San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

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San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

You Want Hardened Testicles for Breakfast?

Still smiling from January 2012

If ever there were a grand entrance, the sight of descending the mountain we had just navigated to reach Lake Atitlan in Guatemala proved more than capable! Our eyes widened as we observed the scenery we had heard so much about while feeling our weight shift forward in response to our minivan driver’s feet sinking into the brake pedal to avoid flying off the mountainside along our decline. We reached the lake below with ease, finally coming to a halt near the town of San Pedro La Laguna. Our accommodating driver and his assistant unloaded the cargo strapped to the top of the fan, uncovering our seasoned backpacks and passing them to us during the final phase of their long journey.Sunset over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

As usual, I hoisted Jessie’s backpack up behind her, allowing her adequate time to secure her back with a simple click of a clasp around her waist before lifting my own. Our feet began carrying us into town without hesitation, accustomed to our usual routine of declining assistance from local transportation to reach our next temporary residence. Still, one large factor remained unfamiliar, the elevation of our location and the unavoidable steep hills of the roads and sidewalks leading to our destination. We had traveled for nearly a year in various countries, but weighted down by our backpacks while climbing and descending through San Pedro I found myself breaking more frequently than ever to recover my breath. No, I was not a smoker feeling the effects of marathon sex session. I was merely falling victim to the altitude of our surroundings.

Upon successfully negotiating a room for the evening, we were onto our next mission of enrolling in school for the first time since I was eighteen years old. I must admit, the thought of further educating myself in such a setting sent chills of anxiety along my spine, but we had found the perfect environment to learn at a local cooperativa. A portion of our minimal tuition was used to enhance the lives of the locals in the community in need of assistance, immediately compelling us to commit to a full daily regimen of Spanish School. Although we had the option of doing a homestay with a local family, we chose to stay further in town, still with locals offering surprisingly clean and comfortable accommodation for an almost guilt inducing low price. After all, the same price was less likely to secure another alcoholic beverage for the evening in our previous lives.Palapa hut Cooperativa Spanish School San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Every morning we woke early and hiked up a steep paved hill to one of the local bakeries, typically satisfying my insatiable craving for sweets with chocolate muffins and other various pastries. We’d spent hours with our teachers learning, practicing, and at times absolutely butchering an unfamiliar language. With homework assigned on a daily basis (willingly requested on my behalf believe it or not), not a moment passed when we weren’t putting our newly acquired knowledge to the test. I couldn’t help thinking of how entertaining life must have been for local shop and restaurant owners consistently coming into contact with tourists eager to practice what they’d learned in school. I’m not embarrassed to admit, I murdered more than once Spanish word during my intent bouts of practice.

I had asked for blue rice more than once, and hardened testicles versus non-runny eggs. I had used the word “shit” more than I intended, and pleaded while negotiating at markets as I sought to convince shop owners I had small money versus a small penis…yes…how incredibly embarrassing! I dare to admit, those studying English would have far surpasses my incredibly ability to interchange the most embarrassing of terminology. Perhaps I should have focused more on my intentional Spanish instead of striving to learn the slang and profanity. As you can imagine, I had absolutely reaped what I’d sewed.

Inevitably information overload would take its course, prompting us to navigate the streets of San Pedro and observe the local way of life, complete with women dressed in traditional clothing with long skirts and colorful accents. Even the majority of young girls could be seen playing basketball outside of the school with their ankle long dresses and braided hair. Every unique sight inspired smiles of fondness, each taste of local food causing me to salivate for months at the thought of once again enjoying handmade tortillas with nearly every meal, necessary or not.Spanish teacher's family in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

Our most memorable experiences however came through the generosity of those we encountered at school. We were able to accompany our teachers one Friday morning to deliver bags of food and other necessities to needy families in the area, allowing us the perfect opportunity to gift pencils and small toys we had brought from back home for such an occasion. The tears of an elderly woman dropped from her eyes as Jessie handed her the simple presents, learning that the woman was the sole caretaker of her young grandson due to the untimely passing of his parents. She had been unable to provide the “luxuries” of new pencils for school or even the most inexpensive of toys.

Our hearts were further warmed when accepting an invitation to her teacher’s home to enjoy a meal with her family and interact with her adorable children. We sat gratefully and attentively in her small yet functional living room, appreciating the happiness radiating from everyone in attendance. Rarely had we been privy to such hospitality and acceptance from those who had known us for less than a day. The love we felt after leaving our gracious hosts and heading back to our room would never be forgotten, nor the sensation of immersing ourselves in a culture so willing to demonstrate the power of giving and often overlooked humble acts of kindness.

1 Comment

  • Jessica

    This brings back great memories!

    November 12, 2015 at 2:55 pm


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