My trip has officially begun! I left early Wednesday morning from Tampa, and arrived in Guatemala City around midday. I immediately hopped on a van to escape the chaos of the city in favor of Antigua, a small colonial town about an hour west.
Once in Antigua, I dropped my bag off at the Yellow House hostel before aimlessley wandering around the old town. Antigua was once a booming city and the capital of Guatemala; however, a major earthquake in 1773 destroyed most of the town. Today, you can still see many ruins of the original Spanish architecture, particularly quite a few beautiful churches and cathedrals.
After a few hours of wandering, I realized that four days in Antigua was probably going to be way too long without something to do to pass the time (at least for someone with a short attention span like myself). I spoke to someone about climbing a nearby volcano, Pacaya. Clearly I can’t hike, but I was hoping to ride a donkey or something. There are indeed horseback trips up the volcano, but they only go halfway. Lame. The only other things to do in Antigua are either hang out in the surprisingly expensive cafes, or study Spanish. Needless to say, this monoglot on a tight budget went straight to an escuela de espanol to register to start the following day.
That night I went out for dinner and beers with my two dorm-mates, Duncan and John, before crashing into bed.
Thursday afternoon I started my first Spanish lesson: a one-on-one four-hour immersion session that involved my teacher chatting nonstop about God-only-knows while I stared back at her open-mouthed and cross-eyed. I could feel my brain slowly turning into soup. I had no difficulty sleeping that night, and the two days that followed were pretty much the same.
Yesterday, I returned to the hostel from my third and final energy-zapping class to find a full house in the dorm room; miraculously, each and every person was interesting and fun (besides myself, there were two other Americans, an Australian, a German, and a Spaniard). Together we all went down to the nearby plaza to hit the food stalls for dinner, stuffing ourselves with tasty tostadas and beer, before smoking shisha and watching belly dancers at a Mediterranean hotspot.
Today is my last day in Antigua: in just a few hours I’ll be taking a bus to San Pedro, a small town on Lake Atitlan. I’m looking forward to the change, as Antigua is geared for short-term American tourists and therefore way too expensive for my long-haul budget. I’m spending a week (at least) in San Pedro, living with a local family and taking more daily four-hour Spanish immersion classes. I’ve decided not to leave Guatemala until I’m at least 75% fluent, so here’s to hoping my brain starts absorbing!