Search This Blog

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Fall: Part Six Continued

As one can tell the time was unplanned but not unpleasant.  After some adventures and time lazing around Nicole decides it is time to go home and I decide I am continuing on.  We make plans for Nicole to fly back to Colorado from Guatemala City and I bus it on down to El Salvador.  In the Guatemala City airport Nicole falls out of the story.  I cannot say if this is a good thing, or a bad thing, but I can say it is scary and it hurts.  

It hurts a lot. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Fall: Commercial Interruption

To mark the occasion of being brought into the AdSense fold and getting Google ads on the blog I thought I would throw in one of my own completely unsolicited advertisements.  This break from "The Fall" is brought to you by Reilly's En La Esquina of Antigua, Guatemala.

(In no way is Reilly's endorsing this advertisement, but just a story of events that happened.)

I happen to be Reilly's En La Esquina, the Irish bar, on quiz night.  The purpose for my visit is solely to watch Monday Night Football.  I have no interest in a quiz night.  I know that a quiz night will go well beyond my bed time and I am not sure how much good I will be in a Guatemalan quiz night.  I tune out and stare at the football on the screen with the beginnings of the quiz blaring around me.  

The quiz starts off with registering teams and a three part challenge, separate from the quiz itself.  The winner of the three part challenge wins a bottle of Flora de Canna.  Challenge one invites one member from each team to place one hand on the wall.  That member must keep their hand on the wall until there are three teams remaining.  People shuffle and nominate their tribute to the effort.  As teams are nominating the MC announces out all of the nights staff, from bar backs to security to bartenders.  They all have some sort of handle or nickname. After the introductions, the MC counts the number of hands on the wall and the number of teams. Somehow there are two extra hands on the wall, the MC asks non-quiz participants to excuse themselves.  One person leaves.

Behind me I hear someone yelling.  "Hey." "Hey, man." "Hey." until I finally reluctantly peel my eyes from the game turn around and the fellow bellowing says "That guy wants to talk to you" pointing to a man with his hand on the wall.  

I move toward the older slender and grey haired gentleman and he quickly announces I am on his quiz team and orders me to grab a paper and register our team ending with "I really want that bottle of rum."  I am in the quiz on a team of comprised of myself and some lonely older expat in desperate need of a free bottle of rum.

The quiz moves on, unsurprisingly we are not doing well.  Other teams seem to consist of 30 people and we are fighting on our own.  Also unsurprisingly, if you have ever been on a quiz team with me, the older man is prop-ing up the team almost single handedly.  I am only half interested and focused on Packers beating the Eagles when yet a third challenge, separate from the quiz and the three part rum challenge, is issued.  A new employee was starting and the contest is to provide the bar name for the newbie and the winning team members get a shot.  My boy was all over this.  Between every break "What was her name again?".  "Eliza." "What rhymes with Lisa?"  He was racking his brain for some Spanish.

This guy raised three children, retired from a 40 some odd year long union job, and divorced after an equivalently long marriage.  Now he comes down to Guatemala a couple of times a year for a few months to study Spanish.  He hasn't been happier, except in this particular moment when he is trying to scrape his brains for a Spanish word that rhymes with Eliza. Like the bottle of rum, he really wants the free shot. 

Challenge two for the free bottle of rum is upon us, and three teams are competing.  The challenge is to make the best mojito and the bartenders will judge.  He asks if I am any good at mixing mojitos and my response, of "remind me what is in a mojito" was all he needs to know he is participating.  I am more than O.K. with this, I am watching my game.

The challenge comes and goes and he comes back.  I ask how he fared.  "Well I think I would have won if I didn't mistake the salt for sugar."  Yeah he made a really powerful rum and saline solution that hit the judges gag reflexes, or maybe they are just not versed in the lesser known 'Brine Mojito'.  We are out of the rum contest much to my fellow's disappointment.

The quiz rambles on and 'we' have a submission for Eliza's new bar moniker.

