Rancho de Rosa: Our host family in San Pedro, Guatemala

Living with a host family has both advantages and disadvantages. Significant advantages are: practicing your Spanish on a daily basis, experiencing Guatemalan life and culture from "the inside", and living in a safe and filling environment (the food is more than sufficient). Some disadvantages might be: lack of privacy, eating at set times (not decided by yourself), and noise because you live with a family with young children.

Rancho de Rosa, San Pedro, Guatemala

We, however, have got the perfect solution. We have rented a house from the amazing family Phillip and his wife Rosa, so we have our own privacy. But we eat our meals with the family in their restaurant "Rancho de Rosa". This way we get to practise our Spanish and be part of a family, but with the option of withdrawing and having our own privacy.

When we met Phillip and Rosa we were looking for privacy after two intense weeks with another family – but had we not already stayed with another family I would have surely wanted to stay in the house with Phillip and Rosa because they are such a lovely and warm couple.

You do not have to stay with them as a student though to eat in their restaurant "Rancho de Rosa". It is open everyday from 9.00-20.00 and you can have very cheap, traditional food there (such as rice with refried beans and platanas for 10 quetzals ($1.50)).

Rancho de Rosa is located next to San Pedro Spanish school (and also works with San Pedro Spanish school) in zone 2 of San Pedro.

If you have the chance to drop by there at any time – please send them my love.

Video: Cooperativa Spanish school in San Pedro, Guatemala

This video shows you the popular Cooperativa Spanish school in San Pedro, Guatemala. It includes footage from the garden, classrooms and interview with the current coordinator of the school.

The cooperativa Spanish school in San Pedro was founded in 2003 and has in five years developed into one of the most recommended Spanish schools in all of Latin America. There are many reasons for this. Not only is it one of the cheapest places in the world to study Spanish (with 20 hours of one-to-one teaching a week and home stay with a family with all meals included for 150 $), but it also has a socially conscious ideology. The school is run as a cooperative and guarantees good working conditions and fair wages for the teachers. Furthermore, the school donates money and food to poor families in the community.

The after school activities include conferences on Guatemalan culture, videos, kayaking, climbing tours, salsa classes, canopying, and dinners with the teachers.

Please find more information about the school at: www.cooperativeschoolsanpedro.com. You can also read more about the school on our website, see photos and listen to our podcasts about Spanish studies at the school.

Links

Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 1
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 2
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 3
San Pedro and the longing for empty spaces
San Pedro and the dreams from another dimension
Our photos of Guatemala – including Lake Atitlan, San Pedro, The School, & Antigua

El Remate, Guatemala

What a great decision this was, avoiding Flores and staying in the significantly more chilled-out village of El Remate. El Remate is a small roadside settlement on the shores of a huge lake, about 40 kilometres closer to the Mayan temples of Tikal than Flores – the usual Tikal stopover.

El Remate, Guatemala

I just spent my time here (in between visiting the Tikal temples) swimming off the jetty in the photo above, wandering around the lake shore with wild horses, and listening to the howler monkeys from the nearby bio-reserve.

Photos of El Remate

Video: Climbing Pacaya volcano in Guatemala

This video shows you the amazing active volcano Pacaya in Guatemala and us climbing it.

UPDATE: Thousands Flee their homes as Pacaya Volcano erupts (BBC News May 2010).

Climbing Pacaya volcano was quite an exhilarating experience. We left Antigua at 06.00 in the morning and arrived at the base of the volcano at 07.30 and started the summit trail. The initial climbing was through a forest trail. Suddenly the trail ended and the land in front of us was barren and grey looking like pictures from the moon. You could still see the beautiful landscape around us, but rivers of grey had run into it. At this point we started climbing through dunes of grey sand dust and the wind blowing was strong and cold.

The last part of the climb, to the point where hot burning lava is flowing, was the hardest part. The trail was very steep and you had to climb in either lava sand which kept disappearing under your feet (so that you basically took one step forward and two back) or you had to balance on the dry rivers of hot lava rock. Now for those of you who have not seen a lava stone, let me tell you "it is very very sharp and putting your hand down would surely cut you. But the color and formation is amazing it looks like silver and is at times shaped like waves.

