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San Pedro Spanish School

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Chicago, Illinois
posts: 8
reviews: 7
San Pedro Spanish School

My 9yr old and I are planning on attending the San Pedro Spanish school for a week. Has anyone heard anything about it? Reviews seem good. We plan to stay with a Guatemalan family. We will want to do things in the afternoon, but safely is first priority. Tips??? Will the weather is August create a lot of problems?

8 replies to this topic
The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
posts: 6,418
reviews: 95
1. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

I haven't attended that school but can highly recommend the Cooperativa School, also in San Pedro La Laguna:

http://www.cooperativeschoolsanpedro.edu.gt/

I visit San Pedro in July and/or August nearly every year. Be prepared for heavy rain starting in the afternoons or evenings some days. The mornings are generally gorgeous. If getting out and about and exploring is a priority, consider attending classes in the afternoons so you are really likely to have beautiful weather for exploring.

I've pasted my best tips for packing, money, safety, health, and host family gifts below. Happy trails!

_______________________________

PACKING

My best travel advice is to pack really light - just a loosely-filled carry-on sized pack. As Rick Steves says:

“The importance of packing light cannot be overemphasized, but, for your own good, I'll try. You'll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags: "Every year I pack heavier." The measure of a good traveler is how light she travels. You can't travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two.”

Here's a great resource for validation and ideas:

www.onebag.com

Take clothes that can be layered, including a light fleece for the highlands plus a light goretex jacket or cheapie poncho if you'll be there during the wet season; I'm not an umbrella person but some folks prefer them to a jacket or poncho. Good quality microfiber/wicking clothes are awesome - they're actually cooler than cotton in the heat, layer well, and dry in a flash so they're good in the highlands as well as the lowlands.

Some clothes with "wicking" tags are cheap knock-offs and wear like plastic. As a rule of thumb, anything that REI sells is a good brand:

www.rei.com

They're spendy but have great sales. I also like shopping at these online outlets (after I've researched REI and know what brands to consider):

www.rei-outlet.com

www.campmor.com

www.sierratradingpost.com

Be sure your shoes (I take Keen Newport H20s and a pair of flipflops) are comfortable for walking and that your pack is comfortable; if you're interested in my take on a few great travel packs, let me know.

My packing list for CA is #14 in the FAQ thread of the Thorntree forum. It's served me well for many years, though I've added a tiny netbook computer since I blog and help manage other people's trips while I'm on the road. I usually spend 3-6 weeks each summer in CA but my list would be the same for a week or 6 months:

www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa…

You might also be interested in the advice I give folks who are traveling with me when I lead groups:

fileden.com/files/…20NOTES.pdf

Cultural note: I reserve shorts and sundresses for beachy areas, rafting, etc. to be respectful culturally but lots of tourists wear them - ok as long as they aren't so daring they attract attention.

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MONEY

For money I take US cash in small bills (no torn or really worn bills) and enough local currency to get me started which I save from previous trips or order online and pick up at my bank. I also take American Express travelers checks for hotels, Spanish schools, dive ops, etc. that allow me to pay that way - I find out in advance. Then for the rest I use ATMs as I go; in my experience you get the cash in the local currency and the exchange rate is decent. There are fees involved but that's just a travel expense along with many others; some banks charge more than others. I check out the forums ahead and avoid ATMs in areas with a history of problems.

Recently I set up a travel account at a different bank from where I normally do my banking; ATM card use is free and I use it while traveling, then change my password and empty it so I don't have worries about subsequent removal of the funds if the ATMs are buggy.

I only go out with the amount of money I need, sometimes in a 'throw down' wallet with a few expired cards and the day's cash. If I am transitioning from 1 place to another I keep my passport, cash, cards, etc. under my clothes.

Remember to notify your bank and card company you'll be using the cards on foreign shores - where and when - and also find out before you hand over your card if there will be an additional fee for charge card use - sometimes 5% or more. I email myself a scan of the travelers check numbers and our main passport pages and pack a copy of them with me, too. I also go to www.oanda.com/currency/travel-exchange-rates and make tiny cheat sheets with the conversion rates for each country to keep handy.

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SAFETY

I travel in Central America every year. Sometimes I travel alone, sometimes with one or more of my kids and/or my husband, sometimes with a group in tow. I don't feel overly paranoid but have never had a problem and would like to keep it that way.

Here are my concessions to safety when I travel in Central America:

:: I avoid the big cities as much as possible

:: I don't "party"

:: Where recommended I take specific transportation (ex: Hedman Alas in Honduras, avoid chicken buses on the mountain runs in Guatemala, take taxis after dark)

:: I know where I am and where I'm headed and make major transitions with plenty of daylight left

:: I don't wear jewelry (not even my wedding band) and try not to flash camera equipment or money around

:: Some trips I carry a “throw down wallet” with an expired card or 2 and the day’s cash in it

:: I keep important documents and cash under my clothes (except what I need for shopping, buses, etc. for that time period) and keep close watch on my things, especially in crowded places and when I’m tired

:: I ask locals about safety in an area - evenings, hiking, etc.

:: I travel really light so I don't feel vulnerable getting my bag off and on buses, shuttles, etc.

