Published: February 13th 2012January 27th 2012
The day had finally arrived. We were about to start Spanish school, a very distant thought not long ago for us. In order to move to our new place, we got up nice and early so we could still make it to school on time. For breakfast, we bought a couple of chocolate muffins from the panderia (bakery) right around the corner. We probably shouldn’t have done that ‘cause they were so delicious you didn’t want to stop eating them. And we all know Nate has a serious weakness for chocolate! We made our way down the steep hill and over to our new home for 4 hours a day. When we got there, everyone was having coffee and tea while socializing with the rest of the students. When 8:00am rolled around, we were still asleep but were introduced to our new teachers and made our way to the little huts situated in a large garden setting overlooking the picturesque Lake Atitlan. Most of the places to choose from made for a great atmosphere to learn in. That is, unless your teacher is late and you get stuck by the bathroom, listening to people pee and the family next door making
tortillas, playing music and ignoring their crying children! Jessie was lucky enough to experience the annoying chorus of noises quite often.
It was pretty easy for Nate’s teacher to know where to start. Hmmm, you don’t know shit? Well, how about the ABC’s and 1-2-3’s? Although you might start at the very beginning, it doesn’t take you long to start cramming all kinds of new material into your brain. Nate’s teacher actually spoke in Spanish the entire time, but made sure he understood everything in English before moving on. Jose and Nate were a match made in Heaven, if you can say that about a teacher and a student. Jose was a young guy, had gold teeth resembling fangs (no joke) and an attitude to match. Jessie on the other hand, didn’t have the best teacher for her the first week but absolutely loved Clarita, who she got to spend 2 weeks having girls talk and laughing with. Before we knew it, it was time for a little snack break. We were pretty impressed that the school went out and bought local snacks for us while on break so we could try chuchitos, tayuyos, toastadas, cakes and cookies. All
in all, the first day went pretty well and for the first time in a LONG time, we had homework to do! It’s funny how when you’re in high school or college, that’s the last word you ever want to hear. Yet here we are ASKING for homework so we could practice in the afternoon. Isn’t it amazing how different school can be when you actually WANT to be there?
As soon as class was over, we made our way up to the market in town to do a little shopping in order to cook up some lunch. At this point we weren’t even close to being sick of tacos, so that’s exactly what we were going to eat except this time Jessie was cooking what we had been eating at the cafe. While we were in the kitchen, there was a little girl who lived with her parents (the owners of the hotel). She quickly took the opportunity to introduce herself to us and before we knew it we had a little shadow for the remainder of the time we were there. She was in awe of the bracelet collections we have going on, but there was one
in particular she wanted. We were already glad we had brought some things to give away on this leg of our trip as we grabbed a glow in the dark bracelet and put it around her wrist, cupping it to show her it glowed. You gotta love how excited little kids get over the smallest things. She couldn’t wait to show off her new jewelry to the rest of the family. The best part though, was that from that point on, every single blond girl who walked in from the street was Jessica. We could hear her yell from a half a block away when we were coming, “Yessica!!” Not only that, but little Mayle even named her little stuffed bear after J. How frickin’ cute is that?
Like good students, we religiously worked on our homework right after lunch. There was a nice place to sit on 2 different terraces where you could enjoy the sun while doing your homework. This would become our daily routine for the next few weeks. We get up, eat on the way to school (many times more chocolate muffins – those things are like crack I swear!), come back and eat lunch,
study and maybe go to an activity at school, got to bed early from having a fried brain and do it all over again the next day. The Coopertiva provided a range of different things you could do at night. There were movies being shown, speakers who would educate you on the culture, and every Wednesday was salsa night.
The next couple weeks went by pretty fast for us as we stayed PLENTY busy every day. It seemed as though we were doing something non-stop from the time we woke up until the time we went to sleep at night. However, the hard part for us was being in the same place for so long. We’d be spending a whole month in San Pedro! Don’t get us wrong, the town is really nice, safe, and full of plenty friendly locals, especially when you go into the pueblo away from “gringo landia.” Sure we were going a bit stir-crazy, but we also got do some things we had never done before. For instance, how many of you have heard of a choco banana? Yeah, us neither. It’s literally a frozen banana dipped in chocolate as a little desert on a
stick. The dangerous part is that you can get them for as little as about 20 cents. Taking some salsa lessons one night was another first for us. We quickly realized it was going to take a lot of practice before even coming close to being good. Give us a few cocktails and some club music or reggaetone and we’ll break it down, but salsa was a totally different style. The speaker we attended told us the tragic history of the racism in Guatemala against the Mayan people. Once again, a very sad story but atleast one that is getting better each year that passes. And the two documentaries that we saw were both interesting and depressing.
