Weekend In Antigua

Both of our HHE shipments finally arrived this past week. It was great to finally receive everything, but now the house is a complete disaster zone, so the chance to get away to Antigua for the weekend couldn’t have come at a better time. My in-laws are in town visiting, so we all headed to Antigua on Friday afternoon for some well-needed R&R.

We rented a house that was in a great location that was still close enough to walk to the main sites in Antigua. The complex actually consists of four houses that all share a central courtyard with a pool and jacuzzi.

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The house was gorgeous and we had the option to hire a cook to prepare meals for us. We opted for a Friday dinner and Saturday breakfast, both of which were delicious. We had a very inexpensive per person charge and then just had to pay for the food itself, which the women went and purchased at the market, so it couldn’t have been any easier. The service culture here in Guatemala is second-to-none.

DiploMom and I are really enjoying Antigua. We simply love wondering the streets and taking in all the sites and sounds. It feels worlds apart from Guatemala City, with its cobblestone streets and Mayan women and children hawking their wares on the corners. We’ve already found a favorite spot for lunch, a Mexican restaurant, Frida’s, with their delicious mango chicken and margaritas.

The rain stayed away until mid-day on Saturday, so I was able to take a few more photos around the central park.

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It got pretty gray and damp after lunch, but we didn’t let that stop us from getting awesome one-hour massages for only $35 each. It was a very relaxing way to wind down the afternoon.

Sunday morning we enjoyed breakfast and breathtaking views of Antigua and the volcanoes from Santa Domingo Del Cerro.

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We look forward to many return trips to Antigua during our time here. It is so close and provides a welcome respite from the bustle of Guatemala City, so as a reminder to our friends, our guest room is now up and running!

Chicken Buses

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The black-smoke belching, vibrantly painted buses that cruise around the city are known as chicken buses. I imagine they garnered this name because the people are crammed in like chickens, and because there are frequently chickens, or other livestock on board. They are school buses from the U.S. that get a second chance at life down here. The buses are notoriously unsafe, from a personal safety standpoint, as well as from a mechanical safety standpoint. Check out this disturbing article about the gang violence and extortion that is commonplace. Per embassy security, we are forbidden from ever getting on one of these buses, not that we would ever have the desire to do so.

Our wonderful housekeeper, Francisca, uses these buses to get to our house during the week. This morning she told DiploMom that her bus was robbed on her way in. A man got on board with a gun and went around to the passengers demanding mobile phones and money. Francisca closed her eyes and began praying and the man did not take anything from her. If I understood correctly, most everyone else was robbed. I think he may have been a bit thrown by her praying in the midst of his robbery! We are thankful for the Lord’s provision and that she was safe and unharmed. She is a wonderful blessing to us and DiploTot absolutely adores her.

A week or so back she was delayed on her way to our house by hours and hours, when another chicken bus had its brakes go out, which tragically led to the deaths of around 40 passengers. The buses are a fixture of the city and country for that matter. It is entertaining to see the various paint jobs they sport, but I am glad that will be the extent of our experiences with them.

Delays

We continue to receive discouraging news when it comes to our HHE shipment. The latest update is that there have been delays with the paperwork since diplomatic shipments that arrive pay no customs taxes. Some shipments may be ready next week, but of course nothing is guaranteed.

Given how long our stuff has been in the country only further adds to our exasperation with the process. It is looking like we may just need to get another loaner bed from the embassy since we have family arriving for a visit next week. We never thought there would be the possibility that our HHE would not have already been delivered to us by the time they arrived.

We’re ready to get this place feeling like our home and not some rental with cobbled together furnishings. Just getting pictures and a few decorative items will go a long way to helping us feel more settled.

Rumblings

We got to experience our first earthquake last night here in Guatemala. We were at the mall having dinner at a restaurant when we first heard some rumblings, which for some reason we thought was the train for the kids that drives around the mall. After that things began to sway and start shaking, nothing too strong, but enough to to feel a bit troubled once we realized what was actually occurring. By that time the tremors stopped and all was back to normal.

We asked the waiter if that was “normal” and he indicated that it was pretty strong. Once we got home we hopped online to find out more. The earthquake measured 6.5 and was 3 miles south of a town called Pajapita, near the border with Mexico and 104 miles west of Guatemala City. Impact was minimal in the city, but areas closer to the epicenter experienced blackouts and some poorly built homes were destroyed.

 

Anxious

DiploMom and I are getting quite anxious for our HHE shipment to finally get delivered to our house. All of our freight has been in country since around August 20th, but apparently a key person in Guatemalan customs had been out on vacation, so everything has been delayed.

The last update we received was that we might receive everything by Thursday or Friday of next week, but there wasn’t much certainty in the statement. Quite ironic that as I was writing about our HHE shipment, a power surge knocked the computer offline and I had to get everything restarted again. I have a uninterruptible power supply for my computer coming in the shipment and it would have come in quite handy just now.

We are anxious to get all of our stuff so that we can really start to feel settled in the house. All we have in our bedroom is a loaner box springs and mattress with sheets and one bedside table and lamp. It is a large bedroom, so it feels so empty, not to mention how much of an echo there is in the room, and most of the rest of the house for that matter, given all the tile surfaces.

Here’s hoping we get everything next week!

Quick Visit To Antigua

We finally made it out of Guatemala City today when we visited Antigua, the old colonial capital. It was raining on us as we traveled through the mountains, getting quite foggy at times as we gained elevation. We thought our prospects of a rain-free visit were looking pretty slim and were wondering if we would simply arrive, drive through and have to make our way back out.

Thankfully, it was not raining when we arrived and we were able to find a parking spot and enjoy a few hours of wandering through the streets, as well as a delicious lunch of traditional Mexican food at Frida’s. It felt great to be out and about in a more touristy area and the city is beautiful with its colonial architecture. We’re looking forward to returning later in September when we’ll be staying for a couple of nights.

The Santa Catalina arch:

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Looking south towards Volcán de Aqua, which rises to 12,356 feet:

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