Sunday, January 27, 2013

Host Family

Well, today I moved in with my host family! I’ll be living with them for three weeks before we move on to Cantel. I was very happy to find three kids in the house! I’m not sure if I understood correctly, but I’m pretty sure they don’t live here but come over a lot; they are my host mother’s grandkids! They also have two birds and a Chihuahua with 2 adorable puppies! So, I spent the afternoon playing hide and seek with 2 dogs and a five year old girl as well as cars with a six year old boy! There is also a really cute 2 year old boy! I got to each lunch with the kids, my host mother, her son, daughter, and daughter’s husband. I was very entertained when they used the 6 year old’s hot wheels cars to demonstrate their different parallel parking techniques. Definitely something I could picture happening in my house!

Also, I have to say when I walked in and kids were running around everywhere and pets were making all kinds of noises it reminded me of somewhere I’m quite fond of…

Tomorrow we begin our languages classes from 8-1 each day and then we have different activities in the afternoon. In addition, PLQ, the language center, has different activities at night that we can attend if we want. Count me in for fĂștbol on Thursday!

Volcano Hiking

Yes. Definitely my favorite thing so far, but I doubt that comes as a surprise. We woke up bright and early and stuffed far too many people into a van and drove very fast to the city of San Martin. The hike took us first through an indigenous community, which was filled with smiling children, a crowd around a freshly butchered cow, and colorful, gorgeous buildings. Something I found interesting was when our guide informed us (as I proudly understood his Spanish!!!) that seeing a random comparatively nice house indicated that the family had relatives working in the U.S. and sending back money. And it was definitely noticeable.

All the way up, aside from glorious forest, were views of the town in the valley and the squares of farmland stretching up and down the hills. Once we reached the top, however, we could see several more volcanoes in the distance, including an active one! I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves here, although as always, they don’t do the experience justice.

After descending 600 stairs we emerged at a lake where sacred Mayan ceremonies are held. The surrounding mountains are where many battles of the war were fought. One of our guides was an ex-guerilla combatant and you better believe he had some interesting stories. I’m thankful he was willing to share these memories with us. I’ll post again sometime soon with some general information about the civil war so this makes more sense to someone unfamiliar with this piece of history! 

The hotel roof in Antigua.

Indigenous farms we saw on the way to Xela

Bread shaped like a turtle with chocolate filling!! Too good!

View from the hill in Xela


The beginning of our hike!

I just thought it was cool that the wood is orange.

The people of the village grow potatoes for export.

Not positive, but I think this is the biggest volcano in Central America

And this one is active!!!

The active volcano is the one you can barely see because of the lighting,

La laguna where many Mayan ceremonies are held. 

Yummy mango!!

And then on the way back we were suddenly in a cloud!

An adorable little boy was proudly showing off his cow!

A few houses from the village

Friday, January 25, 2013


     On Wednesday we arrived in Quetzaltenango, or Xela. We will be staying here for about three weeks and we are moving in with a host family on Sunday! We will also start class on Monday, which consists of five hour of one on one Spanish each day. (yikes!)

     I love the city here so far. I love that all the buildings are open-air and most also have a courtyard in the middle with gardens and fruit trees. The only problem is that it is reallllllllly cold so I have to stay bundled up all the time, even indoors. I also love how the cities are set up with a central square downtown with a park in the middle!

    Even the three hour drive to this city was an awesome experience. We drove through many rural areas and over many highland mountains and we got to see many indigenous villages and farms that still use traditional farming methods (except for the part where they grow crops that they can export to the US now...)

   While here so far we have been hanging out at a lot of the cafes where you can get the best hot chocolate ever and get on the internet. There is also a place called Cafe Red where we eat a lot of our meals. The cafe is a blend of many cultural foods and it is literally some of the best food I've ever had. Cafe Red is also committed to using local ingredients and has a Fair Trade shop with Guatemalan made artisan items, like bags, headbands, and scarves.

