You betta Belize it!

Internet access has been few and far between and unreliable at times, thus the long period of time between posts.

Since my last post, I've had 2 weeks of homestay-immersion-one-on-one language study in San Andres, Guatemala; a visit to the Mayan ruins of Tikal; and a week on the pleasant beaches of Placencia, Belize. Now Gilda and I are on our way to Guatemala City to complete the circle of our little trek through this part of Central America. We had originally planned to visit Copan, Honduras, but with the recent coup there and difficult logistics, we decided to scrap it and extend our stay on the beach. Not bad, eh?

My language study at Eco-Escuela de Espanol was very beneficial. Although my curriculum was rather grammar-based (today we learn about present perfect tense, tomorrow the conditional), I didn't mind it too much because I was a language teacher myself and understand that structure. I had a good teacher with a sense of humor and flexible teaching style so things didn't get boring staying in one place or on one topic too long. The first week saw only one other student at the school, but the second week had 6 students there so we were able to do some activities and excursions together. We learned how to make tostadas with guacamole and limeade. We visited the school's forest preserve and learned about the native and agricultural plants and trees of the area. We visited the Mayan ruins of Yaxha, which impressed me a lot. Pictures will follow when I have the chance to upload them.

My girlfriend Gilda arrived at the end of my two weeks and we rendevouzed in Flores. We took off to see Tikal for two days. There are literally thousands of structures and hectares of property to explore, so even with two days we didn't see everything there was to see. But with a detailed book the first day and a great guide Cesear the second day. Highlights included understanding the dual Mayan calendars and number system (base 20, not 10); seeing the vantage point of Star Wars Episode IV shot from the top of Temple 4 in Tikal; and seeing howler monkeys swing from branch to branch.

We stayed an evening in Western Belize and could immediately feel the difference in attitude of this only-English-speaking-country in Central America. Trek Stop was a pleasant place to stay as we rested from the bumpy, dusty ride across the border.

Belize public transport consists of re-purposed American school busses, so we spent a good 6 hours on them getting to Placencia. Although cheap, these busses don't protect one from the sketchy travel arrangements of others. In Belmopan, Gilda and I squeezed our way into the back of a crowded bus, only to find the sole available seat was next to a dog in a box with motion sickness. Then it started to rain. The stuffy sweaty bus, combined with the wretched smell of dog barf, didn't not make for a sweet entry to Barefoot Perfect Placencia. Oh well.

We were finally out of the jungle when we arrived in Placencia. The cool breeze from the Sea and the fresh air finally told us that we'd reached our vacation relaxation spot. Our cottage was right on the beach, with a veranda full of easy chairs and hammocks to relax in. Although Gilda insisted that I just do nothing for the 6 days we'd be here, she had other plans.

We went snorkeling at Bugle Caye with its solar-powered lighthouse. Gilda snorkeled while I SCUBA dove at Laughing Bird Caye. We both toured Monkey River and learned the hard way that 30% DEET bug spray is useless in the midst of swarming mosquitos. Our guide could only laugh that we'd left the veritable "Jungle Juice 100% DEET" back at our cottage.

We ate at a lovely Austrian restaurant, Danube, and experienced schnitzel for the first time. Gilda fell in love with the Coco Colada smoothies at The Shak. I savored the familiar flavors of chicken, rice and beans.

Now we're on the move once again. Tomorrow we catch the 9am ferry to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala and then a bus to Guatemala City. We'll stay with Gilda's uncle Jorge and visit Antigua, like every tourist should I suppose. Friday we catch an evening flight to LA and get back to our lives.

Its been a great month of adventures and learning. Vinettes and episodes with video and pictures to follow!

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