Guatemala 2008, Antigua, first few days

November 4, 2009 at 5:16 pm
Our favorite place : just outside Cafe Condesa

Our favorite place : just outside Cafe Condesa

The main square

The main square

Class starts at 8am so we leave early. It’s a bit of a zoo at the school with at least 50 teachers hovering. The school, CLI, is housed in a beautiful old building with a garden courtyard and we sit outside at tables for our lessons.My teacher finds me and shocks me by speaking only Spanish. Yes, I know this is Spanish school but I don’t actually know any Spanish, so this is a wake up call. I’m tortured till 10am when we get a half hour break. That’s just enough time for Liora and I to dart off to Cafe Condesa for coffee, muy caliente in my case.

Class ends at 12pm and we reunite as a family. I get a message from the school that Taca airlines has called about our Roatan flights. I have booked a series of flights from Guatemala City to Roatan in Hondura, returning and going on to Tikal. When I look at the message more closely, I see a huge problem. They have us returning on different flights from a different place. Considering Roatan’s an island, and they have us returning from the mainland, this is a mess. We’re not going to be able to swim across to the mainland to get our flight. It’s like booking return  from Seattle to Miami and then being told we’re returning from Atlanta instead. Hallo ? And our Miami in this case is an island.

When I call Taca, of course nobody speaks English. I’ve just had my first Spanish lesson, and can count to 10 and use the verb to be a little (ser and estar), but that doesn’t get me very far. It takes forever to sort it out and when i do, it’s not as satisfactory as the original flights I’ve booked (the one has been cancelled) , but it will have to do. They promise to send me a confirmation email. It’s another travel lesson – things will go wrong, but when they do you have to deal with them before they get worse. And you have to keep your wits about you because you’re not at home in front of your computer researching ; you’re in a foreign place where language can be a barrier, so hold on tight !

More main square, Antigua

More main square, Antigua

That afternoon we go to a children’s home to volunteer. Unfortunately they don’t really need us and ask us to come back the next day. Meanwhile, Liora has been working with the school to find us new accommodation and it appears we will move the next day. So we’re all in better spirits.

By the next day my confirmation email has not yet arrived from Taca, so I’m a little anxious. After school, we try volunteering again, get caught in a terrific downpour, and find out that there’s really nothing for us to do there. Then we go into town and I try sort out the flights issue. I have the same discussion with a Taca agent again, spend an enormous amount of time, but eventually succeed. By evening I have my email.

Antigua

Antigua

Also we move houses. This one is a great improvement. The lodgings are very simple but we have a very pleasant hostess and another couple in the house. The atmosphere at least will be a big improvement.

After class each day, we’re expected back at our host house for lunch. In between class ending and lunch, the kids, excepting Ilani our middle child, go to the market a fe minutes away from school. The market doesn’t look that big as you pass it by but that’s misleading. It’s huge. It has an indoor area that you can easily get lost in, full of produce and clothes. and the outdoor part, which looks from the main drag as if it’s just one lane, actually stretches on and on until it merges with the rambling bus station. It’s great fun and Benjy in particular is proving very adept at his bargaining skills, mainly as he tries to add to his already impressive collection of soccer shirts.

Still by the main square

Still by the main square

Ilani, our middle child, is meanwhile buried in study and research on the school’s computers. He wants to go diving on Roatan and has to learn a lot about it first. He has a pattern of obsessing, so now it’s diving.

Another ritual, one that I  will try sink into and save in my memory is that every afternoon we go to Cafe Condesa for hot chocolate or coffee and do our homework together. It may sound mundane but we’re together in this beautiful old colonial town all engaged in a very similar pursuit. It’s precious. We also enjoy wandering the streets of the old town. Antigua is regarded as one of the greatest of the America’s colonial cities, and although most the old Spanish buildings are in some state of ruin, the cobbled streets and colorful houses, coupled with the festive atmosphere of tourists and students everywhere make for a very pleasant stay.

Downtown, main square

Downtown, main square

On Wednesday afternoon, our third day at school, we  sign up for the school trip a small village, San Andres, to find out about the supposedly wicked saint San Simon, or Maximon. It’s not a popular tour as there are only 2 other students besides us. And unfortunately it’s very poorly organized as well. We’re taking a public bus, which we miss, although we’ve been hanging around for ages to go. Then we get a chicken bus which takes a circuitous route – we have to switch busses somewhere- so by the time we approach where we’re going, two of our kids are feeling sick, and it’s pouring. We get out and are immediately soaked. The roads have become raging rivers so we’re wet through by the time we get to the church. It’s interesting enough, as the patrons approach the statue and seem to get spat on by the attendant. But it’s not quite worth the 2 hour ride and being soaked through. Thankfully the trip back is on a direct bus and we celebrate being back in Antigua with excellent comforting hot drinks at Cafe Condesa.

Antigua streets

Antigua streets

Street scene, Antigua

Street scene, Antigua

Old Spanish ruined building

Old Spanish ruined building

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