It was with a heavy heart that we said good-bye to San Cristobal and boarded the 7am bus for the border. Arriving at the border and handing over our Mexican tourist cards it was all to easy to leave the country, hop a cab through no man’s land, and cross into our next country: Guatemala.
Once in Guatemala it was only a few minutes before our passports were stamped and we had changed our few remaining Pesos into Quetzales. As we walked up the street with other backpackers from our bus, we were instantly accosted by a drunk, quite surprising for 11am, Guatemalteco. He thought we would appreciate hearing how good his English was and how he planned to go and live in Atlanta…then he asked for money to help send him there.
As the four of us walked up the street, trying to find the bus station that would hopefully take us out of no man’s land, we were still followed by our new Guatemalteco friend who was really too drunk for any of us to understand in English or Spanish. It wasn’t long before we were stopped dead in our tracks by another gringo and his wife. Turns out although Mexico has buses running on the Saturday before Easter, Guatemala does not. A quick inspection of the bus office confirmed that indeed no public transportation was leaving the border that day. We felt quite defeated as this was NOT the kind of place we wanted to be for more than two minutes, let alone two days. Luckily an entrepreneurial Guatemalteco offered to drive us to Xela for a fee, and soon the six of us and our bags were lashed, stuffed and crammed into the SUV.
Arriving in Xela, was a bit of deja-vu for me. I studied here 6 years ago when I was on study abroad and somehow I managed to navigate Jill and I to the school, several of my old haunts, and even 90% of the way to our host family’s house. Thats right, same school, same host family only six years later. Meeting up with the family, it was clear the boys (12, 16, and 19) had grown quite a bit and that none of them knew who to expect (the photos I sent to the school weren’t passed to the family), Nevertheless we quickly settled down and acquainted ourselves and I quickly recalled all the reasons I wanted to come back to Xela to study Spanish again.
Danny’s Top 10
1. It’s one of the cheapest places in the world to learn Spanish.
2. Where else can I purchase baked goods from an Mennonite who speaks both Spanish and Pennsylvania Dutch?
3. All Futbol games include homemade fireworks…launched from the bleachers.
4. Everything is cheap, except the national cerveza which costs as much as Budweiser.
5. The national food is pollo frito (fried chicken).
6. My teacher has a book with every curse word, dirty thought, and linguistic expression of frustration you could ever think of in both English and Spanish
7. The water heater is built into the shower head, with the wires sticking out to prove it. Added bonus, if you touch the faucet while standing under the water you can feel the electricity pass through you- who needs coffee. Only bummer is that because of the water your hair can’t stand up…
8. If there is cereal for breakfast instead of eggs and beans, that only means the eggs and beans are coming for dinner.
9. The bed is the same as it was six years ago….same springs still bite me in the night.
10. Last time I had no stomach problems so I really just needed to return so I could say I pooped in a cup* too!
*Jills says this needs to be explained. Stomach ‘challenges‘ are quite common here and the general pattern is to go to the lab, poop in the cup, take the results to the pharmacist, pay for the medicine they give you, and wait three days…if it doesn’t work try another plant and pray.