Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 17-18 Guatemala City

Guatemala City is basically the last place in Guatemala I had intended to visit, as I had heard plenty of terrible things about and the papers here are full of stories about people being murdered for various reasons- one of the most frequent of which is to steal money from bus and taxi drivers.

Our trip to Guatemala City began at 2:00 am.  I hadn't fallen asleep until about midnight so I got about 1.5 hours of sleep before I had to get up to catch the bus.  We were taking a "pullman", which is the most comfortable form of transportation widely used here- it's probably like the greyhound buses back home but I've never taken one so I'm not sure...  The seats recline about as much as a seat on an airplane, and they are much more plush than those on a chicken bus but they're still nothing like the buses in Mexico.    No more night buses for me, unless they are like the ones in Mexico and the roads are nice and straight! As you may have guessed from that comment, I didn't really sleep!  Mimi and Diana slept the whole way, all snuggled up together looking quite comfortable and cozy.  I think it's probably easier to sleep on these buses if you snuggle up with the person next to you, or if you can lean against the window.  I was in the isle seat and of course had some stranger next to me; while he seemed like a nice guy our relationship wasn't exactly at the "snuggling" level!  The road was pretty windy most of the way and the only time I really slept at all was for the last hour or so of the journey, when we were on somewhat straighter roads nearing Guatemala City and while we were stuck in traffic IN the city.  I think I have forgotten to mention that on buses in Guatemala there are always two people who work the route- the driver and the attendant, who gets people on the bus, arranges cargo storage and receives money.  I had plenty of time to think about how much money the attendant had, considering that the fare for the full trip was 60 Q and the bus was mostly full within the first 30 minutes or so of the journey.  Not that it was on my mind constantly or that it's the reason I didn't sleep well but it did cross my mind a time or two!

Because (I think?) of the traffic we arrived later than we should have and had to change our clothes in the bus station!  Mimy's friend Lotty arrived with a guy that works for Mimy's brother Willy to greet us and then it was a 45 minute-1 hour long drive to get to Otto's school, the Escuela Politecnica.  After passing through security we walked through the campus to where the ceremony would be held.  Despite having been late at the bus station we actually ended up having perfect timing- just enough time to hit the restrooms and find a place to sit before the ceremony began. 

Mimy and Diana looked beautiful in their dresses and I particularly liked Mimy's outfit- a pinkish-purple dress and a gorgeous tan lace crochet jacket, with matching pink, purple and blue earrings and necklace providing the perfect final touch.

The campus was very impressive and I particularly liked the eight banners that surrounded the entrances to four of the buildings on the periphery the large central field where the ceremony was held in pairs and had inspirational words like honor and valor written on them in huge letters.  The students and the initiates, which Otto was one of, marched onto the field in perfect synchronicity.  It was a pretty impressive site as there were probably 200-300 of them!  The ceremony was about an hour or an hour and a half of talking, more marching, the (marching) band playing songs and Guatemala's national anthem, which must be one of the longest in the world.  It was pretty cool though because almost everyone in the crowd was singing.

Otto is in this group!  Fourth from the left in the front row. : D
"Tohil God of War"

Receiving instructions

After the ceremony we got to see Otto for a brief moment and then he had to go get changed for another, more intimate “ceremony” that was just his class receiving instructions from the officers.  When that was over he was allowed to leave, a prospect that gave him great joy as he had initially arrived at the school around the first of January and the aspiring cadetes aren't allowed to leave until they become cadetes.  We drove to Lotty's house, where we were staying for the night.  We were all still pretty beat so we napped on the way to the house.

On the way to the house we stopped for chinese food, which we ate when we got back to the house, and then Diana, Mimy and I made some salad for the dinner that night.  It was Lotty's B-day and Mimy had brought a cake, which we gladly consumed!  Mimy's brothers Willy and Carlos (Chaly), another of Mimy's friends, Clara Luz (Clary) came over and hung out for the evening.  Mimy, Otto and Diana went to a fancy dinner and they all looked very stunning in their formal attire!  I hung out at the house with Lotty, her son Louise and his son Fernando, who came in later, Willy, Carlos, Clara Luz and her daughter Patricia (Patty), who had also come over later.  It was a fun night and even though I didn't understand much of what was being said I was able to participate in the conversation enough to feel like I was part of it and not just an observer.  Willy worked in the US for like 15 years off and on and his English is really good so it was fun to speak with him- he spoke in English and I spoke in Spanish.  He skydives in his free time and it was neat to talk to him about that.
From the left, Louis, Clara Luz, Otto, Mimy, Lotty, Carlos, Diana and Willy
When the rest of the group left I found out that Fernando actually speaks excellent English!  He learned some in school but really got familiar with it by watching TV and speaking with people in a game that he plays online.  We chatted for about 45 minutes or an hour after everyone else, while Lotty was cleaning up- something I had tried to help with but she told me I was a guest and she wouldn't have me helping!  Mimy, Diana and Otto arrived around 12 and we all hit the hay.  I was delirously tired by that point!

The morning was very relaxed and lazy- I slept until like 9:30!  Though, Mimy only got up a little before me and Diana slept for like another hour after I woke up (she and Mimy were on the bed in the same room where I slept on my camp pad) so I didn't feel too bad!  After a bit of time chatting with Mimy and Lotty over coffee and leftover cake, the three of us walked a few blocks to a little mercado which was nothing spectacular in itself but there were some beautiful flowers along the way and I just love mercados so it was a great way to pass an hour or so!

We returned to the house and had lunch and drank more coffee and then it was time to pack up so that Diana and Mimy could get back to San Marcos in time to serve breakfast in the morning.  I wasn't really ready to leave because I had really been hoping to spend more time with Otto and I had really enjoyed speaking with Fernando, but I don't want to be a pain and it's most convenient for Mimy and Diana to take me to the bus station (which is a different one than the one they are leaving from!) on their way so...  Off to Antigua, I think!  : D

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