I can’t believe the day is finally here and we have arrived in Guatemala! Just as we had been warned, stepping outside of the airport was a complete mess. People were everywhere: looking for arriving family members, selling anything you could think of, playing on the sidewalks and most of all, staring at us “gringos.” Although, we didn’t look as out of place as we will when we arrive in the rural communities.
It took us a long, long time to get out of the busy Guatemala City and busy is for sure an understatement. Cars were within inches of each other, weaving in and out. These cars were packed too! Buses were shoved full of people like anchovies, motorcycles carried two people plus a dog and a baby and truck beds had a dozen people in them. I couldn’t even believe how many cars were on the road considering all of the buses they had running too. These buses (the ones that stayed within the Guatemala City limits) looked like pimped out red school buses, some of them complete with flames and horns. Supposedly more people are likely to ride your bus if you decorate it. I still can’t believe how many people were packed into that city. The condition directly reflected the overpopulation too, with smog thicker than I had ever seen or felt. Since traffic was literally bumper-to-bumper, it took about 45 minutes to get out of the city (a usual 15 minute drive). Once we got on the main roads though, I was wishing we were back in the traffic. The roads were extremely curvy and did I mention that people drive like maniacs? The roads were so steep, we passed quite a few emergency ramps in just a couple mile spans. I was extremely thankful when we finally arrived in Antigua about 2 hours later.
The courtyard in our hostel in Antigua
Antigua looks like a picture from a magazine. Buildings, many of which are hundreds of years old, surrounded the old cobblestone roads. Unfortunately, it was a little bit too cloudy to see the volcano that sits right outside of the city, but we are hoping to wake up early in the morning to step outside and take some pictures of it. All of the churches throughout the city are absolutely beautiful aswell! It’s amazing to think that many of them were built before America was even founded. We got the opportunity to go inside of one that was undergoing construction and there were a few locals performing a ritual that I had never seen before. Although, it probably didn’t help that I couldn’t understand the language at all. It freaked me out a little though because the Jesus sculptures looked really, really scary… Jesus in a glass coffin?
El Arco de Santa Catarina
As we were walking around Antigua, we went into a few shops and I discovered that I am terrible at haggling. The first time they say “no” to me, I just give in. Although, I did score an adorable weaved giraffe stuffed animal for about 18 quetzals (a little over $2). I’m excited to see what sorts of things they have to offer outside of the tourist-y city of Antigua. It was very clear that this city is based of tourismand I’m sure the prices reflect that. But hey, it’s still a lot cheaper than America! We were walking by a street vendor selling weaved blankets for about 80 quetzals and a girl in our group turned to me and said “Anthropologie would sell that same blanket for $300, I better get one!” The streets were also full today too, because it is Mother’s Day in Guatemala.
Guatemalan women in traditional dress
While we were waiting outside of a shop we saw a little fender bender happen in the middle of the streets. All of the streets are cobblestone, so no one really drives faster than 10-15mph. The two men got out of their cars, looked at the damage, shook hands and then went their separate ways. In America, I’m sure they would have still called their insurance companies. It was great to see such forgiveness. It’s hard to describe how I’m feeling in Guatemala, other than excited to be here!