Is there internet available?
There are several options. We DO have internet at the school for a small fee (Q50 per week or Q10 per day). However, because of the limited package the school shares with the community library, it may not be available 100% of the time. We also have restrictions around downloads and video watching. There is also Internet access in a nearby community just five minutes walk away, although the hours are varied. You can also go to Colomba, a 20minute bus ride to utilize an internet café. Finally, you can buy a chip for your mobile phone to have continued internet access through a mobile network. TIGO is the best option for internet service here at the Mountain School.
Where and what will I eat?
The staples of a Guatemalan diet are tortillas, black beans, rice, eggs and more tortillas! The favorite spice is consomé of chicken. We work closely with the señoras to ensure that the water is boiled and that the vegetables and other foods are well-washed and safe to eat. The women receive on-going training in health, nutrition, cooking and hygiene. Many families prepare meat, but they are used to students with special meal requests (particularly vegetarians) and they try very hard to prepare meals that suit the needs of the students. (Let us know when you make your reservation to help us plan.) The families will not be offended if you choose not to eat something for whatever reason.
How do I get to La Escuela de La Montana from the airport?
When you arrive at the airport, you might want to change some money for taxis, buses, snacks, etc. A taxi will take you to a first class bus station (Alamo, Galgos, or Linea Dorada), or to the area where chicken buses leave for Quetzaltenango (commonly called Xela); ask for camionetas a Xela. The first class bus costs Q60 and a chicken bus costs Q35, and both take about 4 hours. If you have taken a chicken bus to Xela, the bus to La Escuela de la Montaña will leave from the same bus station. If you have taken a first class bus, take a taxi to the Terminal Minerva in Zona 3 to continue your trip to La Escuela de la Montaña. From Terminal Minerva, the bus line you need to take is the GOLONDRINA (going to Colomba), which departs every half hour starting before dawn and continuing until 5:00pm. Bus fare is about Q10. The official name of the stop is ‘La Piedra’ (the rock). To be clear, tell the driver that you want to be let off at La Escuela de la Montaña or “La entrada de Santo Domingo”. When you get off, there will be a sign welcoming you to Santo Domingo, a neighboring community. The school is located less than five minutes down the road from the highway. If you’re still on the bus when it gets to the town of Colomba, you went about 10km too far and you will have to get off and take another bus back or take a pick-up truck to the school.
Is the School closed during specific Holidays?
The schools are closed on January 1, Good Friday, September 15 (Guatemala’s Independence Day) and December 25.
Should I bring a gift to my host-family?
All families receive a salary through the school for hosting students (part of your tuition goes straight to the families), so it is not necessary to bring any presents. We suggest that if students want to give something, they can instead donate a book to the Luis Cardoza y Aragon Popular Culture Center or the community library at La Escuela de la Montaña. The children who receive classes in these centers there come from families with limited economic resources, and your donation will benefit them greatly.
Is it possible to register for the Mountain School and PLQ or just one or the other?
Yes, it is up to you if you want to study only at PLQ, only at La Escuela de la Montaña, or if you want to divide up your time between the two schools. Just make it clear on your registration form exactly what you want.
What is the difference between the Mountain School and PLQ?
PLQ is the school in the city of Quetzaltenango and therefore offers the variety of city life: you can go out for dinner or a drink, check your email, etc. The Spanish classes you will receive last five hours a day and you live with a host family where you will eat your three meals a day. La Escuela de la Montaña is situated in the mountainous coffee region of Colomba and brings students into contact with rural Guatemalan life. The Spanish classes last four hours a day, you stay in the school building with a maximum of 13 other students, and classes are conducted in the school´s huge garden. You will visit a campesino family in the nearby communities of Nuevo San José or Fátima three times a day for meals. Even though students do not live with their host families, they often they hang around to talk with the parents or play with the kids.
What opportunities are there to volunteer at the Mountain School?
Students at La Escuela de la Montaña have the opportunity to help out with daily activities at the school such as caring for the vegetable and herb gardens, or tutoring and reading to the local children. When there are current construction projects in neighboring communities, some students help out when they’re not in class. Students with higher levels of Spanish fluency and who plan to spend an extended period of time studying at La Escuela de la Montaña may be able to work out placements in nearby communities depending on their interests and skills.
How safe is Guatemala?
Guatemala has a very negative image when it comes to safety. Crime and violence certainly exist here, but in our many years of experience, if students use common sense and caution, they can avoid almost all issues. Never travel or walk alone at night, listen to the local people when they tell you not to go somewhere or not to do something, watch your stuff when you are at a bus terminal, tuck away your money in different pockets when you are in a market place, etc. Unfortunately, as in any other corner of the world, for some things there are no precautions.