Guatemala or bust

This is where I’m going, only grayer (rainy season ends in August).

Three weeks from today, I will be on my way to San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala. I think Guatemala is going to be my best bet re: affordable Spanish education, but the travel is going to be a real bear. I’m flying out of MSP at 5:15 a.m. and arriving in Guatemala City around 1 p.m., assuming everything goes smoothly. Then a bus ride. Google Maps tells me that it’s a two-hour drive to San Pedro, but the bus company says the ride is 4 hours. The way back will be even longer–three overnight flights, leaving GUA around 5 p.m. Saturday and not getting to MSP until 10:30 a.m. Sunday. I’m thinking of it as exercising my travel muscles.

I’ll be taking private Spanish lessons for five hours a day. The only person I’ve dealt with at the school speaks English, but he is apparently not fluent. Plus my host family will speak Spanish with me. Plus the people in the town. So if I can’t get my shit together Spanish-wise in two weeks of total immersion, I don’t deserve to have shit.

San Pedro la Laguna is a town of about 13,000. There are quite a few restaurants for a town of that size, including a French restaurant run by French ex-pats. A lot of the restaurants have free (English language) movie nights, and there’s at least one internet cafe and a place called Buddha Cafe that offers yoga classes. Plus the school offers lectures and salsa night. Between all that and the considerable amount of studying I’ll be doing, the weekdays should be well filled.

Lago Atitlán is about 50 square miles (a little more than twice the size of Lake Minnetonka, 1/4 the size of Lake Winnebago). It’s not considered safe to walk around the lake unless you’re in a group of 6 or 8 people and/or carrying a machete. But there’s kayaking and boating and parasailing. Plus–and this is really appealing to me–you can take a boat across the lake to Panajachel and see a wildlife preserve. With monkeys! The school organizes an outing every weekend, and, since there probably won’t be a lot of students there at this time of year, I’m planning to campaign for monkey boats.

I can also walk to other villages, walk up some of the inactive volcanoes, and/or take a bus to Quetzaltenago or Antigua. It occurs to me that I’ll have to find someone to go with me. I’m used to just doing my own thing, but it may not be safe to stroll around country roads. In fact, it probably isn’t. I wonder, if everyone else at school is super wack (not likely, right?), if I could hire a guide. And, ideally, not have the guide attack me. Hm…

I’m a little anxious about the travel logistics. I’m also expecting at least one emotional freakout about being in a place where everything is another language. But honestly, these are growth experiences. Remember when I was fretting about my personal statement for grad school and wondering what I’d write about re: exposure to another culture? Well, here’s an option.