‘Schooled’ by Travel, Part 2: Language, Culture & Simplicity /// Southern Mexico & Guatemala

Hola mis amigos!  As our last blog post left off in Central Mexico – you might be wondering how we got to Guatemala so quickly.  The answer is… we actually got here somewhat slowly – Sally’s usual pace.  We’ve just been distracted by Guatemala (this country seems to have that effect on us) and I’ve fallen behind on my blogging.

So where are we?  We’re currently parked at the beautiful Pasaj Cap campground on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.  When we left Parque Nacional El Chico in Hidalgo, Mexico we continued through the mountains in the Mexican states of Puebla, Oaxaca and Chiapas and crossed the Guatemalan border at La Mesilla.

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Our route through Southern Mexico & Guatemala

/// TRAVELLING & LEARNING ///

It’s kind of funny because after our last blog post when we talked at length about visiting new places, we haven’t actually visited a new place since!  This wasn’t intentional but we got in a bit of a rush, wanting to arrive in Guatemala in order to catch up with a number of friends before they left to go back to Canada.  Taking the easiest and most direct route meant stopping at a lot of the campgrounds and cities we’d visited before.  You might be thinking that we’ve abandoned all that learning and personal growth we were bragging about in Part 1 of this blog.  Not so!  Even when visiting familiar places in Mexico and Guatemala, we’re constantly learning and getting pushed outside of our comfort zone.

During every day travelling through Latin America in Slow Sally, we:

  1. Learn about and get a chance to appreciate new cultures and languages

An adorable little Mexican girl was looking longingly at Walter – I could tell she wanted to see him so I decided to invite her to give him a pet.  In the best Spanish I could muster, I said: “Tu quiero tocar mi perro?”  She looked uncertain.  I thought she was just shy until Marc laughed at me explained that I’d basically asked her “Do you want me to pet my dog?”  No wonder she looked kind of confused.  Oops.  That will be an easy one to remember.

  1. Get a sense of what it’s like to be a minority in a different country

In southern Mexico and Guatemala, the majority of the population is quite short (for North American standards) and dark-skinned.  Needless to say – I stand out.  I get a lot of stares – especially in the less touristy areas.  I guess it’s hard not to stare at the blindingly white, lanky, gringa (apparently I look something like the female version of Woody in Toy Story – especially when I run) who has a large Nordic dog tied to her.  I have to admit that standing out can sometimes be uncomfortable.

  1. Realize that you don’t really need a lot of “stuff” to live and be comfortable

Living in a van means you have to make do with less.  We always find it amazing how fast we adapt to living in a small space and how little we need to be comfortable and happy.  Case in point, today Marc just changed his jeans for the first time since about Christmas.  So I guess one only really needs two pairs of pants.  Or maybe that’s just gross 😐 Does it help that he has more than 2 pairs of underwear?

I had originally planned to tie these three themes to our most recent travels but once I got going on this blog, I realized that they are really too “big picture” to relate to specific destinations.  So instead, I think I’ll just leave it at that get onto where we’ve been and what we’ve been up to.

/// SOUTHERN MEXICO & GUATEMALA ///

After leaving Parque Nacional El Chico, we spent one night in Cholula, Puebla to break up the drive to the City of Oaxaca (click link if you’re interested in info from last year’s visit to this modern little city).  Oaxaca is a beautiful city but we weren’t there to sightsee… we were there to finish our solar panel installation.  When we arrived at the Oaxaca campground – we discovered a caravan of Quebecers.  Yes – a CARAVAN!  One that I expect was just as intimidating as any caravan from Central America, ha-ha.  Really though, there were about 15 rigs from Quebec occupying all of the serviced sites.  We instead spent the day catching up on chores and laundry (Marc was out of underwear!) and sweltering in the +30 degree heat.

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The Caravan of Quebecers

Lacking a serviced site in Oaxaca, we decided to move on to San Cristobal de Las Casas (click link if you’re interested in info from last year’s visit to this colonial city).  In San Cristobal, we walked on our favourite pedestrian streets, ate at our favourite restaurants and drank coffee at our favourite café.  Hmmm – not too adventuresome!!!  BUT – Marc did manage to complete the solar installation and we were delighted to discover that with our little solar panel, Sally’s battery is almost always fully charged (at least in these sunny climes).  This made Marc’s year I think.

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Another highlight of our stay in San Cristobal was meeting new and old friends at the Rancho San Nicolas campground.  Most travellers moving between southern Mexico and Guatemala funnel through this city and end up at Rancho San Nicolas, which is always full of interesting travellers.  This time, we just happened to reunite with Ben, whom we’d met at the exact same campground last year.  The weird part is that he’s been living in Antigua for the last 12 months and just happened to be at the campground for a few minutes to arrange for the storage of a vehicle.  What are the chances?!  Talk about the universe trying to send a message!

We also met the Southbound Seahags.  A super fun couple from Florida travelling the PanAmerican highway with their 3 dogs.  We spent a lot of time chatting and exchanging travel tips and stories.  I wish we could have spent more time with them and we’re still hoping that we might run into them in Guatemala before we leave.  See – it wasn’t all repetition!!!

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From San Cristobal we headed across the Guatemalan border at La Mesilla.  It was an uneventful crossing (the best kind) but slow.  It took 30 minutes to “import” Walter.  Another 30 min to import the van.  It took only about 5 minutes to import ourselves and they never actually saw Marc – they just stamped his passport.  He could be in Canada committing crimes with an air tight alibi as we speak.

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Border crossing, which doubles as a market, at La Mesilla
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Super foggy drive along the poorly paved Pan American Highway in Guate – Eek!

Since arriving in Guatemala, we’ve been doing all of our favourite things.  Hiking, admiring the lake, eating out, hanging out in San Marcos and visiting the little SaludosNinos! school in Panyebar.  The visit to SaludosNinos! was a real treat (as always) and the kids were as adorable as ever.  My friend Andree and I took a bunch of great photos of the kids and school that I’m excited to use for the website and next year’s fundraising calendar.

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Soon we’ll be visiting the city of Antigua and hopefully hiking up the Acatenango volcano.  But more about that in the next blog!

4 thoughts on “‘Schooled’ by Travel, Part 2: Language, Culture & Simplicity /// Southern Mexico & Guatemala

    1. Thanks Sandra! We SO enjoyed our reunion with you guys too! We were so spoiled with all the meals and grocery donations 😉 . We’re already looking forward to Spa-ing together when we get home!!!

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