Well. I’m back. I honestly don’t believe it. I had grown to believe that that just wasn’t going to happen for me. I’m not really sure why, as my dad has passed on some fabulous but perhaps slightly obsessive money-saving habits and technically all you need in order to leave the country is money.
Oh. And the courage to do it. I supposed that’s what I lacked. For two years I beat myself up and swallowed my desire to be here thinking that it just wouldn’t work out for me or that for some odd reason, I was not allowed to. And then so many things changed in my time away that I was afraid I no longer was going to like it here. That somehow turned into a fear that if I don’t like it, I’d be stuck here and couldn’t come back. Or that I’d waste money or time. Or. God only knows. Fear only builds and builds if you give it one little foothold. And then it takes control and devours you, convincing you that you will not enjoy anything that you probably would enjoy if you went into it with the right attitude.
Regardless. Here I am. Whether it be due to the influence of spending so much time with my loving dance partner who shines positivity and encouragement or whether it be the deep disappointment in the faces of my family when they got rejected for the visa to come to the states, I finally booked the ticket.
The irony was on my first trip to Guatemala, I was beaming with excitement until I arrived at the airport and then got extremely nervous. This time, I was extremely nervous and wishy-washy about cancelling my ticket. Until I arrived at the airport. Then I was overjoyed to be on my way back to visit this beautiful country and all my friends I left behind.
I barely stepped foot out of the airport when I was met by two screaming voices running towards me. “LIZZIE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Isolina and Maynor hadn’t told the kids who they were picking up at the airport. I was so excited to see them. They’ve grown a little bit, but not much has changed at all. The chiki is still as cute as ever, just a little bit chubbier and hair a lot shorter.
My flight had been delayed a good while due to mechanical issues, but they waited for me all day. We didn’t have any time to do much but go back to the house, but we talked the whole way back. Isolina and Maynor had to move from Antigua about a week before I arrived. I was sad to not be able to go to the other house, being so convenient to everything and with a beautiful terrace view, but the new house is cute too and it’s a lot quieter so no getting used to all the noise trying to sleep this time. And no roosters! Yay!
But now the schedule is, either wake up and be ready by 7 am to possibly go to Antigua with Isolina and Maynor (weekends sometimes they don’t go straight to work so I can’t always snag a ride on weekends) OR take the bus. That is.. walk 20 minutes to get to the bus and wait on it to come and then take the bus into Antigua and walk to wherever I need to go. This is all fine and dandy on a good day and much easier going into Antigua, but coming home… It’s all uphill! Suffice to say, I have been getting my exercise. Due to their irregular schedule, I rarely can get a ride home with them in the evening.
One of the first few days I was here, a gringo called Maynor about needing keys, but didn’t speak enough Spanish so I became the translator and accompanied him to the job. Holy crap. Must have been one of the places that costs millions of dollars. It was located in a gated community, no trash in the streets, beautiful house, and here it is… the million dollar view. It was gorgeous. We got to talking and I thought it was going to lead me to a job because I exchanged numbers with his wife who is an artist and they were looking for a housekeeper (HA), but it never worked out.
For the first week that I was here, I mainly hung out with the family because I wasn’t used to walking around alone again in Antigua, but also was getting used to the new house and going to cafes to use the internet and look for jobs. I also went out looking for Willy several times to surprise him at his office. He now is working in a law office and working towards being a lawyer. It took me about 5 attempts before I actually saw him. He was so shocked to see me, I love surprises. He stood there and said “What the hell” probably about 50 times before we talked about anything else. I was so excited to see my best buddy from 2 years ago!
I also went to visit my friends from Las Vibras where I threw the fundraiser at the end of my last trip. They’ve changed to a new location and grown immensely. The new bar looks great and is increasingly more popular. I really respect the job they’ve done and the story they have. Basically the three owners were traveling together and just had a random idea “Hey how about we open our own bar?” one day and decided to go for it, joined all their money together and got started here in Antigua about 5 years ago. As much as I’m not a partier, I can respect a well-put-together night club and they have done a fantastic job. In my desire to always give helpful input, I suggested that they do event photos like popular clubs in Atlanta do and they said they happened to be looking for one. Hey, guess what, me. It actually didn’t pay much at all, so I said I’d have to think about it as I’d just arrived.
I also went to a bartender class that they happened to be having that night because he said I could learn to do that, but although I enjoyed the class, I decided against it due to my distaste for being in a club all the time and my lack of knowledge about alcohol haha.
In my first trip to the market, I was quickly reminded one of the reasons why I love it here. CHEAP AS HELL. I’ll leave you a nice list of what you can buy and for how much at the end of this post.
