Friday, February 25, 2011

Leaving Guatemala

At the end of the conference i waited a while for the architect's assistant to retrieve me and the machines. He showed up with the architect's truck as promised and together we loaded everything into its bed.

I had a bunch of postcards that i wanted to mail and he was very nice about helping me find a post office to mail them from. It was more of a scavenger hunt than i had expected, he didn't know where any were, and neither did anyone we asked. I'm not sure if that's normal, or if we just happened to ask the exact four people who didn't know. Eventually, he said there's an office building that might have one, and so we went to check it out. He was right, there were signs for it. Instead of a store front, it was literally a little hole buried deep inside of the outdoor underground plaza. Got there just in time to send out all the postcards.

After that I asked him if we could stop by an internet cafe (the memory card on my camera could only hold 33 pictures, necessitating frequent stops to the gatekeepers of the internet). Again, he kindly obliged and we stopped by a mall close to the architect's house. Pictures uploaded and email checked we left. He took me back to the house and told me he'd be back later and we would go grab some dinner. There was some time to kill, so i probably watered the lawn.

Darkness fell and the assistant returned. He asked where i was interested in eating, in the hopes of avoiding the TGIFridays style restaurants i said "somewhere with no tourists." We drove around the city for a while to a small place with lots of locals. On an otherwise sleepy street, this place was very lively. It was bench seating, long tables, and a limited menu. The main decision to make was what meat you wanted with your beans, salsa and tortillas. Beef, all the way.

The place was noisy with people talking, the assistant and i mostly focused on our food. At some point an off duty, but still costumed, mariachi band walked into the joint. The architect's assistant could see the excitement on my face and asked if i wanted to hear them play. I nodded with wide eyes. He called them over and negotiated for a song. The started right up, the whole cafeteria stopped to listen. They were so good! The guy singing had an awesome, somewhat rough voice like a smoker. I wanted so much to have recorded it, even to have taken a picture (i don't need my camera, nothing exciting is going to happen when we go out to eat...). The architect's assistant thought the whole thing was hilarious, he was practically crying with laughter. It seemed like he was reacting to them the way that i would to a bunch of poorly cast and overdressed shakespearean actors singing a cheesy madrigal in ye olde english offtune and with too much vibrado. Except the mariachi band was on tune and awesome... oh, cultural differences.

After that it was back to sleeping bag.

The next morning the assistant picked me up for the last time, my destination being the airport.

Having missed some good shots from the night before i overdid it on the ride in regretful overcompensation, shown here for nostalgic, more than narrative, purposes.

We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. I thanked him for all of his help and kindness, making sure to give him a good tip for all the time he took to look after me. We said goodbye and i made my way in.

Unlike some of the airport art i saw at the beginning of my trip (stateside), i actually liked these stone reliefs. Though I do wonder if this was another mariachi vs. shakespeare moment, appreciating something for personal newness/ lack of exposure.

This one, on the other hand, while pretty was boring. An, yeah, probably because of its familiarity.

The rest was as expected. No shoe bombs or anything.

Though, i was pleased to find some decent reading material on the plane. Pretty far from the normal airline-skymall-bose headphone bullshit.

I landed safely in Miami with plenty of layover time to do... nothing. So i wandered around the airport. Eventually i found a hotel in that had an internet station. Unlike the rooms full of computers that i was used to, this was one single computer in a dimly lit obscure corner of the 5th floor. One hour of internet there cost the same as 7 hours of internet in Itzapa. I didn't expect to have much re-entry culture shock, but when i saw the total was $5-something, my reaction was "What? Five dollars? Ridiculo!" I know, pretty big deal.

More wandering around discovered this...

And if you couldn't tell, they are covered in plastic flowers.

Unless this was made by someone to be ironic, or because they secretly hate the beatles, or were taking a tounge-in-cheek jab at airplane riders, then i think i might barf.

Returning to Philadelphia i was greeted by my wonderful parents, who were both very happy to see me. They were pretty convinced that i was going to die or get maimed somewhere along the way (seriously, about three weeks before i flew down they tried to convince me not to go). (I'm really glad i didn't listen to them).

Readjusting to life in the states wasn't hard. The only difficult part was restablizing my digestive tract. Somewhere in there i got... something. The doctor in antigua didn't even bother to check for what it was, instead he nuked my gut. It took a while to repopulate my intestinal flora, lots of probiotics, yogurt, kefir, etc. Another part of getting sick was losing 30 pounds. Which was crazy, cause i didn't even notice, how could i not notice? That's like a 3rd grader. WTF.

So yeah, gained back the 3rd grader, got my gut checked out, had lingering "issues" for about 8 months after, but eventually everything healed. It was good to be back, good to see family and friends, but i missed Guatemala a lot, still do. Think about going back all the time. Hopefully soon.

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