Tuesday, May 20, 2008

One of the things I've noticed

Is that blogging sure makes me ruminative.  Not the same way that eating the generically titled "meat" from street comedores does (that has a tendency to leave you ruminating on why, for the love of god, Central American toilets can't handle toilet paper when you're using so much of it) or the ruminations upon one's own imminent demise that seem to pop up whenever you visit a Mayan ruin or ride in a Guatemala City taxi.

No, I seem to be awfully fond of navel-gazing.  :)

So instead of continuing in that bent, I will now regale you with various stories of my time in Central America.  And pictures.

When we first arrived in Guate, we were instantly and aggressively accosted by people trying to sell us a shuttle to Antigua.  Fortunately, that was where we wanted to go anyway, so it was easy enough to perform the traditional Act of First Stepping Out the Airport Door in a Third-World Country: namely, paying way too much for something because you haven't managed to bring yourself into a bargaining frame of mind.  I remember meeting two girls in Marrakech back in 1999 and both my boyfriend of the time and I were horrified that they had paid the equivalent of $30 to get a taxi from the airport to the central square, only a few miles away.  "It was 2am!" they said defensively.  "We didn't feel like arguing!"  At the time, my boyfriend and I scoffed mightily, but since then I have learned that I am just as susceptible to this phenomenon as anyone else so I should shut up with my superiority.

Antigua is the most pristine, polished Guatemalan city ever.  It's full of Spanish students and juice bars and tidily concocted bodegas; we wandered the streets right away, marvelling at the FOREIGN-ness of it all ("Look!  People washing clothes on rocks!  Look!  Tuk-tuks!").  Our hostel was called UmmaGumma, and was stuffed to the gills with hippies smoking pot on the patio and squeaking about in hammocks, except for when they adjourned to the TV room to watch Glengarry Glen Ross dubbed into Spanish.

The traditional Mayan dress is brightly colored and multilayered; I can't even imagine how hot they must be.  But they sure look gorgeous, particularly all wedged up against me in a chicken bus.  I can't tell you the number of small Mayan children with big brown eyes who stared at me from about three centimeters away, their brightly woven shirts blinking in the carbon dioxide that was slowly poisoning the four thousand inhabitants of that particular bus run.  They're beautiful, Mayan outfits.  It's probably no coincidence that most of the people performing most of the menial tasks we saw everywhere in Guatemala -- cleaning streets, making tortillas, selling fruit out of baskets on the sidewalk -- wore these Mayan clothes.  It was because the serving class in Guatemala is pretty much indigenous people.  We didn't see hardly any in Honduras, but I don't know if that's because the indigenous people just weren't where we were, if they blend in more with Spanish culture, or if they've all disappeared.

Antigua was only the first place that we saw a ratty circus, too.  This one was right outside town (near the cemetery, ominously enough) and we saw no people attached to it: only a few dogs, some laundry flapping off one of the tent ropes, a donkey, and a llama.  We saw circuses everywhere, though, creepy little circuses, but never managed to get to one.  I would have loved to go, but they hardly ever seemed to be open.  It reminded me a bit of Luna Park, the deserted and eerie amusement park in Sydney, which you enter through a gaping clown maw.  Cause if that's not disconcerting, I don't know what is.  It felt like the set of a zombie movie.

More Guatemala stories later, but I leave you with a parting thought: why do guys like dead baby jokes so much?  I mean really, what are we, twelve?

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