While climbing the old lava waves you could feel the heat from underneath getting increasingly hot and finally we reached the point where the river of hot, burning lava came flowing out it was truly magical.
Good advice: I suppose it is needless to say that you need warm clothes and solid hiking boots to climb the volcano. It would be impossible to climb the sharp rocks in thin shoes or stand the cold without a proper jacket and pants.

Directions: You can buy a ticket to the volcano from Antigua for about 50 quetzals. This covers a return trip to the volcano. At the base of the volcano you pay 40 quetzals for entering the parquet. Some travelers report having a guide with them with a shot gun for protecting (against robbery). We had a good guide but without a gun. The tours leave Antigua at either 06.00 in the morning or 14.00 in the afternoon. I would recommend you taking the early morning trip because climbing down from the volcano in pitch dark (the last trip) is dangerous.

Good luck.

Studying Spanish one-on-one with Marlon

studying_spanish_guatemala

Thomas has already written about studying at the Cooperative – so I will concentrate on telling you a bit about my personal experience studying Spanish one-on-one.

I also study with the Cooperative and my teacher’s name is Marlon. Marlon is 9 years younger than me, but this is usually not the case. Most teaches are around mid 30s and have many years experience teaching Spanish.

Marlon, on the contrary, is an artist and an intellectual and have studied Art at the university in Guatemala city.

I really like studying with Marlon because he has A LOT of patience. He never makes a face when I repeat the same mistake for the 10th time and is always mentally present for all 4 hours we spend together every day.

Having your “own” private teacher is great. He will correct me every-time I make a mistake and we have gotten to know each other really well. He tells me stories (in Spanish) from his life and I tell him stories (in Spanish) from my life.

I will miss my teacher when I leave San Pedro 🙂

Video: San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala

This video is a short video tour of San Pedro la Laguna on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. It includes the streets, the docks, the shops, hostels, volcano, lake views and center of town.

San Pedro La Laguna is a small lakeside town on the shores of Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlan) in the highlands of Guatemala. It has a population of about 13,000 and is populated predominantly by indigenous Tz’utujiil people. There are about 100,000 Tz’utujiil speakers living in various towns and villages around Lake Atitlan.

Since the 1960s travelers began to discover the place, and some of them have never left. There seem to be three types of foreigners in San Pedro at any one time: Firstly the long term hippie ex-pats, secondly the Spanish language students who often stay with local families and don’t go out much, and thirdly the hedonists/party people who come here to party and take drugs.

San Pedro is one of the cheapest places to stay around Lake Atitlan and a good base for tours of the other villages around the lake. It’s easy to reach Chichicastenango, Solola, Santiago Atitlan, San Marcos, Panajachel, Santa Clara, San Juan & Santa Cruz by boat or bus from San Pedro.
Links

To find out more about our personal experiences living and studying in San Pedro, please follow the links below:

Links

Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 1
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 2
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 3
San Pedro and the longing for empty spaces
San Pedro and the dreams from another dimension
San Pedro Photos
Photos of our rental house & garden in San Pedro

Video: Packing for Latin America¦what not to bring!

This video shows a classic example of how NOT to pack for a big trip. It is unfortunately my packing for Latin America (I am sad to say) and it is way too much stuff to bring. Judge for yourself by watching the video comments are most welcome 🙂

As I am already traveling with this huge monster of a bag, I can say one thing for sure "something has GOT to GO". I have travelled for years and years and am used to not bringing very much. I usually travel with about 12 kg, which is a good amount for a woman my size (I weigh about 58 kg). But this time I have brought 18 kg plus my small bag which weighs another 4kg. This means I am almost carrying HALF my own bodyweight now that is STUPID! However, it can be quite difficult to pack for a trip in which you will be spending time in both hot and cold countries (from -5 to +40). Furthermore, as you can see, I travel with a lot of equipment for video making and a lot of women’s stuff such as two electrical shavers, extra face creams, shampoo etc. But seriously..I NEED to empty out things from my bag in the very near future :-).

So there you go – don’t pack like me!