Long overdue in posting, I'll try to connect the dots of my traveling adventure of a life for the past few months. For now, here's the story of my day Sunday. Then, I'll make an effort to at lest make some sense of my adventures.
For now, I'll say that I left California in mid-November for Cozumel, Fort Lauderdale, Celebrity cruise ship Infinity, points in between, and Valparaíso, Chile, and Antigua, Guatemala.
Valparaíso, Chile to Antigua, Guatemala
Up before the crack of dawn yesterday, I was leaving the beautiful city of Valparaíso, Chile; truth be told it was 3:50 am to be exact, which is called the “madrugada” in Spanish. I’d bought a bus ticket for the trip directly to the airport in Santiago; the only direct bus each day leaves the bus terminal in Valparaíso at 5:20 am! My flight wasn’t until 12:20 pm but it was worth the effort not to have to go into Santiago and then hire a taxi, or whatever, to get to the airport on time for departure. I arrived at the beautifully modern airport at about 7 hoping that the Copa Airlines check in would be open. No such luck! So, I schlepped my two bags around while I had breakfast and sat in the main airport waiting area. Copa Airlines opened at about 9, and even though I’d been there so early, there was an instantaneously-formed long line for the ticket-check-in counter. This is the time when I’m always happy I arrived with time to spare; that part of the day lasted over an hour!
From there I was happily unencumbered and walked through the many duty-free and airport concession stores. I’d been reading a novel (in Spanish) at Santiago’s, but left it there unfinished, so I bought a novel to continue what I’ve found to be an immeasurable aid to learning Spanish vocabulary - especially slang. Again, let me say this airport is about as modern as any I’ve seen; it’s a pleasure to simply walk around and enjoy the sights.
Both of my flights were on Copa Airlines, and each was on a brand new plane, both of which were gorgeous. Both flights included free snacks drinks, and meals that were tasty and well presented. On the 7-hour flight from Chile to Panama there were TV / movie screens at each seat with ongoing programs during the entire flight. I guess I’m really learning that even though I believe I live in the world’s greatest country, other countries are catching up rapidly. Copa Airlines is just one such proof.
On the two-hour layover in Panama City, which by the way, I hardly recognized from my visit there a little over ten years ago, I sauntered through the shopping arcade with the likes of Ferragamo, Valentino, MAC, Prada, Chanel, Hermes, etc. boutiques. No, I didn’t buy anything but I certainly had a great time looking. I’d been very impressed with the looks of Panama City as we circled around to land at the airport; I’d visited there a little over ten years ago and had found the metropolis bedraggled, crumbling, and dirty. Now, it appears to be loaded with fancy skyscrapers, clean, white sandy beaches, and its really spectacular airport.
From Panama I flew to Guatemala City on another new, but smaller, Copa jet, arriving in Guatemala City exactly on time. As I walked off the plane and through the international airport to the customs and baggage area, I quickly knew I was in Guatemala, a poor country. The airport is functional but severely without decor and / or the accoutrements of the earlier described Latin American facilities. Because telephones aren’t available in the airport, I only hoped my ride to Antigua would be outside when I walked out. For several minutes I searched the crowd that is always congregated outside, but I couldn’t see Eldín, my friend from my last sojourn in Antigua. Then, all of a sudden there he was, all smiles and ‘holas.’ His new van was parked only a short distance away; in less than 10 minutes we were on our way to Antigua, some 25-30 miles.
One of the first things I noticed, both in the airport and with Eldín, was that my Spanish starting coming back very quickly. Although I’d loved my stay in Chile, the language was difficult for me to understand and my ability to go back and forth between English and Spanish isn’t so good. Additionally, many, many people in Chile speak English to varying degrees of fluency, so I didn’t get the practice I would have liked. So many other aspects of life in Chile were pleasant, I left the language improvement for Guatemala!
I encountered lots of practice time right from the get go. Airport employees, etc. do not often speak English; when we have to, Spanish abilities come back rapidly! I’d even given Eldín English lessons when I lived here two years ago, but, of course he’s forgotten most of it and I wanted to Speak Spanish. By the time we arrived at Linda’s new house in Antigua, I was beginning to think in Spanish, always a good sign in terms of getting back into it!
We arrived at about 10:30 pm, ending a very long travel day of almost 20 hours, including a three-hour difference in time. Linda is in El Salvador, returning home tonight; but her friend, Nancy, a Canadian lady who has lived here for years, was kitty-sitting for Honey, Linda’s beloved cat. I remember when Linda picked Honey out of a litter of kittens at Bodagona, Antigua’s only sudo-supermarket. Like many supermarket-style stores in Latin America, Bodagona sells everything but the kitchen sink, so to speak. In the animal feed department there’s often kittens and puppies for sale and often for give away. Linda picked Honey out and has loved her in the way only an American lady can for the last almost three years. Honey was here with Nancy to greet me, and spent most of my first night sniffing all the wonderful aromas of my two bags - lots of Lacy and Eleanor odors, in addition to whiffs of Mexico, Florida, the cruise ship and Santiago’s condo. It really kept her busy, and I enjoyed having a pet around me, although it reminded me how much I miss Lacy and Eleanor.
Linda’s new house is spectacular, a truly authentic Antigua casa; each room of the house is located off a central garden / patio, in the traditional indoor-outdoor living people enjoy here in the “Land of the Eternal Spring.” The weather is essentially the same throughout the year, except that there is a rainy season that lasts for about 3-4 months, when it rains every single afternoon, then returns to the lovely 70s the rest of the day. The evening and night temperatures are usually in the 60s.
I’ve missed Guatemala; I guess we never know how much we love a place until we go away and then come back. The air smells like flowers, the humidity brings out the curls (and frizz) in my hair, Antigua’s cobblestone streets with its buildings’ plain facades, opening to untold beauty of the compound-like homes. Linda’s home is loaded with authentic Guatemala furnishings and art work, including a plethora of her own magnificent photography work adorning walls throughout. Of course, one of the proofs that Linda and I are actually cousins is that when I wandered into her kitchen, there, displayed prominently, are her cookbooks, so many of which I have in my own collection. I’ve not had access to mine since I’ve been living my nomadic life, so I spent a couple of hours this morning just refreshing my memory with some of my favorite cookbooks. Neither Linda nor I use cookbooks only for cooking; we both totally enjoy simply reading them from cover to cover; during that time, we can mentally ‘taste’ the wonderful concoctions the author has developed in his / her printed recipe.
I just know I’m going to have a fabulous time here. Today is only the beginning. The Mayan housekeeper was here today, working quietly and cheerfully throughout the morning and early afternoon. Also, the fish monger came after noon on his weekly visit to offer the most delectable treats from the Pacific; each week he offers the freshest and most beautiful fish and seafood that the ocean has to offer. Today I purchased a beautiful white fish, the name of which escapes me at this moment, and ten of the most incredibly large, fresh and delectable giant shrimp you’ve ever seen. The only place I’ve ever seen the likes of these has been in San Francisco Chinatown, and there only very rarely. Now, I have to return to cookbook perusing to come up with some fabulous creations with my purchases.