They speak Spanish in Guatemala. Of course I knew this before I arrive. Just like I know they speak Spanish in Costa Rica and Mexico where in reality most people speak English thus supporting my arrogant American view of the world. Guatemala seems much more committed to the language than other countries. People seriously do not speak English. For reals. To add to the confusion they sometimes decide to mix things up by rejecting commonly accepted Spanish words like when the Guatemalans decided that rather than stick with coche meaning car they'd make coche mean pig (probably just as an excuse to force tourists to travel by swine ("Travel by Swine -- it's mighty fine! A message from the Joint Guatemalan Tourism Board and The Campaign for Making Fun of Foreigners") .
Most of my travel to Central America was done with my friend Sky who, as far as I'm concerned, is a fluent Spanish speaker. She will likely argue with this label but I am confident that she knows how to express past tense and flirt with boys in Spanish. Now in theory I also speak Spanish. Just like I, in theory, can differentiate equations and play tennis and sew a dress from scratch as these are all things that I spent at least 3 years of my life studying in high school. And it's true that I know all about about popular names in Spain (fun fact: everyone in that country in called "Pepe") and can obtain directions to the discoteque or order snacks that my teacher claimed were super popular in Spanish bars like olives (acetunas!) or peanuts (cacuates!) (should I wonder about why my teacher thought that high school kids really needed skills for ordering at bars?). Shockingly these skills did not make navigating life in Guatemala all that easy.
Despite my meager grasp of the language Guatemala was amazing and I heartily recommend a visit but there was one day in Flores when the whole damn country seemed backwards. This is not really the fault of Flores, a charming island city that is finally, after (one assumes) years of a life without fried chicken not to mention a ball pit, getting itself a Pollo Campero, but can be squarely blamed on my boyfriend. The problems began with me letting G pick the hotel and him deciding that this was a great chance to rough it lest we return from vacation and be questioned by our hardcore backpacker friends about the lavish hotels we stayed in with private bathrooms and hot water and staff that would shape your towels into a myriad of delightful and romantic animals while you were out gallivanting. I could almost relate to his fear that we'd be seen as softie richie rich Americans who likely voted for W and are probably at least 63 years old and who might be part of a tour that makes you wear a color coded tag around your neck so that the locals know exactly who to try to hock plastic necklaces at for $15 a pop (mostly because this accurately describes all of the other people who stayed at our hotels). But none of that justified our stay at La Casa de Grunge.
I have learned that regardless of the GDP of whatever country you happen to be traveling in your expectations for a hotels that charged $13/day should be very low. The bathroom wall didn't extend up to the ceiling, the entire room was weirdly damp, the bedding was florescent yellow. However, I should probably stop whining. I saw no vermin or bugs in our room (the same cannot be said for the fancypants Jungle Lodge in Tikal where I spotted a cockroach while showering and was forced to reconsider just how important cleanliness might be.) The nice Australian couple who we met during the (admittedly stunning) sunset on the porch even went so far as to call the hotel "homey" (but one should remember that their home for the past few days had apparently been a seat in one of the aptly named Guatemalan "Chicken Buses"). I think it's possible that 30 is the age when you become uncompromising on the standards of your sleeping place and while I usually shun signs that I am fast training it towards the dying of the light (one assumes dementia and incontinence should set in around 32) I am happy to embrace this little oldster-ism: No more crappy hotels for my richie ass.
Despite the hotel debacle and due mostly to a sudden urge not to be the planner in our relationship I let G pick a restaurant for dinner. He picked out an "archeology themed restaurant serving authentic Mayan cuisine" which sounds like either a very cool cool life experience or a horrible tourist trap but I'll never know which one it might be because we couldn't find the place. Upon leaving the hotel I ask G if he wanted to bring the map and made the grand mistake of actually believing that we didn't need it.
So we're tromping around the street of a foreign country starving when fate chooses to remind us that we traveled to Central America during the rainy season. Umbrella-less we had no choice but to duck into the nearest restaurant. The Cuba Libre I ordered tasted a little weird (not in that lip smacking Belizian rum that tastes a little like cloves but in the "can rum mold?" way) but as I watched the deluge outside and felt the grumbles in my tummy I had no choice but to soldier on with ordering food. Guacamole "nachos" (which we had learned meant "just chips!") and beef tacos took roughly 25 years to come out of the kitchen and when they did G caught the plate of chips out of the corner of his eye and noted that they were red! He began preparing for some local and likely homemade Guatemalan chip delicacy. Instead we got two corn tortillas filled with ground beef that might have been cooked in some Old El Paso seasoning which was bad enough but the "nachos" were the reason why G broke out the camera and interviewed me about the state of affairs. You would think that a country so committed to a refusal to speak English would have the cultural pride not to serve me Doritos for dinner but you would be wrong. Let this be a lesson to all who argue that spontaneity reaps just rewards -- it does not. Spontaneity reaps nacho cheese chips for dinner. Sadly this video has no sound but I think you can tell from my erratic hand gestures and glum expression that I have either just been served some super awful food or am heading up the Republican presidential ticket.
More vacation pictures here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/briannalk/sets/72157608227171391/