After the first week, I decided to go ahead and take a trip to Semuc Champey to surprise my friend, Virgilio. I thought, if I find a job I won’t be able to go over there very long so better I go while I don’t have a job. His reaction was a little different than that of Willy’s. He just froze silent for a second and then came and gave me the typical Guatemalan hug/kiss-on-the-cheek greeting as if I’d just seen him yesterday. Then he said how much he didn’t believe it, as two other friends had come to surprise him within the last few days, but with very little emotion in his voice haha. Crazy.
So this trip has been more down-to-business than OH WEE LETS GO SPEND EVERYTHING I’VE EVER EARNED AND HAVE FUN!!! So my time in Semuc, Virgilio so kindly gave me his room so I didn’t have to pay for a place to stay in the hostel. (Not to mention, Isolina and Maynor refuse to charge me to stay at their house for everything I’ve done for them. How lovely are they??) And I spent my time there hanging out with him and/or helping him out with his photography since he doesn’t have a computer to edit on. As usual, he still jumps off of crazy things, and of course in the traditions of Guatemala, I had to participate in somewhat crazy, but not so crazy that no one else would do it jumps. One from a tree that I needed help climbing (What happened to my limber, unafraid, 12 year old, tree-climbing self???) and another from a rock over a small waterfall into a quite strong-looking current. Both enjoyable experiences, rather than the rope swing from 2 years ago where I knocked the wind out of me. Perhaps I’m getting better at this jumping thing.
We also took a trip up to Lanquin to explore and take some photos and eat something cheaper than Utopia’s food. First authentic place I ate at in Guatemala, as I spent most of my last trip in touristy places too afraid of getting sick. This trip my mentality has changed since I’ve spent so much time with Vidal at latin-american places near Buford highway. It’s just people cooking. It’s not like someone has poisoned the food. Get over yourself, Lizzie. And I have. And eating at this places has made my wallet and taste buds so much happier. Instead of $5 for breakfast, how about $2?
One of the days we also woke up to do a fashion shoot. I had fun getting to be the model for once and Virgilio got to practice a new genre of photography. Unfortunately, they let the river out that morning so it was too high to take pictures where we originally wanted, but I’d say we still did a pretty damn good job.
When I left Semuc, I had many regrets. I had other things that I had wanted to do while I was there, but I was under the impression that Isolina and I were going to learn how to make tortillas from scratch and by hand that Friday, as well as I was supposed to meet up with Willy on Saturday, but it wasn’t until after I boarded the shuttle on that Thursday that I found out that neither of those things were going to happen. Additionally I found out our shuttle ride was going to take a lot longer than usual due to some manifestations in the streets for people protesting against the president. September 5 (I think) was voting day and people really came together down here to get the current guy kicked out of office.
When we finally arrived, it was too late for me to go to the Cerrajeria to drop my stuff in the car of Isolina and Maynor. It was dark. I wasn’t sure where to wait on them until they got out of church, but fortunately I made friends with my shuttle driver and he let me chill in the travel office until I could get picked up. He even treated me to….
My first street food! And it was delicious. And I’m not really sure why I was so afraid to try it last trip. Gotta stop taking things so literally. You COULD get sick does not mean you WILL get sick. And in reality, it’s just a bunch of people cooking. You could get sick in any place. And you can’t beat $2 for a dinner that will fill you up good. Since that night, I’ve eaten in the streets several times and I have yet to get sick on this trip aside from the supposedly normal “traveler’s diarrhea” or so it’s called that will just pass on it’s own if you don’t freak out and you get yourself some pedialite to keep your electrolytes up. So no counting that. That means one whole month of Guatemala + street food = no sick Lizzie! (And yes, mom, I took my probiotics on my last trip too. So.. That’s not the difference, sorry!) I’ve actually become a little bit of a snob now and don’t really care for the places I used to hang out in because I find them too expensive! And get peeved if someone tries to rip me off because I’m a gringa.
I went to a farmer’s market hosted by my friends that run Garage Funk and Caoba farms. Got to watch tortillas being made, but they’re green because they are made with Moringa! It’s kind of a farmer’s market geared towards gringo’s and their necessity for everything organic and in a shiny container, despite the extra cost. I, of course, did not buy anything but enjoyed looking around. And I did eat lunch there. The tortillas were still cheap. (Normally they are 64 for $1. So paying extra for the highly nutricious moringa didn’t hurt my wallet.)
Virgilio came to Antigua just about a week later because we didn’t get to finish setting up his photography page and getting his logo on all his photos. So when he came we hung out and finished our work. I tried profusely to convince him to take the job in Las Vibras because it would be a good opportunity, but it would not support him so he would have to find another job first.
I finally decided to at least give it a try, even though the pay was awful. Turned out even worse. The only way to get home that late at night is a taxi and to where I live cost me nearly what I earned that night. So I quickly mentioned it was not going to work out for me, but later on Dustin and Derek offered me double what they paid me that night and offered to always give me a free ride home (Derek has a car). So I have been continuing with that for the last week and a half. It’s only twice a week, but hey it gives me something to do and a little extra cash while I look for other jobs.
