Well, I've booked my flights and am bound for another month long visit to family and friends in Guatemala this summer!
It truly is a beautiful country, from the highlands to the countryside and then down to the coast. Even the city, always bustling with people and super busy isn't terrible. Yes, there are some dangerous areas in the city-places I wouldn't even think of going to. But we have those same areas here in many of our larger cities in the US.
I do have a couple of pet peeves... the air quality in the city is terrible-the minute I get outside the airport I can feel the heaviness in the air and the smog is terrible. The new government has done some things to combat that lately-by prohibiting older model cars to enter the country. We've sent a couple of late model trucks down there in the last couple of weeks-in a rush to get them in before the law becomes final. However, the vehicles that we sent are ones that are working here, registered, inspected and in good condition. I disagree with the law that all vehicles after a certain model year cannot enter-if it is junk, yes-but if it is still working here and passed our inspection, it should be okay to send it there if it is still in good working order. What I didn't know was that they take out the catalytic converters in most of the vehicles since they can overheat, especially on huge hills (of which there are many, it is a very mountainous country!) so of course, that is where the emissions problems come in.
The second pet peeve? Trash everywhere! I had to yell at my smaller nieces and nephews as they would come into the room where we were staying eating say, a bag of Doritos-and when finished instead of walking a couple steps to put it in the trash they would just drop it on the floor. Apparently this is pretty common, since I see lots of trash everywhere I go throughout the country. It's quite sad, because it could be so much nicer if people didn't dispose of everything everywhere. And it's not like there aren't trash men that come around and collect the trash, in my sister in law's colonia they come twice a week.
As far as danger goes, as the white skinned, blonde, blue eyed gringa I definitely stand out. Especially when traveling with a family that is all Guatemalan-heck, even my daughter passes as one! But I have had more curious looks than anything else, and the year before last a very nice lady in the market saw me sitting alone in the car while the rest of the family went to La Terminal to buy some veggies and she came over to chat with me... everyone wonders what on Earth I am doing with these people and seems surprised that I married a Guatemalan and was actually there with family.
When in El Centro (the busy part of the city where crime can happen) I am vigilant about my surroundings. I don't wear flashy jewelry, take a purse or call any attention to myself. I usually put my money in my bra, like the Guatemalan women do. I don't carry a cell phone, hubby does-but if I did it would go in my bra along with my cash and be on vibrate-I just wouldn't answer it until I got to a safer place since cell phones are constantly being robbed over there. Part of that is because the companies will hook up any cell phone, or you can buy a prepaid card to use in any cell phone-stolen or not. There's been talk of a new law being proposed that if a cell phone is reported lost or stolen it won't work-period. Hopefully that will eventually happen, because no one wants to buy a cell phone that doesn't work.
I do worry about the gangs (maras) that they have there, but yet again, we have some very large street gangs in cities big and small here in the US that practice the same things they do there. It does help that we always go out with my brother in law, who is packing at all times (legally) one of the first things my husband wants to do is get his weapons permit and a legal weapon over there. (with more to be kept in the house in case of home invasion) While home invasion sounds scary, we've had several here in Maine this past year, and a few have been in very small cities or towns. Of course, they all have one thing in common, theft and drugs. The scariest thing to me in Guatemala is kidnapping-not something you see so much here. Down there they have it quite alot, and for that reason I try not to let people know my daughter is my daughter. I have her walk with her grandmother, or father. That way, it reduces the risk to her of people thinking she is the daughter of some "rich American woman" lol.
So I am very excited for another trip to Central America this year-even better because we will be attending 2 weddings! I can't wait to see the customs and how they celebrate weddings there. I am a little concerned about this trip because my health hasn't been good lately (which is why I haven't been posting so much) but I really am hoping that it is just something as simple as perimenopause kicking my butt! Enjoy the weekend everyone!