Tag Archives: Maximo Nivel

Synchronicity

The past week has been filled with lots of simple pleasures… a lot of time with spent with new friends, delicious food, poking my head around doors for a stickybeak, taking photos… i also took some more Spanish lessons (yo tengo muchos verbos, pero es necesarrio que la practica mi conjugacions. Yo soy retarda.)

Monday night, I went back to Reilly’s to host trivia but they had another bloke lined up (they had forgotten to tell me) so i wound up drinking instead. No problema. I swapped the prep work I’d done for a t-shirt and a shot. It was a good night. They’re a fun bunch of people who work there. I hung out at the back bar which Heather was working. It was nice to meet a girl close to my own age. We hit it off, and she invited me to join her at a spa later in the week to celebrate her birthday.

On Wednesday, i went out to run some errands (astounding how you can still come up with a ½ decent ‘To Do’ list, even when you’re just bumming about in Central America). I was standing outside a little cafe i hadn’t been to yet perusing the menu, when two older blokes waved me in – insisting the food was terrific. And it was. I had a tasty felafel in a pita with lots of fresh salady stuff, and a spicy red home-made shrimp picante that was to die for. I had a quick chat with one of the blokes, Stan, before setting off. I didn’t think much of it at the time.

Aussie Dave & Kiwi Suze (who Sparkles had introduced me to) invited me around for dinner that night. We shared some wine & a tasty feed of quesadillas. Dave and Suze are really well-travelled and good conversationalists. I really enjoyed their company – even though Dave decided I was a bit of a bogan. We had a good laugh. We ended up in a bar called Lava, and met the owner – a dude from Perth who insisted on buying us drinks. We figured it’d be rude to say no. Afterwards they took me to the Van Man. A man who sold carne tortas from the back of his car down in the sketchy part of town for 20 pretzels. Finally, drunk food!

I later got to thinking about the bar owner… ‘how does one end up owning a bar overseas?’ I wondered how easy it would be. What kind of money would it take? Did he make a good living from it?’ While I don’t seriously think I’d venture into hospitality, and I’m not sure it would be in Guatemala … the idea is definitely something I’ve parked.

The next day I was out to lunch at a great lil Asian place with Shelby, when who should walk by, but Stan! I called him in and he joined us for lunch. I can’t think of too many situations where I’d invite a random old man to join me and my young friend for lunch. But it’s starting to feel like the norm, now.
Stan is sharp. He used to be a bigwig for a major financial institute in the States. He’s been living in Antigua for three years. He kinda fell into this business exporting jade jewellery, all centred around the Mayan zodiac. When he learned of my professional background, he asked me to do some consulting work for him. It’s totally feasible I can do this while on the road. Earning money while I travel. What’s not to love? I’ll let you know how I get on with this.

I spent some time hanging out with Shelby, just listening to music & gossiping. I did a bit of sweet negotiation and got her a good price on my apartment, so she could move out of a shitty host family situation. She was absolutely delighted. And so she should be. My apartment feels like a real home. (Albeit a noisy one, on the chicken bus road into town.) I have been very happy there. Blanca and Enrique are good landlords. And with our teacher Phil, who’s an ex-cop, living next door, she’ll have someone who’s got her back.

Shelby informs me I’m older than her mum. Which kinda of weirded me out. But she also reassures me I’m much younger than her mum in many ways & that she could hang out with me for days. I guess there is a big part of me that’s become quite maternal over the girl. She’s incredibly brave and smart but she’s also giving to a fault, and a bit naive. Shelby’s going to learn a lot of lessons the hard way – the same as the rest of us, but she’s going to be doing it in a foreign country and without the usual networks to rely on. I reckon Shelby’s got guts. And you could do a lot worse than to have a daughter like her.

I also spent a bit of time with Jenny. And the more time i spend with Jenn, the more I want. She’s an incredibly solid bird but she’s led this rich & full, risk-taking life. The older people I have met here in Antigua all have one thing in common – they’ve all got these lively eyes shining a light on their bright minds. They just radiate energy. They’ve all got stories. And they’re still making stories. None of this getting old business for them. And Jenny’s no exception. She was very generous in sharing so much of herself with me. It’s funny, because Jenn is old enough to be my mum and I feel like Shelby, I could just hang out with her for days. She’s simply inspiring. You’d be a very lucky person to have a mum like Jenn.

There was around about 20 years difference between Shelby and me, and about the same again between me and Jenn. Although we three are incredibly different, I felt like Shelby showed me how far i’ve come in the past 2 decades and Jenn was showing me what i can look forward to.

And I’m crying fiercely as I write this because I realise that meeting these two gutsy gorgeous girls isn’t about connecting for a moment, it’s about connecting for a lifetime. And that’s something I never expected to get out of doing the TEFL course.

On my last day, i got up early to meet Heather and another one of her friends. We went to this stunning spa resort built from stones, high up on a hill in a place called Lago Amatitlan (not to be confused with Lago Atitlan). We spent a very girly day in thermal pools which were filled with water from Volcan Pacaya. We enjoyed a sauna, and then had massage, facial and chocolate scrub. It was 6 hours of sheer bliss. And all for the price of a massage back home. By the end of the day, Heather was talking about possibly coming to meet me in Colombia for Christmas. I hope she does.

I had one last Spanish lesson with my wonderfully nutty teacher, Sandra and said goodbye to girls in the office of my school. I dropped in on Jenn on my way home to squeeze one last hour in. I couldn’t actually bring myself to say goodbye to Jenn: “Nos vemos” translates to “See you later” and I hoped I would. I got home, knocked on Phil’s door and was happy to find him home. I told him I would collect him to have a couple of last socials at La Sala, so I could say one last farewell to Shelby.

Well of course two drinks is never two drinks, especially when your drinking buddy is double fisting. We ended up at Gaia where his friend, Patty worked. We had a few more there and then got some takeaways. It ended up being a very late drunken night, a lot of talking shit and some damn fine home-made drunk food.

I ended up falling into bed with less than 2 hours til the alarm was due to go off at 3am. I woke up still completely dressed (always a good sign) to the sound of my doorbell going off. I had turned off my alarm, and fallen back asleep. So despite all best intentions for a completely different night and a relaxed wake-up, get ready – it was a stupid mad scramble to get my shit together and get out the door as quickly as possible. Miraculously, I didn’t forget anything or fall over. I did however forget to brush my teeth. So, here I am on bus after 14.5 hrs seriously considering a month off the booze. And my teeth feel furry.

Welcome to Honduras.

Don’t worry, be happy

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.