Making the adjustment to driving around in the city hasn’t been quite as difficult as I initially thought it might be. One has to be pretty aggressive out on the road, but coming from Houston, this hasn’t been a problem. What has made navigating around most difficult is either the lack of street signs, or signs so small that they are impossible to spot before it is too late.
Our first real driving experience was a couple of weeks back when we drove out to a Walmart, which by the way, didn’t feel all that different from the Walmart at Dunvale and Westheimer, given that at both, Spanish is essentially the only language heard. We got out there with no problems thanks to some great directions we got from a woman at church, however, getting back is where we ran into some hiccups. I thought I was in the lane that I needed to be in, but suddenly, thanks to the aforementioned lack of signs, we found ourselves exiting to the left, when we needed to be one lane over continuing straight ahead.
This nice little detour placed us off of the main road and into Zone 7, which is a zone that we most definitely did not want to find ourselves in. We were completely turned around and initially had no idea what direction we needed to go in to get back to the main road. One could say that the area we found ourselves in was a bit sketchy. DiploMom later likened it to an episode from Homeland where a caravan was navigating through the streets if Beirut. Thankfully we generally were headed back in the right direction and were able to spot the main road that we needed to get back to. Needless to say, it was an uncomfortable 5-10 minutes. We ended up retracing our steps all the way back to the Walmart to then turn around and head back.
This past Friday we were returning home from dinner at the mall at about 6:30 (just as darkness was setting in) and got turned around in what should have been a fairly direct route back. We weren’t in a bad part of town, but found ourselves heading out of the city with no obvious places to turn around. And then it decided to start raining. We finally managed to turn around and were able to determine what street we were on. It was a street we knew, so we then knew we just had to keep going back in the direction we had come from and that would eventually get us back to were we needed to be.
A solution to some of these driving issues? I found out where I can get an SD card with a map of Guatemala for my Garmin GPS. The map is $120!! but after these two experiences, I know I need to put my male pride aside and buy the map. I am getting more comfortable getting around and it is easy to feel like I won’t need the GPS, but it will definitely be needed when we eventually visit Antigua and Lake Atitlan and it is good security if we get turned around in the city. I even have a nice mount that won’t have to sit up on the dashboard so as to not attract unscrupulous eyes when we are at stoplights or stopped in traffic.