I loved Antigua. I loved the mountain valley it is in, I loved the volcanoes that surround it, I loved the cobblestone streets, I loved how everywhere smells of bread, I loved the markets (both touristy and local) I loved the main square, I loved the pastries, and I loved the old colonial buildings, especially the ones that are now essentially rubble.
Antigua was the only major-sized city in Central America (although it is tiny compared to the modern day Central American capital cities) where I thought, “yeah, I could live here.” I talked about going back one summer and spending a couple months learning Spanish. I even looked up how much it costs to rent a place (it is not as cheap as I expected it to be).
Sure, there are tons of tourists and there are parts of the city that have basically become a Guatemalan Disneyland, but you know what? People like Disneyland. It is crowded for a reason. Just like Antigua. And if you stray even just a bit from the “attractions” it is really easy to find a normal town where normal people are going about their normal business. Maybe one day I’ll be one of those people.
I wrote a whole post about what I loved about Antigua.
But our time in Antigua was not all sunshine and rainbows (in fact there was very little sunshine and absolutely no rainbows.)
Sucky Thing #1: No wi-fi at our homestay. Well, no wi-fi for us. Guests were not allowed on the family Internet (?). This wasn’t that big of a deal and we were able to check our email and stuff at an Internet café (throwback to 2005), but we were there a week, so that was kind of a bummer.
Sucky Thing #2: It was COLD. Not like actually cold, but far colder than we were expecting. The effects of the silly little “polar vortex” moving its way across northern North America could be felt all the way in Guatemala, where our homestay family was bundled up in literally every piece of clothing they owned. They even wrapped their heads in towels (I guess your average Guatemalan doesn’t own a hat).
The house we were staying in was pretty nice (by Guatemalan standards), but as is typical in this region, the “hallways” connecting the rooms were actually outside. In normal Antiguan weather (and with the absence of air conditioners) I imagine that this is an excellent way to keep your house from getting hot and stuffy. Furthermore, the bedrooms coming off of this outdoor corridor don’t have actual windows, but instead have plastic or glass slats covering the openings. The slats were not airtight, meaning the cold air easily found its way into our room, which may have contributed to Sucky Thing #3.
Sucky Thing #3: I got the flu. The FLU! I really don’t get sick, with the major exceptions being hangovers and avoidable diet related problems (I am blessed with two parents with equal, although different, food problems including dairy, wheat, meat…food basically, some of which got passed on to me). I had only had the flu once before, when I was eighteen and living in the dorms, which was pretty terrible, but this was SO. MUCH. WORSE. I was freezing and nauseous and achy and I couldn’t eat or move or really do anything but sleep. I tried the best I could to spend at least part of every day out of bed (especially if the sun was out so I could at least try to get warm), but on one of the days even a couple hours was too much and I just slept.
My Spanish teacher suggested I take “Kold Grip” which helped the achy-chilled part go away but my stomach wasn’t really back to normal for days.
Amidst our wanderings in the city and my hours upon hours in bed, we took care of some business while in one place for a week.
For one, laundry. Duh duh dah!!!
Why is doing the laundry in “the ugly”? Well, here’s a bit of background to set the stage for our epic laundry disaster (which was quickly and easily rectified, as most disasters are).
My parents tend to lean (or really plunge head first) into the hippie side of life. Because of this, all my clothes from birth to now have been washed in various types of chemical-free laundry detergent. I have never really considered buying chemical-filled detergent, and I have always been a little afraid about how my skin would react to the chemicals.
Assuming that my skin would break out in protest to the vast majority of laundry detergents out there, we brought Dr. Bronner’s castile soap (biodegradable baby!) to hand wash our clothes while traveling. We were not able to bring a ton since we were doing carry-on only, but how stinky could we possibly get?
The answer is very stinky. Anyone who has traveled to tropical places, except me clearly, knows that just water won’t cut the stink that sets into your clothes in hot and humid places.
We were not allowed to do laundry at our homestay and everything we had was super smelly and dirty, so we took our chances and dropped off all our clothes at a lavanderia to get washed.
I was hopeful that Guatemalans were not as chemical-dependent as us Americans are, but alas, I was wrong. My skin turned a lovely shade of splotchy red-and-white-polka-dot after getting our clothes professionally laundered. I looked quite diseased from neck to foot (luckily one does not wear clothes on one’s face), but it thankfully didn’t itch too badly.
So, I would like to give a shout out to my parents. Mostly in thanks for not exposing me to chemicals harmful to my skin, but also to warn them to never tempt fate by washing their own clothes in anything but gentle, eco-friendly, hippie soap.
Sickness and skin irritations aside, I really loved Antigua and want to go back someday. Next time I will go armed with a flu shot and clean clothes.
Dollars and Sense
Internet at an internet café: Q2.50/hour
1 lb of laundry- Q6 (we got ALL of our clothes washed, which was 9 lbs)
TIP: Always bring something warm. You never know when a polar vortex is going to hit. Haha. Seriously though, I was really glad I had enough warm-ish clothes to layer up and keep me warm.