Monday, October 10, 2011

Guat's Up Dude?

Last October, my friend Chris from A-100 came to visit me in Belize.  This weekend, I got to make the return trip.  All in all, it was just about a perfect trip - the complete opposite of my disastrous vacation in Panama.

Chris with US Embassy
I arrived on Friday afternoon and after Chris picked me up, we headed to the Embassy for a quick tour.  The US Embassy in Guatemala is located in a fairly central part of town.  The building is a 3 story concrete office building straight out of the 1970s.  Compared to our Embassy in Belmopan, there is a lot less green space.  All of the offices seemed fuller and a bit more cramped - given how many people work there compared to Belmopan, it should be no surprise.  Despite being 3 pm on a Friday, the Embassy was actually closed.  Everyone works 9 hour days Monday through Thursday and gets a half day on Friday.  I wouldn't mind adopting that in Belize.

Three volcanoes outside Guatemala City
(note the middle one is smoking)
Chris's apartment in Guatemala is amazing.  Guatemala does not have a housing pool like most posts.  Instead, the officers are allotted a specific amount of funds and have to go find their own place.  Chris did pretty good in finding this place.  He has a view of three different volcanoes from his balcony, a roof top pool, two living rooms, an amazing kitchen, maid's quarters, and a jacuzzi in his bathroom.
After a few beers on his balcony, Chris's girlfriend, Monica, joined us for dinner.  We went to a local steak house and our dinner was delicious.  The next morning, Monica made us a traditional Guatemalan breakfast with plantains, eggs, beans, and guacamole.  It was delicious.

Overlooking Antigua
After breakfast, we headed to Antigua.  Antigua is actually "Antigua Guatemala" or "Old Guatemala."  It was the capital of much of Central America during Spanish Colonial times.  An earthquake destroyed much of the capital, so the Spanish moved it to the current Guatemala City.  Only about 45 minutes from Guatemala City, the quaint town is a great get-away from the hustle and bustle that is Guatemala City.  The town is surrounded by the mountains and has a nice little town center.  There are lots of shops, restaurants, and bars.  It really is a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon or a nice weekend.

The highlight of my weekend was Saturday night.  Two months ago, when Chris and I planned this trip, I mentioned to Chris that I would like to be able to watch the Nebraska-Ohio State game.  Chris is also a college football fan, so he understood.  We went to watch the game at pretty big sports bar, where we had the largest plate of nachos I have ever seen.  The first half of the game I was miserable.  The Huskers were playing awful.  The game was conspiring to ruin my weekend.  THEN, the Huskers started turning it around.  When Taylor Martinez scored in the 3rd quarter, I jumped up and yelled, forgetting I was in a bar full of Guatemalans who couldn't care less about this game.  After the next TD, I didn't care who stared at me.  By the time, Nebraska scored the winning TD, several Guatemalans were cheering on Nebraska with me.  I know that I am way too emotionally attached to a football team, but this comeback really made the weekend better.

Celebratory shot after Nebraska's win
The other major revelation of the weekend came when the bar played the classic Richie Valens' hit "La Bamba."  I have always known the chorus of that song to be, "La la la la la bamba."  I was singing along when Monica called me out.  She insisted that the words were "para bailar la bamba."  I called bullshit and we playfully argued about it the rest of the night.  The song was even played at another bar that night and I still heard the lyrics my way.  It wasn't until the next day when I looked up the lyrics online that I was convinced.  This is truly mind-blowing.

Sunday morning, we drove through the mountains to Lake Atitlan.  Lake Atitlan is formed by a volcanic crater and is surrounded by three volcanoes.  The lake is gorgeous and the surrounding cliffs are majestic.  Our hotel was fantastic.  They had a botanical garden and an aviary.  There was an infinity jacuzzi and TWO helipads.  The nearby town of Panajachel was a fun little town.  Nearby, there were a variety of adventure sports - SCUBA in the lake, kayaking, zip lines, hiking.  If I were to come back to Guatemala, I could see spending several days in the area.

My favorite photo of the weekend - Antigua

Check out Chris's chicken bus t-shirt.  After spotting it in Antigua, we  made fun of the shirt all night.
So when we saw it in Panajachel, Chris had to buy it.

The view from our pool at Lake Atitlan

One of the Macaws in the aviary.  These guys were nasty.
They would screech at me if I came near and raise their talons at me.

This waterfall was right off the road.

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