After months of anticipation, the day finally arrived! The closer I came towards this day, the more my excitement turned to anxiety. The more I attempted to prepare, the more self-doubt I found.
Why did I take German instead of Spanish in school? When I was offered this amazing opportunity, should I have let them know that I am notoriously known for getting lost? I’ve lived in Sacramento for eight years, yet I still need Siri to navigate me to most places.
I was going to be outside of my comfort zone the entire time. On purpose.
My itinerary was to fly out of Sacramento International Airport to a connection in Houston, Texas on a Friday. I was meant to arrive in Guatemala City slightly after 9pm central time.
There were floods and turbulent weather in Houston, so that didn’t happen.
I did not arrive in Guatemala City until about 11pm, and it is about a half-hour drive to Antigua from there. My first observation of Guatemala was that drivers are “eccentric.” It is some sort of organized chaos where staying within your lane is more of a guideline than an expectation, and there are a lot of motorcycles and pedestrians. When I made a comment about the amount of motorcyclists in my best (broken) Spanish to my driver, Francisco, it started a tirade on the high price of gasoline. I didn’t understand much except something along the lines of, “La gasolina mucho!”
I did not arrive at my flat in Antigua until close to midnight. It was very dark, but the feeling of driving on cobblestone was unmistakable. The hostess, Maria, gave me a very quick tour on account of how late it was. Bella Vista Coffee hooked it up! My flat had two bedrooms (in the event that was another visiting barista in the same week), a restroom, full kitchen, living area in the courtyard, and a third-story terrace that overlooked Antigua. I was dead on my feet, so I couldn’t fully grasp how amazing it all was until the following morning.
I was so tired from flying –there is just something about sitting for hours on end – I mistakenly slept in. I took a daytime tour of my flat and was in awe of how nice and spacious it was. My connection in Guatemala was a Miss Melanie Herrera, assistant manager in agricultural affairs. She recommended I spend this day and Sunday at Lake Atitlán. After some googling, I took her up on the offer and scheduled accommodation on the nature reserve, Reserva Natural Atitlán. My shuttle was meant to pick me up at 12pm, but I wanted to introduce myself at the café before I left.
Equipped with a map and very limited Spanish, I hustled to Bella Vista Coffee at 10:30am. Remember how I mentioned how I get lost easily? This day was no exception. What should have been a 15 minute walk turned into an hour-long excursion. In hindsight, it was this experience that taught me how incredibly nice Guatemalan locals are.
I learned how incredibly normal and casual it was to greet everyone you pass on the sidewalk (“Buenas dias!”). This was my gateway into learning how patient the locals were when I asked for directions in broken Spanish. You know that problem I had with not knowing a lick of Spanish? I had to learn real fast how to ask for directions and learn basic vocabulary to understand said directions. From this day forward, I learned to communicate if not through broken Spanish, then at the very least through epic Charades.
When I finally made it to the café, I met Ilda, Lily, and Karina. After getting acquainted, I power-walked to my flat. Or tried to. I once again got lost and relied on the kindness of strangers for directions, and ended up at the hotel that rented the flat for me – it was 1pm. The receptionist called my shuttle for me, offered me a water, and then I was on my way to Atitlán!