Un Viaje a Guatemala

So after having our first flight canceled due to snow in Atlanta of all places, I thought we were going to be good to go on Sunday. I was over at one of my fellow immersees apartment waiting for our 6am flight when another of our group called at 1am to let us know our flight had been delayed yet again and that we were going to miss our connecting flight. Apparently they hadn’t heard of road salt or something in Atlanta so the runways refroze overnight. Fueled by brilliant 1am logic we decided to cancel our flights and switch to a flight that went from DC to Chicago to Houston and then finally on to Guatemala. I never thought I would buy an international ticket 4 hours before the flight left and yet it is amazing how a week of snowapocalypse makes one desperate to escape the cold. Miraculously it worked and managed to be cheaper for me than our original flight. So after all the flight craziness we finally made it to Antigua.

This the church which sits at the edge of the parque central

Antigua is a small, charming town if a bit touristy. We spent a lot of time wandering around among the many, many ruins. Our schedule during the week actually involved a bit more in class time than at FSI, though being surrounded by warm weather and beautiful scenery certainly made it easy to get through. We had four one on one hours a day followed by an hour and a half of reading three times a week. During my one on one sessions I spent a lot of time studying grammar, practicing presentations, and practicing interviewing. I also spent a lot of time drilling how to form the subjunctive in the present and learning the clauses which invoke the subjunctive. I have to admit I didn’t really appreciate how much grammar work I actually manged to get in until I returned and found myself using subjunctive a few times without realizing I was doing it.

Speaking so much in class and practicing everyday outside of class

We hiked up the Volcano Pocaya and were rewarded with being able to stand only a few feet from a river of lava

also helped me get a lot more comfortable using the language too. My biggest problem has probably been  that I didn’t want to speak because I know I make mistakes. Not getting weird looks from people when I made a mistake was definitely a big confidence boost. Well, okay I did get one, but considering I asked the waiter if we could feel ourselves outside instead of if we could sit ourselves out side… yeah that was probably deserved.

The days that we didn’t have lectures we went on excursions which included a trip to a volcano, a coffee farm, a trip down to the embassy, and a cooking class. The volcano was amazing because we were able to stand only a few feet from the lava and roast

Learning how to make chiles relleno

marshmallows. The cooking class was also a highlight; we learned how to make comida tipica including a salad, arroz blanco, and chiles rellenos which are peppers stuffed with meat, dipped in egg and then fried. We also learned how to make rellenitos which were perhaps my favorite Guatemalan dish. It is a mix of plantains, sugar and cinnamon which is then wrapped around sweetened black beans and covered with powedered sugar. It’s one of those dishes which sounds like it shouldn’t work but is amazing.

The real highlight of the trip for me though was the weekend a friend

One of the many amazing temples of Tikal.

and I spent in Tikal. Even though you can do the park in a day trip, we decided to stay overnight, which was definitely a good idea. After sprinting through the park in the morning with the tour group, we were able to go back and see the stuff we missed in the afternoon. Most of the tourists had left for the day and we saw a number of amazing temples and a palace that we hadn’t been able to see on the tour. My favorite was probably the palace, partially because that was where we managed to catch a glimpse of the keel-billed toucan (think Toucan Sam). I wasn’t quick enough to get it on film, but it was huge and amazing. We also saw a smaller toucan with

Another gorgeous temple at Tikal, this one had a nicely preserved carving

a reddish bill, crocodiles, and so many monkeys up close that after awhile we stopped pulling out our cameras. The president of Chile also happened to pick the same weekend to go to Tikal as we did. So on day two in addition to all the wildlife we also spotted random soldiers with big guns stationed periodically on top of the temples or near them. It was a bit surreal to think you were all alone in the jungle and then glance up and see yet another guy with an automatic weapon staring down at you. Just having time to hike through the jungle was fantastic though. I’m defintely hoping to get back to the area while I’m in Mexico and hopefully have a chance to explore the jungle and some of the ruins in Belize. All in all the immersion was fantastic and if nothing else it helped motivate me for this last final push in Spanish.

1 Response to “Un Viaje a Guatemala”

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