Sometimes it’s not the big adventures, but the small pleasures that gets me springing around and acting all crazy in love like Pepé Le Pew.
I never intended to come here. I was going to go to Costa Rica to do my TEFL course. I met a few people on my travels who’d discouraged me from CR saying, that while it was utterly stunning – it was almost as expensive as the States. They suggested i might enjoy Guatemala more. Everyone who’d been, just raved about Antigua. I got the impression that while it was far from being off the beaten track – it was completely worth it.
So, I flipped a coin, and Guatemala won the toss. A few days later I was here.
The school arranged my apartment, and to be fair to them – i didn’t really brief them properly as to what was important to me. I ended up in a pokey little hotel room above a deceptively lovely Italian restaurant run by a friendly Swiss man. It was a stone’s throw from Central Park and a block & a bit from my school, which is just un-fallible in terms of location. But it had these extraordinarily tiny windows up near the ceiling, looking up and out to concrete walls. My biggest deal breaker when it comes to a home is natural light.
I realized very quickly, I didn’t really want to spend any time in the place. Which could be viewed as a positive -because it meant that i would get out and see a lot more of the city. But, if you’re going to stop somewhere for a month – you don’t want to spend the ENTIRE time in cafes & bars. You want to feel like you can chill out at home. And invite new friends over for dinner. And what-have-you. Otherwise, you may as well stay in a cheap hostel, right?
So, I ‘moved house’ today. The change i felt when I walked into my new place was instantaneous. And it all came down to the natural light.
My apartmentito is in an old stony colonial building. Upstairs, in the kitchen & living areas, there are these low-set bay windows with rustic wooden doors which open inwards… They offer a view onto a busy & beautifully wonky cobblestone calle and beyond that, I can see a small mountain range, called El Rejon. One of the montañas is called Cerro El Narizon (or “Big Nose Mountain”) & it reaches an elevation of 2,247m (approx the height of Mt Kosciusko for my Aussie readers).
I unpacked all my worldly possessions & immediately went out for a walk, so I could orientate myself at this end of town.
And i got excited all over again…
Antigua is a city that reveals herself slowly. On her own terms.
Depending on what day it is & what time of day it is, sometime she will be closed for business: All her heavy-laden, impenetrable wooden doors with their intricate wrought-iron door knockers: You daren’t knock, for fear of what beast you might stir.
Sometimes she flirts with you…teasing you with what could be yours…
her doors ever so slightly ajar: Showing you an insight into everyday lives: Extended families & friends all noisily coming together from school & work, wherever – to enjoy a late lunch of the most simple but sumptuous food, in a big homely kitchen you can’t see but can absolutely smell and almost taste.
And other times, she flings her gates wide open and invites you into her come-on-in courtyards with insidious ivy twisting over stone bricks that have weathered all sorts, for hundreds of years: waiters dressed in vests who warmly welcome you with a “bienvenido” and tempting you with just one wine…
Never is this on the same street at the same time. So you can have a completely different experience of a street, each and every time you walk down it…
That feeling of newness hasn’t left me.
I went to the grocery store, and standing in the checkout line – it dawned on me, again: I’m in Guatemala!!!
I jumped in a tuk tuk and spoke only in Spanish to Saul… we bounced along the bumpy road to my new house. Saul was sweet enough to help me with my bags all the way to the door and farewelled me with a kiss on the cheek (this is such a commonplace event between complete strangers in Latin America, that even a driver kissing me on the cheek doesn’t take me by surprise anymore).
I celebrated mi nueva casa with a couple of different types of cheese, some spicy salami and a gorgeous bottle of Chilean Cab Sav which cost me the princely sum of AUD$6. Simple pleasures, indeed.