Friday, January 1, 2010

Antigua, Guatemala

After an early wakeup in Mississauga and a mad dash through the Miami airport to make our tight connection, we arrived in Guatemala City early afternoon on New Year’s Eve!  Unfortunately, our bags did not (even 30 hours later, as I type this post), but we’re taking it in stride since we figure we’re likely to be tested far more than this over the next 4 months. 

We arrived in Antigua after a 45-min drive out of the city and up and down mountains.  Mohit is thrilled that there’s a Pollo Campero about every two blocks (literally!), since he’s enjoyed their fried chicken at the one in East Boston.  At a stop light, the car trunk in front of us was stuffed with several silly pinatas, a hint at the New Year’s Eve party to come….

After checking into our hotel we immediately headed out to explore the town in the fading afternoon sun.  Antigua is quaint and beautiful, all cobblestone streets,  faded pastel stucco houses with clay tile roofs, and a Volcano looming green and grey in the background.  We ventured warily at first, cautiously sticking to well-populated streets, thinking about all the warnings we’d read about risk of theft in Guatemala.  But it didn’t take long for us to feel comfortable wandering more freely, since we’re finding the Guatemalan people to be warm, friendly, and leaving us entirely alone.  We’re so used to being stared at and subjected to aggressive sales techniques in places like Istanbul and Hanoi that we are surprised to be able to browse in shops and not be hassled.  We also feel relatively safe since families have been out together the past two nights to celebrate the New Year, and small children are underfoot everywhere. 

After an early dinner of chiles rellenos and chicken in a cinnamon sauce (yum!), we joined the thousands of locals in the streets to ring in 2010 al fresco.  We enjoyed live guitar music, a guy juggling flaming sticks, a strange dance performance by people dressed up as political characters, including a statue of liberty with an Obama mask, and picked out some churros con chocolat from a sidewalk stall in front of a beautiful church.

At about 8 p.m., the fireworks gradually began.  Lit mostly by kids, the fireworks exploded in the middle of crowded streets, sending the tourists like us running for cover, and the locals running closer to see.  Boys ran through the streets with frames shaped like a bull or a bird strapped to their back and loaded with exploding sparklers.  Everyone wore either glowing devil horns or what looked like Mickey Mouse ears.   Public drinking in the streets is not allowed, and police with machine guns lurked at the edges of the crowd to ensure compliance.  For the last hour of 2009, the fireworks grew even bigger, louder, and more frequent, until car alarms were ringing everywhere from the vibrations and the whole city smelled like gunpowder.  If you closed your eyes you could imagine what it's like to be in the middle of a full-on firefight in the middle of a warzone.  Welcome 2010!!

We woke up late to streets littered with confetti and fireworks remains.  We spent today exploring the city, grateful for the moderate weather (sunny and breezy, about 70 F), since we’re stuck wearing the same jeans, sneakers, and long sleeves that kept us warm when we  left Toronto yesterday.   Everyone assumes Mohit is Central American, and after we had to tell a cute little old lady at a church that sorry, “no habla espanol” she looked really surprised and asked Mohit in perfect English “what are you, Italian?”  When he told her he is Indian, she said with a huge grin “Ah!  Beautiful country!  I want to go to India someday and ride an elephant!”  Me too.  But for now I’m enjoying Guatemala…


  1. Sounds like you are off to a great may have to whittle down to carry on luggage :)

  2. I hope you get your bags soon, as that's a drag when you don't have a change of clothes. We saw Grandma & Grandpa yesterday and they are doing well. Also saw Robyn and Matt and their new addition Penelopy! Enjoy yourselves but keep vigilant!


  3. We agree- carry on luggage is a must! All of Kate's luggage (1 roller and 1 small backpack) IS carry on size, but unfortunately, since we were passing through the U.S. on our way out of Canada, we were forced to check even our carry-on bags, given the intense restrictions in the U.S. in the wake of the thwarted terrorist situation in Chicago last week. We hope we won't have to check our bags again!

  4. Anu & Anish & Anika ShahJanuary 2, 2010 at 9:34 PM

    Good luck guys! Sounds like a fun NYE adventure! Looking forward to hearing the rest more updates in the days, weeks and months to come. Happy New Year!