Guate Guate GUATE!

Trip Start Jun 19, 2005
Trip End Jun 19, 2006

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Saturday, March 18, 2006

Our introduction to Guatemala began 2-weeks ago with an effortless bus ride south from Oaxaca. On our way to the bus station that morning we seriously considered staying put, and were only willing to leave once we promised ourselves that we would be back. A brief period of clueless wandering around Antigua in search of a hotel that first night belied the surgical efficiency with which we organized this new chapter of our life on the road the next day. Within 24-hours we had moved into an apartment (which are at a premium right now, but we'll get to that in a minute), obtained a gym membership, enrollment in Spanish school and a fridge full of food.

Each day in our new home begins more or less the same, with a pastel sky forming the backdrop for the 12,000 foot Volcan de Agua that stands sentry less than 3 miles to our south. Though Agua is dormant, though the other three, standing in a row just outside of town to the West, are very active, with Pacaya spouting lava and smoke almost every day. The birdsong comes first, flowing from the vibrant bougainvillea outside our bedroom window, and at 6:00 and 6:30am, the bells toll in the central park a few blocks to the north, telling the people of Antigua that it is time to start the day. Soon the chicken buses turn up the volume. Bright colors cover the aging school bus chassis that rattle down the cobblestone streets past yellow, blue, red and green colonial buildings. Innumerable coffee shops line the central park, tempting passers-by with aromatic brews and fresh basked goods, but on most mornings Mike brews a pot at home, as H refuses to allow her feet to hit the tile floors before her first cup.

We go to Spanish school in a beautiful garden just around the corner from our pad. Though the lessons are one-to-one, H generally manages to make class pretty interesting for everyone in the general vicinity. Halfway through her first week she mispronounced the Spanish word for comb and, to the dismay of her maestra, at increasing volume (for everyone knows that if you can't say it right, you should just say it LOUD) she yelled in Spanish "penis, penis PENIS" until one of the other teachers stepped in put an end to the madness. For an encore, the next day, H questioned the gender of one of the people in a photo her teacher had brought to class, only to learn that the hombre she was pointing to was her own professora. Oops.

After class we usually go the gym, and when that's done we construct a massive taco feast. The routine seems like a very good transition for us as our return to the U.S. draws ever nearer. After almost nine months of eating three meals/day at restaurants, we have a profound appreciation not only for home cooking, but also for the daily trips to the nearby marketplace. We walk with our little straw basket and mingle amongst crowds of indigenous Mayans, mutilating the Spanish language as we purchase fresh fruits and veggies, tangy cheese and big bottles of ice-cold Gallo. We make our own salsa, consume more avocados than two people ever should, and buy steaming hot tortillas fresh off the thing that they make tortillas on right up the street. All over town, women in traditional Mayan dress spend the day clapping corn flour and water into perfect little pucks which they keep warm in big woven baskets and sell, 10 for about a quarter. There are beautiful restaurants all over town, but so far we can't seem to find any reason to eat anything else.

We mentioned that apartments were a little tough to come by these days in Antigua. As it turns out, we are here during lent (who knew?) and Antigua is a nucleus of religious activities for people all over Guatemala and other countries throughout Central America. Each Sunday evening a massive procession winds its way through the flower-strewn streets of our little town, with men and boys in purple silk regalia carrying huge floats depicting biblical scenes. Things will continue to heat up on the religious front until they culminate on April 16th, when we anticipate more than an egg hunt to celebrate Easter this year.

Though we are far more interested in establishing temporary roots than traveling around, we have started to make some plans to visit a few of the sights outside the gringo oasis of Antigua, and will take our first Guatemalan vacation next weekend to nearby Panajachecl on the shores of Lake Atitlan. The current plan is to hang out here until we head home in June, but our neighbor just let Heather borrow her guide book, and the possibility of a few Central American side-trips is beginning to look more and more likely. In the meantime, we'll both keep plugging away on Spanish and enjoying this final phase of our great adventure. Hasta luego for now...
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