San Pedro and my Attempts to Learn Spanish

San Pedro Travel Blog

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Leaving Antigua... the towns main arch.

We left Antigua on the 8th Oct and caught a shuttle to a town on lake Atitlan called Panajachel - the main town with the most transport links.  We arrived fairly late in the day so decided to stay the night and after much indecision and a great amount of harassment by the local ferry touts, we opted for easy accommodation - i.e. right where we were dropped off.  It was a small family run place with three bedrooms called Hospedeje Villa Martita. Once we'd sorted out rooms and beds we split up from the group - we travelled with 3 others from Antigua: Paddy (aka Nikki a German with an Irish accent... ), Lorin and Meghanne from Canada.  Al, Maree, Jules and me headed down to the lake to eat our packed lunches - made up of rolls with avo, a sweet role that tasted like a scone and cool drinks.

Eating lunch by lake Atitlan - sneaky photo.

After navigating our way back past the ferry touts - who were trying to convince us to catch their boats to particular towns across the lake, we found a spot to eat and watch the clouds role in.  It didn't take long for various ladies and kids selling handmade wares to approach us hoping to make some sales... unfortunately for them we're backpackers - both space and money are limited.  Three of the little girls who approached us did score some biscuits off Maree though, the littlest girl actually asked... cheeky!  As the sky got darker and the lake more rough we decided to head back up the main street to find somewhere to have a coffee and read.

On our way we bumped in to Paddy and then Lorin and Meghanne, and the two girls joined us for coffee and hot chocolates.

Walking up the main market street in Panajachel.
  On our way to coffee to wondered along the main street which had market stalls along the way.  They had these cool pipes with little goblin heads on them, if I smoked I'd have bought one because they looked really cool... lol.   Anyway, while we sat at the coffee shop chatting the rain bucketed down, and the chicken buses went passed making the biggest racket ever - the coffee shop was right at a big pick up/drop off point.  From coffee we wondered back down the main road to find somewhere for dinner.  There wasn't much going on in Panajachel, so it was early to bed for an early morning ferry to San Pedro.

Woke early and as a group we headed down for breakfast along lake Atitlan, before our ferry.  We stopped at this really quaint looking restaurant over looking the lake.

Me, Al & Maree at breakfast - before the hair and bug drama.
  Needless to say for me and Maree it did not live up to expectations, unless they included a long black hair in Maree's scrambled eggs and a cooked bug in my rice.  Yuck!  Thankfully we weren't charged for our cr*p breakfast by our 7 year old waiter... I kid you not... (pun not intended, but funny non the less) the kid was no taller than my chest and didn't look older than about 7/8 years.

We missioned around with the ferry touts until they agreed a price to take us over to San Pedro without us having to wait around for more people - they said if they had more people it would be cheaper... we're convinced we got scammed, but it wasn't too expensive in the end anyway.  On arriving at San Pedro after a reasonably calm and picturesque boat ride, we were once again harassed by touts - but this time ones trying to get us to various hostels as they get a cut if they take you there.

Waiting for our ferry.
  This is actually quite annoying as we just wanted to walk along, and they walk ahead making out as if they're taking you to the place that you're heading to anyway.  In the end we ended up at a fairly decent place called the Pinocchio Hostel.

Our first stop was for food at the Buddha Bar where we ate delicious hummus wraps with fries and Canada Dry Ginger Ale.  After lunch we  missioned off to the bank and to look in to studying Spanish at one of the local schools.  We decided to check out the 'Cooperativa Spanish School', and the grounds alone sold us on the school.  The 'classroom' is effectively the surrounding gardens, they have these little open air huts with a single table and chairs for one-to-one tuition.  The gardens also have views over the lake, just divine.

View from the Spanish School
The cost includes a home stay, i.e. staying with a local family who only speak Spanish and eating all three meals with the family.  A great economical way to embed yourself in Spanish.  We decided to start the home stay on the Sunday night and the Spanish classes on the Monday (12th Oct).

When we got back to the hostel we found a group of people having a drink so we joined them for a while after dinner at Irish owned cafe called the Clover, which had great food and was value for money.  We couldn't help eating there a few times before we formally moved in to our home stays.

The following day we decided to kayak on lake Atitlan, which was an activity organised by the Cooperativa Spanish School at no extra cost.  This was the first time I'd ever kayaked, and thankfully (or not.

