After Nicaragua, I decided to head up to Guatemala, everyone I was bumping into was saying ‘go to Antigua, in Guatemala’, a colonial town in the heart of the Mayan country on Lake Atitlan. Great schools, great adventures to be had with live volcanoes, kayaking and trekking. Also great bars and restaurants and a steady stream of backpackers and tourists so with a loose plan to head up to Guatemala and take some more Spanish classess and learn about the Mayan culture.
So I stopped in Antigua for a couple of days and athough it was a great place with lots of colonial buildings, museums and history, for me there were too many tourists and it was just a bit over comercialised. I quickly looked for an alternative to mix with real Mayan people in their true setting, San Pedro la Laguna looked the ticket, a small Mayan village on the other side of the lake with a language school and a couple of backpackers hostels, just a small boat ride from Panajachel.. so without further ado, I jumped in a minibus to Panajachel , a bumpy 3 hour ride through some of the most beautiful rugged countryside.
Panajachel is a quaint little village with ‘lanchas’ (small transport boats) that go to all the villages along the edge of the lake. After a small wait the lancha came and off we went, it was a multi drop route and I think we were 3rd stop (be sure to cover your gear as it will get wet).
I arrived at San Pedro La Laguna early evening and it was starting to get dark, the usual group of hostel owners and tuk tuk taxis were waiting to attack as you departed the boat. So i went into look for accommodation mode, and before I knew I stumbled across a guy.. who knew a guy who had a language school. Within 10 minutes of arriving I had a school the next day and was staying with a Mayan family in the heart of the village.
I have to say, I loved being in San Pedro La Laguna, it was a beautiful village with most amazing people, friendly, proud to show you around, willing to teach you about the culture.
The school itself was great.. we sat outside in the grounds and studied al fresco on a one to one basis, the climate was ideal, warm and sunny. It was a joy to learn there, I found the Guatemalan way of speaking Spanish was very soft and quite slow unlike Costa Rica or Spain, very easy to understand. (I know I had done a few lessons by now) but I still recommend Guatemala for the beginner Spanish wannabe.
The host family were very accommodating, nothing was too much trouble.. They made sure I had enough food, even if they did without, which made me feel bad and I had to make sure they took their share! Also so that I had a private room, virtually the whole family slept in one bed next door.. They took me swimming down at the lake and introduced me to many of the town elders. A truly wonderful experience.