The other day, I told you a little about the first week-ish of my summer vacation, ending with a luxury bus leaving Livingston. Let’s continue there.
Week 2-ish: Guate, Guatemala, The City (but definitely not called Guatemala City)
I arrive at the bus station in an air conditioned bus, my seat reclined. I’m feeling well rested from the 5 hour journey. The bus drops me off in Zone 1, a few blocks from a cheap hostel I found online earlier. My first thoughts of the city? I should just find a bus and go straight to Antigua. I do not want to stay here. I do not like this city.
I continue on to the hostel, telling myself I have to stay just one night, to say I’ve seen the city, then I can continue back to Antigua. I would end up staying in Guate for almost a week.
Let me tell you a few things about “Guate”:
Pee. On the streets. Anywhere. Probably poo too (haha that rhymes). It’s not uncommon to see men relieving themselves on a building on a busy street, or to see a woman squatted behind a car doing her thing. The first friend I made at the hostel told me, “If you see liquid on the street, it’s probably pee.” It seemed odd at first (especially in a city), but it’s true.
Mami. Mamacita. Men are a LOT more forward about what they say to women, especially those with blond-hair and light-skin. For the first time ever, I was called mami, mamacita, and a few other things. One guy made a kissing sound (which is not abnormal) but jumped at me at the same time (which is abnormal). Startling but not scary. I made sure to keep a quick pace, though. Sometimes I wanna kick these men, sometimes I wanna yell insulting obscenities. But I always hold my tongue, my fists, my feet, and simply keep on moving. It does get old after a while, but these city guys kept it interesting.
Disparity. I stayed in Zone 1 the entire time (at the preselected hostel), partly because I had made friends at the hostel, partly because the it was cheap, partly because I just couldn’t be bothered to leave. But I did explore other zones. As with many cities, you can get pretty much anything. Zone 1 is not nice, hence my negative initial thoughts. The buildings aren’t nice, the people are creepy, I heard stories of danger (I didn’t leave the hostel after dark and always had a deterrent wallet). There are zones of the city I was told to not even think about going to, and I can only imagine what they’d be like. But then there are zones that are obviously where the wealthier Guatemalans live and these areas could be in any country, really. Zone 10 was packed with big streets, modern buildings, lots of nice restaurants, and one of the most beautiful malls I’ve ever been in. This was the first mall experience I’ve ever had where I actually felt calm and relaxed. Zone 10 is more of a day place, where people have a meal, a drink, do some shopping. Zone 4 is where the party is. Bars with hammocks, comfy chairs, pool tables, packed with young people enjoying beer, wine, and mixed drinks. My friend and I grabbed a drink and sat on the street curb for lack of seating (of course, there are no laws prohibiting this). I think about these city experiences and the small towns I’ve seen around Guatemala. The disparity in wealth is quite apparent. Some people are filthy rich, some are well-off, some struggle, and some have almost nothing. Many of the students at my school don’t have any technology at home or access to internet. Then there’s these people in the city driving fancy cars, eating in fancy restaurants (think $15-20 a plate in a country where I spend less than $10 for almost a week’s worth of fruits and veggies). This was definitely an eye-opening experience.
Buses. I took the local buses. The TransMetro buses, at least. They cost 1 Quetzal (about 15 cents) and are clean and reliable. People line up and board/disembark in an orderly fashion. It’s not an extensive system, and to get beyond the bus lines, there are taxis (too expensive for me) and the “red buses”. I was told not to take the red buses by numerous people. I’m all for adventure and living like a local, but in the city I was happy to avoid certain things in exchange for better security. I did not take the red buses.
Weeks 3-5: Studying Spanish in Antigua
I forced myself to leave the city last Sunday because I was set on starting a language course that Monday. Taking a language course was the one thing that was set in stone for this trip. When and where were negotiable. But I wanted to study Spanish for at least 3 weeks. So, with exactly 3 weeks left of my vacation, I headed to Antigua, stopped in a couple schools Sunday morning, and started class that afternoon.
Since then, I’ve learned a ton. Like, a ton! It’s pretty cool that I have had a basic understanding of the language for so long, so much of what I’ve been doing is review or taking something I know and learning more about it/learning the proper way. Week 1 was basically reviewing things I’ve learned before (past and future tenses) and getting a good grasp of vocabulary. In week 2, I learned a bunch of new tenses and a lot more vocabulary. This week, I started learning about the subjunctive… oh boy! Subjunctive is all I had left to learn. It seemed so simple. Just learn subjunctive, then I’ll know all the tenses. Well, easier said than done. This stuff is tough. I almost wanna just not worry about it and speak in one of the many other Spanish tenses. But I’ve decided to push forward. It’s going to be a long journey still, but I’m determined to continue learning this language and really speak it well… or almost well.
Tomorrow is my final class, and I’m sad to be leaving, but also very excited to get back to the lake and back to work.