My Travels Continue…

On Sunday, July 3, my plane taxied into the Guatemala City airport, and I saw a relatively small building with these big windows with like crowds of people staring out at us…then off the plane into a terminal that felt more like the basement of a government building (dim flourescent lights, dusty tourist posters on the walls) to this North American than it did an international airport…not a judgement, just an observation…and then two minutes in customs (they didnĀ“t search my bags or anything, just stamped my passport and that was it)…then I was in the main area of the airport…

Masses of people, some holding signs with families’ names on them…indigenous women wearing huipils and cortes (gorgeous, colorful embroidered blouses and long skirts)with babies slung on their backs…and everything in Spanish…

I pass through a big mass of people into the area where the bank windows are, and get my money changed into quetzales…$70 bucks US and I get like $500 quetzales…most of which I still haven’t used…

I find an airport worker…or rather he finds me…and he gets me a taxi (I haven’t used any Spanish yet…just said “taxi, Galgos” (Galgos is a busline that goes to Xela) and he puts me into the taxi…and the driver then starts talking to me…and I remember mumbling back, but don’t remember what…but it was clear that I didn’t speak Spanish, and then we were silent…I felt like an idiot…but I said “Lo siento,” and he smiled.

Quick drive through Guatemala City, past this big, ancient, empty stone fountain, into the neighborhood with all the bus stations (as well as a red light district)…and I pay the driver the equivalent of 8 bucks…and I’m in the station…where I botch Spanish again trying to get a bus ticket…and then wait for two hours in the station for my bus to leave…across the street is a Shell station…and it looks exactly like a Shell station in the United States…and I’m taken aback again by the power of corporations to transplant themselves all over the world…mostly I just sit there for two hours, but I occasionally would walk outside, and see many old, beat up cars rumbling by, lots of local buses (which are old school buses, their doors removed, painted bright solid colors…with ayudantes (bus assistants) hanging out the sides of them…and I watch a group of Guatemala City cops milling around for awhile…they wear these funny hats that make them seem not very intimidating…like panama hats almost…don’t know what they are called.

Anyway, on to the bus, which is an old Greyhound bus which is completely full, and there are many Americans on it…tourists and students just like me…and there is a young boy with a soccer jersey who keeps staring and smiling at me as he is opening and closing the emergency window…then off we go, through the streets of Guatemala City…past many old buildings, many rusted metal roofs, and also many chain stores: a burger king, a wendys, a mcdonalds, the largest pizza hut I have ever seen…Texaco star marts, quaker state…HOOTERS!!! And I see many billboards, billboards the entire four hours of my ride, and I immediately notice that the women in them don’t look too much like the women I’m seeing around…they have brown and blonde hair, and mostly bluish eyes…sexist North American beauty standards imported…

…and then onto the highway, which I didn’t know it was a highway until someone told me…because really it was four hours on this two lane road, stopping frequently…picking up passengers (picture a Greyhound bus with an employee who stands with the door open on the highway…with families and children and folks just standing alongside the highway…and this employee yells out that there’s space on the bus…and then the bus stops every half hour or so and picks up people along the way)…it was wild…and the highway itself…I don’t think there was more than 500 feet of straight road the whole way…it was all curves and rises and falls, all over these hills covered with beautiful trees, or shanties of cinder block and corrugated metal, or terraced farmland…four hours of that, and I absolutely loved it…

And then into Quetzaltenango (Xela) where the first things I noticed were cars with Jesus slogans painted on them…a massive church that looked more like a wharehouse…and the dogs…dogs…dogs…all of them relatively small, not like german shephards, more like collies and small labs and small retrievers…dogs just wandering by themselves in the streets, sniffing at garbage…apparently wild…and I felt right then how hard it was going to be to not want to pet them because it was so strange…how these dogs seemed to be some of the cutest dogs I’ve ever seen…they weren’t like dirty or scabbed or anything…they just looked like a bunch of cute, small lost dogs…and I wanted our bus to just stop and pick up each one of them…

Into the bus station in Xela at 6:30…and a friend of a friend is waiting for me…and it turns out that she knows another guy on the bus, so the three of us go to find a hotel for him and I…

…and now is the time to describe Xela…It is a city of hundreds of thousands of people, spread out across what seem like rolling hills…with tiny old buildings crowded together, separated by these tiny threads of mostly cobblestone streets…a completely new landscape for me, and beautiful to me…but not in like a pristine, exotic way…but in a gritty, history-shown-in-the-buildings way…

Oooh…I’ve run out of time today…ick…so, we’ll have to stop here…and actually, I think tomorrow I’ll jump ahead to what my daily life is like here…and tell the rest of the travel story as it comes up…suffice it to say, my hotel experience was fun and interesting and comfortable…and I have been enjoying my time here from the very beginning.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi