We excitedly packed ourselves onto a bus, choco-coconuts in hand and chattered away for the rest of the ride. Erin and I played 20 questions. I stumped her with Elvis Presley, though she made a valiant three day effort.
Unfortunately when we switched buses in Chimaltenango we were swindeld into taking a specific bus. A "friendly" guy (who none of us suspected) told us that he had taken the bus a million times and that the ones passing by, reading Xela, were not the ones we wanted. They wouldn`t take us intot he town center, he claimed. So we waited while he suspiciously had money handed to him by a bus driver. The bus, his bus, finally came he got on with us and then mysteriously disappear a couple of stops later. Funny, that is probablly his entire job. Not only did the bus not take us to the center of Xela, it dropped us off 20 mins away where we had to get on another connecting bus that also claimed center-of-xela service. We were skeptical, and our skepticism proved correct. Though where we were eventually dropped off was much better than the bus terminal we thought we would be going to. I guess the universe was looking out for us after all.
The impetus for this weekend get away was to go visit our friend Will, a former volunteer. He is working now with a terrific group in Xela called AIDG (the Appropriate Infrastructure Development Group). They do awesome appropriate technology experiments and installations, which i`ll get to in a later post.
With decent directions, but a deep sense of navigational mistrust we cautiously sought out AIDG`s headquarters. Just as dark was beginning to settle we found what we thouhgt was the place (all the landmarks seemed to say it was) but we knocked ont he wrong set of big doors, and of course, got no response. Thankfully there was a phone there to give Will a call. He promptly came out to retrieve us.
We got a brief tour of AIDG`s headquarters, though it was too dark to see much outside of the main office. They have quite a complex and are adding two volunteer houses to it. Everyone was feeling a little worn out after a long day of wacky bus rides, oh, and were were hauling three bikes around with us as well, Will had requested we bring them to sell.
We had passed some exciting festivites in the central park and were curious to go check them out. Plus we were all very hungry. (I even tried to convince the girls to stop at Dominoe`s- it was the first theing we saw off the bus, but they, emphatically, were not having it). We ate at a place called Mikes ( i think) which had pretty good food for a decent price, which is surprisingly hard to find here in guatemala. I made friends with an adorable playful, and perhaps wild, little kitten. It was so cute i was tempted to whisk it away. The girls petitioned heavily, but having grown up with many (many) cats i know how much work and money goes into taking care of them, i also know what a trap it can be adopting cute stray kittens.
What we wondered into after dinner was even more festive and colorful than the Virgin Mary celebration that had gone on in Itzapa several weeks earlier. Though we weren`t entirely sure the occasion, the park was packed full of loud vendors and sparkling displays. There were all sorts of odd foods and enticing candies. I picked up something red and semi-solid, i knew it from my grilfriend`s family, i can`t remember the name but it is basically a homemade fruit leather. Erin picked up a fried coconut ball and it was absolutely amazing! It was so tasty that we all got some that night, then more throughout the rest of the weekend.
I can`t remember who thought this one up, but clearly it was a good idea.
And there were these weird fried dough intestine things that were, for lack of a more apt description, pooped out of machine into a vat of boiling oil. We were so curious we had to try it. It was sugary and fried, and significantly less gross to eat then watch being made.
I was really intrigued by the carnival rides at this place. They were mostly ones that spun around in a circle and almost all of them were operated by guy pushing them by hand. There was even one that used those little kid cars (you know like barbie cars and the classic little tikes orange and yellow car) as the seats. Those little twinkie beans couldn´t have been happier.
Amongst the booths that lined the street were these really funny little dancing puppets, you`d pay a few Q get an air pistol and then shot the target at the top. If you got it they`d dance for you. They were ridiculous and hilarious. I want one.
As the craziness began to lose its luster we moved on to a club where several of Will`s friends were playing a live set. We had no idea we`d be walking into gringo land, it was a little unsettling at first. Actually it was unsettling all the way through. The musicians that night were all very talented, but they chose to play a lot of popular songs from the 90`s. It was a lot like listening to Q102`s top twenty in the summer of 97- chock full of counting crows, pearl jam, lifehouse and a lot of other unmissed pop culture. What made the whole thing strange was how much the crowd was into it, it wasn`t just a pleasant walk down memory lane, they were belting along and dancing by their chairs. Perhaps Brahva was to blame.
Its interesting to me the things that expatriates hold on to. Though reveling in the nostalgic glow of of America`s hey-day didn`t speak to me on this particular occassion, i can totally relate to what was going on in that club. Being far from home, far from ones native culture, can induce a deep desire do delve back into things that feel "normal." In fact, those normal things begin to feel a bit special, certainly more special than they ever did at home. One time in Antigua i was strangely comforted by window shopping. Literally just wandering through stores to look at nicely packaged beautiful things.
While everyone else was slamming down beers, Anneliese whipped out a jar of beets and unabashedly ate them in a very grand way. This was by far one of the highlights of the night. I almost peed my pants laughing.
We then walked back to Will`s place, we were lcuky that they had enough space for all of us. Really great space (Will lucked out hardcore) full of a beautiful kitchen and dining room, large spacious rooms upstairs, a nice back yard areea for barbeques- it was sweet.
At night the dogs are counted on to take care of the days trash. Ther was also a big trash fire nearby with a drunk guy who liked to smash bottles at the dogs.