September 18, 2011

Independence Day(s)

September 15 is Guatemala’s Independence Day, which was on a Thursday this year. This means that we had off from school on both Thursday and Friday. Although we are not from Guatemala, we enjoyed celebrating in a few different ways:

Independence Day Eve 

Wednesday night was the beginning of all the Independence Day festivities. We went to Parque Central to gather with the rest of the crowds. There were big inflatable decorations, including those weird inflatable people that float in the wind and wave their arms in all directions and are usually seen at car dealerships. There were stages set up for various concerts. There were vendors in the street selling food, souvenirs, toys, and balloons. There was a parade of high-school marching bands that came through the center of town. There were loud speakers blasting music, competing with the noise of the marching bands. There were fireworks shot off right in the center of town. They were really cool and bright and loud, and were probably done in a way that is illegal in the States. We left the city-wide celebration after the fireworks display at 12:30am, but apparently the party went on until 5am. Yikes. 


On Friday morning, we took advantage of our days off from school by traveling to Panajachel with a few other teacher friends. The town is about two hours away from Xela by chicken bus. Yes, we took a chicken bus. It was crowded with people, it went way too fast around the winding, mountain curves, and it was wonderfully inexpensive. We got all the way to our destination for about three US dollars per person. And on a side note, there is an American man living in Panajachel who used to work at Inter-American School, the school we work at. He let us stay in his apartments for about $1.50 US dollars per person. Again, wonderfully inexpensive.  

Panajachel is known for how touristy it is. Some people call it “gringo-jachel.” However, it was fun to embrace tourism for a couple days and see a new part of Guatemala. There were shops selling souvenirs everywhere. Adults and children were constantly coming up to us, trying to sell us things and barter with us. And I officially love bartering. The price most vendors offer is usually double what it should be. It became a fun challenge to try to get them to sell me something at half price, the price they should have been charging. There were also restaurants about every ten feet, inviting us in to eat their yummy food. We did find some great restaurants, and we did eat a lot of yummy food.  

And Panajachel is beautiful and warm. It sits right on Lake Atitlan, and is across from some beautiful volcanoes and mountains. We spent most of the day Thursday walking down the main street and looking at the different shops, but on Friday before we left, we searched the beautiful lakeshore for a place to eat breakfast. We sat at tables shaded from the sun by a tiki-hut roof, and we had a perfect view of the lake and the volcanoes in the distance. So beautiful.  

La Feria  

We came back from Panajachel on Saturday. The last part of Independence Day(s) celebrations that we still needed to experience was La Feria, the fair. Xela hosts Guatemala’s Independence Fair every year. It is one more reason why people flock to Xela every September.  

We literally dropped off our bags at our apartment and made our way over to the fair. It was like most fairs that I had been to before: tons of people, tons of food, and tons of sketchy rides. Again, I am sure that one or two of these rides would be illegal in the states. One of the rides didn’t even have a seatbelt or a bar to go over your lap! Fascinating. And terribly not smart to ride. 

We are not “fair ride” type of people. However, we are “fair food” type of people. We made our way around to different booths, eating chéveres (hotdogs), pizza, churros (fried dough with sugar on it), liquados (smoothies), and papas fritas (French fries.) And a little bit surprisingly we did not get ourselves sick. 


We head back to school tomorrow. Speaking of school, here are the latest tidbits: 

1. My “room mom” invited us over for dinner last Friday. We were going to be gone in Pana, but I wanted to write her a note – in Spanish – to thank her for inviting us. I wrote in my best Spanish, using my best handwriting, but I still wanted to have our Spanish-speaking secretary check it over for me. Sure enough, I had written in my note, “I hope there will be another opportunity to come over so that we can eat each other,” as well as, “it was so funny of you to invite us over for supper!” I do not regret having my note proofread.  

2. I was reading our weekly Bible memory to my students, which says, “be kind and compassionate to one another.” All of my students laughed, and I was rather confused. One raised their hand and said, “Mrs. Broekhuis, I thought you said we should love Juan another!” 

3. I asked our high school science teacher to come and show an iguana to the class. I told the first graders that a special animal visitor was coming to class in the afternoon. One student exclaimed, “I bet it is going to be Sonic the Hedgehog!” 

4. I was explaining a new Bible memory verse to the class, and it talks about God’s awesome deeds. I asked the students if they knew what “deeds” were. One student raised their hand and said, “I don’t know what ‘deeds’ are, Mrs. Broekhuis, but I am SO CURIOUS!”  

5. After I explained what “deeds” were, I asked students to give examples of God’s awesome deeds. One student said, “McDonald’s!” I do love Big Macs. Answer accepted.  


There are so many things to praise God for:

1. A violent-free first series of presidential elections. The second round between the top two political parties will take place in November.

2. A wonderful break from classes.

3. Our icky colds are gone for now.

Grace and Peace,


The taxis we took around Pana, called Tuk-Tuks.

The place we got to stay at in Pana.

The waterfall nextdoor to our apartment in Pana.

A Guatemalen bug.

Our view at breakfast.

Just taking it all in.

A popular ride at the fair. It is just as sketchy here as it is in the States.