Friday, February 28, 2014

Antigua

I have spent the day as a tourist.  The shuttle from Xela was filled with young women finishing medical school.  The women, from different programs, had been in Xela for Spanish language school and clinical experience.  A very nice group with whom to travel.
One of the Courtyards
at Hotel Casa Antigua

I was dropped off at the hotel, glad to stretch my legs.  The gracious, smiling staff stowed my luggage for me until my room was ready. I then wandered about with my big backpack snapping shots and vaguely looking for something to eat.  I found an amazingly tranquil spot, Ventana Internet.  It was quiet, beautiful, with lovely wait staff (and a very nice panini).

With a full tummy, I wandered the streets, seeing old churches, market places, and LOTS of school kids out for the mid-day break.  The market place was huge with hundreds of stalls.  Next to the general market was an artisan's market with many, many tempting things.  Several of the venders were hard-sells who did not want to take, nada hoy, as an answer.

Detail of door
at La Merced Church
Meandering up the street from the market, I found a park with ruins. San Jerónimo was built in 1739 and ruined by an earthquake 1773.  It was later used by squatters, as a tannery and finally "restored" as a public park in the 20th century.  Again, a piece of tranquility in the midst of a busy city.

Ruins of San Jerónimo
Later, after getting a real live shower at the hotel, I wandered again.  This time, I was supposed to be on a direct route to an internet cafe, but strutted off in the wrong direction.  Because of my poor sense of direction, I found La Merced Church.  The church dates back to the 18th century as well.  I did not go in as it cost more than I wanted to spend at the time. (I had treated myself to an admission fee at San Jerónimo already.) After repeatedly asking parks people and security guards, ¿Qué calle es esta?,  I found my earlier internet cafe. They gave me good info, I just kept heading in a slightly wrong direction.  My internet cafe was closed. So now I write this from a very loud bar - Mitos - which has hot food and internet.  

Antigua is a drastically different experience than Xela.  If you open your eyes, you see poverty and the disparity between the indigenous people and the ladinos, but this is a town that caters to tourism.  Americans, Brits, Germans, and wealthier Guatemaltecos to name a few.  Today was nice for a break (and a real shower), but tomorrow we head to Reu!  In many ways, that feels more comfortable - at lease spiritually.  The team arrives in about an hour and a half.  The mission begins.

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