This morning I arrived in Xela, and have found my Spanish school, and the house where I will be staying. It is not as opulent as my last house, but mi madre seems much more communicative, so hopefully I’ll feel a little more at home here, and a little less like a foreigner.
As an aside, I found my school despite the best efforts of the Lonely Planet cartographers to leave me baffled on a street corner in Xela the rest of my life. New travel tip: use the addresses, not the dots on the maps. Apparently the dots are added to the map by a blind left handed dart thrower.
This weekend I spent at Lake Atitlan. On the night before I left Antigua, I was feeling a bit shy and figured I would just end up eating alone someplace. But I decided to make a swing through the park looking for a gringo who wanted to catch dinner. I found a really nice woman and her mother from England. The woman had been through Antigua several times in her travels and was a mini traverlers information desk. She sent me to a great little restaurant. Alas, I was still alone. At the restaurant, I pulled out my Lonely Planet and started doing research on Lake Atitlan. I tend to plan my travel in broad strokes, then do the final detailed planning at the last minute. A guy at another table was clearly doing the same thing, and it turned out we were heading opposite directions. So I sat with him and helped him with his “homework” and he helped me with mine. He told me about a cool place on Lake Atitlan named Jabalito.
There is a cliffside hotel there called Casa del Mundo. Lonely Planet says it is magical and boy were they right! The entire first day I was there I just kept thinking this isn’t really real. It is built into the cliff with lots of little one room buildings for extra rooms. It has an incredible view of one of the volcanos, and beautiful gardens everywhere. The swimming area is in the little cove with rocks to jump off of and everything. The only problem was that I was so in love with it I immediately wanted to share it with everyone in my life and got a tiny bit lonely and homesick thinking how much nicer it would be if I had a girlfriend and/or some parents with me to share it. Next time!
The hotel serves dinner family style, so everyone gets to talk and learn about each other. There’s also a wood fired hot tub that we went out in one night, which helped us get to know each other even better. I met lots of cool people. The coolest one is a pediatrician from San Francisco. She and I plan to get together when we get back to California. There was also a dreadlock-wearing defense attorney, two human rights workers (one paralegal, one forensic anthropologist), two architects working on the new stuff for the World Trade Center site, two girls who used to work for Anderson Consulting (in Australia and England) and various other cool people.
Casa del Mundo is very expensive compared to the normal backpacker budget, which might have explained why I liked the people so much. The price range filtered people out by age and work experience somewhat, so virtually everyone there was the same age and had interesting lives to talk about.
I went kayaking in the lake, and swam in it every day. One day, I went for a sunrise swim, which was really great.
It is time to get home for lunch now. My classes are in the afternoon this week because they don’t have room in the morning. That’s a bit of a bummer, but it is way cooler here in Xela, so working in the afternoon won’t be too bad. I’m not sure what I will do with my mornings, but high on my list is visiting Seeds of Hope to see if it would be a good place to volunteer. I am also working on getting in touch with a friend of Mak Verber’s, who runs an NGO named Planet Online. I haven’t learned what they do yet.