Unfortunately, I have been called for several jobs that I applied to but they cannot give them to me without a work visa and applying for the work visa, as I have researched, appears to be a lot more complicated than I originally thought. One call-center job in the city was dying for me, but I would also need a car to get to that one because it ends after the last bus. I’ve also gone and spoken to the magazines in Antigua and at least got once freelance job through Revue Magazine.
I’ve ran into several friends, whether by accident or by choice. I caught up with Mihail on his birthday, had lunch with Dr. Mario, and even ran into the boys from the Asociasion. I haven’t gone back to visit them yet; I’ve been waiting to go to the city to pick up that gosh darn package before I head over there, but they happened to be driving in Antigua one day and saw me. It was a joyous reunion that nearly brought me to tears because I honestly had felt like they forgot about me or were mad. But they were happy as ever to see me and I them and I realized how much I missed them all this time. Jose P, and Galleta were the only ones that weren’t there, but I saw Oliver, Daniel, Julio, and Marcus.
I ran into Kevin on Independence day. I saw Martin at rainbow cafe. I haven’t seen Jose C (#3) because he’s in canada with his girlfriend, Kenny and Edgar are traveling Europe I think, and Xavier I just haven’t seen yet because he’s in the city.
I’ve seen Jose (God. There’s 3 Joses. This must be confusing for you all. I’m referring to Jose that I dated) several times working in Las Vibras. He’s still the same. Literally hasn’t changed a bit. I have no comments other than thank God I didn’t fall for that bum.
I’ve also made a few new friends from the city that work in Las Vibras as bartenders, but I don’t have a good picture with them yet. Checho, Hubert, and Marlen. I am glad they are there because I go talk to them whenever it’s slow and I have nothing to take pictures of.
They’ve also given me rides home at night and let me join them for 2-am street food at Quetzalito! I actually saw this guy on my last trip back when I hung out with Orlando, Kevin, Byron and his wife, but I never let them convince me to eat it because, again, street food and Lizzie paranoia. This time, I dug right in and it is really good. Quetzalito is a guy that basically cooks out of the back of his van for all the drunk people who have no where to eat after leaving the bars. Works for me because I’m almost always starving at the end of my shift and never want to cook back at the house for fear of waking up the family.
I also made a new friend named Victor and we decided to hang out for El Dia de Independencia a few days ago. I got confused and thought there was a fair in Antigua, but apparently that is in July. The fair during Independence Day is in Quetzaltenango, which is a four hour drive. I thought about it, but didn’t want to go alone and couldn’t afford to pay the whole family’s trip and they were broke at the moment. So I didn’t go. Victor and I just watched the traditional parades in the streets and ate some street food.
I suppose that’s pretty much all there is to say. I wasn’t sure I was going to update my blog this trip since I’m mainly here to re-visit old friends and potentially look for jobs instead of spending my money on adventures, but so many people asked I figured I could at least update once a month.
But I’d say jumping off trees, eating street food, and walking 20 minutes uphill in the rain and almost dark to get home sometimes is about the extent of my adventures on this trip for now. Perhaps some of the things I do are adventurous to other people that I have not listed, but after getting used to Guatemalan culture, most of it to me is just normal every day life now.
So cheers to my first month in being here. And as promised, the reasons why I love Guatemala:
Eye doctor appointment: $7.
Eating out: Filet of fish, mashed potatoes, green beans, tortillas, and fresh homemade juice: $3; black beans, scrambled eggs, plantains, cheese, and tortillas: $2.
Street food: $1-$2.
Market food: 15 carrots, 1 huge zuchini, 2 oniones, 1 lb strawberries, 1.5 lbs of potatoes, 1 small celery, 1 bunch of cilantro, 2 corn, 1 26 oz bag of refried beans, 32 eggs, 4 lb chicken, 5 apples, 5 limes, 1 bag of tortilla chips, 5 avocadoes, 1.5 lbs spinach, and 1/2 lb of popcorn kernels……. $20.
Or… 1 bag of walnuts, 1 bag of cashews, rosemary, a reuseable grocery bag, 1 lb cheddar cheese, 15 eggs, 1/2 lb spinach, 3 lbs potatoes, 2 big brocolis, 3 garlic, 5 apples, 3 lb chicken and probably more that I forget about…. $28
Or… 2 lb chicken, 32 eggs, 2 onions, 1 small celery, 1 lb potatoes, 6 apples, 1/4 lb cheddar, 2 corn, cilantro, and a loofa…. $14
DVDS… $1.25 each
A waterfront one bed/bath property near Semuc Champey: $15,000-20,000
Getting stuck in traffic because of people running in the middle of the road obnoxiously blowing whistles: priceless.
And lastly, here are some photos around Antigua since I never got around to taking any last time.