I returned to Los Angeles from Guatemala City late last night. I booked a trip there alone on a whim last week. I was on my way to accomplishing a goal of 33 countries before my 33rd birthday. This was my final one! (Time for a new quest. Suggestions welcome) When I booked the trip, I was immediately bombarded with comments from people who were sure I was making a terrible decision traveling there alone. "Don't go!" "Cancel the trip." etc. Alas, that's just not my style. I had committed, and I was going.
When I arrived I was a little nervous because I had allowed those words to get into my head. Luckily I had taken Spanish all through high school and some of college, so the fear was mostly balanced out by the excitement that this was the first Spanish-speaking country that I had been to alone, and I'd get to test out my Spanish skills. (I would come to find they were very rusty...)
I was staying close to the airport, because as usual I hadn't done much research and I figured that was my best bet. I wouldn't have to worry about getting too far once I landed. The nice man who owned the house I was staying in was there to pick me up. He spoke about as much English as I did Spanish, so we had a general understanding of what the other was saying. :)
Right as I started to settle in, his son Jose knocked on my door and asked if I wanted to join them for dinner! So nice! I sat with them at the table.. I was awkward, as I usually am at first. He mentioned that there was a big carnival in town because it was a holiday, and that he would take me there if I wanted to go. What?! Yes, duh. Of course I want to go to a carnival! I was already overwhelmed by how kind these people were to me.
I told everyone before the trip that I was planning just to stay inside and do work while I was there, as an excuse in case I really was too scared to venture out. I was like "Psht, I probably won't even go outside because it will be raining the whole time and I have so much work to do!" Thankfully that wasn't the case. That night Jose drove me around town so I could see the city, and the places that weren't safe for me to walk around alone. Then we went to the carnival. No joke, I was like a little kid. It was like the intro to that show Step by Step from the 90s. Anyone remember that? Just me? I almost puked on the ferris wheel because I thought it was a regular one but it was a crazy high-speed one and we had already been on 4 rides so.. yeah, almost a disaster. Throughout the night I laughed out loud a couple of times at how silly it had been that I was so scared before I got there.
The next day we drove out to Antigua. It was about an hour outside of Guatemala City. On the way, we stopped at the avocado farm this his family owns. This was really the only time it rained while I was there, and it was kind of fun to run back to the car through the garden.
Antigua was magical.
The next day I actually did spend a lot of time working. I went to a coffee shop in town and stayed for most of the day, and then my new friend picked me up and we went to a movie. It was all in Spanish and there were no subtitles. I think I understood most of what the movie was about, but it was fun to make up my own storyline based on the words I knew and what the actors were doing. Then we climbed the stairs up to the top of the theatre where there was a beautiful view of the entire city! There was lightning in the distance and the city lights of all different colors made it such a memorable moment. That was when I really started to reflect back over the last few days.
In my head the 3 days in Guatemala would be rain and the inside of a hotel room. What it turned out to be was one of the most inspiring trips ever. I saw so much. I learned so much. I conquered fears and made a really great new friend!!
Guatemala, I dig you.
Until next time..