitos, smaller corn based tamales, again stuffed with chicken and salsa. The salsa is basically pureed tomatoes with added spices and a chile here and there. We learned the process of making the dough, or masa. It starts with boiling the corn kernels, then taking the cooked kernels to the large grinder in town to get a dough like consistency, and slowly adding water, oil and salt to reach the correct flavor and texture for what we were making that evening. All amounts were measured by taste test, of course. And it turns out Eric was way better at making corn tortillas than I was. While we waited for the food to cook, we played bingo, or loteria, to win beers or a bottle of Eric’s new favorite liquor, Quezalteca.
We spent one Saturday hiking the nearby inactive San Pedro Volcano. They prefer to not let you in the small park without a guide, so we hiked three hours up and one hour down with Juan who talked to us about the local trees, flowers, fields of coffee and corn, and excitedly collected pinecones as he went.
Another weekend was spent in Antigua, a colonial town about three hours away from Lake Atitlan. We left Pedro behind and took a bus to get to the city to avoid battling the steep road into San Pedro more times than we had to. Antigua was beautiful. The streets were cobblestone, with colorful buildings and well maintained architectural details. We stayed at a funny little hostel run by a Russian couple. She insisted we pick our pillows out of a stack of 10 to make sure we were comfortable. And one evening she organized a potluck and cooked all of us crepes and Russian dumplings. We explored the markets, enjoyed breakfasts out and watched the currently active volcano emit puffs of smoke every 30 minutes.
Overall we truly enjoyed our stay in San Pedro. We avoided most of the touristy zone except for amazing fish tacos and liter beers one Friday. Eric bonded with Ventura about the amount of dirty, mean, shoeless young travelers hanging out around the town. Ventura doesn’t have much but he says even he has at least two pairs of shoes. It rained almost every afternoon and we had some beautiful and intense evening thunderstorms. We also got to meet some other travelers, Jaye and Kyle from Oregon of www.oursouthernexposure.com, travelling south to Panama in a blue Subaru. It was great to meet travelers of similar age and mindset!
This time in San Pedro concludes our Guatemalan adventure and we are on to the next country!