Posted by: Jack | November 7, 2007

Guatemala – The Approach

A little over two weeks ago I was leaving my apartment and feeling like a pretty hardcore traveler. It was raining pretty hard and I was sporting my rain jacket, my garbage-bag-covered backpack which contained everything I would need for the two week trip, and flip-flops…for comfort during the all night travel. Without a doubt, the cheapest way to get from Olympia to SeaTac airport is by public bus so I made the forty minute walk to the station arriving just in time.

Now I’ve never been a bus rider. I always lived within a couple minutes walking distance from any school I’ve attended and for other purposes, my own car has offered too much convenience to pass up. But when it costs $3 to get to the airport — compared to $300+ for driving and leaving a car or ~$25 to bribe a friend — there really is no question about it; the bus is the way to go. And in retrospect the culture shock of the ride was probably a good warm up for the remainder of the trip. There should be signs on the buses — along with the ones about not smoking and not stepping over the yellow line — that say, “Other riders do not necessarily want to hear what you have to say.” And maybe, “Riders are required to brush their teeth at least once per day.”

One especially odorous individual was kind enough to give me a “diamond ring” because he “probably wouldn’t be able to pawn it.” After declining to pay him a few dollars he still insisted that I keep it. If anyone would like a cheap engagement ring I’m looking for $10, OBO.

SeaTac was pretty dead and check in went smoothly. I handed my pack over to United with an undue sense of security and headed to the gate to pass a couple of hours before takeoff.

And those couple hours passed faster than any airport-hours I’ve known. In my carry-on day pack I had my sack of juggling balls and couldn’t think of a better way to consume the time. As I was just getting warmed up in a fairly empty corner of the terminal, a few travelers began to take notice. And shortly thereafter, a few airport employees were sitting down, spending their entire breaks watching me. Minutes after the first not-so-shy individual asked if they could try, I found myself teaching a little intro-to-juggling class. Cameras came out and families gathered ’round. It was easily one of the many highlights of the trip.

After a quick flight and a short layover at LAX I was leaving the country and enduring the latest cinematic entry in the Harry Potter series. It was okay but as I’ve said before, “I just don’t get fantasy.”

Arriving in Guatemala City (locally referred to as Guatemala or often just Guate) I passed through immigration (handed over a piece of paper without anyone looking at it) and found myself growing frustrated as everyone but me found their bags and left.

I reported my missing bag and regretted the decision to wear flip-flops and pack shoes. Leaving the terminal I was greeted by hundreds of local families. Apparently when a Guatemalan flies back home everyone he knows comes to greet him, arriving hours early for yet unknown reasons.

Using my very weak grasp on the Spanish language which had not been practiced in six years, I grabbed a cab and headed for the city of Antigua where Anna and I planned to rendezvous.

Red Line on the Progress Map

Next: Antigua to Cobán

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