HfH Guatemala: Day Two
Up at 6:00 to shower and get on the road for the airport – I’m still sick, but thankfully better than last night. We’ll see how long that lasts…
Rocio arrives at John’s so we can all carpool to the airport together, and John’s neighbor Hector gets behind the wheel. Rocio is funny and comfortable giving John a hard time, so I think we’ll get along just fine. We check in and drop off our bags, and then hit a lottery stand to turn in some freebie lottery quick-pick tickets, and then it’s off towards security and the gates. We grab a quick breakfast at TGI Fridays and then continue on to the gate, finding that boarding has already started. This is where we meet the first of the others in our group: Julie and Donny. Julie and Donny are firefighters based out of Kansas city and strike me as genuine, caring, and motivated people. It’ll be interesting to hear some of the stories and insights in the coming days.
There are others of our group scattered around the plane, and there also appear to be lots of other people either travelling for other Habitat for Humanity projects or missionary work. Kevin is off to my left, a recently single father of two teenage boys. He’s going to stay on in Central America after we leave next weekend, heading from Guatemala down to Costa Rica for an additional week after I leave.
Christyne is a gregarious blonde who now works as a K9 handler customs agent. She has loads of funny stories, is sarcastic from the get-go, and obviously likes to push John’s buttons. Yes, I like her right off.
On the plane and attempt to sleep as much as possible. Head pressure plays the same game as yesterday, as cabin pressure drops while we gain altitude I gain some relief and clarity, only to have it lost as we descend. Begin sick sucks, but I’m looking forward to being in Guatemala again – I keep having flashbacks to sights, smells, and little factoids bubbling up, so I guess it wasn’t so long ago that I was here…
Landed in the city, worked our way through immigration and “customs” (customs consisting simply of a girl who collected our paperwork and nodded as we walked by), and off to the van to Antigua. We’re met by our HfH reps, Lauren (Orange County California) and Jimal (Chicago, Illinois). Both are young and full of energy – Lauren has been in-country for 3 months, while Jimal has been here since last November. Lauren coordinates and answers most questions, but from time to time she falls back on Jimal’s knowledge and experience of Guatemala. Lauren’s just with us for the journey to Antigua (and late lunch), while Jimal will stay half the week. Should be fun to get their view and ideas on making this week successful.
We stop at the hotel (Hotel Las Companas) in Antigua to drop off the bags, and find that it’s a beautiful place. I end up with a room of my own (due to being sick and not wanting to get others ill or keep folks up at night), and by some fluke I end up with the most enormous room of the bunch – there’s two queen beds and a huge bathroom including a bidet and a massive tub/shower combination. We also meet the final members of the crew: Dan (Boston), who was laid off last year and has been travelling since, ending up here; Darren, a large friendly Canadian husband and father of two girls scouting this as a potential fun charitable activity to engage in with his daughter in the future; and Margaret, a retired teacher who also came down to Guatemala ahead of the group in order to learn Spanish!
After a late lunch and orientation, we head for a bank to exchange some dollars for the local currency, the Quetzal, and then split up into smaller groups to explore Antigua. Rocio, Kevin, and I end up wandering over to a large mercado on one side of town, and then back into town to an indoor market. By the time we leave the market, it’s starting to sprinkle outside and we head back for the hotel. Timing is good – my illness is starting to be ugly again, so it must be time to quaff a bunch more OTC drugs.
A couple hours rest, and we’re off for dinner at Frida’s. The restaurant is a tribute to Frida Kahlo, and is covered with murals, portraits, and pictures of Frida. Another good meal, and we amble back to the hotel – time for a hot shower and then off to bed; gotta be up and out at 6:55 tomorrow a.m.
Night all – travelling down to Panahachel and then on to San Lucas tomorrow.