using my inside voice

Day 71 - Spanish School and Guatemalan Adventures

Central American Travel | August 10, 2009

Antigua, Guatemala

We stepped out of the airport into chaos. It was 8pm, there were crowds of family members, taxi drivers, shuttle drivers, and general peddlers of transport hustling the travelers as they exited. A meagre looking temporary fence was holding them at bay, at least for the moment. I took a deep breath, and a good look around for a sign with my name on it, hoping to see "Bay Oliver" in big, bold, safe letters. Letters that would declared in no uncertain terms that we would be safe, that our shuttle would enfold us in its modest interior, and take us to Antigua post haste.

Alas, there was no sign of the sign. No sign letting me know that without hassle or incident I would be ushered to my pre-arranged, pre-booked accommodations in Antigua for a good, safe, sound night's sleep. Did I mention safe?

As you can see, there is a theme appearing here. That being, fear for my own safety. As a novice Central American traveler, I had spent the past two days silently fretting that upon arrival in Guatemala I would be kidnapped, have all my possessions stolen, be held at knife-point, or some combination of the above. I had been assured there would be someone at the airport holding a sign with my name on it, ready to take Luke and I directly to Anitgua. Alas, there was no such person is sight.

I wandered aimlessly through the throngs of taxi and shuttle drivers hoping one of them was my man, and finally, I saw a short fellow with an A4 piece of paper. Written on it in red biro was "Oliver Bay"... close enough. "That's me!" I practically screamed in his ear (or over his head if truth be told, Guatemalans are certainly not a race known for their height).

This wonderfully sweet guy grabbed our trolley of bags, and with a few phrases of Spanish that were a complete indecipherable to me, took us straight to our shuttle.

The first few days in Antigua were a complete culture shock. Peddlers in the square, tuc tucs everywhere, chicken buses blowing pollution from their exhaust pipes, and cobbled streets that are a menace to anyone without sensible shoes (and even to an uncoordinated few WITH sensible shoes - no names mentioned)... it really was intense, like nothing I'd ever experienced. And, Antigua (according to the lonely planet) would be what Guatemala was like in fantasy-land. Great! If I can't handle the most westernised, English-speaking, safe city in Guatemala, how was I going to cope with the rest???

But, after wandering the streets to find a Spanish school, a few dinners out, and our first trip away (to Lago de Atitlan & the Chichicastenango markets) I think I've finally come to understand and be comfortable with a country that up until a week ago was a complete unknown to me.

The people are tiny, wonderful, generous, persistent and amazing hagglers. Porches and BMW's pass poor women selling their handicrafts, a mojito and a meal will set you back a mere $7 or so, and the countryside is both breathtakingly beautiful in the country, and littered with rubbish on the street-sides. Power lines crowd the streets and the view one moment, and the next you're in the middle of nowhere watching a waterfall, that probably doesn't have a name, and that no-one really cares about, cascade down a mountainside.

I think we're finally settling in, and with three days Spanish School under my belt, I'm feeling more and more confident getting around town and getting what I need done.

We moved in with our host family last night. Lorena is wonderful, with her 1.5-year-old grandson around to keep us entertained. We're the only people staying with her at the moment, and we are literally staying in palatial quarters. Our room has a king-sized bed, a couch, dining table, kitchenette, beautiful bathroom, and really everything you could want. Lorena is soon opening a restaurant, so needles to say, her food is delicious. Plus, our house is inside a compound, with a lush green yard and trees everywhere. We really seem to have lucked out!

At the moment we're at a cafe that makes amazing espresso/Americanos/Lattes, and has wifi! Go Guatemala :)

Time to go and buy some water.

More soon...


1. Mick on August 11, 2009

Aahhh, staring up a city street to see a volcano. It can only be central america. More about the food please.

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About Bay Oliver

Bay's career has been many and varied due to a penchant for traveling the world. After completing a double degree in Business Management and Journalism at the University of Queensland in 2002 she was lucky enough to land herself a job at Brisbane's Quest Community Newspapers. A year of roving reporting brought the epiphany that journalism and Bay didn't jive.
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Hobbies & Interests

How to be creative...

Creating an economically viable entity where lack of original thought is handsomely rewarded creates a rich, fertile environment for parasites to breed. And thatʼs exactly whatʼs been happening. So now we have millions upon millions of human tapeworms thriving in the Western World, making love to their Powerpoint presentations, feasting on the creativity of others.

Blog Roll

Categories of Published Work

NEWSFLASH: Pullman buses snot on the Greyhound

Published: August 23, 2009

Pullman buses - the cheap and fast way to get around Guatemala.

Day 89 - The day the earth moved...

Published: August 31, 2009

An earth-shattering awakening at Fuentes Georginas in Guatemala