Blogs from Western Highlands, Guatemala, Central America Caribbean - page 103


Two weeks after ChiChi I toke a further three-day break, this time in Xela. A little deflated from poor quality, disorganised, incorrect and unstructured teaching, I've decided to return to private study and maybe resume somewhere else in a few months time, only when I'm confident about the standard of teaching. Still keen to teach English, and realising there was plenty of interest in San Pedro, myself and the boss of my Spanish School have joined together to offer an English teaching programme as part of the school, hence why it's only a break. A windy roads links San Pedro and Xela which our adrenalin filled Chicken bus driver used to test his ability to weave through gaps as he manically overtoke vehicles on blind bends. The ticket collector hanged out of the door to assist ... read more
El Viejo Palmar Escuela
A bridge across the new ravine
The ravine

As a break from Spanish lessons in San Pedro I decided to take a couple of excursions. First off I climbed to the peak of the hill that towers above San Juan. I started early that morning. Walking along the road between San Pedro and San Juan several guides offered up their services while older men armed with machetes ventured off in search of firewood. The morning light and low lying mist created a beautiful vista over the lake, showing it at it´s best and most peaceful. San Juan lacks much of obvious and immediate interest in comparison to it´s neighbours, and subsquently has few visitors. However the town seemed a little more awake there with people bashing away in workshops, shops open, kids selling things in the streets and many people just hanging around with ... read more
The church

There are Mayan villages surrounding the Lake. We stop in Santiago and it is here that I can see the poverty of the Mayan people, who have gotten some pretty crappy deals over the years. As the boat pulls up from the dock natives run to meet you. I am accustomed to this from other countries, but I have never seen it under these conditions before... the dogs on the street look like skeletons, flies swarming around them, I don´t know if they are dead or sleeping. children pulling at my arms and legs, begging for money for food, not all the villages are in this condition, but I am searching for smiles here too...there are smiles everywhere...I just can´t find them here. I don´t want to sound like some kind of world hunger campaign, but ... read more
San Antonio

This weekend was a 2 day excursion to Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan), which is about 2 hours from Antigua. about the lake: the massive Los Chocoyos erruption of 85,000 years ago, which blew volcanic ash as far as Florida and Panama, caused a quantity of magma to expel from below the earths crust and the surface terrain to collapse, forming a huge roughly circular hollow that sooned filled with water - the Lago de Atitlan. Smaller volcanoes rose out of the lake´s southern waters thousands of years later and now surround the lake. The dramatic volcano vistas are what make Atitlan what it is today. (The lake is 300m deep, surface area 128 sq km). - compliments of Lonely Planet. We spend 2 days visiting the Lake and some of the surrounding Mayan villages.... read more

Early morning Saturday we piled into a minivan bound for Panajachel, one of the small towns that surround Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlan) which is a huge lake in the South West highlands of Guatemala. The lake is around 300 metres deep and is serviced by dozens of small passenger boats (lanchas) that take locals and tourists alike between the towns. In September last year this area of Guatemala was ravaged by torrential rain that caused numerous mudslides and casualties. Our speedy drive into Panajachel was often punctuated by the driver slowing down to navigate an area where the road had slid down the mountain we were traversing. On roads at such heights it proved to be a spectacular trip. Just before you come into Panajachel there is a bridge that crosses a large riverbed. The ... read more
The lake
Sunset by the lake

Etter en lang uke med spansk var det endelig helg. Sammen med Judith og Maren fra Holland og Cornelia og Celine fra Tyskland dro jeg til Panahajel ved Lago de Atitlan tidlig lordag morgn. Her i Guatemala er det to maatr aa bevege seg paa, enten med de allerede omtalte chickenbussene eller med det dyrere, men dog mer behagelige alternativet shuttle. Vi gikk for det siste, da det ikke fristet aa staa i to og en halv time i en trang buss paa en svingete vei. 0700 lordag morgen (det er en kjempefordel aa komme hit med jet lag, for da kan man faktisk programmere kroppen til aa ville sove klokken halv ti - ti og staa opp klokken seks) troppet vi opp hos reiseselskapet. Turen til Panahajel betalte vi 36 kroner for og skulle vaere ... read more
Lago de Atitlan
Offentlig baat
Lago de Atitlan fra San Marcos

The day after visiting Santiago Atitlan I continued my mental rest this time with some physical exercise which required little thought - tackling San Pedro Volcän. At 3020m high this would be probably the highest altitude I have climbed to, although starting at just under 2000m made the task seem a lot easier. A hefty entry fee of Q100 (about US$13, less for locals) was necessary with a rather unusual arrangement of being the same price with or without a guide - this basically being to encourage employment, by subsidising this, to strongly encourage people to take a guide (also for security reasons). However I prefer walking at my own pace, alone so I can take in the surroundings better, discussing things later with others. This bemused the guys in the ticket office and they keep ... read more
Morning Mist

I finished my last article a little puzzled about the attitude of many a traveller with some more thought, and help from a book, I have come up with a way to shed a bit of light of this. A few defintions and terms are necessary first. I´m going to borrow the terms from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle maintenance. A simplistic breaking down of human understanding gives two types: Classical and Romantic. Classical being ´primarily one of underlying form´, this basically means seeing things as part of structure where logic rules and things are restricted. And with Romantic being ´primarily in terms of apperance´ which is a little more self-explanatory. Both schools of thought suffer from similar problems and this can be seen when pretentiousness is considered. Classical Pretentiousness to the other school: Here ... read more

....I mentioned to her my idea of volunteering, she dismissively responded saying she saw much volunteering and much charity given but little changing. I explained that it´s small potatoes for what is given with one hand and grab back twice over through the near-hidden means of business and economics. This isn´t to say that it isn´t worth doing the forementioned, and the very fact many people think like this is part of the problem. For example it´s lots of singular votes which makes up an election. But this is little different. The whole development issue isn´t simply a matter of money, it´s much more complex than that. Furthermore few things in this world are completely independent of one another. An example of such a link is increased tourism. Increase tourism doesn´t just bring in money ... read more

Guatemalan history and the recent, lengthy, civil war is in large a story of perscution, racism, injustice and war. Many of it´s fellow Central American countries have suffered from the same fate. Following on from a previous point, this this is the reason why some indigenous people (mostly men) don´t wear the traditional dress, to avoid persecution. It´s typical in Guatemalan society for the men to do the work outside of the home environment and ,as a result, they put themselves in the front line, identifying themselves as supporters of the rebels forces from the civil war (mostly indigenous people though this was a frequent misidentification). My language school owner was one, he sees himself as weak for conforming, compromising with this. Using the same counter argument as used in the Zapatistas stuff, Do you stand ... read more

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