Xela is Quetzaltenango. Xela is a shortened form of the Mayan version of the name, Xelaju. This is the second largest city in the country, but it´s off the beaten tourist path, so far fewer people speak Spanish, which is why I chose it for my language immersion. In Antigua, for example, which is the other center of language study, there are a LOT of tourists, and almost every tienda or restaurant will have someone who speaks English. Now, that´s not to say that no one here speaks English, but it´s far fewer, and no one is likely to start a conversation in English.
The weather is very moderate, but on the cool side, because we´re in the mountains. At the moment, I´m wearing a fleece vest over a long sleeved shirt, for example, because the nights are quite chilly. My room is on the top floor of the house, and it holds the day´s heat a bit, which is nice, because I don´t have my down comforter (que triste ;)
Some people wear the traditional traje, others are wearing more "westernized" clothes -- I´d say it´s about half and half. The traje is AMAZING, and I wish that gringas could get away with wearing it. As it is, I did buy a scarf at the market on Sunday, and I´m making do with that for now.
The cities are fairly smoky and polluted where the buses go, because most of the buses run on diesel (as do many cars), and they spit out thick black smoke at every stop. The neighborhoods have narrow streets and narrow sidewalks (only wide enough for one person), but my neighborhood is pretty quiet, other than occassional cars, and, this morning at 6:30, some firecrackers, probably for someone´s birthday, according to my host mom, Blanca.
I had my first day of classes today, and I can say that 5 hours of instruction will be quite enough each day to keep my mind very full! I like my instructor very much, which is nice for this first week. We talked about the political situation a lot, and about rules of grammar a bit, too. I even have homework! Tomorrow, I go to the papeleria for some index cards and notebooks!
In other exciting news, I have a mailing address and phone number:
Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, CA
(if you send me a package, it may be opened, so don´t send anything expensive)
This is the school phone, and I´m not sure when I´ll be around, but mornings are better, because I have classes in the afternoon (2-7) Right now, we´re on Mtn time, so 2 hours behind you east coast folks.
Last thing before I sign off is to wish penk a muy feliz cumpleaños!