The Rest of Central America

After leaving San Pedro in the middle of July, my first stop was Copán Ruinas in Honduras.  I saw some Mayan ruins:

There also were some cool birds:

My photos from Copán are here.

I then went to Utila for a few days of scuba diving.  It was aight.

After two nights in San Pedro Sula, I flew to Panama City.  I arrived at 6pm and slept in the airport.  I got up the following morning, and with all my luggage, spent over two hours on public buses (AKA retired American school buses) to get to the Panama Canal.

I saw one boat go through the locks, then got back on a bus to go back to the airport.  For $1.10, I spent about five hours on buses.  I slept in the airport again, then got on my flight to Barcelona the next morning.

My photos from the Panama Canal are here.


San Pedro Fútbol

Sanpedrinos take their fútbol seriously.  In a town of about 13,000 people, there are almost 70 soccer teams in two divisions.  Even some of the games in the “B” division are broadcast live on local radio.

If you fed Messi to Ronaldo, you'd probably end up with Ocho-Ocho.

I arrived in San Pedro just as the playoffs were getting started.  Chino, my teacher, took me to one of the semifinal games of the “A” division.  A couple days later, I returned with my friends Chad and Emily to watch the second leg.

There was a pretty big crowd, and I’m pretty sure we were the only foreigners there.  The announcers noticed us pretty quickly, and made several comments about the extranjeros who had come to watch.

At halftime, they decided they wanted to talk to us.  I don’t have a video of my interview, but I do remember saying, “Me gusta mucho,” a lot.  Here’s what Chad and Emily had to say:

A few days later, I went to watch the finals.  I arrived just as the “B” final was going to penalties.  Here’s a few clips from both the finals:

The players in the "A" final were legit.

Shortly after the finals, the teams began playing amistosos in preparation for the new season.  Chino asked me to come watch his team, Huracán, and take photos for his Facebook profile.  Huracán had another game a few days later in San Juan La Laguna, the next town over.  I was planning to go to San Juan that afternoon anyway, so I went, planning to just stay for the first half.

I arrived early, and found an absolutely amazing artificial turf stadium.  San Pedro has a dirt field that’s full of potholes.  San Juan’s field is at least as nice as any turf field I’ve ever played on.

The Huracán players slowly began to arrive, as well as a few players from the San Juan team, Quetzal.  About half an hour after the game was supposed to start (and 15 minutes after the referee arrived), Quetzal still didn’t have a full team.  Luckily I was there, as was a Canadian guy.  With us, Quetzal would have 11 players.

My second game. Note the lack of cleats/shin pads.

I played left back in high school and the one season I played in college.  But I’m really tall in Guatemala, so my team decided I should move all the way across the field to play on the right wing.  I hadn’t been doing much running, and we were playing at just over a mile altitude, so I struggled through the the 45 minutes I played.  Huracán won, 4-3, but I played well enough that they invited me back for their next friendly.

I returned the next week, and played (for I believe the first time in my life) a full 90 minute game.  This was the last friendly before the season started.  The dueño of Quetzal asked me how long I would be staying in San Pedro.  Since I would still be around for several more weeks, he invited me to officially join Quetzal.

So that’s how I got signed by a Guatemalan soccer team.  There’s a player card somewhere with my name on it and everything.


Monkeys in Panajachel

There is a nature park in Panajachel, across the lake from San Pedro.  There are monkeys at the park.  And apparently, you could feed bananas to the monkeys.

Sundays are usually pretty quiet in San Pedro, so my friend Katie and I decided to get a boat to Panajachel for the day.  Before leaving, I packed us some bananas and looked at a map to figure out how to get to the park.

After getting off the boat in Pana, I walked us in pretty much the exact opposite direction of where we were supposed to go and into the center of town.  We arrived at the main church just as a huge procession was coming out the door. We made our way through the crowd, then continued on to Reserva Natural Atitlán.

Upon arriving, we set out with our bananas to find some monkeys.  Here’s (sort of) what happened:

My photos are here.

Día de San Pedro

I didn’t do much research before leaving on my trip.  Among the things I learned after arriving:

  • Guatemala is very not flat.
  • June is the start of el invierno, which means it’s rained almost every day I’ve been here.
  • I would be in San Pedro La Laguna for el Día de San Pedro on June 29.

In San Pedro, this is a huge two week celebration.  The activities include:

Whatever the opposite of a bombero is.

  • Parades.
  • Church processions.
  • Bands playing hasta las seis de la mañana.
  • A carnival with multiple Ferris Wheels.
  • The finals of the local fútbol league.
  • Rodeos.
  • Bombas.  Scheduled for 4am in the official program of events.

Here’s a video I made of the parade:

My photos are here.

The aftermath.

Gran Jaripeo de San Pedro

As part of the festivities for el Día de San Pedro, there was a “Gran Jaripeo” scheduled for each of the two days leading up to el Día.  Based on some combination of my poor Spanish comprehension and my teacher’s messing with me, I was under the impression that a jaripeo was a bullfight.

