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01.09.09 Guatemala: Panachajel
At least 20 people have been praying every evening in the courtyard since we got here. The reason was that the husband of the owner of the house died one year ago. The tradition is that they gather and sing and pray for 9 days. We walked along the lake. People were swimming. Lots of boats were going to the other villages that are located around the lake. We rode our bikes partly around the lake, the vulcanos looked so proud. The evenings were cloudy, sometimes it rained. Bhinti thought about going to a Spanish school for some time, so we checked out the schools around here and also some rental places. Today we took the boat to the other side of the lake, to San Pedro. It is in kind of an astuary, tucked away. What a beautiful little town it is. We walked through lots of tiny paths and got to the Spanish school to find out more about it. They do individual one on one lessons on a weekly base. The 'classroom' is an area outside in a beautiful garden with lots of plants and flowers, on a hill with a beautiful view over the lake. There are little roofs with one table and 2 chairs that are connected by a little curvy path. So much beauty. They offer 3 to 6 hours per day and they also arrange homestays for the students. We decided to join the school for a week and to stay in with a host family. We met them today, it is a couple and a daughter. They were so warm and welcoming. Their house is only 5 minutes walking distance from the school. In the afternoon we took the boat back to Panajachel. So tomorrow we pack and take our bikes and take a boat to the other side of the lake where our host parents are waiting for us. We are excited!!!!
Resume: Stay in Panajachel.
LINK: Photos 112-125 , video 125
02.09.09 Guatemala
We packed at noon and left. With our bikes we took the boat to the other side of the lake. It was a bumpy ride but our bikes were holding up pretty good. When we arrived in San Pedro we loaded our bikes and pushed them up a steep hill. Good, I didn't roll down backwards. In San Pedro are lots of activities offered. People can rent kayaks, join salsa lessons, there is a gym, a movie theater, a bar with live bands, people can do horse riding... We arrived at our host family and moved to the third floor. The view to the lake was stunning. From our floor we could see the vulcanos and lots of house roofs of the town. San Pedro is located right at the bottom of a vulcano. It has lots of narrow streets where no cars fit through. The street where we live is only 2 meters wide. We live on a hill close to the market in the heart of town. From our room we can see the lake. In the evening, there are shimmering lots of lights around the lake. Trees are growing out of the water, I guess the water level is quite high at the moment because of the rainy season. Many people wash their clothes in the lake. They carry their washing in a bucket on their heads and walk into the lake with their clothes on. The water goes until to their hips. They use wharfs or washing rocks for washing their clothes. They also wash themselves in the lake. Someone else shaved, standing in the water and holding a mirror in his hand. Lots of long grass is growing out of the water. A small path goes along the shore, sometimes through cornfields and along coffee plantations and also banana trees. We counted 5 language schools in San Pedro. We walked around in town. What a maze of little tiny streets! We had dinner 'at home', our host mom cooked for us, what spoiled brats we are... We were tired and had an early night. We were probably exhausted by the thought of going to school tomorrow. Ha ha!
Resume: taking the boat from Panajachel to San Pedro.

