Loading Map...

The Americans are coming! The Americans are coming!

Written on: Monday February 2nd, 2009

A journal entry from: Guatemala, mi amor.

The Americans are coming!  The Americans are coming!  One of the things we were informed about during our orientation was what we should do if there was ever an American invasion.  Everyday there are firecrackers or fireworks being set off and I keep thinking that we're being bombed or someone's getting shot.  I'm slowly getting used to it, but you just never know.  Guatemala may be turning communist and only the CIA knows about it...(they seem to be the only ones who know about a lot of things?)  Fireworks and firecrackers do sound like such a fun and jovial experience BUT when they go off at 530 in the morning or when you're in a conflict zone (aka. El Estor?well, semi post-conflict zone?its complicated) and the firecrackers sound like gunfire, they're not so much fun!  I had never tried to get out of bed so fast in my life.  I got tangled in my bed sheet too, which only made me panic more.  Ya, it's funny now?  Tonight was the first night that I actually got to see the sounds.  There was a procession held by one of the churches as it was the night of the Virgin of Conception and the church is just down the street.  The procession consists of a giant wooden statue atop a bed of flowers and lights.  A little band and parishioners followed the statue.  It is 10:30 and I can still hear the band playing and the firecrackers exploding.  Earlier there was a great party and fireworks were set off (Canada Day is still bigger?but these were more constant and pretty nice non-the-less) It was convenient because the procession walked right past our door so we were all able to wish each other good night and go to our respective bedrooms immediately after it passed.  
With the small exception of the procession, this week was quite tame in comparison to last week.  The most adventurous thing I participated in was the walking tour of Antigua.  It's nice to finally get to know some of the history of this city/town (only 50 000 residents).  We mostly spent time retracing steps of the colonial history where we saw old churches turned ruins (from major earthquakes) and old colonial houses.  The general concept was that the closer you lived to the central park (or Parque Central or La Plaza de Armas), the more status you had or the richer you were.  We visited one house just off the central park (likely built in the early 1700's) that was turned into a hotel.  It was absolutely massive and beautiful!  They had servants' quarters, which took up about half the house but so much of their land was used for their courtyards or green space.  A house similar to the one that has been turned into a hotel is on the market for $2million USD.  As ridiculous as it is for a house to sell for that much, it was so beautiful inside the hotel/house that I definitely believe it would be worth that much.  They let us just walk in and sit.  It was fascinating because the area where we sat down, it was the servants' quarters and the only people we saw in that area were hotel staff so it was strange how the past and present collided.  There was also a man selling some paintings and was also in the process of painting one in one of the corridors.  It was a four-hour walking tour, which was a nice little intro to the area (despite the fact that we'd been here for a month).  It was a good idea and I'm glad we went.   
    This week was also a strange week for illnesses.  I seemed to have suffered an allergic reaction to something (although it was likely a deliciously yummy milky drink) so on Saturday I was off to a doctor.  Nothing is worse than meeting up with a doctor, knowing basic Spanish medical words and trying to discuss with him what the problem is.  Either way, if I could recommend anything to people it is to try to avoid seeing doctors in foreign countries where you minimally speak the language.  My Spanish is good enough that I understand and can converse with people, but still? Skipping that experience altogether would have been nice!  On the contrary though, after getting sick in Peru, I would recommend seeing a local doctor, as they may be able to better prescribe meds for illnesses that you have encountered, rather than seeing a West-trained med doc as sometimes they cannot help.  
It may be strange to say, but I really don't feel like I'm in Guatemala when I'm here in Antigua.  When we travelled to other places like El Estor or Rabinal, I finally felt like I was in Guatemala.  The real place.  Antigua has been developed as a tourist town and because of that, it caters more to an international crowd, it is more expensive for tourists and locals, there is a restaurant/pub or bank on every corner and there are more people who have left their customs and adopted more western customs.  I think the massive amount of tourists here is the same thing that turned me off of Cusco in Peru.  Where there are more tourists, there's more crime.  Here though, the tourists seem to be incredibly rude.  One man who decided to live here permanently asked some obviously just-arrived tourists in English if he could help them and when they didn't acknowledge him (as not all white people speak English) he yelled 'ok fine then, fuck you' at them.  It just seems so ridiculous. Tourists here don't seem to be friendly or chatty with anyone and they look completely miserable.  I don't understand it!  One thing I noticed this weekend particularly was the massive influx of youth from Guatemala City to Antigua, which meant more traffic, more noise, and more catcalls.  I've definitely decided that I want to leave on the weekends now.  It will be good anyway to get out of the city for a while and to actually see some of the area around Antigua.  I think I'm going to hit up the Earth Lodges where you can stay in a tree house! It's only 20 minutes outside of Antigua so that would be a nice break away.  Another trip will be to the beach.  I don't want to miss seeing anything while I'm here as I don't know when I'll be back.  Nothing's worse than going home and thinking 'I should've gone there' or 'I should have done that'.  Either way, I don't think I'll be going home disappointed!  
I've exchanged Spanish instructors because my one lady got another student that needed more of her time.  It worked out well, as my new guy is AWESOME.  Someone said he looks like the dad from Beauty and the Beast.  I think he looks like a Guatemalan Santa Claus.  I'll have more references next week because I hadn't thought about it enough to have many!  Either way he challenges me so much and has great expectations of me.  We normally sit in class and discuss politics, economics and Guatemalan culture.  He actually makes fun of me a lot because he thinks I'm timid then when I blush it makes him laugh harder.  Oh the good times ☺  It's my one-month anniversary here tomorrow (Tuesday) and I'll be celebrating it in Guatemala City at their congress building.  I have also started my poverty and health class and my geography class.  They're both going to be amazing and on the weeks that I don't' have much to write you'll probably hear little tidbits from those classes.  
I hope everyone is well and as usual, I love hearing from you and about you.  Take care everyone!
Megs ☺