Engaging the locals

At dinner last night we had an interesting conversation with a little girl who was trying to sell hacky sacks and other bits of embroidered stuff to the gringos. She kept tapping the back of Tim’s head because our friend James from Oz was encouraging her to do so. I talked to her in spanish and asked her a bit about her life.

I asked her how old she was. She said she was 10. I asked her if she went to school. She said that she was on holiday for two months. I asked her how long she had to work for. She said she started at 7 in the morning and finished after 8 in the evening. I asked her if she ever had a day off. She said no. I asked her if she had any brothers and sisters. Her answer took me by surprise. She said proudly that she had 5 sisters, 3 brothers, and one dead.

It was so matter of fact. Boom, straight out with it. It seemed as if for her, it was an important fact to mention, but without much emotion in the response.

She sat with us all at the table where we were eating. I gave her some of my chocolate fudge cake with ice cream. She told me that the sugar hurt her teeth. We had been playing cards and she wanted to play too. She seemed to make up her own game, didn’t really explain the rules and promptly won. It seemed a bit like snap. James wanted to take a photo of her with us, but she answered that she didn’t like the flash. I suggested she pull a funny face and gave her an example, which seemed to amuse her greatly. After the she saw the photo on the digital camera’s screen she wanted to have a go too. James let her wonder around and randomly take photos of the whole restaurant. She seemed to have a talent for capturing the subject pretty well!

I asked her how many languages she spoke. She spoke six, two of which – fluently. She even knows bits of Hebrew. She calls Tim, ”Sappo”. I’m not sure what it means, but I think it is a reference to the fact that he is pretty white and due a sun tan!

Pretty amazing these people.

Buy the Gringo TrailJust finished a book called the Gringo Trail that Tim brought over with him. Interesting book, interspersed with historical information about South America, the Spanish Conquesadores, the English empirical actions and now the USA and their effect on the locals people. It also pointed out an interesting fact. 238 people in this world hold 45% of the world’s wealth. 1.4% of the world’s wealth is held by 2,300,000,000. Makes interesting reading.

Waiting in San Pedro, Lago De Atitlan

Just a matter of waiting for DHL to “keep that promise” now. Let’s hope the TV advert lives up to it’s promise! Tickets should be here in a couple of days. Although this might be premature, I am going to recommend JourneyLatinAmerica.co.uk, as the girls there have been really great in organising our flights. They are based in Chiswick and have done nearly everything by email bar a call to give credit card details. Assuming the tickets turn up, I’ll hold that recommendation for them!

Gonna stay up at Lake Atitlan for a few more days. Met loads of people that I have met throughout my trip, including notable mentions for:

  • Gil, one of the secret 14 million travelling Israelis, kept in reserve once the Israeli government calls them back to take over the world. Seriously, he told me!
  • Morgan, a seriously cool guy from Sweden who has pretty much been travelling for the last 10 years, who’s Dad runs a hostel in Thailand, plus has managed to get malaria and dengue fever at the same time, been arrested in Florida after being accused of being in a bar brawl, and not helped by wearing a t-shirt that said “fuck you, you fucking fuck” at the time!
  • Leon, a Ozzie who was so stoned when I bumped into him here couldn’t remember for the life of him where he’d met me. It seems I have a stronger memory for names and faces than most people. We then met him later on being searched by the local police to his indignant replies in half Spanish that he had a licence to drive (he was walking and had his hands over his head, so I’m not sure what that was all about).
  • Laura, from London, or otherwise “Essex Borders”, who Tim and I have started to speak similarly too, only in Spanish. We haven’t found a translation for “init” yet though!
  • Jen who got stuck in Antigua, working in Jungle Party, whilst waiting for her credit card to appear from the Guatemalan postal system ether. She even forgave me after I broke the cardinal rule, by asking her, “what state are you from?”. Golden rule of travelling – do not assume people with american accents are from the US. They may be from the wonderful Canadian Province of Alberta! Sorry Jen!
  • “The Dutch Family” who run the most amazing restaurant in San Pedro. Don’t miss their daily changing menu. Possibly the finest chocolate fudge cake ever.
  • Monica, Dora and Ingrid, who work at Jungle Party. I seem to have brought out the maternal instinct in them. Dora even refused to close the kitchen one day at 10am, because I hadn’t been for breakfast yet. Was so sweet of her but unusually, I had actually got up at 5 am to climb a bloody active volcano.

So many other cool people too I could mention that I have met in Guatemala over the last few weeks. Thanks to you all!

Anyway, time to go and get breakfast. Got up again at 6am. Don’t know what it is about this place. Must be the view that is vastly improved over Reading town centre that makes me want to get up and out of bed!

View the photos from San Pedro, Lago De Atitlan.

Panajachel and Santiago De Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is one of those places where it seems to be touching the heavens. Arriving in Guatemala was hectic to say the least, especially for Franco and Elisa with the car, as many different papers are required and charges to be paid. Also, Guatemalans don’t seem to much like Mexicans, so the only place they seem to change Mexican pesos in Guatemalan Quezals is with the black market guys on the border.

We left San Cristobal for the border yesterday, and arrived in Panajachel in the late afternoon. Guatemala is visibly poorerthan Mexico, but the locals seem just as boyant, if not more so. WhilstFranco and Elisa went off to check a few hostels, I stayed to watch the car. I ran into Paul and Paul from England, who I had met on my first night in Mexico City. I had the day before met up with Cath too in San Cristobal, who was another of the group from my first night. Travelling around seems to go like that.

We found a really nice hostel and had a good night’s rest. We went down to the lake shore and got a good deal on a crossing to the other side ofthe lake to Santiago Del Atitlan. It was pretty much as touristy as Panajachel, but still fun. We are due to head off to Antigua in an hour or so, once my most recent photos are uploaded.

View the photos from Panajachel and Santiago De Atitlan.

Check back soon!