Antigua is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it is easy to see why. The old buildings, with the charm of yesteryear, are everywhere and in fairly good condition. Something rare in Latin America, is this place has strict building ordinances to preserve the charm. The cobblestone streets add a certain sophistication especially when you see the very well dressed locals in suits, business skirts, etc. hurrying to their businesses. Antigua is bustling with worldly goods, like imported cheeses, wines, Sushi restaurants etc. This, is the easy stuff to see, as it is pleasing to the eye. Less easy to see, or at least stomach, is the poverty here. I took a picture of a man passed out on the sidewalk, in what appeared to be his wife's lap, while walking home from the market today. I immediately felt so bad for taking the picture that I deleted it. I thought about the biblical saying, "There too but for the grace of God go I." We are all so lucky. Each and everyone of you reading this blog, have made it. You might be frustrated at times about this or that, but you made it. I thought about the love and devotion of this wife, for holding her man in sickness and in health, for better or worse, on that sidewalk. As much as Antigua can be easy on the eyes it can be hard on the soul. The disparity is extreme, and I am sure this will unveil itself further as the days go on.
Another thing the pictures cannot show you is the constant smell of burning debris. To date, every place we have been in central America has smelled of burning grass, trash, wood, etc. To be sure, there are valid reasons why they burn things here. They burn grasses to clean out pastures before the rainy season, to give the new grass a chance. They burn wood to cook and also burn the chopped debris in the forests to clear it. They burn trash because nobody picks it up and it needs to go. There are a variety of reasons why they burn things here, and for whatever the reason, the air is thick. Combine the constant burning with no emission controls for cars and trucks and you have a noxious cocktail that people are forced to breathe daily.
Still, with all of this, I have to say, the positives outweigh the negatives. We are planning to stay here for about a month or so and visit Lake Atitlan at some point. We are all enrolled in Spanish school, which is quite fun getting us all ready for school in the morning. The kids love the semi role reversal, watching mom and dad rush out the door with them, backpacks in hand. All I can say is, God Bless coffee :)
|The world famous chicken buses of Guatemala|
|I guess they found a creative way to reuse glass bottles. Considering this is only 5 feet off the ground, it could actually injure a completely innocent person as well.|
|The streets have a lot of charm, even when you are off the beaten tourist path like us.|
|The Arch of Antigua is a popular site to visit. There are not a lot of tourists around at the moment but the city is well equipped to handle lots of people.|
|The pastel colored buildings are everywhere and give this place a grand colonial charm|
|The Central Park area of Antigua is a beautiful place to hang out. On Sundays, the indigenous people come in from the mountains to sell their wares. We were here last Sunday to see the festivities but my camera was dead.|
|A typical display of salsas from the areas. We had to take this photo as the plate looked so appetizing. The salsas were very delicious and the green one lived on to its name picantito.|
|This cathedral was destroyed by an earth quake and is now a museum of ruins. There are many ruins in and around Antigua, serving as a reminder of the volcanoe's presence and strength.|
|Men do stupid things all around the world. Can you see the guy laying down at the top of this pile? Just for clarification, we were driving 50 miles an hour here, just outside Guatemala City.|
|We have seen so many overturned semi trucks that nobody would believe us if we said that we saw at least one everyday of driving.|