On a positive note, one thing we especially liked about the Cooperativa was that they helped the community. Every other week the teachers will take their students to the homes of the families that part of the paid tuition is helping. They give you a bag of items to take to them, most non-perishable food, and we threw in some goodie’s for the kids of course. The lady Jessie visited was so happy that she cried almost the entire time she was
there giving her multiple hugs for the small toys she had brought for her son. It’s really nice to be able to actually see exactly who the money is going to.
It started to become a little weird for us to be in such a “normal” routine again. The last time we were in a routine like this was when we were still in the USA and working! The past year has been nothing but flying by the seat of our pants and changing our plans at the very last minute all the time. There would be none of that while we were in school, but we knew we needed to buckle down for a while if we really wanted to be as fluent as possible after the next 7 months or so. During our time as school we had met plenty of cool people to hang out with and ended up drinking with them most weekends…a good time to give the brain a rest! One Sunday however, had a specific purpose as we went to a bar playing the Packer game. Too bad we watched them get there ass’s handed to them while listening to a bunch of
New York fans cheering them on. It was not a happy afternoon for us. Obviously this wasn’t going to ruin our whole day, but, you know. Then again, maybe it was a blessing in disguise so we would stop drinking so much beer and go home to get some rest!
One afternoon, we decided we wanted to go to a small restaurant/coffee shop to get a little something to eat and a coffee to keep us going for a few hours while studying some more. They actually had really good sandwiches here and it was nice and quiet to work on some Spanish homework. However, we were about to have something we weren’t expecting. Out of nowhere, the entire building started swaying back and forth from a small earthquake that had just hit in Mexico. This is by far Jessie’s least favorite destructive act of nature. She instantly had that look on her face like she was trying to choose between cutting off a finger and jumping off a building. I’m actually kind of surprised she didn’t leave a mud pie in her pants. When we looked across the street, there were a couple of guys pointing to the
building we were in as it moved side to side for a few seconds. We have to say, it’s kind of scary to feel something like that when you’re surrounded by volcanoes. The last thing we wanted was to see some crazy puff of smoke lingering in the air close to us. Luckily it wasn’t anything serious, but it was definitely enough to get your heart racing for a little bit.
One, we were hoping to be able to go kayaking on Saturday morning. Unfortunately, when we got to school, the wind still hadn’t died down. There was no way in hell you were going out on that lake in a kayak when the wind was blowing hard. We wouldn’t even want to be on a BOAT, let alone a kayak. Instead, we went for a hike to the “playa” (beach), which was pretty much non-existent at this point. Not long ago, they had 20 straight days and nights of rain that raised the lake level by about 50 feet! The natives who have lived here a long time know that this is just the way it works here. The water level slowly drops more and more every year
until a new cycle comes around and the lake is re-filled. The bad part is that there were plenty of people in the small towns surrounding it who lost their home from flooding. Even though it wasn’t quite like kayaking, we still enjoyed being able to get some exercise outside of town.
Even though we had already been to the market in Chi Chi, we decided we would go again just for something to do for a change of scenery. This time however, there were a LOT more people going with us…as in an entire minibus of tourists. Obviously we already knew what to expect at the market, but one thing we didn’t see last time was the most colorful cemetery we’ve ever seen. It really was a beautiful sight. We pretty much knew what we wanted to buy before we got there. Jessie bought some typical Guatemalan colored pouches, and Nate finally got his machete that he wanted to badly. Yes, he’s really going to carry a monster ass knife on his small pack. Last time we were at the market we didn’t really eat anything, but this time was a little different. Nate decided to try some
fried chicken with fries, and believe it or not, Jessie had one little bite and immediately wanted her own. It seems like it’s hard to go wrong with fried chicken in Guatemala. Most of the rest of the afternoon was full of us turning down kids begging us for money from every direction, including a couple of little girls who followed us for about 20 minutes, pleading to us to buy them a coca-cola. Sorry ladies, that’s just not going to happen…especially when you look at their mouths and all you see is a mouthful of rotting teeth. Jessie told them all the sugar was bad for their teeth, but of COURSE they weren’t going to give a shit about that, after all…they’re kids.
