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Hopefulist, Nonstop, dude, others: Spanish school question

Hopefulist, Nonstop, dude, others: Spanish school question

Old May 19th, 2007, 06:12 AM
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Hopefulist, Nonstop, dude, others: Spanish school question

Hi-
Nonstop, dude, I think you've responded to my earlier posts, and I'm looking for more input.

To recap, I'm planning 1-2 weeks at a Spanish school in Nov. I've read a lot of the old threads here and am having trouble deciding.

The facts:
-we'll be two women in our early 30s traveling alone
-we have advanced beg/early intmed language skills
-she's traveled a little (a week in Spanish school in Costa Rica with me; Italy with her family; Nicaragua for 1 week on a medical mission)
-I've traveled a lot but mostly to Europe and Asia, along with short trips to Costa Rica and Oaxaca

Our main issues are safety and being in a smaller place where we can practice Spanish with our family/locals, and cool activities.

I'm considering Copan, Honduras, but was a little scared off by reports of rapes/attacks at the El Rubi waterfall in particular and am concerned about safety overall in Honduras. I live in downtown Chicago and understand basic safety measures that work here, like not walking alone at night, but I'm afraid that even a group of two women would be a target in Copan.

I want to broaden my travel horizons, and am especially interested in the Mayan culture piece of Copan, but am concerned that a) we'd be too worried to enjoy ourselves or that b) something bad might really happen.

How much credence do I give these reports? What kind of safety measures did you take while in town, going to school, doing excursions after school, going out for a beer at night? I know everyone has a different comfort threshold, so it's hard to compare. Did your family/the school give you tips on where to go or not to go? Did you join others students at the school for excursions so you had larger groups? Was safety always in the back of your mind, even during the day? (At home I think about safety when I'm going out alone at night, but I don't obsess over it.)

Are there schools you've been to that might be a better fit for me/my cousin this time, saving Copan for a future trip once we have more Latin American experience under our belts? And if so, what would you consider a good alternative to Copan? I started looking at Guanajuato and Ecuador (jungle over Quito, I think).

Sorry this got so long, and thanks for your patience as I wade through this! I appreciate all the help!
Best,
Melissa

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Old May 19th, 2007, 06:41 AM
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I take a swing at some of your questions. I'll put your questions in quotes:

"but was a little scared off by reports of rapes/attacks at the El Rubi waterfall in particular and am concerned about safety overall in Honduras"

If you go to El Rubi you need to go with a group. I have heard they have had some problems but with a tour and a guide you should be ok. I


"interested in the Mayan culture piece of Copan, but am concerned that a) we'd be too worried to enjoy ourselves or that b) something bad might really happen."

I highly recommend Copan. you have the Mayan culture plus it is a small town (6,800 pop.) and I think it is very safe. The people are great and lots of opportunity to practice. Just don't spend any time in San Pedro Sula,

I felt the safest of all in Copan. I have been to schools in Cuernavaca, Oaxaca, CR, Guatemala, Honduras, and the jungle program in Ecuador and Nicaragua. I have never really felt unsafe in any of the places but I exercise good common sense. Sounds like you do also and I would not think you would have any problems by exercising that "street sense".

Guanajuato is a neat town. We spent 3 days there on vacation a couple of years ago. I don't know anything about the school.

Antigua may be another place to consider. The family stays can be pretty iffy there. I recommend the PLFM school if you go there.

I have never returned to the same school twice but have a feeling Copan will be the first one.

Let me know if you have any other questions.
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Old May 19th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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I have always gone to school in Mexico- Saltillo, Cuernavaca and mainly Oaxaca. Worrying about saftey just has not been an issue. I have either been with new friends from the langauge school, with locals or been so familiar with a place I have been comfortable doing anything I felt like. As far as Honduras I have only been there in 1998 doing relief work after Hurricane Mitch. I enjoyed myself throughly, but it was dangerous in Teguchigalpa at that time. It is the only time I have been involved in a crime when a hit and run mugger knocked down the peron in front off me, tore the chain off her neck (She shouldn't have been wearing it) and fled. My recommedntion is Oaxaca, but the strike and other problems there last year, and apparently starting again this year cloud this recommendation. I was there last year when things tarted to melt down and I was glad I left when I did. I need to go down there for business the first half of June and plan on taking some langauge classes at Becari too. I can give an accurate report when I return.
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Old May 19th, 2007, 07:15 AM
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Thanks to you both! I appreciate the patience and help.

