Guac in Guat
Antigua Travel Blog› entry 10 of 12 › view all entries
Ok, so first off, I uploaded a whack of photos today, and it's taken me all morning--remember that these are my digital camera photos, my P&S, so there will be better ones from my 35mm SLR when I get home and have the money to develop my film.
Sometimes the tourists are correct. Sometimes they choose wisely. I've been here in Antigua for 3 nights now, and it is wonderful. I thought about going all around this area, up the hills, to the quaint villages, and have decided to stay here. This is what I was hoping Granada was going to be like, full of life and the balance between tourists and locals is harmonious. There are book stores and spanish schools, full of backpackers broadening their horizons; cafes and restaurants and bars, hardly every patronized particularly by only tourist or local. The locals are glad to talk to the tourists, and we are happy to practice our spanish (well, in my case, to get embarrased and mutter some nouns).
Guatemala is, sadly, one of the more dangerous countries in Central America. Everyone thinks that Nicaragua is full of war, and that Honduras is full of bandits, but the majority of the crime really is here; with over 1000 unsolved murders in the capital, Guatemala city is one of the worlds most dangerous. On the way here from Copan, we had to worry about being robbed on the road, as well as the slight danger of driving a bus of 15 tourists with luggage through Guatemala City in the early evening (it was the first stop on the way to Antigua). We got though with no problems, but a sense of miscontent, one moment talking about the dangers of the capital, the next a loud bang going off down an alley near our minibus. It's moments like that I suspect that God does exist, and has a sense of humour.
We got to our destination quickly, and I made friends on the bus with an American (who took off upon landing to have a quick libation before meeting her mother, visiting for five days after the girls 3 months of travel), an Isralie, a Costa Rican and a Dane. The four of us got along well, and tried to get beds at the Black Cat (Gato Negro...I'm learning I'm learning!) hostel. It was full, so we headed up the street, and the two girls (Dane and Costa Rican) shared a room at the next place, but the Isralie and I didn't feel that close yet, and I gave him the last room at Ummagumma hostel, and kept moving. I was rewarded with a room, clean and private, overlooking a nice, quiet street, for only 7 dollar a night, and gloated over a dinner of awful spaghetti, chosen for it's dollar price by one member of the party, whom I won't identify for the fear of perpetuating stereotypes (he's at the end of his trip and has no money...).
The next day I was meeting the three of them for coffee at four, and had the morning to explore the city. There are strict regulations on construction in the city so that it will not lose it's charm. Signage is strictly controled, with no high signs, towering up and glittering, in fact, it looks like lit signs are not allowed at all, with even the Burger King and McDonalds (the only stains on the graceful and historic city) have tasteful brass signs at eye level, their restaurants inside old colonial buildings with stucco walls and high, wooden ceilings, keeping everything damp and cool in the oppressive noon heat.
My descriptions are getting more and more majestic, probably because I am reading "Lord Jim" and am always infulenced by who I am reading, when it was Theroux I was cynical and an ass, and when it was Twain I was whimsical and quick, now I seem to be verbose and to go on tangents (like this one) trying, probably unsucessfully, to pull off long sentance which are neither boring or run-on, allowing myself to cram as much description into one small space as possible. Good God! might be the next sentance to such a thought. I'm being silly. Ok.
Wandering around I found that there are literally dozens of churches, both working and in good shape, as well as ruins, in the middle of the city, crumbling and mouldy, with perhaps one tower still standing watch over the rest of her fallen body. All of this makes for great photo oppertunities, which I have taken advantage of to the tune of about four rolls of film. There are also always things going on, both here in Antigua, as well as in cities in Central America in general, a student parade, or a band, just playing and walking around; the public casually enjoying themselves, strolling around with their families, eating ice cream and bags of mango with spicey sugar shaken onto the pieces.
Coffee with my friends turned into dinner and drinks, the food better this time, and even a respectable glass of wine with dinner. Nille is a phd student of finance, concentrating of the mathmatical side of it (whatever that means--she told me that it had to do with bonds and instruments, and that it was much too difficult to explain over dinner) and must be back for the Oct. 2 semester in Denmark. Ran, the Isralie is finished with the Army, and he is just traveling as long as he possibly can. Nille left, and Ran changed to a cheaper hostel, so I was on my own last night, and spend it drinking wine at Kafka, a local bar owned by a jovial bald Guatamalan who was more interested in changing the songs on the computer behind him than getting people drinks. Some annoying Americans with dogs and lofty, loud opinions ate pulled pork sandwiches and the most annoying one, who spoke spanish with condesention to all the gringos around him, ordered (I found out later) a plate of rice and chicken for his beautiful, long haired husky, buddy, who sat beside him for most of the evening, letting guests step over him as they needed to pass.
It is becoming clear why so many travelers come to Guatemala, and ignore the rest of the area. The music is better, the people are friendlier (unless they are trying to kill you) and it's so much cheaper than other places. Considering that I'm in a tourist mecca, and it's still cheaper than the surrounding countries...
The food is also better here than I have encountered elsewhere; with rich, spicy dishes and the food is as close to mexican as I have encountered yet. I had the best Nacho's I have ever eaten, with a massive mound of homemade Guacamole on top of the rich, thick, almost meaty chips, clearly homemade too, with cheese, tomato, onion, refried black beans, and chicken. I will be thinking of them, and particularly the Guacamole for year to come, unless I am much mistaken. Tonight I am going to a lecture on the state of children at a local restaurant/band venue, probably to recruit more volunteeres, but probably interesting nonetheless. I have also noticed the price of accomidation, at 250usd a month, for a double, it would be easy to come here for six months and learn spanish in one of the many schools, with the towering volcano waching over from the south of the city, and the friendly stray dogs from the gutters...