Yo No Hablo No Bueno Espanish

A week learning Spanish in San Pedro on Lake Atitlan.

The ride from Xela to San Pedro is only 51 miles but it was a slow two hours of riding because of heavy fog, rain, and the nice pavement turns into rubbish as you descend down steep narrow switchbacks down the mountain to the lake. I heard there was a recent robbery in between two of the towns along the route so I stuck close to the microbus that was heading down the mountain. Half way down the fog cleared and I saw why so many people love this area.

Once the fog cleared I was greeted by the sight of Lake Atitlan and Volcano San Pedro

Once the fog cleared I was greeted by the sight of Lake Atitlan and Volcano San Pedro

The road to San Pedro

The road to San Pedro

This just makes it more fun

This just makes it more fun

Lago Atitlan from the road to San Pedro

Lago Atitlan from the road to San Pedro

IMG_1069Lake Atitlan is a large lake filling an old volcanic crater. It’s the deepest lake in Central America and has no rivers flowing out of it to the sea. Recently the water levels have continued to rise drastically due to high rain fall. San Pedro la Laguna is one of a few small towns along the shoreline of the lake.

I’m studying at Flor de Maiz Spanish School and staying with a family just next door to the school.

My simple accomodations. Cozy.

My simple accomodations. Cozy.

Monday through Friday I’m studying from 8am-12. My instructor is Jose who co-runs the school with Javier. We study for 2 hours and then have a coffee and snack break together. Then it’s back to studying. There have been some frustrating moments trying understand the different rules of conjugation but I’m getting it.

First things first. Morning coffee.

First things first. Morning coffee.

Spanish class Hour 1

Spanish Cass: Hour 1

Spanish Class: Hour 3

Spanish Class: Hour 3

Spanish Class: Hour 4

Spanish Class: Hour 4

Snack time

Snack time

There are only 5 students here this week and coincidentally two of them are also riding their motorcycles to South America. Kyle and Trevor are friends from Alberta and are riding DR650s. Staying in the house with me is Damien, an Aussie who’s taking a few months to explore Central America.

Damien, the Aussie

Damien, the Aussie

In the afternoons after school, Damien, Kyle, Trevor, and I would go explore the area.

Kayak rentals. 2 hours for $3

Kayak rentals. 2 hours for $3

Trevor, me, Kyle, and Damien

Trevor, me, Kyle, and Damien

Swimming and rock jumping at Lake Atitlan. This is Trevor diving from the tree.

Swimming and rock jumping at Lake Atitlan. This is Trevor diving from the tree.

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Hiking up the volcano to Jose and Javier’s farms

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Lake Atitlan

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This path on the volcano has been used by the Mayans for hundreds of years.

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Jose, like most people in San Pedro, has a small coffee farm.

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When the coffee beans start turning red they are ready for harvest

Looking over San Pedro la Laguna

Looking over San Pedro la Laguna

San Pedro is a small town with a clear separation between the town and what the locals call “gringolandia”. That’s mostly the waterfront area where hostels, Spanish schools, bars, and restaurants cater to the travelers.

The beginning of Gringolandia

The beginning of Gringolandia

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The Chicken Bus

The Chicken Bus

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Gringolandia has a lot of perks. Like the best carrot cake I’ve had in my life. I think I came here everyday. The best carrot cake in the world and for only $1.

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Great coffee is everywhere here since it’s grown on the hills surrounding the town.

I hadn’t seem this many white people in a while. I played trivia at the Alegre Pub the first night and met Moto Mikey there. He got out of the military and is riding his F800 GS from Alaska to Argentina and maybe beyond. I also met Johnny from Alabama or Louisiana who’s riding south too. I was wondering when I would start seeing other ADVRiders. turns out a bunch of us are in San Pedro the same week. Mike, Trevor, Kyle, and I will be on the same boat sailing to Columbia next month.

The family I’m staying with through the school is so nice. Demiss, his wife Alena and their three kids. Alena’s mom, Ana, comes over to cook breakfast and lunch everyday. At night we go to Alena’s grandmothers house for dinner. Alena and Demiss both are Spanish instructors and they were so helpful asking us what we learned each day and corrected us when needed, which was often.

Ana cooking in her kitchen. Almost everyone uses wood burning stoves.

Ana cooking in her kitchen. Almost everyone uses wood burning stoves.

Mayan women are pros at making tortillas

Mayan women are pros at making tortillas

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Demiss’s brother coaches an indoor soccer team so we went to cheer them on at the championship match. These guys were good. Many people from the town came out to watch. I enjoyed doing what the locals participated in. Later in the week we went to see Demiss’s basketball team play. When we weren’t doing anything else we’d hang out at Javier’s house and help prepare their harvested beans and maize for drying.

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Javier's daughter, Magdalena, playing with the bag of beans.

Javier’s daughter, Magdalena, playing with the bag of beans.

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Javier and Jose started the school in 2005 after both of them were unhappy at the schools they were teaching at. I love that unhappiness can be a catalyst for good things in life. For them they made their own school and it’s a wonderful place. Not that I was unhappy where I was at, I love Roadtrip Nation, but when there’s that voice or feeling that you gotta make a change, go for it. For me it’s the challenge of completing a 14,000 mile motorcycle trip and along the way, the experiences of connecting with people in new places.

On our last night we had a big fiesta to celebrate. I tried to learn how to make tortillas and lets just say tortilla making is an art.

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Can you guess which tortilla I made?

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No, I didn’t really make all these

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For more info on Flor de Maiz Spanish School visit their website at http://fdmspanishschool.org/main/

$160 for 6 nights, 5 days of instruction , 4 hours per day, plus 3 meals a day and housing. Highly recommend this school. Great people. My Spanish has improved a ton. I just need to keep practicing and memorizing more.

Comments

  1. Stephanie says

    I can almost smell the fresh coffee and homemade tortillas. Glad your Spanish is improving, hopefully that will help on your journey South.

    • Cheryl Roberts says

      Love your posts – Atitlan was one of our favorite spots. I laughed at your tortillas. Wish I had pictures of MY first attempt at making tortillas. Just suffice it to say, we couldn’t use them for anything! The village lady teaching me actually apologized to my husband.

  2. Jaime says

    I LOVE this post! Too bad my students can’t drink beer at school! ;)
    Seems like an awesome place! What a beautiful area!
    Your blogs are helping me see my world differently! I’m taking in more of the simplicity that exists around me….the faithful crossing guards on the street corner who have been on their corner smiling each day and helping kids make it safely to school since at least I started working in Bridgeport in 2009… probably before then. It’s the same two ladies, day after day, week after week, year after year. Also, the foliage has finished; the leaves are mostly down, but the amazing beauty they brought was breathtaking this year! The sound of the church bells on the town green two miles away can be heard from my house as the clock strikes the hour and the whistle of the train can be heard sporadically in the distance.
    I often start my day….if I were to blog about my day like Dan is, what would I write? What pictures would I post? Thanks for helping to give me a fresh perspective on my own adventure in life!

  3. Rachel says

    Loved this post!! It’s fascinating how many other world travelers are out there exploring just like you (especially by bike specifically). Loved your tutoring photos too- funny stuff.

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