Our Top 10 List from San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala

I can hardly believe the words as I’m typing them, but we have only 1 week left of our 4 weeks in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala. I’m tempted to get all sappy and go on about how we’ve grown, both individually and as a family, but I’ve decided not to do that. I’m also tempted to list our favorite sights, restaurants, places to visit in the area, but I figure there are countless other blogs and travel sites where anyone can find that information.

View from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
I took this photo from a lancha (water taxi) of one of the mountains surrounding Lake Atítlan. You can find a thousand other posts with photos like this, along with recommendations for what to do, where to stay, etc. This is not one of those posts.

Instead, a Top 10 List of the things we’ve found most interesting/surprising/wonderful during our time here. Because why not?

  1. Spanish, Spanish, and more Spanish. This should go without saying, since it was the reason we chose San Pedro, but I’ve still been surprised at how far we’ve all come in our language skills. Even the most resistant one among us (*cough, The Boss, cough*) is accidentally speaking a few Spanish words here and there, which I find very amusing and satisfying. The kid can’t *not* learn, even when she’s trying! Muchas gracias to Cooperativa Spanish School and to our absolutely lovely and charming host family, Teodora and Matias! (I still haven’t figured out how to make my keyboard type inverted exclamation points, though…)

    Spanish school in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala
    John with his Spanish teacher, José
  2. Every day is a fiesta. The folks in the Lake Atítlan area know how how to party! There is a fiesta of some sort every day. The favorite way to celebrate any occasion here, be it a wedding, a church event, a school parade, or just someone who feels like celebrating life, is with incredibly loud bombas (essentially mortar-style fireworks without the firework part) making us just about jump right out of our skin.
  3. The Entertainer’s contribution: Fresh lychee fruit is spiky and delicious. “I could eat ’em for my whole entire life. I could eat ’em till I die.” He’s not wrong, though. I only knew lychee fruits as something they try to pass off as dessert at Chinese restaurants. I’d never eaten or even seen a fresh lychee, and they are nothing like their canned counterparts. They’re sold all over in street fruit stands here and have become a favorite treat for us!

    Lychee fruit
    The Entertainer’s new favorite fruit.
  4. Muchos gallos (roosters) in a relatively small area don’t care what time of day it is. For real, they crow at all hours of the day and night. I’ve only ever been around one rooster at a time before San Pedro, and hadn’t experienced the ways in which they compete with each other. One will crow, and the another will have to show how much better he can crow, and on and on and on. It’s like when a crowd performs The Wave, except with rooster crows across the town. There’s a really good reason there are so many sayings about roosters.

    Gallo beer in front of San Pedro Volcano in Guatemala
    Gallo…King of Guatemalan Beers
  5. Speaking of Gallos…that brings me to John’s contribution: There is only one acceptable beer to be seen drinking, and it’s name is Gallo. It’s everywhere. It doesn’t matter how large or small the tienda (corner store), it will have Gallo. All the restaurants serve Gallo. All the self-respecting bars proudly advertise that they serve Gallo. It costs around $1US for a 16 ounce can, and tastes like Bud Light. This is all according to John, because I think all beer tastes like stomach bile, and even a new country can’t get me to drink beer. I’ll take tequila any day of week.
  6. Sadly for me, Good tequila is nowhere to be found. We’ve been spoiled with world-class tequila in Mexico, and hadn’t realized that it does not apply to other areas of Latin America. The best tequila here tastes like watered down Jose Cuervo. The good thing about it is that it only costs $10US for a huge bottle, so you can just drink more of it. The bad thing is that you don’t want to.
  7. The sun sets at the same time every day, year round. This was the first thing that surprised us here, as we were driving from Guatemala City to San Pedro. It gets dark by 6:30pm. We had just come from the northern part of the USA, where it doesn’t get dark until around 9pm in the summertime. It took us a while to adjust!

    Sunset over Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
    When there aren’t too many clouds, the sunsets are stunning.
  8. Futbol is life. It’s no secret that futbol is the most popular sport in the world, and especially in Latin America. What surprised us is the level of support given to even the worst of the local teams. According to my Ruben, my Spanish teacher, the Guatemalan futbol teams aren’t very good. Muy triste. Still, San Pedro built a sweet stadium for it’s hometown team to play in, and when they play home games, please don’t ask the people to choose between Mass and the futbol game. Even God might lose that one.

    Futbol stadium in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala
    The new futbol stadium in San Pedro. We watched the San Pedro team practice for a while one day.
  9. The Boss’ contribution: So much helado, so little time. “The ice cream is delicious and it’s EVERYWHERE!” There is an ice cream tienda on every corner, and the kids couldn’t be happier. Even on a half-day hike with our school, we found a guy selling helado from his moto (motorcycle), complete with pied-piper-style música to alert every kid for a mile that ice cream was near.

    Pied piper of ice cream near Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
    Our English friends bought us ice cream from this guy. He’s Guatemalan, raised in the USA, and just moved back to Guatemala. His perfect Texan accent gave him away!
  10. A little “Buenos días” goes a long way. It’s easy to feel out of place here, when it’s so obvious that you’re an outsider. Almost everyone dresses and looks a particular way, and as a relatively tall and pale family in Western clothing, we are clearly not locals. However, when we greet people with an “Hola, buenos días,” we are treated to the warmest welcomes I’ve ever experienced.

It’s going to be a sad day when we have to leave San Pedro for Antigua next weekend!

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