Kayakying - me working hard.
.. ) Julian agreed to go in a doubles kayak with me as Maree and Al were together in one.  It was really stunning on the lake, serene and picturesque.  I however soon found myself huffing and puffing along as kayaking seriously works the arm muscles and your hand grip, and it didn't help - unbeknown to me - that Jules was periodically taking a break from rowing and leaving me to all the hard work!  Anyway... without him I would have just gone round and round in circles as for some reason I kept veering to the right, so in some ways it was a fair trade off as Jules keep righting us so that we were going straight and not round and round or backwards.  After about an hours kayaking we stopped at a small sand beach and went for a swim - only later did we learn of the raw sewerage that gets pumped in to the lake causing the high weed growth in some areas.
My bed at my home stay... can you see the leopard print under sheet?
  I must say kayaking back was even tougher than heading out there, and my arms kept dying on me leaving Julian to pick up the slack.

Oh I finally sent washing off for cleaning, and I must say the majority of items came back as they were sent in... except for my one bra which is now missing a wire - at least it was old... lol.

On the Sunday we checked out of the Pinocchio Hostel and moved in to our home stays.  Alan and Julian went to two different home stays and Maree and myself went to the same one.  We did this due to the fact that the guys are fairly fluent in Spanish and therefore learning at a much higher level than us girls - who stayed together for safety.  Our host family was not far from the school.  The mom's name was Maria and she had three kids - Lufie (the oldest at 17 years), Juan (around 12 years) and little Ada-Maria (10 years I think) who just loves having students staying at her home.

Pouring rain in San Pedro - at the Cooperativa Spanish School.
  Maria is also looking after her brother's son - Anderson who was very shy and quiet.  Anyway, we (or I should say Maree) spent about an hour trying to communicate with the family.  That eve we headed out to meet Al and Jules at the Buddha Bar for a drink, which was during a black out in the pouring rain - thank goodness for my head torch!

Okay Spanish school... lets just say that I still suck at languages, although perhaps it is just that I need more time to take things in and 5 days intensive Spanish is good but not enough time to actually absorb, learn and practice what you've learned - particularly if you're starting at ground zero like I was.  My teacher's name was Griselda, she was the same age as me, about my height and it often felt like she was laughing at me - I think my errors in her mother tongue amused her no end.

Last day... feeling stressed and over learning Spanish.
  In the end I just laughed at myself, because as they say if you can't beat them... join them.  Griselda did try with me though... but did accept that 5 days was not enough to take my learning very far.  We played word games and practiced sentences - some I found relatively easy, others were so damn frustrating.

Overall I would say that the home stay was worthwhile, despite the fact that I found it somewhat awkward due to the language barrier.  Maria and her family were extremely friendly and kind towards Maree and me, and perhaps staying for several months would result in excellent Spanish.  I can say that at the end of the week I did understand a lot more than when I began, albeit I still struggle to pull out words that perhaps I should now know.

Leaving San Pedro.

At the school we attended one free salsa lesson which was loads of fun, everyone had a laugh and enjoyed themselves.  We also attended the Friday night group dinner with Cuba libres (rum and coke), which I enjoyed until I felt sick... stomach aches the joys of traveling in third world countries.  We left the following day for Monterrico for the Turtle Festival.

