I am two days in Guatemala, and my first full day in Quetzaltenango, or Xela as we in the know call it. It´s been a rather, shall we say exciting, couple of days. I left 3:00 am Thursday morning, after packing until the absolute last minute. (Story of my life.) Rather uneventful. I slept on and off until we landed. Very tired and and out of sorts, I jumped off the plan. I got very confused when I looked out the window and saw Matzitlan (sp?) on the sign rather than Mexico City, the stop over I was expecting. Slightly perturbed, I spoke the airline man in my rather unfortunate and horrendous Spanish, who got kind of annoyed, looked at my ticket and told me to go to the desk. Soon I was followed by other confused people. Apparently, the plane stops in Matzitlan (something that certainly wasn´t on my flight itinerary) for everyone to go through customs, and then continues on to Mexico City. Kind of a waste of 45 minutes if you ask me, but what do I know. Anyway, once everyone was back on the plan, we jumped over to Mexico City and I had a decent 4 hour lay over to eat, rest, read...the usual traveling blah.
Now´s where things get really exciting. After stopping at a Starbucks (don´t judge, it was my only option really) for some tea, I headed to the opposite end of the airport for my international flight to Guatemala City (one of the most dangerous cities in Central America, I was pleased to find out later). I decided to stop for some rather foreign looking snacks at a little store when I discovered I didn´t have my wallet. Ah yes, stuck in the middle of Central America with no money, and no cards to get money. Good times. To give myself props, I did not panic. I methodically took apart my backpack (my only piece of luggage) and proceeded to find absolutely no wallet. I retraced my steps...the Starbucks, the bathroom, the international terminal security. Alas, no wallet. Excellent. I began to make my all-too-expensive international calls to the credit card company to see my options. After the woman´s computer crashed 3 times, making me repeat all of my information 3 times (when all I could think was ¨$1.29 a minute, $1.29 a minute¨) I finally found out that it was no problem to cancel the cards, but a new one could only be sent to my home in California. Perfect when I am thousands of miles away with no money in Guatemala. OK, what about citibank branches in the Mexico City airport, in Guatemala City, in Xela? Not so much. OK. My flight is getting close now, but I am sitting at the gate and there is no plane so I figure its late. Finally I call my Dad, deliver the bad news, give him a list of activities to keep him busy--wiring money, a new medical card, forwarding me my credit card. At 30 minutes to my flight I´ve done all I can. But still no plane. I glance at the screen I´ve looked at 100 times before to check the gate. They moved it. And not just a little. About 11 gates down the airport. Whatever you think about Mexico City, the airport is nice. And huge. And so I ran. On the final boarding call I jumped in line, knowing my wallet was somewhere floating around the airport, and boarded my plane.
But the fun doesn´t stop. I met a very nice girl around my age, Marta, on the plane, who was doing research on bilingual education and teaching English to little Guatemalan children. I felt slightly bad about my less than altruistic trip, but she was very nice and we talked the whole way there. We were slightly confused that we gained an hour traveling from Mexico City to Guatemala City, but perhaps you have a more easily accessible map than I do, and care to figure that out.
So when we arrived, I looked through all of the waiting people for my promised ride to Dos Lunas Guesthouse. My school was supposed to arrange this, and I figured when I got there (hoping to God the driver didn´t expect a tip) I could figure out what to do about not having money. Worst came to worst, I could sleep in the airport, though this didn´t exactly appeal to me. So as I said goodbye to my new friend Marta, I began to get concerned that I didn´t spot a Dos Lunas sign. I asked around--many people had heard of the guesthouse, but no one had seen a driver today. Excellent. Luckily I had the number, and proceeded to call them. Unfortunately the woman on the phone didn´t speak English. Even more unfortuately, they didn´t have a reservation for me. Shit. OK, no problem. I asked if I could make a reservation (failing to mention I had no money to pay for said reservation) and asked for a ride. They obliged, and soon a very nice man named Victor arrived to pick me up. I explained to him my predicament (by now very able to say ¨I lost my wallet and need a bank¨) and he was very understanding. We arrived at Dos Lunas, I spoke to the owner Lorena, who is my new hero (sorry Ananya Roy), speaks English, and is just all around a fantastic person. I paid for dinner, breakfast, the night, and a bus to Xela online, chatted with my new hero for a while, and proceeded to sleep for a good 12 hours. All was well. Well, except that I slept through my alarm and almost missed my ride to the bus in the morning.
Now, I don´t want this to sound like a complaint. A little nerve-racking, yes, but all around quite an adventure. Everyone has been endlessly nice. Liam, who was a student last year and now works for the school, picked me up at the bus station, and it turns out we are host siblings. We had coffee with a Guatemalan friend of his, Lucia, who then took me out later and introduced me to all of her Guatemalan friends. Despite a rather large language barrier, we had a great time. They for some reason really like to hang out with extranjeros, so we quickly met up with other students at the school. We all danced to everything from Salsa to Grease to the YMCA to hiphop. My host family is absolutely wonderful--so sweet, so patient, so accomadating. And I have hot water. Life is good. Xela is gorgeous and I think my Spanish has already improved, and I haven´t even started classes yet. On top of everything I am pooing normally!