Sorry for the lack of updates during the last two weeks but one-on-one Spanish classes 5 hours per day have really knackered (Americans please use dictionary) us out. Afterwards it’s homework and school activities in the afternoon, plus whenever we walk through Xela we are being stopped by people we know and don’t know and then practicing our Spanish. In short: we are having such a great time here we just extended school and apartment for a third week!
For the first week in Xela it felt so good to stay in one place that we hardly left the 300 metre radius of the above map. Our apartment is a two minute walk from school. Also, funnily enough, the garage that was recommended to us by Luis in Guatemala City is right on the way. Everything else you need – the best bagels since whenever we had one in NY, 2nd hand Carl Hiaasen books, Señor Hugo to do your washing – can also be found nearby. With NBA playoffs in full swing (and the unusual-to-us time zone convenience), we spent a lot of time at “home.”
In the second week school activities and our own will to explore took us a bit further afield. The Dia de la Cruz holiday fell on Tuesday, and we took an interesting mix of local methods of transport (Minbus, chicken bus, private transport in the empty back of a minibus) to get to the town of San Andres Xecul to check out their church and festival.
Indigenous Mayan religion is still very strong here, which can be seen in the unusual colourful ornamental facade and dome of the (catholic) church as well as some of the rituals.
The special celebration consisted mainly of a dance of what looked like cartoon stereotypes (Puss in Boots, Señor Ding Dong etc) but some of the costumes were supposed to be mocking the Spanish conquistadores.
Mayan culture at its oddest was our visit to the local saint. San Simon can be found in a shed behind a house (just turn left at the drunk guy lying on the floor) and kind of looks like the two bearded guys from ZZ Top got mummified.
On Thursday we went to the sulphurous hotsprings Fuentes Georginas. The drive through lush farmland revealed great with views of the nearby volcanos Santa Maria and Santiaguito.
Friday we skipped school (and took a teacher along) and went to San Francisco El Alto, where the local weekly market counts as one of the largest in Centralamerica – veg, fruit, household goods, electronics, tools, clothes, cloth, chicken, cows, pigs, dogs, cats, new, semi-nuevo, used – you name it!