We've been in Xela for a month. We leave this weekend. We had a little fiesta tonight and then a graduation potluck at our school. I'm a little sad. We walk down the street and know people. We've figured out how things work around here, and I have a fair grip on Spanish. The kids have made friends, both young and old, and although school is hard, it's very rewarding. We are collectively known as the Familia Patton, which I love.
As the guide books will tell you, Xela is a real Guatemalan city. It's gritty and honest, and there is just enough splendor and antiquity amongst the mayhem to keep it all mesmerizing. I've come to appreciate everything that it throws at us. One thing that you quickly learn is that there is no room for comparisons. I can't compare Guatemala to home. It would be a disservice to both. I feel very sentimental about Guatemala. Both the people and the place grab at you in unexpected ways. As you walk down an average street there is a roller coaster of sensory assault....everyday modern life and commerce, ancient culture and women in centuries old mayan garb, baskets on head and babies on back, dog poop, human poop, flower stalls, cobblestones and motorcycles, fresh bread and pupusas, and 8 inch wide sidewalks. Life is pulsing. There is no such thing as personal space in Guatemala. If you groove on your daily habits and have strict notions as to diet and hygiene, stay home.
But I will be ready to relax a bit! This trip was very loosely planned. We knew we would go to language school. We did a bit of research (not much) and found one that felt right and fit the budget. We were lucky and it's been a perfect fit. Our apartment is above another language school, one that it is touted as the best, but from what I've heard and seen, our experience was much more intimate and family like. For those interested in the details....the name of our school is Ulew Tinimit and here's the link. We had initially contacted a Catholic monastery outside of Xela that had a language school and thought we would study there. It was cost prohibitive and now I'm so glad. While I'm sure it would have been fine, we would have been completely isolated from 'real life' in Xela. Planning from afar, it felt 'safe and familiar. But we didn't come this far to isolate ourselves and I have loved every minute of the bustle of Xela, both gritty and bonita!
We planned on taking the month of January to plan for February and February to plan for March. If you're a type A person, you might want to stop reading. Our plans change all the time. We talk with fellow travelers and glean new insight. What they loved, what they hated....In Central America, reservations are rarely necessary for hostels, buses or airplanes. It's not the way things work at this level of travel. From here we will go back to Antigua for a few days, then catch a bus to Honduras. We will stop in Copan Ruinas for a few days, then make our way to La Ceiba, where we will catch a ferry to the Bay Islands. Utilla, to be exact. We hope to get our scuba certification and catch the whale shark migration. Some of our school friends are headed in the same direction, so it should be a blast.
It's been hard writing about this trip because there is so much to say. So so so much. I will try to narrow it down and get busy, but I have a feeling that the Honduran jungle is not well-wired for internet!
As far as I know, we'll come back into Guatamala and explore the western side of things....Tikal, Semuc Champey, Livingston and the Rio Dulce. After that? Maybe El Salvador and Nicaragua, if time permits. We had planned on Costa Rica and Panama but there won't be time, and most travelers we've met don't recommend Costa Rica. Go figure. Three months is feeling like way too little time to see it all. I will say this. From here forward, our life will be different. Not sure how, but sure that it will!
Remind me to tell you about:
Going to Guatemalan Church....awesome
How Della got trapped in a narrow tube in Central America's largest water park....all's well that ends well!
The Wonders of the Guatemalan Medical System .....wish I didn't know, but I do. (unrelated to above!)
The Chicken Bus ride from hell....a story that we will be telling for the rest of our lives, Lewis in particular.
What we are reading on the road.....we are like the bookmobile!
Social Justice in Guatemala....is there any good answer....not really, but hope rules the day.
Trama...a women's collective worth your time