Saturday, April 01, 2006


Recently we took the half hour ride over to Fuentes Georginas, a beautiful little nearby hot spring resort.

Near the base of the towering Santa Maria volcano are hundreds of these hot springs, due to the huge amount of geothermal activity associated with the neighboring Santiaguito volcano. Covered in clouds in the photo, Santiaguito has been continuously active for more than 100 years.

Fuentes Georginas are at the base of a very steep, lush hillside, from which the piping hot water cascades in little streams. A series of pools at the bottom collects the sulfurous water, creating large baths of varying temperatures, all in a beautiful, verdant setting. Next to the pools are a restaurant and bar, and about a dozen cabins are located on site for those who want to spend the night.

We went on a Thursday (to avoid the large crowds that frequent the place on weekends) early in the morning (to take advantage of the beautiful vistas before the clouds roll in and cover everything by late morning); this is one of the advantages of our current work schedules (Rob teaches at the university in the evening, and Carley’s schedule is always flexible).

This little jewel of a tourist attraction, popular with both travelers and Guatemalans, only costs about $2.50 per person for admission. The cost to spend the night in one of the pleasant-looking bungalows (which we didn’t do) is around $5-6 per person.

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In January, Rob accepted a job as an English Professor at Universidad Mesoamericana, here in Xela.
Four days before the start of the semester, they were so desparate for an English professor that they pretty much hired him on the spot - he just had to provide proof that he has a bachelor's degree (in Rob's case, an electrical engineering degree, for which he took a total of one English class in college). The job has turned out to be very rewarding on several levels, including monetarily - it pays more than 4 times what Rob was making before he started working there. Unlike typical universities in the US, Rob's university classes are in the evenings, because most university students here have to work during the day, so his mornings and afternoons are mostly free.
Rob teaches several of his classes in the lower classroom in this photo. In the background is the Santa María volcano.

In addition to the university job, Rob is also teaching kindergarten through 6th grade at the Guatemalan version of an elementary school.
Colegio Señor Sepultado (pronounced "co-LAY-hio", this means private grade-school, rather than college, as you might expect) is a perpetually under-funded school whose base clientele are mostly poor indigenous people. The young age of the students has been a new experience for Rob, and considerably more of a challenge than the university job, since he he's had to develop disciplinary control measures without terrifying the kids. What's more, unlike the university students, the grade-schoolers seem to have no interest in learning. In order to keep their attention (for only 45 minutes for each grade), Rob has been trying everything under the sun; the most successful techniques have involved games, but even then it is a bit of a challenge to get them to remember anything!

The school year in Guatemala starts in mid-January and goes to mid-October. Needless to say, with these 2 jobs, Rob has pretty much given up teaching private classes on the side.