This week I wrapped up my Spanish lessons with Julio, the 37 year-old conservative Catholic and father of four who explained to me that Communism has caused the downfall of the Catholicism and all things good, and that humans are on an inevitable path of increasing misery, poverty, and violence. He was a very kind and open-minded guy, but I wish we'd been able to go beyond the simplistic discussions of these subjects necessitated by my limited Spanish. I think he's getting a biased view of leftist politics in the U.S. from the young, radical population of travelers who tend to visit Guatemala. Meeting me couldn't have helped. [Photos: 1 2 3 ] You'd be surprised how much vegetarian and vegan food are available in the cities here. They've definitely had some experience with Western travelers. Tofu is commonplace on menus in the well traveled areas - on pizzas, hummus sandwiches, hamburguesas vegetarianos - although I haven't yet seen it in the markets, "super" or otherwise. Oddly enough, this internet cafe (obviously aimed at travelers) has a flyer on the front door saying it sells tofu. With so much easily accessible food, I've been discouraged from cooking for myself in the decrepid kitchens of the hostel. I did find one little place that has a rotating menu of mostly vegetarian/vegan food, home-cooked by a nice woman with a taste for good food. Within the first few minutes there, her overly friendly dog peed on the backpack of a young guy at the next table. Is that why dogs aren't allowed in restaurants in the States? [Photos: 1 2 ] I spent this past weekend atop Central America's highest peak, Volcan Tajumulco (13,845 ft), on a hike led by a local non-profit housed at my hostel. The trail (to the extent that there is one) is virtually straight up. No one here knew the Spanish translation of switchback. Twenty-two of us camped a short distance from the top, then awoke at 4:30 a.m. to climb to the peak and watch the sunrise. We were trapped in fog much of the way up, but that morning we were looking down upon lush green mountains and what looked like pools of clouds between them, and an incredible display of rural sprawl. The landscape is dominated by small family farms growing corn, potatoes, and other unrecognizable crops. The line of 22 white backpackers trapsing through their land was clearly an unusual site for the locals, whose kids came out to watch us pass by. These are people who probably know as much or less Spanish than I do. Today the muscles in my legs are a grim reminder of the beauty of that place. [Photos: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 ] Tomorrow I leave Xela for the capital to meet Heather. From there I think we'll head to nearby Antigua for a few days to wait for friends Steve and Camille who arrive on Friday. Antigua has been described as a clean, colonial, and traveler-friendly place, and the most beautiful city in Central America. Hopefully Heather will bring the camera cable by that time and I can start posting pictures. Hasta pronto.