It turns out a jaripeo is actually a rodeo.  Here’s what happened:

Lil Homies

I went with my friend Emily and my teacher, Chino.  We were join by a group of four kids.  (Fun fact:  Manuel, in the white shirt, is now one of my students, and occasionally skypes with my mom.  Hit him up on Twitter!)

The jaripeo was scheduled to start at 1pm, so we showed up just before 2pm.  Sometime after 3pm, the vaqueros came out and the rodeo started.

There were about 15 vaqueros who would montar un toro, as well as several musical interludes.  Somewhere around the midway point, the MC, Macarena, asked for volunteers for a dance-off.  Manuel started jumping up and down and waving, but he was ineligible, since he was not at least 18 years old.  Upon hearing this, all six of my companions began yelling and pointing at me.  I put down my camera and made my way down.

I’d like to note that this video picks up about 5 minutes in, and I had definitely run out of steam:

I’d like to think I won.

Me and Macarena

The next day, I went back after the jaripeo had finished to show my photos and videos to the vaqueros.  We hung out for a couple hours, then I went to find some food with a few vaqueros.  As we were leaving, I asked Gama why he had put on a baseball cap.  He offered to let me borrow his sombrero, so I had a sombrero for the rest of the evening.

As part of of the festivities, there was a live band playing in the town center that evening.  After dinner, I told the vaqueros I would meet up with them later, and went home to drop off my camera.

Dinner with my new friends

A short time later, my new sombrero and I made our way to the center, where we met up with the vaqueros, as well as my friends Maggie and Thanh, who were also studying at Cooperativa.  For some reason, Maggie and Thanh weren’t interested in dancing with any of the vaqueros, but they did each dance with me and my sombrero.  Nevertheless, the vaqueros managed to have a great time.  As Anthony put it:


A few days later, I had the following conversation with Thanh (who had been volunteering in a local school):

Thanh:  Hey, do you have a dictionary?  My students kept saying this word, and I don’t know what it means.
Me:  Sure, what’s the word?
Thanh:  Vaquero.
Me:  Vaquero means cowboy.  What were they saying?
Thanh:  My students kept saying, “Te gustan vaqueros!”  This is all your fault!
Me:  That’s hilarious.
Thanh:  You’ve ruined my life.

My photos are here.


At the end of my first week of classes in San Pedro, I went Ziplining in Santa Clara La Laguna with a big group from my Spanish school.  I’d never done it before, so it was pretty cool.  The longer of the two lines is 400m long.

I made a video of what we did (WARNING: PG-13 language/content):

I took a few photos, too.


I arrived in Guatemala City in the evening on June 9, and got a bus to Antigua.  I would spend two nights there before heading to San Pedro La Laguna.


I got up early and walked around town for a while before making my way up to the Cerro de la Cruz, which overlooks Antigua.  I was wearing a green t-shirt.  I don’t really understand what happened after that.

View from Cerro de la Cruz

On my way down, I bumped into a very worried-looking Guatemalan girl.  She didn’t speak any English, and I hadn’t spoken a word of Spanish since my last high school class nine years earlier.  As far as I could tell, she was looking for a guy in a green t-shirt, and couldn’t find him.  She ran off to talk to a police officer, and I continued down the hill.

When I reached the bottom of the hill, I saw here coming down behind me.  I stopped and waited for her, and when she got to me, we had the following conversation:

Me:  ¿Está bien?
Her:  Sí. [Lot’s more Spanish I didn’t understand]
Me:  Ok.

We started walking back into town.  I made use of what little Spanish I could remember, and was able to communicate things like:  “Soy de los Estados Unidos,” “Tengo un hermano y una hermana,” and “Tengo 26 años.  Hoy.”  She did a lot of talking and I sort of understood some of it.

We wandered around the city for a couple hours, until she said she had to go to work.  We walked back to my hostel, and she said she was going out with some friends that evening and would come get me later.  She left and I went to my room.

I thought about everything I had wanted to say but had been unable to communicate.  I took out a notebook and started to look up definitions.  Here’s my complete list from that afternoon:

maybe, to return, England, Scotland, I lived, coach, I had, wheat, to know, Hebrew, rain, to leave, to arrive, I was, spicy, bottle, list, translation, I made, I remember, I played, high school, yesterday, I slept for, I wanted.

She eventually came back.  We got something to eat then went to a couple bars.  I made use of my vastly expanded vocabulary.

Early morning in Antigua and el Volcán de Agua


My bus didn’t leave until the afternoon, so I decided to climb a volcano in the morning.  At 6am, I got on a minibus for el Volcán de Pacaya.  When we got the entrance, a guy approached our bus, selling marshmallows.  Our group bought a bag, and we got out and started the climb.

Roasting marshmallows

The hike wasn’t very difficult or exciting, but I did meet a cool group of people.  When we got about 15 minutes from the top, the guide told us that we had run out of time and couldn’t go any farther.  We did find a couple of vents to roast our marshmallows.

We made our way down the volcano and got on the bus.  In Antigua, I got off the bus from Pacaya, and right onto the bus to San Pedro La Laguna.

All my photos from Antigua and Pacaya are here.