The game is over and the quiz is over.  The Packers win the game and we do not when the quiz.  I am wrapping up having drank enough and the naming contest winner is announced.  Yup we won a free shot.  My boy came up with "Sonrisa Eliza" and that was the best the bar came up with.  Got to give the old guy some credit.  He scratched and scratched to get that rhyme and came up with something more flattering than most of the other nicknames and we get a shot - not what I am looking for.

While waiting for the shot the third and final rum bottle challenge was laid down.  The challenge requires two members from the remaining two teams. One member from each team is standing on the bar, takes a shot of tequila and then does ten push-ups.  Upon completion the other team member slams pint of beer.  We have a winner.  I am so happy that 'Brine Mojitos' are not a thing.  

As I said, I am done for the evening.  I have cashed out, and would be on my way back to the hotel if it wasn't for a free shot.  

We watch the final spectacle to see the victors.  The rum bottle challenge victors consists of a team of four and at once announce everyone left in the bar gets a shot.

Top to it off, my teammate buys me another shot for being his teammate for the evening. 

I am inebriated, I am on way out, bill is settled up, and facing three shots along side my quiz mate.  What a game.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Fall: Part Six

Nestled below three volcanoes Antigua served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala, which stretched from southern Mexico down to Costa Rica, for over 200 years. Today it is a beautiful city whose development was pretty much arrested in 1979 after the entire city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As such, much of the city has restrictions and buffer zones related to new developments preserving the original grid of north-south and east-west streets laid out in the 16th century.  Even before the 1979 designation, on a national level, Guatemala started protecting Antigua as early as 1944.  And nature itself may have been Antigua's largest benefactor when an earthquake hit the area in the late 1700's prompting to move the capital to Guatemala City.  As a result of the earthquake and relocation of the Guatemalan government seat, much of Antigua was abandoned leaving many of the previous centuries monuments in ruins but untouched.    As a result of natural disasters, population relocation and civic polices, Antigua offers a truly unique view into the early Spanish colonization of Central America.

The city is small and very accessible.  The streets are well maintained and many still cobblestone. The sidewalks are complete and very clean.  There isn't a day I don't see people walking around cleaning the streets and picking up liter.  Chicken buses bustled through the streets taking people on day trips to the surrounding volcanoes, lakes, Guatemala City and who knows where else.  One regret I have is not taking more photographs of all the chicken buses.  There were so many of them and all unique.  Some more basic school buses with some sort of colorful paint job, others were sparkling clean, chromed out to the teeth (some even have teeth), many of them had some saint or another religious reference pointing observers to Jesus.  There is a coffee table book to be had in all those chicken buses.

We endure our first hotel the couple of nights thinking that is all the time we will be staying, but we ended up staying a few more days.  Luckily the original hotel didn't have room for the following nights and we are forced to move.  As a result we end up in a much nicer, free of tiny ants, albeit smaller, room.  

The days are spent enjoying the scenery and history of the city, and exploring the numerous little shops selling speciality coffee, perfumes, teas, chocolates, clothes you name it there is a speciality shop.  

Of course we meet several more travelers: A couple of ladies from South Africa exploring Central America for the first time, a displaced Cincinnati Bengals fan, ex-military re-inventing themselves in the clothing industry, retired venture capital backers, skeevy old men looking for young ladies.  It seems if you wait around long enough about everyone will pass through.  Oddly enough we bump into Dasher, whom we met in Flores.  We enjoy the ceremonial city square Christmas lighting together and then have a ripping good time at Freda's enjoying great food and a long evening of musical stylings of the guest Costa Rican band.   
I spent one evening in the park reading and writing by myself.  I eventually am engaged with an Antiguan youth, maybe in his early twenties.  The conversation starts off with books, and as time moves on and we pass some titles back and forth, I notice our conversation is growing into a group.  At first one or two slightly younger, and then after about thirty minutes the conversation circle encompasses at least a dozen people ranging from early twenties to pre-teens.  How is this happening well past 10 p.m.?  What is going on?  I am thinking "Where are your parents?" and then I abruptly stand up and walk away ending the conversation upon noticing one of the pre-teens hands reaching into my shorts pocket.  I think I am robbed, but later realize I didn't go out with any money, I left it all in the hotel.  
There are also numerous coffee shops, bars, and restaurants of all flavors it seems.  You can find quality Guatemalan food, Mexican food, US Southern BBQ and of course an Irish bar complete with sheperd's pie.  The Irish bar is one of about a half a dozen Ex-pat bars in the city.  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Find Frog: Fairy Stream

