Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Xela - 1 Week Later!

This is a bit of a hodge podge post as I'm trying to include info for family/friends as well as details for possible travelers to Xela. (I've learned that with google etc. a simple travel blog for family & friends becomes a source for those researching travel. Bien, bien!

Well, to be sure, the 1st 5 days were hell. Homestay, only 1 in my 6 experiences, was dirty, erratic food & oh so cold. 4 nights later I gave up & moved to Siete Orejas - a jewel. Teacher in the school which is also somewhat dirty was moody & thus not easy to be with. My allergies were in overdrive, due to help from the incessant cold inside buildings.

BUT now, a sunny day, class over, warmer weather & I can give a fair account of this city for possible fellow travelers & interested persons or those experiencng insomnia!

Xela (Quetzaltenango) is Guatemala´s 2nd largest city. As it is near active volcanoes, there´s dust everywhere. Hard to know where dust leaves off & dirt starts. Nor receommended for those with breathing problems.

I include much of the following esp. for fellow travelers interesting in Xela.

If your goal is to learn Spanish then this is good place. For to be sure, you will encounter almost NO locals who speak English. You´re forced to make your way in Spanish, occasionally slipping into Spanglish!

There are local sites, but for me, it´s not that particularly interesting. Several small pueblos are nearby with individual attractions.

  • North & South is a great Engllish language bookstore/cafe
  • Adrelina Tours offers great tours & info.
  • owned by an Am ex-pat is a good resource.
  • Great volunteering opportunities.
  • Siete Orejas hotel/hostel.

Spanish Schools: CAREFULLY research out schools. I got burned & I'm told some are great including, hopefully, ICA Spanish School, Ulewtinimit (try pronouncing that!), Proyecto Linguistico, Pop Wuj, and one I'm likely to go to if I'm back Celas Mayas.

Odds & ends

  • Internet cafe use for 1 hour ranges from 50 to 75 cents (American)
  • Hyper Paiz - a small mall has lots of shops, eatery area & a movie theater - $ 3.
  • La Democracia - outdoor large market with food, clothing etc. Quidado pickpockets!
  • Walking on your own seems ok so long as not after about 9 p.m. Ladies, esp. blond, quidado especially.
  • The large Cemetary - stay away unless with others & then, ten quidado.
  • an intelligent street numbering system whuich makes geeting around very easy - Cadiz would benefit for it!

Walking - If you're young, not much of a problem. For those not so...

  • Sidewalk to street home is easy. Here it can be 4-6 times as steep a drop AND often you're stepping onto cobblestone (mas or menos).
  • Buses, mini-coches(esp.) are a mystery. No route map yet, but a gringo working on one! Ask if it goes to... Mini-vans(coches) crowded. Both buses(chicken) cost 1.5 Q = about 19 cents!
  • Taxis - try to use one's with the # on side door. In & about Zone 1 is about 20 Q = $2.50.
  • Sidewalks can be quite narrow. There you are, a gringo - not tiny - about to merge with a local lady carrying a large basket on her head.
  • As you stroll along the sidewalk (lol), you come upon a electric poll which is impossible to walk behind it you're not tiny!
  • Crossing the street - quidado.
  • Holes in the street - many - deep - carry a mini flashlight at night if you're not on a very well lit street.

Safety - This really varies depending on whom you talk to. At night, keep to well traveled streets where possible. Alone at night, avoid walking after 9 or 10. Though my cabbie friend told me today, after 7:30, he's done, ladrones - robbers.

Coming back ?
I might well come back, but only possibly in the month of March when I´m told it´s not sooooo cold at night & in the a.m. without any source of heat. (It´s not the cold per se, but the effect it has on making my allergies so bad - thus 24/7 exhausted.

Why come back, maybe? Other good schools here, great Siete Orejas hotel for $105 a week with breakfast and many opportunities to do volunteer work. One organizatiom has a full time person to hel yopu find the right volunteer opportunity - tons of choices. Now that's a way to meet people, learn Spanish &give back.

Manana off to San Pedro la Laguna & return to the school Corazon Maya.

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Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.