Friday, February 26, 2016

Mayalandia

No sooner did I leave Central America did I return.  Probably for the best, America was making me a little loopy.  After three weeks in America, spending time with family in Bethesda and old friends in LA, I trekked down to Guatemala.

I first flew from LA to San Salvador, and because of flight delays, had to hoof it to the gate to catch my connecting flight to Guate City.  But I did indeed make it, and settled in for a night at the Holiday Inn in Guate City, which was considerably nicer than my last experiences in Guate City--staying on Calle Purgatorio, which earned its name.

Last time I was in Guate City, I wrote of it:

"It is a city with more arms than charm, but it greets you with a barbed-wire smile."

I doubt the city had changed too much, but at least my real estate had.

I awoke this morning with an overzealous housekeeper entering at 8:15am, far too early for any maid to be cleaning.  I went running to three Sinnermans--my Nina Simone workout that spans about 5k of jogging.

I had a little kerfuffle with the hotel over breakfast.  I had booked a standard room on my bevy of hotel points.  I had been upgraded to an executive floor as befitting my stature as a well-kept vagabond.  When I arrived, I asked about breakfast, and was informed of the hours it took place--nothing more.

So when I came down for breakfast, I had a modest fair of a plate of frijoles and a boiled egg with salsa ranchera, along with some papaya and fried plantains. Nothing too ostentatious.  Then they brought me the bill for $12.  I explained that it was included in my room; they did not have it as such.

So I went down to talk with the front desk and the manager.  I showed them my reservation for a standard room, and explained that it was common for standard rooms to include breakfast--especially in their hotel chain which I had frequented in my travels.  I also explained that when I checked in no one had mentioned that the breakfast was not complimentary, nor when I came to the breakfast spot.  I said that I would have simply left to get coffee outside if I had known it was not included.

It surprisingly took a lot of arguing to get them to finally comp the breakfast.  Part of the problem was a misunderstanding.  The manager thought that I wanted breakfast to be comped after I went and ate (she offered me coffee and a pastry); I tried to explain that I had already eaten, and not enough to warrant the price of their expensive buffet.  Finally, when she understood that I was negotiating over an already finished fair, she understood and let it go.

Anyway, I packed up and headed out.  I grabbed a cab to Trebol, the area of chickenbuses.  I grabbed a colorful, packed chicken bus and sped out of the choked, sprawling Guate capital and on to the lovely Antigua.

I trekked over to the last place I had stayed in Antigua for New Years 2010, but Casa Amarilla was full.  I found a place across the street that was a tad cheaper.

I dropped my stuff and went searching for an apartment.  The manager of the hostel showed me a place nearby that was pretty cheap (350 Quetzales/$50 a week), but didn't really have the sufficient space I needed to get some writing done.  It was cramped and a bit dingy.  The woman also needed an answer this afternoon since she was going to leave for the weekend.  I didn't want to commit on the first spot so I left it, but was worried about what else I would find given that this was not expensive at all.

I had read that cafes had announcements for apartments and student spaces, so I went wandering around the city looking at announcement boards.  I found an old cafe called Doña Luisa, which had a number of announcements.  I stopped for lunch since I was famished from walking around all day, and had a plate of huevos rancheros--an island of fried eggs covered in salsa ranchera, swimming in a sea of black beans.  I sipped fresh-squeezed orange-carrot juice in the cool afternoon breeze.

I wrote down about 7 numbers for apartments on the board, and headed back to the hostel to call the places.  Over broken skype conversations, none came to fruition.  Now I was a little worried.  I checked AirBNB and it was all expensive.  Most things were about $450 to $500 for 3 weeks after all the AirBNB fees and charges.

I searched a few more spots online and ventured back out.  I decided to take a turn down Calle de Inquisition, and saw a guesthouse that had long-term rentals.  I went in to check it out, and it was lovely.  Through the gardens, I was led to an apartment on the top terrace that had a modest kitchen and a bathroom with a hot shower.  There was a nice view of the volcano in the distance.  I bargained the place down from 3,200 quetzales to 2,500 quetzales or about $325 for 3.5 weeks.

Pleased that I was to be no longer homeless, I grabbed my copy of Love in the Time of Cholera and made my way to the central park, where I read as I watched Mayan girls in rich, colorful fabrics wander through the park.

I grabbed a traditional Guatemalan hot chocolate and sat under some creeping vines at a quaint cafe and read Gabo's masterpiece.  Now it's time to write my own.

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