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Leaving Antigua... the towns main …
Leaving Antigua... the towns main…
Eating lunch by lake Atitlan - sne…
Eating lunch by lake Atitlan - sn…
Walking up the main market street …
Walking up the main market street…
Me, Al & Maree at breakfast - befo…
Me, Al & Maree at breakfast - bef…
Waiting for our ferry.
Waiting for our ferry.
View from the Spanish School
View from the Spanish School
Kayakying - me working hard.
Kayakying - me working hard.
My bed at my home stay... can you …
My bed at my home stay... can you…
Pouring rain in San Pedro - at the…
Pouring rain in San Pedro - at th…
Last day... feeling stressed and o…
Last day... feeling stressed and …
Leaving San Pedro.
Leaving San Pedro.
Looking through the arch.
Looking through the arch.
On route to Panajachel on lake Ati…
On route to Panajachel on lake At…
On route to Panajachel on lake Ati…
On route to Panajachel on lake At…
Jules looking out at the view poin…
Jules looking out at the view poi…
Looking out over lake Atitlan.
Looking out over lake Atitlan.
Looking out over lake Atitlan.
Looking out over lake Atitlan.
In Panajachel, sitting by lake Ati…
In Panajachel, sitting by lake At…
Sitting by lake Atitlan.
Sitting by lake Atitlan.
Sneaky photo found out by Al!
Sneaky photo found out by Al!
Looking out as the storm rolled in…
Looking out as the storm rolled i…
Looking out as the storm rolled in…
Looking out as the storm rolled i…
Our accommdation in Panajachel.
Our accommdation in Panajachel.
Our accommdation in Panajachel.
Our accommdation in Panajachel.
A parrot living at our hostel in P…
A parrot living at our hostel in …
Walking up the main market street …
Walking up the main market street…
The markets in Panajachel.
The markets in Panajachel.
Some pretty plant in Panajachel.
Some pretty plant in Panajachel.
The same parrot from Panajachel.
The same parrot from Panajachel.
The same parrot from Panajachel.
The same parrot from Panajachel.
Lake Atitlan
Lake Atitlan
The next day at lake Atitlan in Pa…
The next day at lake Atitlan in P…
About to leave Panajachel.
About to leave Panajachel.
One of the volcanoes across lake A…
One of the volcanoes across lake …
Lake Atitlan in Panajachel.
Lake Atitlan in Panajachel.
The small ferry boats that cross t…
The small ferry boats that cross …
Me looking out the side of the boa…
Me looking out the side of the bo…
Looking out over the lake from the…
Looking out over the lake from th…
Jules on the boat ride over to San…
Jules on the boat ride over to Sa…
One of the docks that we stopped a…
One of the docks that we stopped …
A house on the side of the lake...…
A house on the side of the lake..…
Maree playing with a Perro in Sa…
Maree playing with a 'Perro' in S…
Views around San Pedro.
Views around San Pedro.
Sun set in San Pedro.
Sun set in San Pedro.
Sun set in San Pedro.
Sun set in San Pedro.
Sun set in San Pedro.
Sun set in San Pedro.
Me wearing my wet-dry shoes ready …
Me wearing my wet-dry shoes ready…
Jules, Al and Maree... waiting to …
Jules, Al and Maree... waiting to…
The kayaks.
The kayaks.
The kayaks.
The kayaks.
Following Al and Maree - kayaking …
Following Al and Maree - kayaking…
Me and Jules kayaking.
Me and Jules kayaking.
Kayakying...crazy Al.
Kayakying...crazy Al.
Kayaking - Maree and Al.
Kayaking - Maree and Al.
Kayakying - can you see that Jules…
Kayakying - can you see that Jule…
Kayaking.
Kayaking.
Our kayak at the sandy beach.
Our kayak at the sandy beach.
Having a swim in the lake.
Having a swim in the lake.
Having a swim in the lake.
Having a swim in the lake.
Me in lake Atitlan.
Me in lake Atitlan.
Some local kids playing by and old…
Some local kids playing by and ol…
Me posing in a kayak.
Me posing in a kayak.
Jules and me on the kayak.
Jules and me on the kayak.
Lunch post kayaking.
Lunch post kayaking.
A local kitty cat.
A local kitty cat.
Beakfast burrito.
Beakfast burrito.
Attacking my breakfast burrito.
Attacking my breakfast burrito.
Breakfast burritos.
Breakfast burritos.
Al getting a head start on his Spa…
Al getting a head start on his Sp…
The gardens at the Cooperativa Spa…
The gardens at the Cooperativa Sp…
Walking to our first day of Spanis…
Walking to our first day of Spani…
Outside the Spanish School.
Outside the Spanish School.
The welcome sign for the school.
The welcome sign for the school.
One of the classrooms.
One of the 'classrooms'.
One of the classrooms.
One of the 'classrooms'.
Me on day one of Spanish... lookin…
Me on day one of Spanish... looki…
The Cooperativo Spanish Schooll.
The Cooperativo Spanish Schooll.
The grounds around the school.
The grounds around the school.
The grounds around the school.
The grounds around the school.
Me learning spanish - trying to le…
Me learning spanish - trying to l…
Maree learning Spanish.
Maree learning Spanish.
The grounds around the school.
The grounds around the school.
One of the classrooms.
One of the 'classrooms'.
Walking around San Pedro.
Walking around San Pedro.
San Pedro.
San Pedro.
San Pedro.
San Pedro.
Waiting for our shuttle to Monterr…
Waiting for our shuttle to Monter…
Waiting for our shuttle to Monterr…
Waiting for our shuttle to Monter…
San Pedro
photo by: SaffaAussie