Dude, I visited Oaxaca last July and stayed with a local woman; she said things had been bad just before we got there and they got worse after we left. I liked the town and people, though, and appreciate the recommendation. I'll look for your trip report after your next visit!

Nonstop, I appreciate the thoughts on Copan, Antigua, and Guanajuato. I'd say the fact that Copan is a contender for a return visit is a pretty strong endorsement! I'd heard the same thing about Antigua homestays from a fellow traveler in Costa Rica in March, and I think the influx of English speakers in Antigua makes it less appealing.

Again, thanks to you both! I welcome other opinions, too!
Best,
Melissa
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Old May 19th, 2007, 10:48 PM
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Hi, Melissa -
I was a middle-aged woman grabbing mototaxis, walking along trails and country roads, and exploring the town from 7 am till dark (and the main streets and square occasional after dark) and never felt threatened at all. The main town area is about 4 or 5 blocks square tops, people are friendly, it's pretty quiet. Your family and especially the school would advise you if there were reasons to have extra caution but I encourage you to give it a try.

As nonstop mentions, San Pedro Sula is pretty rough so head straight out; I recommend the Hedman Alas buses because they're comfortable and have an impeccable safety record. If you arrive early enough in the day you can take Hedman buses from the airport to the station to Copán and the school will meet you at the station.

I'm sure there are many excellent places to study but Copán is definitely a place I'll return to, also. I guess we've said all we can - now the choice is up to you! Happy trails!
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Old May 20th, 2007, 06:58 AM
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thanks, hopefulist! I appreciate the additional info! I talked to my cousin about Copan yesterday and she seemed very excited about the idea. Once we've got the details squared away, I'll let everyone know.
Thanks again!
melissa
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Old May 21st, 2007, 04:21 PM
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I just got back from Copán a few weeks ago. I feel silly for worrying about safety before my trip. I traveled by myself and I'm a 33-year old female.

In Copán, the only guys who will talk to you, randomly, are the drunks. You just kind of acknowledge them and move on. As I was told by my house mother, they are not dangerous. But I found that not many men would speak to me before I spoke to them, in general.

Copán is much smaller than I had imagined. I frequently walked by myself, at night, past the cemetery and the cow pasture, with no streetlights or house lights. I'm not saying it was the wisest thing to do, but it didn't feel unsafe, as it were.

I often (99% of the time) walked by myself, went out for drinks by myself, went to the internet cafe at night by myself, etc. It was no big deal, whatsoever. You will get to Copán and realize that it is safe!
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Old May 21st, 2007, 04:26 PM
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Now that I think about it, if you go to Copán with your cousin, I would recommend requesting to stay with the family that I did. It was actually the sister of the women who own Ixbalanque. The room is perfect for two people. Email me for info, and I can share my photos link with you.
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Old May 21st, 2007, 04:54 PM
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quartney,
I was able to keep up with your travels through nonstop. It was all very fascinating--you had some experiences! Glad you had a good time. Copan, through your eyes, was very interesting, and I would like to go to school there one day.
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Old May 22nd, 2007, 09:13 PM
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I can't recommend Copan since I haven't been there yet. I plan on going this July. However, I spent two summers (I was a 38 yr.old woman traveling alone) in Quetzaltenango (Xela) Guatemala. I went to Sakribal Language School and thoroughly enjoyed my experiences and the family stay. I went out a lot at night, never had any problems although you need to remember you are in a city. I found Xela a great place to immerse yourself in the Spanish (Antigua has a lot of tourists and an easy out to speak English). Hope that helps.
Carol
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Old May 25th, 2007, 07:23 AM
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quartney,
Just looked at your pics--nonstop forwarded them.

Usted es una artista con la camara!
Wow--I started out choosing a few favorites and quickly lost track. You should post them for all to see on Fodor's. So many would enjoy them.

I really appreciate being "in on" your experience and photos through Esteban! Thanks again.
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Old May 25th, 2007, 07:32 AM
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ˇYo tambien!
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Old May 26th, 2007, 06:14 AM
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Quartney, and everyone:
Thanks SO much for weighing in. You guys are a wealth of knowledge and make trip planning a lot of fun.

Quartney, I sent an e-mail with my address, as I'd love to see your photos and get the info on your homestay. I look forward to seeing them and learning more!

Cmurray, have fun in July and keep me posted, if you would!

Best to all,
melissa
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