We are happily settled here in Antigua, Guatemala and enjoying it a lot. Christmas was obviously not the same as being at home with our families, but we made the most of it.
We had a good sleep in because Christmas Eve was incredibly noisy with all the firecrackers and fireworks that each and every household sets off in the streets, or what seemed like directly under our van. After a good pancake and maple syrup breakfast we wandered the streets, joining all the crowds of families.
We had a very festive Christmas dinner with a Mexican theme – nachos. It was an early night though as Boxing Day was the start of our Spanish lessons.
Our school is ‘Antiguena Spanish Academy’ and where we study is in a beautiful garden with avocado, coffee, and banana trees, poinsettias as well as hammocks strung throughout. Pretty darn nice! And the learning espanol thing is going OK too.
We each have our own tutor and study one-on-one for 4 hours each morning. Then we have to do our homework and study in the afternoon or evening, and often find a nice park or cafe around town for this. It’s not stressful but your brain gets overloaded quickly and you get to a ‘maximum memorization’ point. The school also organizes activities around Antigua in the afternoons and we took part in one that walked up to the Cerro de la Cruz or ‘Hill of the Cross’ which is what it says, a look out point on a hill with a cross.
We also decided not to do a Homestay and instead continue to camp in the van at the Tourist Police Station. The price is right at less than $1/day including electricity, use of bathrooms and cold showers, good security and a great location close to the centre of town. Plus its only a 7 minute bike ride to our school. However there are a few downers like the fact that it’s in the ruins of an old hotel and hospital, no shade in the grassy field where we’re parked, lots of biting fire ants, not the cleanest toilets and there is a ‘Peeping Tom’ in the showers. We now also have great camping neighbours, Renee and Denis, who are from Quebec and are also taking Spanish classes. They’ve remedied the problem of cleanliness by doing a complete scrub down of the bathroom and ‘Tom’ seems to have disappeared too thankfully.
On Sunday, our day off, we signed up for a tour to hike up one of the surrounding and active volcanoes, Pacaya. We’ve had beautiful blue skies and sun every day except for that day! It was cloudy and chilly and at the top of the volcano there was a gale force wind and you felt like you were right in the clouds, which you actually were. But it was an experience and we met a lot of other interesting travellers.
New Year’s Eve was great! We joined Renee and Denis on a bit of a walk about town to see all the sights before heading for dinner. After dinner we went back to the crowds and waited for the big countdown.
We were in the central park where there were so many fireworks and crackers that you could hardly hear. It was beautiful with fireworks coming from every direction.
We went back to Ginger for a toast to the New Year and that’s when Dave proposed! He had a ring and everything! It was a great way to start 2013 and we hope you all have a happy and healthy year!