Our ride home this time was a little more annoying than the previous one. Between the people in the back trying to play the instruments they just bought at the market and the little girl who was literally shouting and running up and down the aisle of the bus, we were ready to get out. This probably sounds really bad of us, but we were hoping she would go flying onto the ground after about
15 minutes of annoying behavior just so she would learn a lesson. Of course her parents didn’t say a word to her. It probably didn’t help that this wasn’t our first experience with this little one. Her and her family were staying at the same place as us. The first time we met her, she latched onto Nate in about 5 seconds, smothering his arm and leg with kisses. He was so confused he didn’t even know what to think! As soon as she was done with that, it was time for her to touch all of the food we were trying to make for lunch while taking water from the sink and tossing it at random people in the kitchen. At least she wiped her hands dry after a while, too bad it was on Nate’s clothes. When we went up to our room to eat (since the kitchen was pretty full), she literally followed us into your room and started jumping on our bed. Of course we kicked her out politely, but we were shocked when we looked across the other balcony and noticed her parents had seen the entire thing and not said a word to her.
You really can’t get mad at the kid for being attention deprived, but we couldn’t believe how much her parents just ignored her and sent her off on her own to play around the hotel all day.
We got a message from some friends telling us of a tragic accident that their shuttle had while on the way from the lake to Antigua. Now this is the same company we used to go to Chi-Chi and had recommended to them. They told us that they were on driving on a sharp corner with no shoulder when a motorcyclist was coming at them and neither the driver of their shuttle or the motorcyclist had anywhere to go. In an instant, the motorcyclist was run over and our friend (a nurse) was out of the shuttle checking the man’s vitals. Unfortunately, he died on the scene with his entire family there to witness the tragic event since they were following in the car behind. Things can happen just that fast, and not only did we feel bad that we had told them to use the travel company but were also greatful we only had to deal with an annoying bus full of
people! Lesson learned, life is precious and anything can happen at any point in time.
During our last week of school in San Pedro we had a hard time wrapping our heads around the month that had just passed. But we have to admit, after just a few more days that week we were ready for a break. It can get fairly redundant going to school if you’re committed and really focus on learning. At least this week was a little bit different. For instance, we had dinner at Clarita’s house, Jessie’s teacher, one night. We felt very honored to be invited and had a GREAT time with her and her family. Her 2 little kids were some of the cutest we’ve ever seen, and she loved seeing pictures of our travels from the past year or so. It’s always nice to meet such amazing local people not to mention eat at a house with a wonderful cook. Another difference this week was Nate was going to learn all of the bad words he could think of in Spanish. Oh yes, he came up with quite a list and thoroughly enjoyed translating them into Spanish with his teacher. It
was very amusing to us that most things don’t translate exactly. What seems like a very bad word in English just doesn’t quite sound the same in Spanish. For example, “go f*** yourself” translates to “go walk in shit.” We had a ball telling the other students this and having a few laughs.
On our last day, we crammed in as much learning and reviewing as we could, and Nate took an exam at the end of class. By that time his brain was absolutely spent and he couldn’t remember a damn thing. Do you remember those commercials that showed and egg and said, “This is your brain.” Then it was cracked and it began to fry with the saying, “This is your brain on drugs. Any questions?” Well, obviously Nate isn’t on drugs but he felt like his brain was just a fried. We definitely had a good time in San Pedro, but we couldn’t wait to move on at the same time. Of course we couldn’t leave without going to the bi-weekly dinner provided by the school for all of the teachers and students. It was a nice way to end our time at school followed by
some drinks with friends to say goodbye.
We would highly recommend The San Pedro Coopertiva as a Spanish school. The setting is beautiful, the teachers are great and we met a lot of wonderful people while there. Plus, you can’t beat the prices:
Hours/Just Classes/Classes and Homestay (all prices in USD)
4/$95/$155 (most common option)
We would advise against using Casa Verde for your transportation, even though they are the cheapest. There is a reason for that! Atitlan Travel is much more organized and the woman that runs that shop is a sweetheart.
There are more photos below