Every flight from Brazil to Guatemala was late. I got stuck in Miami for a night and in Guatemala City. I´d been a bit nervous about landing in Guatemala City-- with its bad reputation and all. Funny, when it came to actually getting there, I wasn´t too concerned. Big groups of missionaries with different colored shirts. I caught a ride with them in a school bus to a fancy hotel to avoid taking a taxi at night by myself. Planned on crashing with a couple of girls in one of their rooms, but things didn´t work out like that. Nice guatemalan missionary took me to a less fancy hotel and I spent a comfortable and easy night.
I met a Costa Rican guy in the ´lobby´ (more like a living room) the next morning. We hit it off great. He had a lovely hand made journal that I plan to re-create when I get back to Florida. He´s got a great system for drawing and painting on the road, and I´ll experiment with this for my next trip. He gave me a knife-- and I gave him a quarter for it. Seems that the Central Americans also believe that you should never receive a knife as a gift either.
I took a taxi to Antigua-- the cross roads town that was my original destination upon arriving in Guatemala. Hit it off with the taxi driver. My first time speaking Spanish ever. I actually did OK. We communicated and he taught me lots of new words. He told me that he was going on to Lago de Atitlan, so I decided to continue on. I broke a major travel ´rule´ and left my bag in the car with him for a couple of hours while I wandered Antigua. But he was nice and I had a good feeling about him. He met me at the designated spot and I sat in the front with him again and we continued our conversation to Lago de Atitlan.
Got out of the minibus with a couple of Spanish girls and a German guy. The German guy- Stephan-- and me got swept along with the river created by the Spanish girls and we went with them to San Marcos. Sketchy posada. Way in the back up the hill. Quiet place. Shady guys wandering the street. One of them came up to the posada and sat with us. Repeating the same things over and over again. Weird. I voted to get rid of him-- straight up. Eventually we just all went to sleep to lose him. The next day, we decided to move to San Pedro-- apparently the party central-- not of interest to me, but what the hell. When we came down to the water to take the boat out, I was stunned. It was beautiful. Deep blue lake, like a mountain lake. Surrounded by mountains and a volcano. It was hard to separate the water from the sky. I saw a young western woman drop her daughter off at school. And everything changed. I wanted to know what it was like to live there. I talked with her and decided that we should stay. I proposed it to Stephan and we decided to stay. Said goodbye to the Spanish--good I think, like I said, they were like a river. We stayed in a lovely place--La Paz-- and spent the next couple of days swimming, sun bathing, climbing on the rocks and hiking a bit back into the hills. It really was a lovely spot. But, my mind (and guilt) has been itching and I needed to go. Spent a night in San Pedro for kicks (just to give you an idea of how weird this place was: the gringo ´manager´told me, I quote: ´I haven´t been anywhere here. I just buy and consume drugs.´)
Lago de Atitlan
Stephan with a Mayan family who we met working in the mountain fields.
I left the next day for Quetzaltanago or Xela. Took the ´chicken bus´, which was uneventful, given its bad reputation. Today is my second day here and it was ultra successful. I think that I have found the perfect language school and homestay. Tomorrow I am starting my first 5 hours. Then, I´ll meet Kari in Chichi a couple of hours away and return here for my homestay. Xela seems good. I think that I will like it. 1 month? Will see.
Street scene in Xela on the way to my homestay.