Back in Latin America…and it feels good.
After a hectic couple of weeks in New York wherein my sister got engaged, my best friend got married, and I had lot of friends and family to catch up with besides, getting on the plane to Guatemala City was a welcome departure. During that flight I tried to reflect on my trip to Asia, but I must admit, there’s something unsettled about it for me. Possibly it was the inability to digest it properly once back in the States because of loyalties at home which required my attention; possibly it was the pace at which I experienced eight vastly different countries, each requiring focus and learning, patience and perserverence; possibly it was the fact that I didn’t head-over-heels-love everywhere I visited in Asia and I very much want every stop on this journey to be entirely magical – but, newsflash: life isn’t always magical. So while Asia was one of the most outstanding experiences of my life, it’s still not an experience I’ve come to complete terms with yet. Nor may I ever. I guess I’ll have to learn to accept that. And, slowly continue to process it.
However, the rhythm of this trip I’m on is constant, so I must go forward.
So, first stop, next leg: Guatemala.
I’m not sure what I expected of Guatemala, or what I expect of Central America on the whole. I adored Costa Rica when I visited a few years back, but the Central America part of this trip came about when I fell so hard for South America. If I wasn’t as flexible as I’ve started to allow myself to be (haha…), I’d be in Australia right now. Anyhow, all I know of cities like Guatemala, Honduras, Panama are the things that my dad would tell me after his frequent trips when he owned a manufacturing business: Don’t go. So, I had little to go on other than I loved the culture and there HAD to be redeeming qualities to these places, to the homes of ancient Mayan civilizations of old, no? Yes. I’ve been here for almost a week, and Guatemala is most definitely underrated. It’s a gorgeous country, reminiscent (for me) of Peru, rich in culture and customs, and short little people in colorful outfits, cowboy hats, and the friendliest dispositions. Guatemala has helped me get my travel groove back on.
I arrived in Guatemala City to the sounds of a mariachi band outside the airport terminal – husbands playing guitars to Spanish songs, wives whipping up tortillas for sale nearby, and smelled the familiar smell of the Latin world. For some reason, the people of Latin America have this powdery smell, almost like a baby, that is instantly recognizable, and actually, calming. They fly by but leave the talcum and I love it. Sheets at authentic posadas smell this way too – maybe it’s not the people but the textiles – either way, I’m into it. Other than the lovely nasal and auditory re-entry to Latin America, Guatemala City is bland and worthy of little mention other than that I spent Easter Sunday there, which was a trip since I’ve never seen a holiday mass in my own country, let alone another one.
Easter was pretty amazing to witness – the parades of statues of saints and Jesus’ that made their way into the churches, hoisted on the shoulders of 20-30 men each who, like pallbearers, took severe honor in the task at hand. Each statue was followed into the church by throngs of people clapping and cheering for their chosen saint or God. I made my way into the church behind Jesus, being carried by the flow of the people making their way in front of me and behind me, but no worries, I was EASILY a head taller than any single person in the church, so no matter where I stood, I had the best view. The Guatemalans are teeny, hardly over five feet, any of them. Being 5’6”, I felt like an absolute giant, but the upside was that my vantage point was definitely the best going. There were bleachers outside the churches for the overflow that the pews and floor spaces (lines with lawn chairs and grannies in visible knee highs) inside the church couldn’t hold. Men, women, children, holding umbrellas to shield them from the sun, listened to the mass, which was broadcast over a huge sound system, allowing all to participate in the ritual of Sunday Mass. After mass, everyone converged on the square, or Plaza Mayor, outside of the church to celebrate in a carnival-like way. Hundreds of booths that sold everything from clothes to toys to food to souvenir trinkets to religious relics lined the square. Men with ice-blocks bigger than themselves shaved frozen pieces into paper cones for the kids. Clowns making balloon-animals, shoe-shine boys, photographers, magicians, and singers hooked up to sound-systems on nearby pick-up trucks entertained, while whole families set up fast-food outlets to feed the Guats. It was a holiday circus that was easy to wander through for hours on end.
But...my time there last about 2 hours, at which point, I had enough “Easter” and took solace in the pool at my hotel, paying respect to my very favorite resurrection…the sun.