Guatemalan Goodbyes

Guatemala Day 13

As usual, I’m at the airport two hours before my flight because I’m always paranoid I’ll lose my boarding pass or passport or get held up in security. This is good, though, because I can take time to blog with a free mind, not worried about running late.

Is it odd that the Guatemala International Airport has free WiFi throughout? Are we Americans always out to make a buck? Or are the Guatemalan’s spending money foolishly to impress foreigners?

Yesterday I hit up Ganesh again for their breakfast. They serve crepes rolled up with banana and nutella inside, topped with granola and honey on the side. It’s too good to pass up. Comila was there at the bar practicing her Spanish with the barkeep, Diego. He was really friendly and made my coffee for me. I chatted with him for a few minutes and it turns out he’s also the music teacher at the Waldorf School up the hill where he teaches the kids songs in Catchequal!

I asked him about his family and growing up. He tells me that he’s from San Marcos and has family throughout the village. He’s lived there his entire life, and I guess him to be in his early twenties.

Today is my last full day in San Marcos and I take it a bit slow. Nothing on the agenda, though I do need to pick up my laundry and pack.

I stop with the ladies on the path to purchase a couple of bananas. These old ladies are all so cute. There’s usually three of them, and I will say “Benuos Dias” and they repeat it back to me in unison, big smiles on their faces. I think they’ve gotten wise as today they charge me 2 Q for two bananas after charging me only 1 Q yesterday.

I stop back at Casa de Benjamin to play with the dogs a bit and take some time to write my daily blog entry.

Afterwards I head up the hill to the Internet Cafe. The proprietor there, Chris, tells me they’ve reached their allotted bandwidth amount, but it should be reset early in the afternoon. I chat with him for a bit. He’s originally from Switzerland and came to visit San Marcos 8 years ago for a few weeks. After returning home he began to sell his belongings and eventually moved to San Marcos permanently 6 years ago when he started the Internet Cafe business and Casa Amarilla – a spa and holistic healing center down the path. He’s a bit vague in his answers, but I respect that and tell him I’ll return later in the day.

A short siesta later and I am up and back at the cafe to find them back in business. I post my blog entry and try to confirm my reservations and ride in Puerto Vallarta. The woman I’ve been communicating with there has been less than responsive. Finally, she confirmed, so I hope to be set when I arrive. I attempt to check in for my flight on Mexicana Air but it doesn’t recognize me for some reason. No matter – Guatemala International has only about 20 flights a day, so I figure I’ll be able to check-in in person without a hitch.

Zeus and I head down to MoonFish for lunch. Not seeing anything overly compelling on the menu, I revert to my staining regular order – Peanut Butter Sandwich with a lemonade to drink. It’s as good as ever.

Julia stops by and sits down looking for a little help with her written English. She needs to post wanted signs for a house keeper and wants the language right. She has done a good job, but I help her with a couple of nuances.

Next stop is the Arbol to pick up my laundry. 27 Q for a load of laundry works out to a couple of bucks. Probably about right if I were using pay machines back home. This is the second time I’ve had them do my laundry. Both times the folding seems a bit half-hazard and this time there are dog hairs all over every item. Oh well – the price you pay for having two loving companions.

I get everything straightened up so I can easily assemble it all and throw it in the bag in the morning. I didn’t spend a whole lot of time inside the house, so there’s not much to clean up.

My two Israeli friends, Elad and Noa, informed me that they were invited to cook at Ganesh this evening, so I head over there around 6:30. They have a small menu of tapas. I select the Beat Karpazio (Carpacio) and the Palenta, as well as a surprise dessert. The Beat Karpazio is delicious – varied beats sliced thinly and topped with fresh mozzarella and cilantro. The Palenta is a cornmeal-like dish with mushrooms and topped with chives and a little mozzarella. Dessert was sliced apples fried in caramel sauce and topped with a few sliced bananas and granola. It was all really good. I thanked them and stopped in at LaPaz.

Comila was there having some soup and practicing her Spanish with Maria, who as far as I can tell, runs the show at LaPaz. Comila was jokingly bitter with Maria, as she had the last piece of dessert. I feigned disappointment as well, though I was only half-kidding.

Comila tells me how she’s met a woman here who’s visiting with her mother. The younger is expecting a baby any day now and is planning on delivering it with an indigenous midwife. Comila said she’d actually done some outreach work with a group of midwives, exchanging information, customs and other traditions in the birthing process. The expecting mother liked Comila so much that she asked her to be involved in the birth. Apparently the birth is much the same as its been for hundreds of years – no drugs or anasthetics. However afterwards the mother is put into the sauna and special herbs are used in a healing process. It’s also something that most mothers look forward to after the pains of labor… though personally I think I’d rather have the drugs.

That concludes my night and I return to Casa de Benajamin for my last evening. The night is filled with strange noises and the dogs were up barking and growling all night. Some of the noises were new to me, too, so I didn’t sleep so well. A day of nap-filled travel should help.

This morning I awoke at 6:30, showered, fed the dogs, packed my bags and said goodbye to Shanti and Zeus. I think they knew something was up, as Shanti was reluctant to eat this morning and the two of them stayed on the porch as I left for the gate. Usually they’re right at my side, itching to get out into the village, so this was abnormal behavior for them.

I went down the path towards LaPaz, but it was a bit too early for them to be open. I heard music at Ganesh, so I headed up there for another serving of those nutella and bananan crepes I’m so fond of. Diego was at the bar again, and the musician from the prior night was still there. Joking, I said, “I hope you’re not still here from last night.”

Surprisingly he was. Apparently he sleeps there every other night as the gwardian (guardian), as the restaurant is quite open and thieves tend to take anything that’s not bolted to the concrete. His name is Vaughn. He appears to be in his early 20s. Very tall and skinny, with a talent on the guitar. I ask him what brought him here and he’s vague. He later makes a comment about how much he drinks and smokes pot, and I just feel sorry for him.

I finish my crepes and chat with Diego a bit while I down the last of my coffee. Then I’m out the door to LaPaz, dropping off my keys and telling the staff there one last adios. They all return the good-bye and smile. They are all very sweet.

I head up the path and find the shuttle ready with the three others I’m sharing it with. Andy is there as well and I thank him again for arranging the transportation and his hospitality and we’re off towards Guatamela City.

Four hours later and here I sit. I wonder if I’ll ever come back. San Marcos and Lago Atitlan are both special places. Not knowing if I’ll be back, I’ll always be grateful for the memories made here.