Shower Electrocution In Antigua Anyone?

ANTIGUA, GUATEMALA: July 5-6


Leah: Ah, Antigua. We bumped over the cobblestone streets and into this colonial valley town in the afternoon on July 5 and found a tiny 10-bed hostel, Base Camp, which we called home for 2 nights. Although founded in 1541, much of the city was razed by an earthquake in 1773. Walking the atmospheric streets overflowing with bougainvillea, wrought iron window frames, brightly colored facades and ruins around every bend is akin to ambling through an archaeological site; local conservation laws are incredibly strict and everything is well preserved.

The first day we strolled the streets, staring in askance at the local ladies who were able to delicately trot over the treacherous cobblestone in 4-inch heels and a swing in their step, as I fumbled along in my clunky sandals, constantly worried I was going to take a digger. We found a Spanish Embassy outpost in the city, which was in fact a free cultural and education center. The current exhibits highlighted the treatment of gypsies throughout history, as well as stunning photographs of Guatemalans of every color, shape and age as part of a diversity and unification campaign. The final exhibit comprised photos from the last 20 years taken by children living in the areas near garbage dumps, war zones, refugee camps and gang territories--trying to describe the emotions and content covered in the images would be impossible, but we were both incredibly moved and may have shed a tear or two.

We then found a shop that blended amazing fruit smoothies and grabbed a sandwich and some plantains from a street vendor to take back to the hostel for dinner. We also grabbed two ears of steamed corn, which the vendor shucked and then wrapped in few leaves with a generous pinch of salt and a lime for flavor. While wandering back, we did start notice the prevalence of pit bulls here--not as street dogs, but as domesticated pets on leashes. Take note, Even Chance, your dogs would find homes in Antigua!  I also laughed at how teenagers have much in common the world over--their fingers a flurry of movement as they sit in groups texting, Facebooking and listening to the latest songs while the world strolls by.

Back at the hostel we chowed down and got ready for bed. However, upon using the bathroom, we noticed a sign stating that we would be electrocuted if we attempted to adjust the shower head--gas is not used much here because of the expense and the showers in both hostels and private homes use electric wiring to heat the water--makes for quite the interesting shower time to know you're mere inches away from being jolted into unconsciousness while naked and wet. Fun fun!

Steve: Speaking of fun, let's play a game. Who was the first one of us to get sick on this trip? I'll give you a hint: ME! Although everyone drinks and serves agua pura and all food seems to be prepared in rather sanitary conditions, it's inevitable that your body identifies some of them as foreign and decides it wants to get it out sooner than later. So that made for a fun second evening at the hostel...but luckily it was only for one night. I was going to need my energy for the next day's trip to Lago de Atitlan...and thankfully I was still up for completing our first dare (I hope they're all this easy and food-based).

Leah: And before pobrecito Steve experienced his misbehaving tumultuous innards and spent the evening curled up in a fetal ball on the highest bunk bed, we managed to see Santo Domingo, one of the most expensive hotels in Antigua which actually used to be a convent, among other things. Just walking through the property was an exercise in not staring and exclaiming at everything like uncultured fools--the art, relics, open ceilings, parrots, lush greenery--simply astounding--the walls breathed history. At the recommendation of our hostel friend, Jose, we then took a free shuttle up to Santo Domingo Del Cerro and ate at El Tenedor del Cerro (we both enjoyed a smoothie and Steve partook of the apple salad), which had a glorious view of all Antigua and the volcanoes surrounding the town. The site also boasted mind-boggling modern art installations and an aviary, so there was plenty to see and we're glad we made the trip. Again speaking with Jose about our visit to the Hotel Santo Domingo, we were enlightened about the increasing property values in the area around Antigua--we were astonished to find that a property close to the town's central park was going for around $8M (that's US Dollars, not Quetzales!).

On a side note, our second day in Antigua was also when I experienced my first real bout of numbing sadness. I was awash in depression and anxiety and even panicking about our eventual return to the States, despite it being a gloriously sunny and clear day, my husband by my side and nothing we had to do besides relax and enjoy. After writing a long email to a dear friend who undertook a similar trip years ago, she helped gently remind me that it's all part of the process. After years of talking, planning and building this trip up in my head and heart, it's here and there's bound to be somewhat of a reality check--I probably won't feel like I'm floating on clouds the whole time. Additionally, I'm coming off a job that drained me, in addition to a 16 month period where I was an emotional and mental mess (and still can be). I'm realizing less than a week into this trip that it will take time for me to disconnect in all the right ways, while simultaneously slowing down and appreciating each moment we're experiencing as part of the dream we've cultivated for years.

Steve: One thing that really struck me was the almost ridiculous prevalence of Catholic churches in this relatively small town. It seemed as if almost every other block had its own cathedral (a look at a map just about confirms this). Don't get me wrong, being Roman Catholic myself I am moved at the detail and artistry of these pre-colonial structures and the devotion being displayed within them is remarkable. However it is a stark reminder of the Spanish and European imperialism that played a huge role in the evolving history of this country. And then turning the corner and seeing a Burger King or a Subway I am reminded of another certain country's presence as well. While not being very well versed in the politics of this country, we've been able to see a couple of peaceful manifestados (demonstrations) that are rooted in problems typical of the world today such as unemployment and education, as well as problems relating to the rights of the indigenous population. This is a theme that we have seen played out in the history of the United States and one that I feel we will see throughout much of our trip.

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alison July 8, 2012 at 11:48 PM

You guys are nuts, but I'm super pumped (and jealous) to read about your travels! I have friends in both Chile and Norway (bizarre, i know), so if y'all happen upon those parts, email me.

arowley82@yahoo.com

Cheers & have a blast!

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