September 15th, 2009 – by: Johnb42
Monday and Tuesday lessons
I Had a lively night out with a couple of Irish people from the hostel at a couple of bars in Xela and then moved into my homestay family on Sunday afternoon. Basically with the concept of homestay you live in a room in Guatemalan family house so you are forced to practice your (in my case rather poor) Spanish at the mealtimes with the family. I have my own room away from the main house in a little patio area , share the family shower and toilet which are outside , and get three meals a day in the family kitchen . They actually have 4 guest rooms for students from the Spanish school at their house , but only I have been staying there this week. The family consists of the parents , Cleo and Cesar , in their early 60s , and three grown up children living at home - Cesar Junior , Alexis and Ligia (they also have two other grown up children living in Guatemala City).
Cleo has been taking in students for many years so has lots of stories to tell about the other people who have stayed there and is happy to listen patiently to my Span-glish. They also have two really excitable dogs Nico and Kaiser who have their own kennel in the patio and barked the place down every time I walked in for the first 2 days before they got a bit more used to me .Kaiser decided he really wanted to eat my sandals so I had to recover one of them , rather chewed , from their kennel. It's been great starting my Spanish course but hard work and certainly a bit of a culture shock. I have learnt a fair bit of Spanish already even in the first few days - the tuition is one-to-one with your allotted Spanish teacher and Celas Maya is quite a big school so each day the courtyard , garage and garden are filled with tables of students and teachers learning the language.
My teacher this week is called Carlos and he's been very good - I've enjoyed lots of conversations about Guatemalan football , history , economics and family life. The school recommends you change teacher each week to get used to different accents and styles so next week I will get someone new. I'll be adding to this section as the days progress in my lessons and the activites we do, so stay tuned to see how things go. I'll also be adding pictures little by little all this week!
Wednesday and Thursday
This week the school organised some activities in the afternoons so, I have been out trekking in the hills , to a natural steam room centre called "Las Cumbres" and the best trip which was a really exhausting but very enjoyable mountain bike ride out to a place called Fuentes Gorginas which are natural hot water pools - Going there was nearly all uphill and took about an hour and a half of hard pedalling and puffing - but that meant coming back was a superb downhill run where you cover the same distance in about 20 minutes before we caught a chicken bus back to the city at the end (they put the mountain bikes on the roof .
.. its really amazing the stuff that gets carried on top of the chicken buses - everything from corrugated iron roofing , car tires , sacks of vegetables , bikes , you name it) . Also through a new friend at the Spanish school I managed to find some guys who play 5-a-side football pretty much every day with some local Guatemalans so I can get a game whenever I like, while I'm staying here in the city. Been out every night this week as well - the evenings have been very enjoyable in the bars of Xela and there is a real community of Spanish students in the city who are learning at the many schools which makes for a buzzing nightlife. Originally I was planning to climb a volcano , "Volcano Tajamulco" , this weekend - its a 2 day trek up the highest volcano in central america and leaving at the unearthly hour of 4:45am on Sat morning - but after a week of really "burning the candle at both ends" as the expression goes I decided I needed a more relaxing weekend hanging around in the city and I will do the volcano hike another weekend.
My homestay owners
By coincidence I bumped into Josh , the Irish guy I met in Cancun in a bar in Xela this week - it happens pretty regularly that you seem to meet the same people again - there seems to be a fairly well defined traveller's "circuit" in Central America so even though people are all moving at different speeds and routes , paths have a habit of crossing again at some point.