LINK: Photos 126-134 , video 126
03.09.09 Guatemala: San Pedro
We have a little patio on the roof and slept with an open door. It was nice to feel the fresh air. The temperatures are very comfortable here. Not as hot and humid like at the coast and not as cold as in 9000 feet altitude. During the days the temperature is about 25 degrees. Sometimes the sky is blue and sometimes the sun hides behind the clouds. Most of the time it rains during the night. Our host mom made breakfast for us and at 7.50 am we left to school, walking down a narrow street, than follewed a path through a garden reaching all these little 'cabanias', the little straw roofs with table and chairs. School from 8 am to 12 am. My teacher told me about the lake. Unfortunately the lake gets more and more polluted. People do their washing in the lake, people spray their cornfields with furtilizer, the grey water goes into the lake and people throw lots of garbage into the lake. It made me very sad. This is one of the most beautiful lakes I have ever seen. The school is a cooperative school. Teachers get their salaries but there is also lots of volunteer work happening. The money that the school gets from the students goes partly into poor families, 22 families at the moment. Also they try to train little children to put the garbage in garbage cans. They also had another project; they put out lots of garbage bins along the streets, hoping people would use them and stop to throw the garbage into nature and into the lake. It went well for a couple of weeks. Then the people started to dump their own house garbage in these bins, dogs kicked them over, looking for food. So that didn't work out. I really hope that the people will change their conciousness about garbage. The grass which is growing out of the lake hasn't been there about 5 years ago, it is all changing, and there is also less and less fish in the lake. It makes my heart hurt. I enjoyed the class. I did a lot of talking and my teacher corrected me. Sitting under the straw hutt in the garden with a great view to the lake and the vulcanos was very nice. The school has about 15 teachers. They only do private lessons. In the afternoon we explored the town and went for a bike ride. We rode through some neighbour villages. In one village there were lots and lots of people hanging out on the narrow streets. People were sitting on the footpath, talking or doing weaving or knitting. I have never seen so many kids. Kids everywhere... Some of them ran after us and tried to hold on to our bikes. I guess people don't have the money to go to other villages, so they normally don't see tourists. Most of the houses were built of mud, no tourists and students in that town. We got back to San Pedro in the evening, it started raining. People are very friendly here. The town has a good vibe. Our mom prepared a yummy dinner for us, so nice. What a warm hearted family it is. Lucky us.
Resume: Stay in San Pedro.
LINK: Photos 135-148 , videos 127-128
05.09.09 Guatemala: San Pedro
Today is saturday, no school. We decided to study and walked to school to sit under one of the straw roofs in this beautiful garden. What geeks we are!!! Of course we were the only ones. We studied almost 4 hours and walked to the lake afterwards. We saw kayaks and simple wooden fisherman boats in the lakes between the long grass. People washed their clothes, woman carried their washing on their heads walking through the deep water, children were swimming. Clothes were lying on the rocks and on the side of the path to dry. We had early dinner at 4 pm. Our host dad told us about the Mayan culture and how they knew 2000 years ago, that the moon and jupiter will be very close in the middle of August 2009. They were quite accurate... They were one of the first achitects in the world and people still don't know how they could build with these huge blocks without any machinery. Our host dad helps people that cannot afford to go to the doctor. The Guatemalan doctors charge a lot. He gets the medicine from the wholesalers and goes to people places without any charge or little charge. He used to work together with the Cuban doctors. The cuban doctors come here for 2 years and don't charge anything. After 2 years they go back to Cuba and new ones come. When our host dad used to work for them they would walk sometimes 12 hours to get to the village up in the mountains, no roads, no cars... Imagine that! Our family also has a little store, people come and go. People's first language is Tzutujil. People used to grow up speaking only Tzutujil. They learned Spanish at school. Most of the older people don't speak any Spanish and more and more young kids don't learn to speak Tzutujil. So there is less and less communication between the old and the young people, their local language is more diminishing.
Resume: Stay in San Pedro.
LINK: Photos 149-154

