Tired but empowered. An early rise, 5 hour flight, layover in Ft Lauderdale and one new amigo named Ines Murando later we arrived safely in the hands of Gaby and Claudia with YMCA Guatemala. Day one, we earned our traveler stripes, GP style. After shoving our bag in our new transit clown car, we were on our way to Antigua. Guatemala is incredibly mountainous and green, with rolling hills meeting houses cut into the cliff side, hanging on for dear life. What is impossible for some is possible for Guatemalans- Lesson ONE. We stopped over in a small town called San Lucas midway to our first destination and enjoyed a typical Guatemalan lunch- Churrasco, savory meat, potatoes, guacamole and corn tortillas- delicioso! All chased with a drink delivered in a large glass nearly resembling a fish bowl, this one non-alcoholic, but tasting strangely like bubble gum. Our thoughts- just pleasant. During lunch we reviewed the agenda for our upcoming week and discussed what we can anticipate on this journey.
Truth be told Guatemala can get a bad rap for being dangerous but as we learned in just one day here, as in any city there are precautions to take to avoid this type of threat and places to spend your time to also err on the safer side. Lesson #2: Do not just believe what you read, ask the locals. After investigating this reputation further, we discovered the simple adjustment of not flashing your bling in certain areas or walking by yourself at night. Pretty standard. Onwards to Antigua, Central America's buzzing colonial city and home to more than one active volcano.
Bring your eagerness to learn Spanish but leave your stilettos at home ladies because these cobblestones can lay you out. Just sayin. Antigua plays host to several Spanish schools that we will be visiting tomorrow and some of the most beautiful art deco streets we have seen yet. Let's call it "Latin Vintage". Whether you are up for a traditional Guatemalan meal, a drink with friends or a pit stop to take in the sites and sounds while sitting in "Central Park", Antigua has something for everyone. After a long walk around the city, we spent the latter part of our evening, familia style around a big wooden table, practicing our very best Spanglish with our hosts Monica and Cesar while learning more about them. It is very obvious that family plays a huge part in the lives of the Guatemalan people and they open their hearts to you almost immediately, starting with a customary hug and smile of course. Nonetheless, despite a few technical language difficulties, we left dinner excited for more. The truth is, the best part of traveling is the people you meet along the way.
Stay tuned for pictures and more from the GP team here in Guatemala. Adios."