:: I continue to build skills in Spanish (doesn't apply to Belize)

_____________________________________

HEALTH

:: I tend to follow the advice of the CDC for the country/ies I’m visiting:

wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list.htm

:: At least be sure you're up to date on routine vaccines like diphtheria/tetanus and measles/mumps/rubella; many adults in the US aren't and some of those illnesses are horrible and still prevalent in developing countries. In my opinion everyone should have Hep A, too.

:: Keep the bugs from biting by wearing long sleeves/pants during buggy times (usually dusk and dawn), using effective, safe repellent (I like Ultrathon and Sawyer's Controlled Release deet products). You can also buy clothes preloaded with permethrin or buy the sprays and do it yourself; even a bandana is handy this way. I've read that any sort of oil will keep sand flies at bay but we haven't had much problem with them in our travels (pray for a steady breeze!) so can't speak about that personally.

:: I only drink bottled water, never tap (unless I purify it or boil it), even on my toothbrush

:: I wash my hands every chance I get and carry hand sanitizer with me.

:: I avoid fruit I haven't peeled myself unless I trust the preparer (no bags of yummy-looking cut up mangos from street vendors, but usually I've felt ok in homestays)

:: I avoid lettuce

:: I only eat street food if it's selling quickly and really hot; most careful folks would say avoid it

:: I take shelf stable probiotics on the road; the one I prefer is here:

iherb.com/Jarrow-Formulas-Jarrow-Dophilus-EP…

:: I take a papain and bromelain digestive enzyme capsule just before or after high protein meals to speed digestion; I don't have a preferred brand but here's a link to some information:

associatedcontent.com/article/…

:: When I have a touch of diarrhea, I take 2 or 3 cayenne capsules and repeat every few hours - usually kicks it

:: I carry imodium or the like but rarely need it; it shouldn't be used if you're REALLY sick as it keeps the bad bugs in your system longer (can be really dangerous)

:: I get a prescription filled for the antibiotic Ciproflaxin to carry along in case one of us gets REALLY sick (powerful stuff not to be taken lightly) ; it's usually available without a prescription in CA.

____________________________________________

HOMESTAY/HOST FAMILY GIFTS

For host family gifts I like to take/send items that represent our area. In addition to a food specialty if there is one (maple candies, chocolate covered cherries, etc.) things like photo magnets, playing cards, tiny photo books, and picture calendars (even if it's most of the way through the year) with a state or regional theme make good gifts. I can see Mt. Adams in Washington state, Mt. Hood in Oregon, and the Columbia River from my house; I have photo magnets made and they're a big hit in the tropics because no one can believe I see snow year round. When I find a good deal on small English/Spanish dictionaries I take those to give out to teachers and family members and (in my case now) scholarship students. You don't want to take anything too fancy or it might make them feel uncomfortable or like they should reciprocate.

For kids I take small rubber finger puppets, stickers, pencils, and small pencil sharpeners; I don't give out candy or balloons for health/safety reasons. Sometimes I find those glow stick/bracelet things at the Dollar Store and take those, and some little hair doodads for girls. Pro team apparel/hats are popular but spendy and a lot to lug along if you don't know anything in advance about the family. I've taken kitchen gadgets and American spices, nice scarves and aprons, lotions, fancy soaps, and sewing kits for moms.

I don't give money to kids who ask (beg) for it but foreign currency can make a fun gift for host family kids if they're old enough to keep it out of their mouths - all the coins and a $1 bill, maybe.

Taking your family out for dinner or dessert is a fun gift idea and your teacher would appreciate that, too. Sometimes you'll notice something they don't have you think they'd like that you can buy locally. A few times I've taken a nice portrait of the family for my own memory keeping but have framed an enlargement as a gift before I left.

One of my best recommendations is to take a small photo album of your own family, house, pets, town, and friends - the perfect conversation starter, esp. if there's a language barrier. Happy trails!

Bethesda, MD
posts: 1,694
reviews: 23
2. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

I've studied at San Pedro and the Cooperativa. They're both good schools. If I had to choose, I'd say San Pedro is better -- but not significantly. Either would be a good choice.

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
posts: 6,418
reviews: 95
3. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

That's good to know, Craig. I'll always head to the Cooperativa but it does fill up sometimes during the summer months and folks ask about alternatives in San Pedro.

Bethesda, MD
posts: 1,694
reviews: 23
4. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

Most of all, as you've noted before, it comes down to the teacher. I'm looking forward to checking the Cooperativa's new digs when I'm in San Pedro next month.

Bellingham...
posts: 5
reviews: 1
5. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

Every time I see suggestions by Hopefulist, I know that I'm getting good advice. Went to Belize in May, thank you... and now I'm planning a 2 month trip to Guatemala... and thanking you in advance.

The Dalles, Oregon
Destination Expert
for Guatemala, Belize
posts: 6,418
reviews: 95
6. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

Hey, thanks! All I ask in return is a trip report. ;-)

Mi Wuk Village...
posts: 1,603
7. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

I would recommend San Pedro over Cooperativa. Less issues. Happy trailmix. Beware of touts with links.

Bellingham...
posts: 5
reviews: 1
8. Re: San Pedro Spanish School

Finally heading out on Feb. 11 for 2 months in San Marcos La Laguna staying at www.pasajcap.com

Will be studying Spanish at the San Pedro School. Hopefully I will post upon my return. Thanks again.

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