12.09.09 Guatemala: San Pedro
Today is Saturday, I had my last day at school yesterday, Bhinti will be going for longer. Our host family is lovely and Bhinti enjoys having a kitchen. He loves to cook. Our family eats basic food like eggs, beans, rice, pasta, meat, cheese and fried bananas (oh, I really love fried bananas!). They love marmelade but they don't buy it because it is expensive. So Bhinti showed them how to cook marmelade and they go crazy! I asked our host mom if she has ever been to Panajachel which is on the other side of the lake. Her answer was 'no'. What a statement! She has only been to very few places in her life. Her world is her house, her students, the store, the street where they live, the market and the church. Yes, that is her world and she loves it! She is a very happy and sweet person and loves her students, and making them feel home. She loves cooking for us and when her and I walked through the streets she held my hand and was proud to have a new daughter, telling other people on the street that I was her daughter. Our host mom has a brother, that studies in Quezaltenango, which is about 2 hours bus ride from here. Because the food is cheaper here in San Pedro than in Quezaltenango, she prepares boxes full of food for him, takes it to the bus, carrying the box on her head, and sends of the parcel off by bus. Her brother pickes it up in Quezaltenango. The families in Guatemala are big and the differences in ages are quite big sometimes. For example, her brother shares an appartment with his uncle who is 4 years younger.
We had a good time at school. The teachers are patient and learning underneath a strawroof in a colourful garden makes memorizing all these words and grammar quite pleasant. The garden is beautiful. A man maintains it. He likes his work and imagine, he cuts all the grass by hand with garden sissors. My teacher told me about new laws in town. One is that smoking in public is prohibited. Another one is no more noises and music after 12 at midnight. On friday 11.9. me and my teacher plus Bhinti and her teacher went to 4 poor families that are supported by the school. We bought some colored pencils and blocks for their children. The school had food for them. These families live rather in shelters than in houses. Their walls inside are made of cloths and the roof is just a tin roof. They have little space and the older people are ill, they don't have money for medicine and for going to doctors.
San Pedro is 100% Mayan. Hardly anybody speaks English here. People wear traditional clothes. During the days we heard lots of marching bands, parades and marimba bands. Children were practising for Independence day on 15.9., their biggest day in the year. Yes, music, talking people on microphones on different places at the same time, marimba bands, tooting horns, more music... Everybody is going crazy here. People have so little and they seem to be happy, they are so humble. How must it be for them when they see on TV rich people in other countries living in luxury, having everything they want, and also seeing these huge gigantic supermarkets on TV... What must they think??? San Pedro is a village with about 13000 habitans. There are 26 churches in town. One big catholic church and 25 small evangelic churches. About 50 % are catholic and the other 50 % are evangelic. The church is big here. Women have 8-12 children. And their children start to have children when they are still children, so young. There are lots and lots of children in this town. San Pedro has about 30 schools! The people are incredibly friendly here, so open, they smile at you, they greet and they are so natural. When we offer things to people, they don't hesitate to take them. It is a town full of life, colours and noises. The catholic church fires off loud guns or cannons in the air, almost all year long, even at 4 am in the morning. They celebrate. You can also hear the church bells during the night. The children have fun with their kites. I counted 18 kites the other day. We met a man with 2 horses and we went horse riding with him. As he had only 2 horses and a young one, he joined us on his bicycle. We rode on a sand road along the lake, that turned into a small track when we arrived at in the bushes. It was a narrow, steep, uneven, sandy and rocky path. He pushed his bike up, no sweat for him, he kept smiling. Somehow he made it on his bike.It was a beautiful trail through the mountains with some great views to the lake and vulcanos. It was very nice to meet this happy, humble man.What a beautiful town, what beautiful people, what beautiful nature. We almost weren't going to San Pedro, but fortunately we did...
Resume: Stay in San Pedro.
LINK: Photos 155-177 , videos 129-131

27.09.09 Guatemala: San Pedro
There has been lots of Spanish studying going on for Bhinti and for me. Bhinti went to school and I studied most of the time at home. I also met a massage therapist with who I do exchanges with. We keep making chai tea for our family and for us. My favorite combination is dipping the frozen chocobananos into the hot chai tea. I go crazy about it. The other day we went for a walk through town, then up into the mountains. The little path took us through lots of coffee plants, sweet corn fields and avocado trees. We collected some avocados that had fallen down. After a while we sat down in a coffee field and looked down to the beautiful lake, we enjoyed the green mountains and the villages around the lake. The sweet corn and coffee plants are planted together, mixed. It was a lovely, warm and sunny day, there were lots of kites in the air. I find it great that the kids are so much into kite flying.

