Hola! Spanish lessons have paid off – we’re going to get work as professional translators as we’re now up to native-speaker standard. The last few days have been a real strain – really! – going back to school was a monumental shock to our system…four hours of spanish each day, with Luis (a great laugh and a superb teacher) doing a brilliant job of intensively educating two dimwitted English guys. Homework (and yes, we did do it) every night, with a test for the first part of each afternoon seems to have done the trick…we can now understand people shouting at us, even though shouting back is a slow, painful and halting mixture of mangled pronunciation and verb conjugation. Antigua is a gorgeous town, nestling in the valley between three volcanos (all infested with bandits, and only one “working” – boo hiss). The uneven cobbled strees are laid out in a one-way grid pattern (making finding our way between the launderette, hostel and bar brilliantly simple) and the architecture is superbly colonial, the old Spanish old govermnent headquarters elegantly arching along one side of the tree-lined central square, famous for a fountain that has – well – check out the pictures. The main parts of town feel comfortable and friendly, the latter impression only slightly cracked by the tens of security guards dotted around (especially at night) toting worringly well-worn shotguns and banoliers of shells. Restaurants and bars abound, although are well hidden, sometimes the only clue being a small sign tacked to the wall outside – unfortunately the bars are currently the subject of a paperwork dispute between the rich Antiguan families and the licensing departments, the short story being an “official” 11pm close and a 1am “unoffical” close. The last few days have slid comfortably past, mornings spent in cafes over breakfast watching the world go by, afternoons spent sitting on the red-tiled veranda of the spanish school, Luis patiently covering the basics of spanish grammar, evenings in local bars drinking beer (punctuated by sporadic but ear-splitting explosions of fireworks – why? – we don’t know!). Definitely a place to come for a holiday (or even permanently!). We did manage to escape the hectic pace of life for a cold and longer-than-expected trip out to Lake Atitlan, a lake formed by a collapsed volcanic cone – watching the mist burn off in the midday sun, small villages clinging to the steep shores was a worthwhile reward for an uncomfortable journey westwars through (allegedly) bandit-infested country. Three extra days of Spanish and we’re at saturation point…current plan is to leave for Honduras, Utila and cheap diving on Tuesday (I think it’s Tuesday, days aren’t really important!) 1st August, hopefully arriving there around the 3rd, after a northwards dash via Puerto Barrios (map time) and over the Honduran border.