Yesterday’s post: 3 chicken buses, each more crowded than the last until I was wedged standing, between two thankfully well-cushioned Mayans (I hope they were equally grateful for my cushioning), as we hurtled around hairpin curves. I am now firmly in Los Altiplanos, the Highlands.
You know what’s cool? Guatemalan people, that’s what. I literally had no idea where I was. None. And I have to admit that I was nervous. The guys at the bus stop in Panajachel didn’t exactly inspire confidence. I was told a bus for Xela would arrive at eight, then another guy said there were no Xela buses on Sundays. A third guy said, no, you just have to go to Chichicastenango and transfer. I got onto a bus for Chichi. (And saw a bus labeled “Xela” on the way out of town.)
After an hour, I was told to get off at “los quatros.” I think this means a major crossroad. A guy was waiting with my bag. He handed it to someone else, who took off running for a honking bus. I hoped everyone else understood what was going on, because I didn’t. I just got on the bus and hoped for the best.
On this bus I met a friendly family, Maritza and her husband and small children. The two kids were amused by my sock needle holders, which look like socks themselves. I entertained them with those, dancing them around on the ends of two needles. Then I made them origami cranes. You cannot take the kids’ librarian out of me, I guess.
After a while a guy had my bag and said “Xela?” He rushed me to the third, standing-room-only bus. At about 11 I watched nearly everyone get off my bus. We were in the middle of total chaos–buses, dogs, dust, people, walls wih razor wire. “Minerva” the driver said. I confirmed that this meant that we were in Xela, and got off the bus. I needed to be in Colony Minerva.
But where? I realized I only had the address in my tablet. I was essentially lost, in a frankly “Pickpicket Central” looking area. No way was I pulling out a tablet there. Yet again a kind stranger, Gloria, went so far as to guide me two blocks to a…wait for it…
A Walmart is in a nice mall here in Zona 3, where my school and guest house are located. I found some free wifi in the foodcourt, the decided I wanted real food–not Taco Bell (what kind of gringo yahoo would I be if I ate there?!) I instead ate the “autentico” pancakes at a swanky-looking, but muy barato place, got directions, and proceeded to get lost.
Why no pictures, you may ask? The buses bounced so much there were no real photo ops. Or I was racing for a bus. Or I was wandering sketchy areas of Xela, trying to look not quite so tourista with my huge backpack and stylish walking shoes/skirt/cardigan combo.
Finally, I got my bearings, and walked the mile or so to my casa. It was hard to find, tucked behind other houses on the road, but I am now in my bright peach sunny room, with wafting lace curtains. (Gently wafting…for any Dr. Horrible fans.)
I appeared to have rapidly moved past the allergy phase to the full-on sinus infection, so I was not going any where today except to bed. But I was invited, by R, a recent UW Madison graduate, to a superbowl party with the Quetzaltrekkers (the company that does the full-moon volcano hike I considered doing this week). She has been here for a week, and it’s nice to talk with someone whose Spanish is not so great.
At least 8 different Guatemalans went out of their way to help me today. Some way out of their way, others just remembered where I was going and which bag was mine. Not one person has been less than kind, even in the “sketchy” areas.
Yeah, Guatemalans are cool.
P.S. Luckily, my travel doctor supplied me with tons of cipro, so I have options if this sinus thing gets worse. I’ll talk about my host family, etc. tomorrow.