My Visit to Antigua
This letter concerns my visit to Antigua, Guatemala during the period 14 June to 11 July 2009. Let me preface my remarks by saying that if have been visiting countries in Latin American for many years and have been a student at schools in those countries.
My primary purpose in visiting Guatemala was to learn more Spanish. I have a small tourism company in Colombia, the Colombia Experience, LLC, Email: thecolombiaexperience@earthlink,net. And it always helps to increase your understanding of the language. I attended the Centro Linguistico Internacional Spanish School, Avenida Del Espiritu Santo #6, Antigua, email: email@example.com, for the princely sum of $880. This included four hours of classes each day, five days a week, for four weeks, and a home stay with a local family which fed me three times a day at no additional charge. I venture to say that no place on earth offers this type of first class treatment at bargain basement prices.
The school is unique in all of Latin American in that there are no classrooms. You sit on a terrace or in a beautiful garden with just a desk and your instructor. If there is too much sun, or rain, up goes the huge beach umbrella to protect you. I don’t think you could ask for a more salutary location for learning a foreign language. The teachers all have one goal in mind: creating in you a desire to know more about both their language and their culture. My fellow students ranged in age from the children of other students to people of school. Just one big happy family. The staff of the school goes out of their way to help you in any way possible. Have you ever been anywhere where the school personnel wash, dry and iron your clothes for $3.00 per bag full? When you arrive in country there are some great folks in a huge van who hold up a large sign with your name on it. The trip to Antigua is a short hour with no problems whatsoever.
My host family was headed by Lourdes de Palacios, who herself and her two children run the Casa de Huespedes at Calle del Burrito, No. 12-4 Email:firstname.lastname@example.org. Lourdes and her children Carla and Carlos could not be any nicer. And the food is beyond belief. Lourdes is never happy until she has the entire dining room table completely covered with every type of food possible. Interestingly, as opposed to other Countries in Latin American where you can easily taste the salt, Lourdes’ food is salt-free. You can add it yourself. If you like. But her food is very, very healthy.
If you are like me, you like to visit restaurants even when the food in the house is great and already paid for. Variety makes for an interesting life. I think my favorite was Frida’s 5 Avenida Norte. The owner is a very beautiful, young Argentinean and the food is out of this world. If you just want to spend an afternoon watching sports on TV, drinking beer, and eating whatever, this is the place. My favorite dish is sopa de hongos (mushroom soup), 29 quetzales (less than $4.00).
Another great restaurant, but not well-publicized is wiener, Calzada Sta. Lucia, portal del Comercio #8, right on the main street in Antigua. At night, while eating the best German schnitzel in all of Latin America, drinking a glass of Gallo (local beer), or an excellent vino tinto, you can listen to the gentle strumming of guitar music. I think the most I ever spent here was $13.00. And the owner, July is a first rate host!
Another favorite restaurant is Café Condesa, right on the Parque Central, 5 Avenida Norte. The sopa de papas is muy Rica. There is also a huge McDonald’s with a very interesting garden, and my frequently visited ice cream store, pops, around the corner from the café Condesa. You cannot go hungry in Antigua.
Finally, a word about the people. They are the kindest, most friendly and generous you will find anywhere. My great privilege in this trip was meeting a little beggar girl of 12 at the doorway to Frida’s. This wonderful child has no hands. With a little investigation I learned of a group of doctors in the United States who have committed themselves to helping the disabled and injured children of Guatemala. It is called “children of the Americas”. In September one of these great doctors is going to visit Guatemala City where he will measure my little friend for prostheses which will change her life and the life of her family. He will then return to the United States where he will fabricate the equipment and then come back to Guatemala City where he will fit the girl and train her in how to use it. The waiters at frida’s and the owner of wiener have joined me in this effort. They will ensure that all goes well with her while I am back in the US.
So you see that travel can be much more than names, dates and places. Photographs are important, but the lives of special little folks can enrich us beyond all the experiences of mountains climbed, lakes and rivers forded, and fiestas attended. There is truly a wonderful world out there. Our only challenge is to find it.
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