Monday, February 02, 2004

Guatemala City, Guatemala--Day 3

Talk about putting my foot in the mouth. Go ahead and give me “I told you so” and I *promise* to be carefully about what I eat and drink from now on.

As you can probably guess, this morning (while I won’t go into *too* much detail here), I spent a good two hours going back and forth from my bed to the bathroom to my bed to the…well, you get the picture. What was it that I ate? Was the nice delicious fruit from the Zoo, or was it that nice big dollop of sour cream on the flautas last night? Or was it the salsa that I piled so generously onto my flautas? Whatever it was, it wasn’t such a fun morning.

Luckily though, my condition woke me up early and by the time I was feeling more like my normal self, I still had time to go exploring. I headed downstairs to the travel desk in the hotel and a nice girl helped me book a shuttle bus over to Antigua, the old Guatemalan capital. She was really nice and best of all, she also went to La Aurora Zoo yesterday and saw the hippos. She was really excited when I told her why I was visiting Guatemala.

By 12:40 p.m. my shuttle was late. I even tried getting on the wrong shuttle at 12:30 when another one arrived. I decided to go ask the girl about the shuttle, just to make sure it was actually coming. She called and confirmed that it would be at the hotel within five minutes. Perfect!

Soon thereafter, the shuttle arrives and picks me up. The driver mentions something about needing to stop by the airport and pick up some luggage. Fine, I say, as we whiz off. We head to the airport and instead of stopping by the terminals, he stops really far back next to all of the other tourist buses. We idle there for a few minutes until he decides that it is time to pull up to the main exit for the airport. He leaves the van running and gets out, disappearing into the crowd. Several minutes pass until he finally comes back, followed by a man with a suitcase who puts the suitcase into the back but doesn't get in himself. The driver hesitates and then gets back into the van and we are off again. Or so I thought. As we pulled away from the entrance to the airport itself, he gets a call on his cell phone and before I know it we are turning back around to the airport again. We pull up to the main terminal exit this time and he gets out again. This time he is gone for almost 25 minutes. Helloooo I didn’t pay to sit in a van all afternoon! However, I decided to be passive/aggressive and just wait it out. Finally a man comes out of the crowd and comes towards the van, and is beckoned by the driver to hand over his luggage and get in. Just a moment, he says, I want to get a Pepsi. Will we ever leave?

By 1:30, the three of us are finally off to Antigua. We drop Pepsi man off first and then the driver drops me off in the main plaza, which has a large fountain in the middle. I start by walking towards the plaza and spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Antigua, taking in all of the old historic homes, churches ruined and rebuilt due to earthquakes, meandering through a hugely extensive street market, browsing through stalls and shops. I also spent this time running into numerous other tourists who were there for their own life changing experience, an experience that obviously no one else could possibly understand. Except that other girl over there with the same Chaco sandals, same loose trousers, reading the same guide book and looking equally as touristy.

After all this, I decided that it would be nice to get a Popsicle (now following the advice of the travel nurse as to what to eat when you get sick) and sit down near the main plaza fountain to people watch. I was about halfway through with my Popsicle when a girl about my age came up to me and wanted to sell me her blankets. No thank you, I say as I turn back to eating my drippy Popsicle. She wasn’t satisfied, and decided to sit down next to me and start talking.

Sooo, where are you from she asks. The United States, I reply. Why did I just tell her that?!? Oh, the United States, I see. And is this your first time to Guatemala? Yes, I say. No! So, what is your name? My name, I ask. Yes, your name she persists. Katie, I reply, as my senses came to me and the words of the travel nurse “You don’t have to tell anyone the truth. How do they know that your husband isn’t just around the corner?” Ohhh, she says, Katie. Que bonita. Want to buy a blanket? No thank you. She persists further. Soo, are you married? Yes, I say, as I hold up my left hand with my old ring on it which I bought in New Zealand. Ohhh, that is a different type of ring, she says. Where is your esposo? Back home, I say. Dang it! He‘s supposed to be right around the corner! Oh I see, so do you want to buy a blanket for him? You need to get him a present, she says. No thank you. She persists further and further and I feel her trying to figure me out, and am almost certain that she is aware of my false identity. Finally, she is really frustrated with me and stands up. All this talking and you are not even going to buy a blanket, she scolds as she packs up her things and walks away.

By this time my Popsicle is beyond melted so I decided that I should get up and eat something solid for the first time today. I stopped by a small café and grabbed a slice of bread and some extra hot tea (just to be safe) and wandered around some more, hoping that I wouldn’t run into Ms. 20 questions again.

By the time my shuttle bus came to pick me up, I had spent a nice couple of hours looking around the city. The driver dropped me off at my hotel and I grabbed some soup and bread (again following orders) and am ready to get a good nights sleep again, hoping that I’m not awakened early tomorrow morning in the same way I was today.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.