I am settling in nicely here. I took Elizabeth Bell's cultural walking tour today and it was the best $20 I've spent in a while. Seriously, I am a non tour chick and this was captivating. She takes you behind the walls and into the culture. She doesn't just talk the talk, this woman walks the walk. I know more about jade than I could ever have imagined as we went to the jade museum and I now know that there is one special spot here in Guatemala that is famous for the most brilliant jade in the world. Well, some of it anyway. Oh, and this site was discovered by an American woman. I get a kick out of that.
I must say this is so not the place to shop for clothing. Antigua is where all American clothes that never sold come to die. Old Navy and the like end up here when it doesn't sell in the States. Needless to say this fashion conscious chick has not been shopping for clothing. That said, if you want scarves or jewelry or textiles you are in the right place! I have splurged and bought a wonderful mint jade ring that came with a certificate stating where the jade was mined from in Guatemala.
I have discovered that every jade store in Antigua has its own guards for protection. Every bank here has armed guards with huge guns ready to go as well. It was startling at first but now I like it. Between the police and the army guards that have been hired to fill in for the lack of police it is pretty safe place. I have grown accustomed to the sight of men in uniform bearing arms wherever I go. I actually charmed this guard into letting me take a picture with him. I love that he's the one who is laughing and I'm the one looking so serious. We were being very goofy together! And to be clear, that's his left hand gripping a machine gun. You had to be there to get how funny this all was. I got his fellow guard, also armed, to take this picture!
I watched a Mayan man today in the Catholic church come to light his many candles as an offering. I have learned that the Mayans celebrate Earth in the most brilliant way and they pay homage to all things to do with nature. They are a fascinating culture and I would like to learn more about them. They have their own language and many of them do not speak any Spanish at all. Guatemala is a melting pot in its own right. There are many languages here it seems.
The sky opened up and poured today when I was out in my sandals, jeans and tank top. The temperature dropped and it rained thick and heavy like mad. I took refuge in the local market where the locals go to buy their basics. I move through this small city taking in the best and the worst of it. I never know what I'll find around the next corner...
I will think about going out to Lake Atitlan in a day or so but have not decided yet. I might land myself a Spanish tutor and study a few hours a day for a the rest of my time here. I have been referred to a tutor by an American man who spends a good chunk of his year here with his wife. They divide their time between Antigua and Buffalo NY. His tutor is $4 an hour. I think I can handle a few hours with him if I decide to go that route! Even a couple of hours here and there would give me some basics. I am good with hello, goodbye and some colors and food. I'm fairly well cooked with everything else. I have always fought learning Spanish out of frustration that it is thrust upon me in Los Angeles. I think I'm relenting after all. People can change, you know?
A hot shower and hot soothing tea are calling my name. I bid you goodnight from Antigua.