“Where are you from?” the taxi driver enquires. “Scotland”, I reply.
“Is this your first time here?” “Yes”, I answer, grinning. “You speak Spanish?” “No”, says I. His eyes, reflected in the rear view mirror, look confused. “But you understand everything I’m saying?” “Yes”, I laugh. I am as amused as he is at my sudden ability to comprehend Spanish, thanks no doubt to my basic French. “Well, welcome to Guatemala.”
As we drove west of the airport bright billboards and neon signs advertised Walmart, Wendy’s and other fast food joints that brought back vague recollections of a holiday to America as a kid. This wasn’t what I was expecting Guatemala to look like. Was this to be a common sight during my next three weeks in Central America I wondered? The further we drove, the dimmer the lights became though, and an hour or so later I was checking into my small hotel in Antigua.
The coffee at breakfast the next morning was divine. I sat, eyes closed and nostrils flared involuntarily, savouring every sip. It had been nine years since I’d travelled on my own, and it felt awkward and liberating at the same time to eat alone and plan out my moves for the day.
Camera slung over my shoulder, I stepped out onto the cobbled road, squinting into the blazing sunshine. Hugging the shaded side of the street, I wandered around Antigua for three glorious days. I snapped away endlessly at the colourful, chipped facades, battered doors and tiled roofs. I deliberated over a wall of masks, overwhelmed by choice but eventually deciding on a plain wooden figure of a bird. Noting the plentiful Spanish language schools, I was already picturing Del and I studying at one.
With our plan to travel Latin America finally coming to fruition, perhaps we’ll be enrolling soon.