I will be posting more pictures soon! :)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Some interesting things so far…

1. Globalization is much more intense than I anticipated. Today I saw a Pizza Hut, IHOP, Dukin Donuts, McDonald’s (duh), KFC, Wendy’s, and Quizno’s. And that was before we went to the rich people mall.

2. There’s a lot of pine trees. Not exactly what I was expecting from the rainforest.
I realized that most people from the U.S. have very little knowledge of Central America. (I may be known for making some snarky comments about many people not knowing the place exists.) I also knew the extent of the violence of the Guatemalan Civil War was hidden from the world and many still have no idea. I didn’t, however, know that even many Guatemalans don’t know; repression in the country was, and to some extent, still is, that extensive.

3. REALLY GOOD FOOD! And definitely a satisfactory amount of wonderful coffee.

4. I'm spending 8 hours hiking a volcano on Saturday!!

5. Guatemala was on its way to democracy and stability when the CIA overthrew the government in 1954. Their reason? The government tried to redistribute land back to the indigenous people and some of this land was owned by the US based United Fruit Company. So, they cried “communism!” and ousted the regime. 36 years of civil war ensued from this.

6. “Scorched Earth Policy” –the Guatemalan military’s strategy (trained by the best- the U.S.) to get rid of resistance. They burned every living thing in indigenous villages. Appallingly, they apparently took quite literally Eisenhower’s advice that it was easier to kill the guerilla in its mother’s womb than in the mountains. 200,000 people were believed to be killed during this time, and 45,000 Guatemalans are still unaccounted for.

7. Guatemala has no government sponsored mental health services, and therefore Guatemalans have very little, if any, access to help they need to try and recover from the trauma encountered during the war.

8. For anyone who has wondered why developing nations can’t seem to shake corruption and pull out some solid democracy, take this analogy of how the “system” works, and how our natural reaction is to fight violence with an even stronger punch. Bin Laden orchestrated 9/11, so ‘we’ invaded the entire country of Afghanistan. Where did Bin Laden learn his game? Yeah, the CIA.

9. I AM GOING TO BE DOWN HERE DURING BABY SEA TURTLE HATCHING SEASON. Hopefully I'll be able to cross a third thing off my bucket list this semester! ( thing 1: visit the rainforest; thing 2: become fluent in spanish.) 

10. I talked to quite a few people in Spanish today and understood almost all of what I heard. HOORAY!!!! Maybe there is indeed hope for my conversational skills!

Sorry if you thought you would be reading a happy-go-lucky account of a rainforest adventure, but I’ve also included some pictures so I don’t scare away readers for good. 

Los flores en el hotel en la Ciudad de Guatemala,

Broken glass on the roof to ward off intruders.

View from the top of the guesthouse in Guatemala City. Volcanoes everywhere!!!!

Downtown Guatemala City

Cathedral in Guatemala City

View from the market in Antigua.

Hotel Roof in Antigua

Our hotel!

A convent on the hill.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Here we go...

I am at the airport waiting on my plane!! I've been promising this for awhile now so here is my info....

To keep in touch: Keep in mind that the mail will take at least 2 weeks to get to me, and I'll be moving around as well. Therefore, your best bet may be to contact me over the internet. Email me at: 

If you send a letter, I promise I'll write you back! And most likely bring you back a cool souvenir, I'm definitely not above bribery. 

Here is my first mailing address. I can receive mail here for the first month, but send it by mid-February.

Jennifer Kopetic
c/o Proyecto Linguistico Quetzalteco
5a Calle, 2-42, Zona 1
Quetzaltenango, Quetzlatenango 

Then, until the end of March my mailing address is:

Jennifer Kopetic
c/o Centro de Educacion Mundial
Apartado Postal 05-181
San Salvador, San Salvador
El Salvador

Aaaaaand then, until May 10:

Jennifer Kopetic 
Centro de Educacion Mundial
Apartado RP-44
Monsenor Lezcano
Managua, Nicaragua

I also have an app so I can text and call over the internet. So, download the app called "Whatsapp" and you can text me on there for free.

Now its time for some coffee....