Concrete, machetes, what ever could be left to top this trip of wonder and awe—only 4 days in?
That would have to be driving into a non-tourist part of Guatemala City, watching Juan Carlos navigate the streets, and arriving at our final destination: a legit market that Andres didn’t even know existed. I bet you’re asking though, why exactly did Juan Carlos take us to the market for an unscheduled stop, after a long day of work?
Well, remember the show we got on our first day at St. Francis Coll? The welcoming which the students had prepared for us? Friday, our final day at St. Francis Coll, there was to be another celebration, but this time, our teens would participate. Andres had tasked them with creating a performance. Several of the girls were on their high school competitive jump rope team; they had gone to Nationals, they were that good. The kids decided to do a jump rope routine and for that, we needed rope. Juan Carlos and Andres, tag team extraordinaire, had discussed our best options for finding rope—and so, to the market, it was.
Wherever Juan Carlos took us, there was barely space for two cars to pass each other along the road, much less a bus, filled with “tourists.” The sensory overload was unbelievable: bright colors—fruits, vegetables, chickens (live!), cloths, clothes—none of the colors were muted or toned down. And the activity! It made me grateful for the first time, that I was in a bus, because I probably would have frozen. It reminded me of when I came back from living in England and went into a super Wal-Mart for the first time: I had stopped, like a deer in headlights, unable to recall what I needed or why I was there.
Juan Carlos’ mad driving and parking skills are unlike any I’ve ever encountered. He pulled us right up next to a rope vendor! Where else can you find a rope vendor? The fun trick to this story, is that I had been designated the purchaser due to my Spanish skills. Jen handed off the cash to me, and Andres had told me what I should pay, tops.
So picture this: a narrow street, people everywhere, a tourist bus pulled over amid all the bright colors and activity, and here’s this gringa who steps out, with two police officers in their bright yellow and sidearms and a bus driver in his tight jeans (for Americans) and classy cowboy boots. It was rich.
I managed to haggle with the vendor for a good price for our two ropes, despite my poor Spanish. Juan Carlos may have helped me a bit. Andres may have also assisted. Regardless, I felt accomplished: I had managed to make my first purchase at the market. Task completed, I returned to the bus, and fell asleep for the rest of the ride back to Casa de Retiros Claret. Whatever came next, I would be semi-rested!