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A Homestay In Guatemala

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A homestay in Guatemala is an amazing way to get to know the culture.

While visiting Guatemala recently I took part in a homestay with a local family in the small village of San Jorge la Laguna. The location is spectacular, with Lake Atitlán below and volcanoes and mountains surrounding. The village is small, with a few basic shops, a primary school all children can attend, a pub with a handful of tables, and a large church. A group of three of us were invited into Dora’s home to spend a full evening with her family. She was very welcoming and her three cheeky sons made the evening very entertaining.

Wanderlust Chloe Guatemala Homestay Family
Using my basic Spanish, I found out that Dora is a stay at home mum, as are most women in the village. She spends her days looking after the kids, taking them to school, cooking, cleaning and shopping for food in the nearby market town. Life is simple, but they seemed content.

Her husband Alex returned from work around 7.30pm. He works on the chicken buses (local public transport) as an inspector. He was warm and friendly and jabbered away in Spanish as I nodded along, only picking up every sixth or seventh word! He used to work in a hotel as a bartender and before that in a launderette. He had lived quite a varied life compared to many of the fathers in the other homestays, who worked as builders or craftsmen within the village itself.

While the family were by no means rich, they did have a few luxuries such as a television and a hot shower. Dora and her mother showed us how to make one of the staples of the Guatemalan diet – tortillas! Women learn how to do this from a very young age, and Dora makes around fifty a day. I couldn’t believe how difficult it was! They make it look so easy as they pat the corn mix from side to side in their hands. Mine got stuck to my fingers, fell on the floor, ended up irregular in shape, and never really looked like a proper tortilla!

Wanderlust Chloe Guatemala Homestay Tortilla Making

Wanderlust Chloe Guatemala Homestay Tortilla

The kids really brought the evening to life. They were all under ten, and spoke the local dialect along with a bit of Spanish. We drew pictures with them, clapped as they danced to their favourite song, watched a game show that was across between Gladiators and Total Wipeout, attempted to limbo, and the second I got my phone out they leapt on me and found Angry Birds! I don’t know how they know about it as their parents seemed to be using phones that looked like the original Nokias with aerials at the side!

Wanderlust Chloe Homestay Evening
Dinner was the three staples of the Guatemalan diet – rice, frijoles (black beans) and of course, our handmade tortillas! It was basic but very filling and tasty. We washed it down with sweet coffee which everyone drinks regularly, even the children who were all under the age of 10.

Wanderlust Chloe Homestay Meal Guatemala
The village has it’s own town committee which sorts out family and social problems such as men abusing their wives, adultery, alcoholism, stealing and misbehaving teenagers. The penalty is usually to spend time in the village jail – a public place where people are humiliated.
The village is traditional, quiet and has a feeling of living in a comfortable bubble. One day was enough for me, but I can see why people who hadn’t ventured further would be very happy living there.

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