The trip to Guatemala didn’t begin very auspiciously. We very nearly didn’t make it to Guatemala because of the worst car service ride I’ve ever had. Our driver was 10 minutes late, he went the most roundabout route possible, and upon merging onto the highway he promptly began swerving and didn’t go above 45 MPH. It was an adventure in itself, and all before 5 am.
After that ride the first flight was pretty uneventful. On the second leg of our flight, from Miami to Guatemala City, we had a difficult time communicating with our row-mate, a middle-aged Guatemalan man. As a result we didn’t get to sit next to each other, we got to sandwich him in between us. While we were filling out our forms for customs we determined he was illiterate. I tried to ignore it, because I’m sure it happens from time to time in a country with an unreliable education system like Guatemala (I know, I’m a jerk), and the authorities know how to deal with it. Stacy being such a do-gooder insisted we help, and somehow I ended up filling out his customs forms. He was thankful and ignored how I butchered the pronunciation of the Spanish as I read questions to him. We never could understand what his profession was. Hopefully he didn’t end up getting detained. As a side note, I think he broke my earphones when he was getting up to let Stacy go to the bathroom. I guess that’s what I get for being reluctant to help a stranger.
The first thing I did at the airport, after passing through various checkpoints and proving my luggage was really mine, was to try to get some money, because unfortunately they don’t change €5 bills (for whatever reason that and a few $1 bills was all the currency I brought). I tried about a million times to get the airport ATM machine to work and it just wouldn’t! Luckily Stacy had some money we could change and we hopped in a taxi and went to the bus station with high hopes that we’d find a money tree along the way.
The ticket salesman pointed us in the direction of a working ATM, we bought our tickets, and then did a little sight-seeing since we had a few hours to kill. There was a pretty fountain, a neat governmental building in a park that was closed, a Guatemala building in case you forgot what country you were in, and a festive market. We had been gorging on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches all day (gotta try to save money by not buying airplane food!) or else we would have stopped at the food stall in the market. As Anthony Bourdain says, it’s always the best food in town, and it sure smelled like that was the truth.
We managed to get to the bus before a torrential downpour, a relief since our raincoats were in the bags we had already checked. Riding on the busses is pretty neat because the driver works in a team with 1-3 other guys who periodically stick their head out the door while the driver moves into the opposing traffic lane to ensure he doesn’t hit the car he is passing. We purposefully sat in the front row so we could see some of the impressive landslides and the beautiful countryside. Luckily for us the bus was equipped with a rosary, which is obviously the reason we didn’t fall off the road during any one of the hairpin turns.
We got to Xela safely, and met our host family. The mom is a sweet and traditional woman who has infinite patience with our novice Spanish. I can’t wait till we can actually understand the telanovelas that we watch during mealtime.