Bienvenidos

Arrived yesterday afternoon after an uneventful flight from Detroit (+ layover in Houston) which included one Starbuck’s house coffee, one decaf soy mocha, a “pita omelet” on board the plane, a cinnamon muffin, and a chocolate muffin. Oof.

They’ve redone the Guatemala City airport! It’s all bright and shiny and… white. The flow of passengers is much improved, which means that they don’t even *look* at your passport/ customs form, practically. Seriously, after gathering my backpack in the baggage claim (where a marimba band cheerfully greeted us), I handed my aduana card to a petite woman who shoved it into her stack of other cards and I walked on through to the taxi stand (no longer a free-for-all in the middle of the parking lot, but rather under a nice overhang next to a new parking garage). There was no waiting, no standing in an enormous line, no explaining the chocolate bars I had smuggled in the bottom of my pack.

I shared a shuttle to Antigua with a woman from Atlanta who is visiting her daughter in the Peace Corps. She has been here seven times, but does not speak any Spanish.

After arriving in Antigua, I got some cash from the ATM (with no problem, shock and amazement), bought a Tigo SIM card for my phone (hey, el mejor servicio esta con tigo– hee hee, I like their motto), and found a place to get something to eat. After waiting for the shuttle for about an hour and a half, I was starving.

Stopped at “Cafe Condesa”, a very touristy joint off of the main plaza, and had a surprisingly good cold sandwich with white bean puree, sauteed spinach, and what basically amounted to tomato bruchetta. And an iced coffee. And a hot coffee. I sat under the balcony over the courtyard, where there was a fish-shaped fountain and a lot of interesting vegetation. A little white kitten (tiny! about the size of my kitties when I first met them) took an interest with the cushion on my chair.

I got my phone to work (yay cell phone!) and learned that I have 25 free text messages! Woo hoo! I don’t know if that means I can *send* 25 free messages, or *receive* them, or both. Anyway, the temptation to send text messages to everyone I know at home was great… but I have so far resisted.

While I was waiting for my ride to my hotel (at this point I didn’t feel like thinking enough to find the bus stop and take a bus, so I decided to cough up the $7 for a pickup) I was cornered by a woman selling bracelets. She had her baby on her back, and chatted with me for a while before asking me to buy a bracelet. I wonder how much of her story is true… then again, does it really matter? I mean, whether she has to exaggerate her story to get me to buy a bracelet or not… like her real story might not be “bad enough” for me to spend $2 on a bracelet from this woman.

She taught me “buenos dias” and “buenas tardes” in K’iche’ (she’s from el Quiche department), but I have already forgotten them 😦 I hope that’s not an indication of how my classes will go…

I’m staying at Earthlodge again.  It is pretty much the same as last time (gorgeous views! cold shower, awesome vegetarian food + homegrown pork) except I’m staying in a cabin instead of the bunkhouse. Oh, and they have internet access now! At $1.75/ hour, not too bad. My cabin has a mini-balcony with stairs for access, and nice views through the trees to the valley (and towns) below.

Earthlodge is located about 7km outside of Antigua, up in the mountains. They’ve paved the road since I was here last! There is this lovely smooth road all the way from Antigua to aldea el Hato, the closest village to Earthlodge. Seriously, this road rivals much of what we have in Michigan. Not a pothole to be found… makes me wish I had brought my road bike this time (last time I had my mountain bike, which was pretty fun). They’ve also paved a lot of the earth on the side of the roads. I don’t mean like a shoulder or something… I’m talking cliffs. They paved the cliffs on either side of the road. I’m assuming it’s to prevent landslides onto the road, but wow. That’s a lot of concrete.

For the next three days, I don’t have a whole lot to do. “Acclimate,” whatever that means, read, eat, maybe do some hiking… I’m reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius (finally) and pretty much just sitting in their adirondack chairs and looking at volcanoes. Yeah, life is rough.

Dinner last night was vegetarian potstickers and chow mein with sorbet for dessert, breakfast was oatmeal with jam and hot chocolate. Dinner will be zucchini pie and potatoes au gratin… mmm. And crepes for dessert 🙂 Not sure if I will have lunch, since I ate a late breakfast (and things start to add up when you’re stuck up here without access to the town…).

I’m leaving on Saturday for Huehuetenango, and then up to San Mateo Ixtatan on Sunday. I’m breaking up the 10-hour bus ride to San Mateo with an overnight in Huehue (and a last chance to get money from the ATM and have a good cup of coffee ;-)).

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