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San Pedro, Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala

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view from San PedroSan Pedro, Lago de Atitlan, GuatemalaChurch in San PedroRelaxing in San Pedro

Yesterday we left Antigua at eight in the morning and took a shuttle bus to Panajachal. From Panajachal we took a 45 minute boat ride across Lake Atitlan to the beautiful village of San Pedro. We are now spending two days in San Pedro and, I must admit, this is my favorite spot of the trip so far, not to mention being the cheapest.

San Pedro is so full of beauty it’s almost overwhelming. Set on the steep, mountainous shore of Lake Atitlan, it faces out across the lake where three towering volcanoes smolder in the background. The village itself is one of the most picturesque I have ever visited, rivaling even such places as Positano on the Amalfi Coast of Italy and Lijaing in the Yunan province of China.

San Pedro is comprised mainly of undulating cobblestone foot paths and dirt trails. There are tons of unique back alleyways and intriguing hidden paths. The noticeable lack of automotive traffic adds to the already tranquil vibe. The people here are incredibly welcoming, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a single person who doesn’t say ‘Hola’ or ‘Buenos dias’ when they pass you on the street.

There appears to be a lot of hippies in San Pedro, and we were surprised to not only be offered weed, but to see it smoked in public restaurants and bars. It’s kind of like a little Amsterdam here. When we inquired about the cost of a room at a nice hotel, we were astounded to hear the gentlemen working behind the desk offer us “some really good stuff, Amigo.”

Honestly, I wouldn’t mind spending several weeks right here in San Pedro. Not only is it beautiful and relaxing, it’s also ridiculously cheap. We are now paying less than $3 each for a double room with private bath, and a balcony with a lakeside view. If it weren’t for my having to attend Spanish classes with Carlos back in Antigua on Monday, I really would love staying here indefinitely.

As for Eric, he has not yet committed to another week of Spanish classes due to his dissatisfaction with his present teacher. Right now I’m not sure if he’ll continue to take classes or not. I’m of the inclination to view the taking of more Spanish classes as a simple necessity. Personally, I can’t imagine being in Spanish speaking countries for the next six months and not having taken advantage of this unique opportunity to learn the language. I think it will greatly enhance the depth of my experience in South America.

My Spanish classes with Carlos have been going very well back in Antigua. I feel I have finally turned a corner, and now learning Spanish has become something I enjoy, rather than something that gives me a headache. I’m constantly amazed at how much I can learn about one subject in a short time when it’s the only thing I have to focus on.

In addition to teaching me the Spanish language, Carlos has also taught me a lot of history and interesting things about Guatemala in general. Antigua, whose name literally means “antique,” was once the original capitol of Guatemala. Carlos explained that there was a huge earthquake in 1773 that basically leveled the entire city. After that event, nearly half of the population moved to what is now the present capitol, Guatemala City. The city they left behind, the people began referring to as “the antique.” Even today people in Guatemala City still refer to it as, not just Antigua, but La Antigua.

Carlos also explained how the days of the week in Spanish actually follow the moon and planets, starting with Lunes (Monday) and continuing on through Sabado (Saturn). I’m sure many of you who have taken Spanish, or even French, already know this, but Carlos’ meaningful explanation was new to me, so I found it fascinating, and it made remembering the Spanish names for the days of the week all the easier.

After spending over a week in Antigua, it has become like a second home for Eric and me. We have several favorite haunts around town that include The Black Cat Hostel, The Bagel Barn, and Cafe Condesa. Our diet mainly consists of chicken, be it fried, grilled, stuffed inside a burrito, or chopped up on top of nachos. We usually have eggs and home fries with toast for breakfast. After several attempts, we have all but given up on pizza. It’s available in a lot of restaurants, but rarely is it anything better than mediocre. Antigua and San Pedro might look like Italy, but the pizza will remind you in a hurry that Napoli is very, very far away.

In addition to studying Spanish, Eric and I have also been studying the science of budget traveling, as well as the “fine art” of getting along. 🙂 As far as the budget goes, we started out in Belize blowing nearly $60 a day. This wasn’t too great a concern as it has been typical for me to start out my trips spending the kind of money one would on a vacation. But when the vacation is over, it’s time to get down to the business of traveling. I’ve come to realize that a trip and a vacation are two totally different things. Anyhow, we have now been able to reduce the amount of money we spend each day to about $30 in Antigua and about $20 here in San Pedro. A budget of $20 to $30 a day is much better suited to a trip of this length.

Tomorrow, Monday, it’s back to Antigua for my second week of Spanish classes. I’m unwilling to cut any countries out of our itinerary, but I really wouldn’t mind spending more time in this paradise known as San Pedro. Maybe we can spend next weekend here, at least, before heading on to El Salvador.

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