Snap, Crackle, POP!

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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What I did
Smash It, Mate!

Flag of Guatemala  ,
Saturday, September 17, 2011

Quetzaltenango is a mouthful to the uninitiated but fondly referred to by those in the know as "Xela" (pronounced Shay-la). Guatemala's second largest city stands proud at a height of 2300m. That means that as soon as the sun sets, the chill creeps in like a paradoxical tag team.                                                                                                                                           
The travelling posse continued their sojourn to this lovely city and were temporarily joined by David and Esther (Switzerland), plus Daniel and Adi (Israel). Our shuttle off-loaded us and our mochilas (backpacks) alongside the main plaza. The men went out to hunt for acceptably cheap accommodation while us women guarded the "home". Black Cat hostel won our business and kept it thanks to their awesome, filling breakfasts. If you stay there, be sure to opt for the Breakfast Burrito. You'll have leftovers for lunch. But be sure to ask for a room without mouldy walls. Both Dee and Evan suffered from aggravated sinuses as a result. *sniff*

What were our first impressions of Xela? It's a lively city filled with locals going about their daily business; there are a plethora of language schools to choose from, all concentrated in one area; and there are too many vans blasting marketing messages over loudspeakers, adding to the traffic congestion. There's lots going on, shops to buy all sorts including electronics, indicating a bigger middle class in this city.

Xela has good nightlife, in fact, we enjoyed our biggest Guatemalan night out here and we timed it perfectly to arrive on a Saturday. Sure, Antigua had salsa bars and live music but this was where the locals hung out! We stood out like sore, oversized thumbs at La Parranda club where we pseudo-salsa-ed the night away. They charged Q25 at the door, but the ticket stub entitles you to a free drink to the same value. Apparently this is common practice in Central America. Mental note made! 

The club closed ridiculously early for a Saturday night so we took to hanging out on the steps of a hall near all the clubs. It seemed like the place to be! Beauty queens were exiting the building and you could buy photos of them on the steps. We suspect a "Miss Xela" type of event had just finished. Night food stalls abound, but it was the barbecue stall that caught our attention alongside the 500ml glasses of beer for sale. While we posed for photos a local snuck herself into one and asked for a photo with Mario because she doesn't often "see people like him in around here". We suspect she meant a black man!

It was in Xela that we first met Dieter Pop, the coolest Guatemalan ever! He was staying at our hostel and was on holiday in his own country. What made him so cool (aside from his name)? His heavy Pommie accent and the way he ends all his sentences with "mate" although he's never been to England (he's visiting friends there next July). It turns out that Dieter is a bartender at Zephyr Lodge, the hostel in Lanquin that just about everyone recommends. So it's a given that our paths will cross once again, next time it will be on his home turf. We should be afraid, very afraid! It sounds like crazy parties happen at Zephyr!
I bet you're as curious about Dieter's accent as we were. About 10 months ago he met James, a 19 year old Londoner visiting Central America against his mum's wishes. She was afraid that it was too dangerous that's why he only told her once he had landed. James asked Dieter if he knew of a cheap place to eat and also offered to buy him a meal. Dieter's English was almost non-existent so a German sitting at the next table kindly translated. James then offered to teach Dieter to speak English for free and did so for 2 weeks initially and for another 2 weeks when he returned to Guatemala a month later. When James returned to London he briefly left his welcome home party to fetch his camera that he'd forgotten at home. Tragically he was involved in a car accident and died as a result. Dieter discovered this on Facebook, and was understandably devastated. James had changed his life, and his accent will now be a part of Dieter forever. 
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Shame man, sad story!

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