Antigua, Guatemala

Hello to everyone from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala, a Pretty Decent Place.

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– Boring kibbles you can skip –

It’s been almost 8 months since I left and it feels like nothing and an eternity at the same time. I only talk to a handful of people regularly but I hope everybody is more or less (mas o menos) doing okay. I really do.

All of my posts are shamefully retrogressive (Exhibit A: the Machu Picchu post that has been in my Drafts folder for about 5 months) but I ***aspire*** to pay more attention to this thing now that I have more time.

This is coming from a person who has failed majestically to keep a blog, but having a regularly updated blog takes extreme self-discipline (I have none). It is also a great way to develop your writing skills, voice, and understand the balance between what you want to write and what your audience would be interested in. Like I said, I can hear you guys snorting at my aforementioned statement because I haven’t done shit, but for real. I have a voice but I don’t know how to translate it into writing. I don’t know how to produce pithy and succinct writing. I write, but it doesn’t feel like “me.” It takes practice. Years and years of practice.

OK, anyway.

– End boring kibbles –

After spending two weeks in Costa Rica I headed to Guatemala. I’m currently in San Pedro La Laguna, one of the towns surrounding Lake Atitlan, but before that I was in Antigua and Quetzaltenango (Xela).

Unfortunately, I wasn’t truly able to enjoy Costa Rica, Antigua, and Xela because I was in a tizzy about the “next step” – deciding on a city for teaching, finding a job and place to live, meeting new people, etc. I know, you would think that I should have a better stress management system now that I’m almost 30 but I can’t say I didn’t try my best because man, I did. So maybe it would help to know that while I liked all of those places, most of my mind was always occupied with Stuff I Shouldn’t Have Worried About So Much.

Guatemala is a beautiful country with kind, generous people. I feel guilty about the generally negative connotations Americans have about Guatemala because I was one of those people.

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I couldn’t get good pictures but the traditional clothes for women in Guatemala is one of the best I’ve seen. They wear the huipil (blouse), belt, and skirt. Traditionally different villages had their own designs.

I should have made this statement in the beginning (this is why I’m not a writer): this post is about Antigua.

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I plan to write about Costa Rica, Xela, and Lake Atitlan before I die (you can blame me for many things but you can’t blame me for not being realistic).

First of all, I present to you these facts:

Arequipa:

Starts with “A”

Surrounded by 3 volcanoes

Has colonial architecture

Prone to earthquakes

Antigua:

Starts with “A”

Surrounded by 3 volcanoes

Has colonial architecture

Prone to earthquakes

Uh huh. I wasn’t complaining – and those things are what attracted me to Antigua in the first place anyway.

Even though Antigua is one of the three major cities in Guatemala (the other two being Guatemala City and Xela), it was tiny (pop: ~35,000). The city was made for social media. The narrow streets were cobbled, all the buildings were one or two stories tall and tightly packed with warm colors.

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…Looking at these I realize that they all look identical, which I suppose is somewhat true.

You also can’t tell from these pictures but Antigua is a major tourist hub, especially for those who want to learn Spanish. There are tons of hostels, restaurants, shops, and services catered to foreigners but as with any places you can always walk a bit further and get away from all that…but for the most part you’ll be in the “touristy” areas.

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You would be walking and there would be beautiful ruins of churches just chillin'. It's amazing.
You would be walking and there would be beautiful ruins of churches just chillin’. It’s amazing.
Tuk-tuk or mototaxi, a popular form of transportation in Guatemala
Tuk-tuk or mototaxi, a popular form of transportation in Guatemala
Local bus aka blinged out American school buses, called "chicken bus" or camionetas
Local bus aka blinged out American school buses, called “chicken bus” or camionetas

It so happened that the Guatemalan Independence Day was the day after I arrived. I heard that there were things going on at the central square the night before Independence Day so I headed there.

There were locals wearing – the exact word escapes me now – headbands in the color of the flag, even babies. The flag design is pretty straightforward but I like it (if you don’t like sky blue you might as well be a heathen). The blue symbolizes the two oceans that sandwich the country and the white represents purity and peace.

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Then I saw groups of kids running. One of the kids – the leader – held a torch. I found out that this torch-carrying/running happens all over the country the day before Independence Day. In bigger cities serious marathon runners participate in the event.

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There were marching bands from different schools and some of them were awesome. I would love to show you the videos I took – one band was absolutely electrifying – but I need to upgrade my account to do that. If I was a more important person I would do it.

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The next day a Super Nice German Girl (SNGG) from the hostel named Lynn and I went to go see the parade, but I think we arrived too late as we only caught the end of the parade. FAIL. But it was still a good time.

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I stayed at Holistico Hostal. It was clean, welcoming, included free breakfast, and had a table with water, juice, coffee, chips, fruits, soda, lollipops, etc. that were available 24/7. The first night they gave me a free beer which just blew my mind. The only thing was that the hostel owner was quite strange and exhibited some weird behaviors around the hostel, including yelling at his staff. There was also loud music playing pretty much all day. I’ve stayed in more than ten hostels now so I can say that none of them are perfect, there’s always Something.

There are good number of things to do and see in and around Antigua: coffee farm tour, Spanish classes, hiking (all three volcanoes available), Guatemalan cuisine cooking class, Mayan village tours, ruins, etc. I didn’t do anything so I would be the worst person ever to ask advice about Antigua.

I landed in Guatemala City and took a shuttle to Antigua. There is a stall for the shuttle as you are walking out of the baggage claim. When you leave and the price depend on how many passengers there are. I waited about 30 minutes but no other passengers came, so I paid a bit more – $25 as opposed to $15 – to leave. I had done my research beforehand and knew that $25 was a reasonable price, comparable or less expensive than taking the taxi.

Street food
Street food

Based on my extensive experience, I would recommend Antigua.

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Hasta luego (it always kills me when people in real life really use phrases that I’ve read in books or heard on TV/movies).

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