Our family is very nice and interesting. They share their wold with us. Our mamasita told us that she had never worn any shoes until she was ten years old. I ask myself, how must it feel to wear shoes for the first time??? And she also told us that she never drove a car. Why should she? Everything she needs is reachable on foot. We both went for a walk, along a little path to the lake. She had never walked this path even the path is only 10 min far away from her house. I also showed her my parents. We skyped them from the internet café. We could see each other and our mamasita was surprised that this is possible. She asked me how much it costs. When I told her that skyping itself is for free, she could hardly believe it. We are really lucky with our host family. They are so happy, they have a good sense of humor and they are very loving. It took them 8 years to build the house. They started with nothing and worked really hard. What I became aware of and made me think is, that most people in Guatemala can’t afford to travel, especially the people in the villages. They get born in a village, and they also die in the same village. What a different world.

The other day we counted 50 kites in the air. The kids don’t play game boys here, that’s for sure. Children don't have much space to play, so they go on the roofs and let their kites fly from there. When walking through the streets seeing electricity wires everywhere, there are lots and lots of kite skeletons tangled up in them. It makes me laugh. This town is so alive. I see so much more happiness here than in many other countries. People get sick and die, but what I find quite something to think about is, that there is no cancer here, not a single person. Does it have something to do that people here might worry less than in other countries??? Here, it seems like people don't worry so much, they don’t worry so much to lose their things, they don't need to protect much, because they don’t have much. It seems that most of them are happy with what they have. They don’t need to pay off credit cards, they don’t need to pay off mortgages, they don’t pay for insurances, they just live day by day. When we walk through the streets often we hear clubbing hands, people make their tortillas. We also hear clubbing hands in the morning when we are still in bed, our neighbors are making tortillas. More and more people build houses with blocks instead of mud. They build houses with blocks, cement and steel poles. When they have enough wall, they stop. So at the end the steel poles are still sticking out at many different lengths. They use them to put up washing lines. Good idea, or? Every morning is a market. People sit on the street and sell stuff. Also rickshas squeeze themselves through the labyrinth of these narrow paths, they go everywhere, they appear in the most unexpected and small paths. Every body is out. Many people sit on their doorsteps and watch life go by. Especially one older man sits on his doorstep everyday almost all day long. People greet him and also many people shake his hand when they walk by. We also do it. He wears beautiful traditional clothes and doesn’t speak any Spanish, only his local language “Tzutujil”. The people are so friendly here, and it is a safe place. People told me that in bigger cities like Guatemala city there is so much crime. People get away with murder, because they pay a small amount to the police and everything is good again. In some areas the police is too afraid to go to and the people are too afraid to report crime. What a difference, San Pedro is a little paradise. One day we had a longer power cut. Bhinti and I walked to a tiny restaurant for dinner. It rained and started to get dark. Without electricity the woman in the restaurant started cooking for us using her wooden stove. The firewood was burning and it kept us nice and warm. We took 2 chairs and sat in her kitchen, watching her preparing the food. A candle was also burning. Her daughter sat on my lap while we were waiting for the food. It was romantic and so simple. People never push you away here. The whole town was dark, also some neighbor towns. Almost every house has a stove that they feed with firewood. The village on the other side of the lake often has a big cloud of smoke hanging above.

Most days are sunny in the morning and cloudy in the evening. There is not as much rain as it used to be. It is supposed to rain every afternoon in all parts of Guatemala, but in some parts it hadn’t rained for a long time. In some parts of Guatemala is a drought. So in some parts was no harvest this year. And no harvest means no food. Not only that, it also means the animals are dying which means even less food (milk, meat). And not only that, the prices for vegetable especially for tomatoes go up. And… not only that, it also means that the electricity price goes up because there is less water in the rivers from where the electricity is gains. The electricity is produced for almost the whole country. People hope for a good coffee harvest in November, December and January. The locals in San Pedro and in Guatemala city support the people that are without food. They also give them clothes. People that have little help out people that have even less, something to think about… Here around the lake it rains more frequently. When it rains there are rivers of water floating down the streets. It rains hard. One girl even lost her shoe in the river.

The people are so beautiful here, and so is the lake. The lights in the villages around the lake are shimmering in the dark, like little stars. We will have full moon soon, and the Venus is so close to the moon. So much beauty and diversity on this planet…

Resume: Stay in San Pedro.
LINK: Photos 178-250 , videos 132-133