I feel like we’ve done a 180 degree turn in 24 hours. On Friday we woke up in the dirty, leaning flat that looked out over a busy Mexico City street, we saw nothing but other building walls and some industrial air conditioners. We had to haul 3 large suitcases down 3 flights of stairs and catch an Uber to the airport in busy traffic. Fast forward 24 hours and we are in Antigua, Guatemala. The town is small, the streets are a bumpy rock material, you walk everywhere you go and our apartment is amazing.
This time, the apartment is better than depicted on the Airbnb website. It’s in a complex of 5 apartments, one of which houses the Belgian (Flemish) owner and his Guatemalan wife. The apartments all look out into the garden area and all have outdoor areas both upstairs and down where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or a meal. And in fact, you can enjoy a meal that they prepare! The owner employs several Guatemalan women to do the work around the complex while he works as a translator (he speaks 4.5 languages, he says). The ladies cook three meals, do all the cleaning, laundry and anything else that needs to be done. If you want to join in on a meal, you just tell them one meal in advance. And judging from the large pitchers of fresh juice that keep passing in front of our living room glass doors, it’s scrumptious. We will be partaking.
The smog in Guatemala City was noticeable. The large buses (which are stuffed full of people) emit this very ugly black smoke with every acceleration. We were happy to simply transit through Guatemala City and not stay there. Antigua has equally smog-y buses but they are not as frequent. But it’s still VERY bad. When you get home after a day on the town, you and your clothes reek of exhaust. It’s very unpleasant.
We are staying in Antigua for 9 days. We had planned to come to Guatemala at some point in September but last spring we heard from a good friend in Oregon that he would be coming here studying Spanish for a week with his adult son. We thought it would be a great time for a connection so we coordinated our trip to overlap, and enrolled the girls in the same Spanish school. Jay said that he’s looking into a few excursions that will be adventurous for us.
Let me get this straight: I’m living in a clean, colorful apartment with 4 separate beds so we can all spread out. There are some lovely ladies available to cook 3 meals a day for me and do my laundry and I don’t have to manage them. Some good friends are coming and they are planning adventures for us. And the kids will be busy 3 hours a day without me? Oh, hello, heaven! Nice to meet you!!!!
But it’s never all good or all bad. Our taxi driver says that earthquakes are common, and he felt one about 2 weeks ago. This may not seem like a big deal to you but to this earthquake-fearing gal? Yeah, no es bueno. And those rocky cobblestone streets that look so quaint in the pictures…? Well they are a nightmare to walk on and even worse to drive on. After walking around for what felt like 24 hours straight and almost breaking a leg on the uneven sidewalks, we rented scooters (I had to settle for a 4 wheeler because my scooter was like a wild beast that could not be tamed) and those streets are a challenge. They are so bumpy and uneven and have no lines so you really don’t even know if it’s a one way or a two way. Or both depending on the moment and your mood.
There are no stop lights in town. There are a few stop signs but it’s unclear if you should 1) stop or 2) wait for the other direction to go or 3) ignore it all together. Apparently there are designated parking spaces, one of which is NOT in front of the church judging from the 500 quetzales ticket ($66 USD) we received and are now negotiating downward to be closer to the financial reality that is Guatemala. We went to the municipality to try to talk some sense into them. Haley was like a boxer readying for a fight when she went in to the police station with Daniel to discuss the ticket. But it was Saturday and the boss wasn’t there. So we said we’d come back on Monday. When we went to turn in our two vehicles they wouldn’t give us back our collateral credit card unless we paid the ticket. Of course, they wouldn’t even had known we got it if we weren’t honest and told them. Anyway, it cost us $375 Quetzales (US$50). They give you a 25% discount if you pay it in 5 days. Freaking outrageous ticket for parking a 4 wheeler on a sidewalk. But whatevs.
But the town has it’s charm if you see through the smog. For Panama friends, it’s like Las Tablas but with more heart and culture. And the shopping is pretty darn good. The Guatemalan textiles are gorgeous. And there are plenty of options for some very good food, if you decide to leave your apartment, that is!
And so, it’s an adventure. And that’s what we signed up for. Most days I love it. Some days I shed tears of frustration and suffer from adustment fatigue. And here I thought it was the kids who would be pushing themselves out of their comfort zone. Who knew that this would be comfort-stretching for me more than the entire family combined??? Daniel knew it would be, he says. #knowitall