I had arranged to live with a family recommended to me by Kathy (mentioned above), but when I arrived at the school, they told me that the student they had wanted to extend their stay over the weekend and would I mind living with Luis's parents not too far away. So I moved in with Tula and Fransisco who live on the edge of town, in large house set in a large parcel of land fronting the lake. Apparently the are the wealthy family of San Pedro. Both were teachers until they set up a restaurant after retirement. The student accommodation was a block of four en suite bungalows, set a short distance from the main house, and fronted by a verandah on which swung a huge hammock.
Very nice I thought. I settled in. That night we went out for food with Chris. The next 3 days I was treated to fabulous meals cooked by Tula, in lush green surroundings,
accompanied by parrots that croaked 'Hola!'
At night it was so dark you could not see any shadows at all. In the morning I would watch the sun rise over the lake,
and after breakfast of fresh fruit salad and coffee, I would stroll down the sandy road, lined with women sitting on doorsteps or small walls, selling anything from fruit to nuts, scarves (bufandas) and hair bands, and onto the main road and into the centre of town and the Spanish school.
It was a very pleasant 20 minute walk along a road which skirted the lake surrounded by mountains. At night David would walk me back and we would pick our way through the extensive garden in pitch black to my bungalow. I was the only student and it was a bit eerie at night. Although I had muted that I could stay with the family for the two weeks, in the end I decided to move closer to town where Leti and Luis live.
So on Sunday I moved in with Leti and Luis, and their children, Iles 16yrs, Tuli 10 yrs, and Little Luis 18 months and Elena who helps out. My room was lovely, clean comfortable and decorated with pink hearts.
Decoration of internal walls is very rare in Mexico and so far in Guatemala. They are usually just left the grey of the cement. I settled in and considered myself very lucky to be in such a nice home, given how many folk live here. Tuli is a bright chirpy little girl who offered to take me around the town. So we booked a date and she took me to the Parque
and back home-the black door on the right is the door to the garden of the family I stayed with.
Alongside this was Spanish school. My maestro was Lorenzo.
He too was recommended by Kathy. She told me that he is very keen on grammar, so I thought I would dive in at the deep end and see if I would sink or swim. She also mentioned other teachers, all of whom have different styles, but I felt I needed to learn some grammatical structure before working with a teacher who has a more relaxed style.
And that is what I got. Lorenzo soon proved to be an excellent teacher, well informed, organised, thorough, interesting, speaks excellent English and has a good sense of humour (bien humor). Though I did pull his leg about having 'mal humor' at times, when he said I was being grammatically lazy!!
Anyway he provided a good balance between formal grammar and experience in conversation. His office offers spectacular views across el lago, and beats any office I have ever worked in!
Before classes I would pop in to see David in his dwelling as it was on the way to my school. Afterwards, we would pass each other on our way to our respective families for lunch, then each have a siesta, do some homework, or participate in one of the school activities. Then we would head for Cafe Atitlan
a little gem we discovered behind the Bhudda Bar (follow the coloured coffee beans on the ground). Where we met Berna,
a wonderful host, who offered us a free espresso at every visit and 15% off our purchases as an opening gesture. The coffee, as delicious, it is grown here, the food scrumptious , the setting relaxing, and ideal for doing homework under a palapa in the garden. We found ourselves telling everyone we met about our little find.
In the evenings, we would head back to our hosts for supper, then reconnoitre either to see one of the films on offer in cafés and bars, or we would just meet up briefly in-between doing homework. It has been a lovely experience, having some space in a home with my own room and bathroom, and popping to see David for a few minutes or hours. Rather like living in the nurses home of 30yrs ago when I was a young-un. The space was small but mine!!
On Sunday I bought a bus ticket to Chichicastenanga market.
David the shopping phobic stayed at 'home'. It was a two hour bus journey, first back up the steep, winding and pot-holed road into San Pedro. I am amazed how tuc-tucs, buses and trucks don't collide as they drive on the wrong side of the road around hairpin bends in order to avoid huge holes. But rather like the Italians, it is a matter of honour to take risks and survive. The tuc-tucs are little red three-wheeled dodgem cars which for 5 Quetzalis will take you anywhere is town. The pick-up trucks
(you climb up and sit or stand in the back, with the wind in your hair!) take you along main roads usually for 2 Quetzalis. There are about 12-13 Quetzalis to the pound! Having been in one on the way back from Santa Clara, surrounded by fruit, it was a hair-raising journey as we rocked and rolled over lumps and holes.
Anyway Chichi market was a riot of colour
tastes and smells 1845.
I explored the market with two girls I had met, both from France and called Carina and Julie. The place to eat when the market is in full swing is usually in the centre of it, where lively kitchens bustle with activity.
The church in Chichi is significant because it is where the first book of Mayan genesis was discovered buried in the alter.
Surrounding the church the 18 steps up to which represent one month of the Mayan calendar and were covered with flowers and people each sat on a particular step
We decided to leave San Pedro the day after finishing Spanish lessons. So all packed up I hailed a tuc-tuc to take me and my bags round to David's, only to find him still in bed suffering with diarrhoea and vomiting. It had started at about midnight and was still in full swing. He looked pale and interesting, and was clearly not able to ride the bike. So I arranged for him to stay an extra night with his family 'sin comida'-without food, and loaded him up with gatorade. As he pooed and slept
I looked for a place to stay. My family already had my room booked so I could not extend my stay with them. Eventually having checked out a few hotels, I decided upon a bit of luxury and booked into the Hotelito El Amancer
which fronts the lake. How nice to have another clean, comfortable room, good shower, and a beautiful view
all for 176 Quetzalis, about £15. This is expensive here where you can book a room for £2-3 a night. But often these rooms are very basic, as I have mentioned previously, services are variable. I woke to watch the sunrise and enjoy birdsong and quacking ducks.
David arrived early, looking a bit perkier than the day before but still not strong enough to ride the bike, so we decided to stay another day. I was hoping the extend my stay at the hotel but had to wait to see if a vacancy arose during the morning. In the meantime, we went for breakfast to the Cafe Atitlan, I wrote some postcards (I still send them even though we have the Blog and emails because I think they are nice to receive). Then David lazed, and recharged his batteries in the hammock outside my room,
whilst I updated the Blog. Later we went for a stroll observing daily life
Rosario sits in the back of the shop sewing in the dark, doing alterations and making clothes. Here you can see lots of hammocks and rails of clothes. We posted some postcards
This is the only post office. Mail does get delivered to homes here, but it means closing the post office so the person serving can do the delivery round. Then we headed down quiet lanes
to Santiago Dock
where the Lancha (boat) departs for Santiago across the lake andwhere folk were going about their daily business
and here unloading the 'chicken bus of fruit and veg and flowers
The lake rose 6 feet last year due to fierce rain and flooded this and other buildings 1951 We ended up at Cafe Atitlan for lunch
San Pedro is a lovely quaint, hippy town with lots of small places to eat and have coffee, to sit and look out over the lake and volcanoes, browse the local stalls and market, have a massage, or do yoga or meditation. Being here for 2 weeks at the school and living with a family, visiting shops and bars, buying 'banana bread' or nuts from a street seller, etc, it is easy to get to know local folk and other travellers. Soon we were settled into a very easygoing community where every turn we bumped into someone we knew or someone we would get to know. I have really enjoyed being here. It has nourished my heart and soul and I can see why many travellers arrive and never leave!