Guatemala. What a country. I love it. The people, the food, the nature, the (Mayan) culture and the Spanish that I’m finally getting to grips with – just two hours with a taxi driver talking to my broken Spanish, but hey, we had a good conversation and not only about where he lives, but about politics. Yes! A moment of happiness. Although I have a lot of them.
Ninos de Guatemala
Every morning with the kids, I love it. So I teach 5-year-olds English and also follow their Spanish lessons. It’s still fun. Every day is different and every day I understand those kids a bit more. They have been aware for a long time that my English is better than my Spanish so all the time I get questions like: how do you say in English… (como se dice…).
Then I’ll fly home, or well, I’ll take the Chickenbus. A typical bus in Guatemala. They are old school buses from America that have been written off and driven to Guatemala. I immediately see an American in front of me who drives his bus from Wisconson through Mexico to deliver a bus to Guatemala. That must be a bit of a culture shock for him when he crosses the border of Mexico.
American School Buses
In Guatemala they take the back of the school busses, because otherwise the long busses can’t pass through the narrow streets and they pimp the whole bus, because yes, you don’t want boring yellow busses in the street. At least they don’t want that here, so they pimp the bus with colored lights, women, eagles, the names of women and children, and everything you can think of. They are true works of art. The driver and the conductor put on some nice Spanish music and drive.
Because their income depends on the number of people taking the bus, they sometimes drive very fast and stop a lot. When they see me walking – and I stand out in the bus, because most tourists don’t take a chicken bus – they already recognize me and gesture that they stop for me, but if I can run for a while, because then they can continue. Sometimes I don’t feel like running, and they go every five minutes, but because of the heavy gestures I run anyway, to not disappoint him I think, or I don’t know exactly why I run anyway.
Anyway, I take the bus back to Antigua, where I live. The school where I teach lights up outside Antigua. Antigua is very expensive and touristy.
Okay, long story short, I’ll have lunch at home and then I’ll go for my three hours of Spanish class. In the beginning I was usually completely broken and, because I also had homework to do, I went home and slept quite early, but now that I’m used to it, I go out more often and enjoy the nightlife in Antigua more.
Besides that I go out every weekend to see Guatemala and by now I have seen what I wanted to see. On one stands Semuc Champey, a nature reserve. On two climbing Vulcan Atatenango. On three Tikal, where the Maya lived and Flores, where there is a very nice hostel. On four Lake Atitlan. On five El Paradon on the beach, where they have black sand, which I can’t get used to. And Antigua anyway, but well, I’ve been living there for two months now, so that feels like home.
Most tourists then skip the capital and where most people live and work, namely Guatemala City. Or just the city, as it is called here. It would be too dangerous, you wouldn’t be able to see anything and well, I don’t know, but nobody goes there.
I just wanted to see the city and coincidentally I met a nice couple in Jordan who live in the city two years ago. Thanks to the social media we were still in contact and this weekend I visited them. It was so nice and it surprised me again how ‘normal’ or western Guatemala is. We visited all kinds of places that felt like I was in a restaurant in Amsterdam, except that everyone speaks Spanish.
We are all the same
This trip I really realize how the same people all over the world are. We all want the same thing. Yes, there are differences, but by and large, we all want the same thing and we like the same things.
What stood out this weekend? I don’t know. I think again it was the nice conversations, the food, the places and the atmosphere. I am happy with happy people, good food and a beautiful environment. What else do you need? I realize that I can find that everywhere, and I have done that everywhere, but still because I know the people a little better in Guatemala I may feel more at home here than in other countries. Well. I don’t know, but everyone will have countries where they feel more or less at home.
Cuba & Mexico
Anyway, I have the idea that I’m going to like Cuba, where I’m going to go in June, and Mexico, where I’m going to be in July, as I’m going to see two friends who come from the Netherlands, but also because I can still keep up with my Spanish, have a good meal, and enjoy the weather. By that time I’ll let you know what my preference is, for now it’s Guatemala – Guatemala for short, but you might have figured that out yourself as well. Guate before and Guate after.