Got here at just past 9pm tonight, just after the last shuttle to my hotel. (I´m staying in El Aeropuerto Guest House–I leave it to you to figure out how it got its name 😉 ) So I went to grab a cab, and immediately got accosted by a guy who offered to take me to the guesthouse for $10. Which was obviouisly highway robbery (that´s about what you´d pay for a low-end hotel room!), so I walked off and eventually wound up with another cab driver. This guy didn´t speak English, and I didn´t speak Spanish, and it quickly became obvious that he didn´t have the slightest idea where the guesthouse was either. So there I was, driving in circles around the airport area with a cab driver who couldn´t understand me and didn´t know where my hotel was or how to get there. (I did, with the help of my crash course in Spanish, eventually manage to communicate that the guesthouse was in Zona 13. I´m very pleased that I managed to remember what ¨13¨was in Spanish, after spending most of the day on a plane.)
Anyway, so there we were, driving around in circles. I´m not too worried because the guy clearly isn´t out to mug me (rule: moving taxicabs are generally honest, taxicabs sitting around parked waiting for a tourist might not be), and he´ll probably find some way to sort it out eventually. At worse, we drive around in circles for awhile and then wind up back at the airport, where I find another cab. (I am at least capable of saying Ël Aeropuerte, since it also happens to be the name of my guesthouse. LOL)
So then, while driving around in some ramshackle area with the driver asking me questions in rapid Spanish and me shrugging helplessly, we see two guys standing on the corner, who look like some kind of cops (or at least uniformed security). The driver pulls over, shouts at the guys, they come over, and after much chaffering and peering at the guidebook, they issue a set of rapid-fire comments which I can only imagine are driving instructions. It turns out we´re only a block or two from the place, and we pull up.
Now, of course, we come to the matter of money. There´s no way for this guy to tell me how much I owe him, since I can´t understand what he´s saying. I give him a dollar, clearly that isn´t enough, so I give him 100 quetzales, figuring he can get change. He either doesn´t have change or decides to make a pile of money off his fare, because he pockets the bill. Since it´s about 7.25 quetzales to the dollar, this is about $14, in other words, he´s engaging in even worse highway robbery than the other guy, since clearly I´m a hopelessly disoriented tourist (which is true). I, on the other hand, am not inclined to argue, as it really isn´t much money (for me) and I´ve just had the wonderfully surreal experience of floundering around a foreign city with a very lost taxi driver spouting questions excitedly at me in Spanish, which I can´t even start to answer because I only speak English. (Well, except I did manage to communicate ¨thirteen¨, which I¨m still very proud of.) This is such a quintessentially foreign-country experience that I´m happy to let him fleece the tourist; it´s the only possible ending to this epic tale of clueless tourism. I´m happy. I am clearly in a foreign country now. I might have had doubts before, but there is now no other possible interpretation: I must be traveling.
At any rate, I am now here in the guesthouse, where I was saved on entry by a missionary who helped me explain things to the night clerk (who also doesn´t speak English). Tomorrow morning Ricardo, the manager, is probably going to around; he speaks very good English, and I´m hoping I can get him to point me at a translator. Otherwise, this trip is going to be WAY more challenging than I´d expected.
A talk with two of the other guesthouse residents suggests that translators/guides should be readily available, though, for $4-10/day. They suggested I might want a trilingual guide if I´m serious about studying weaving in one of the Mayan villages–many of these villages speak the local language/dialect, and don´t speak Spanish at all. I´m going to ask Ricardo, and also try to get down to the Ethnobotanical museum on Monday (if I´m still around)–one of the missionaries suggested that would be a great place to start. I really need a specialist translator, one who understands textiles.
I´m still not sure what I plan to do with my time. I definitely want to study weaving, and do a loose textile survey of the region. I´ve also been told that the diving is excellent in Honduras Bay and Belize, and I may hop over there for a couple of days. Mayan ruins sound interesting, and so does the prospect of staying with a Mayan family for a couple of days. I was a little worried about whether there would be enough to keep me busy in Guatemala (I hadn´t realized what a tiny country it is!), but I think I´ll be fine.
I´ve just been handed a little thingamajig with a bottle of some clear liquid attached, an on/off switch, and an electrical plug on one end, which I am given to understand has something to do with ¨los mosquitoes¨. I wonder what´s in the bottle. Well, hopefully it won´t kill me, and hopefully it will get rid of the mosquitoes. I may even figure out (eventually) what it´s for.
See y’all tomorrow….