04.12.2009 - 05.12.2009 60 °F
I leave for Quetzaltenango (Xela), Guatemala tomorrow. It's going to be a long, long, long trip. It will wind up being around 33 hours I think in total. I leave Lancaster at 11:35 am via train to Newark, New Jersey (2.5 hours), then take a cab from downtown Newark to the airport (20 minutes). I should arrive to the airport around 3 pm EST. The flight on Copa Airlines takes me to Panama City, Panama. I arrive there around 10 pm CST (7 hours wait and flight) and sleep overnight... don't worry there won't be much sleeping going on! I'll be too anxious. Maybe I'll find a fellow traveler to befriend and take shifts. That'd be ideal
The following morning, December 5, I will take a plane from Panama City to Guatemala City. The flight departs around 10 am and arrives around noon CST (2 hours). Then, Raquel Lopez, a friend of my language school, will be picking me up from the airport. She will take me to the bus station and help me get situated on a bus. Unfortunately, I'll be taking ALAMO bus line. I wanted to take La Linea Dorada bus line, but it looks like the next bus for that line doesn't depart until around 3 pm. That'd get me into Xela much too late. The benefits of La Linea Dorada.. there are bathrooms and the bus doesn't stop along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. ALAMO picks up passengers at several pit-stops along the way and has no bathrooms. I'm going to take some Dramamine and try to knock myself out. EEEKK! Once the ALAMO bus arrives in Xela, I will take a cab to the school. Oh by the way, Xela is pronounced SHAY-la, so I will be going by that while I'm there... very close to Sheila and with a Spanish accent it always winds up sounding like SHAY-la or Chay-la anyways.
I was instructed the school is "One orange house with white door. Located close to a blue house with a small garden." Then, the address was provided. The appearance of the house was told to me so as to properly instruct the taxi cab driver. Looks like this isn't a very well known place. Hey, I found it on LonelyPlanet though! Don't worry too much! .. right?
Once I get to the school, called Educacion Para Todos, I will be greeted by its owner Oscar. He will take me to my host family. The host family will provide me with a place to live and to eat three meals a day. I'm not sure what other obligations they hold. I've heard mixed information that I will likely live in a one room home with all family members in that room, or I will get my own room in a traditional home with a courtyard (seems like extremes). I guess we will see. Either way, it will be interesting and definitely a learning experience. When I studied abroad in Mexico, I didn't live with a family and didn't get much exposure to the language. I am excited to only be spoken to in Spanish.
I start classes December 7. It will be 5 hours a day, 5 days a week of one-on-one instruction at Educacion Para Todos. I believe I start at 9:30 am CST each day. After class, I will explore the city and also volunteer at CENTRO INFANTIL. "Centro Infantil is an orphanage/Day-Care for children from birth to 10 years old. The majority of the children are from battered homes; children of mothers that died at childbirth or are children who were abandoned at birth. The school has a special partnership with the home. We try to have various activities with the children including playing games, parties and piñatas."
On a side note, in my application process for the Spanish Immersion program at Educacion Para Todos, I listed that I am vegetarian. I am actually vegan, but I wanted to refrain from a communication issue as much as possible. However, I recently found out that as a traveler, you are much more likely to get sick from local parasites with a vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet means that the traveler is much more likely to eat fresh fruits and vegetables that were washed in the local water. The local water being the key culprit in downward spiral of health i.e. diarrhea, nausea, terrible stomach pain, etc.
Also, in not eating the local cuisine, I am missing out. I won't be able to try all the local cultural dishes, especially those that the country is "noted for". Guatemala specifically has chicken in almost all of its dishes. Not to mention that I am likely to insult lots of people, particularly motherly Guatemalan women, that just want to feed my foreign little belly. I'm torn. I feel like I need to either do one or the other because it will be all too confusing to simply do it "at times". But, if I decide to eat meat, dairy and eggs, I want it to be as a result of cultural appreciation. Other meals, I would limit my intake of such.. um.. evils. One benefit is that meat is indeed limited because of its cost. So, chicken is most popular, but limited.
Well, I will write again with more updates soon.