Yeah this is an easy one.  Frog just wanted to say hello from Vietnam, or is he on a different planet?

We all know he is mad as a box of frogs.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Fall: Part Five

In the morning we have to move rooms since we extended our stay.  Not sure why but we do.  I grab some more ice.

More days pass - another extension - we move rooms and more ice.

And again more days, a new room and more ice.  

I mean really do we have to move rooms?  It isn't like they are downgrades or upgrades.  They are more of the same.  Up a floor, down a floor; I really question the booking system.  The people moving in have no idea what they have or didn't have and it didn't matter as it it all about the same.  Same size, slightly different views, to say one is better than the other is in the eye of the beholder, but they are all street views.  Same as it ever is we see four different rooms.

While in Flores, Nicole soldiers on trying to get 10,000 steps as soon as the next day.  We even walk around the entire island, which isn't super big but still, the entire island.   Not sure how advisable it all is, but Nicole is trying to get on her feet as quickly as possible.  Through out the days I explore Flores culinary offerings.  Sometimes I know what I am ordering other times I simply say "Tipico por favor" and eat what I get.  It is usually a chicken based soup that is delicious but requires careful navigation around bones.  I am not sure how the chickens are separated but if I am to guess it is recklessly and with a massive flesh and bone saw of some sort as the cuts never resembled chicken as I know it.

We meet a diverse group of people.  A larger than life transvestite who is engaging, entertaining and announcing her femininity at every turn and to everyone who enters the bar.  She clearly identifies as a women, and dresses in skirts and push-up bras.  Her hair is pulled back in a rough and tumble pony tail.  Tall, dark and handsome, she looks and talks like a Guatemalan, but apparently she is from Detroit.  I guess that goes to show, never trust a book by its cover.  She serenades Nicole and I on her guitar despite missing a string.  She somehow manages to pull together several songs, some she makes up right on the spot.  I pay for the missing string.  

One restaurant is looking for seasonal workers, preferably native English speakers, for the next two months.  The restaurant provides room and board, plus tips in exchange for 5 days of work a week.  The thought is tempting, especially after talking to "Nacho", from Colorado, who is living that dream.  He seems to be enjoying the deal even if it is only his third day.  With each passing day the offer becomes more attractive.   

I practice my Spanish in the hotel room and out on the streets and in shops, restaurants, etc.  Language barriers are difficult and a constant reminder to listen carefully, and lessons in humility.  

One time I purchased some beer from the corner store.  I asked the price and heard "treinta" and thought 'I am getting ripped off'.  This is a convenience store and prices should be less than in a bar.  The hotel bar doesn't even charge that, they only charged 17 Qs, how can this corner shop almost double the price.  On the walk back to the hotel, through my disgust I am doing the maths in my head and figure out she said "trece".  My Spanish is not improving, I literally got confused and angry over a one word response. I get more ice. 

Getting restless and developing a sense of needing to either move on or take the two month job in the restaurant we decide to move onto Antigua.  After days of mostly rest and lots of ice Nicole is ready to see how traveling would feel carrying her shin pet papaya.  I am not sure why I keep calling it a papaya.  Must be the tropical fruit on my mind, but it really doesn't correctly convey what it looks like.  It is more like an eggplant or even better an aubergine - that conveys the current color much more appropriately; shin pet aubergine.    

It is a short one hour flight that seems like nothing after a little top shelf Flora de Cana rum.