Ah, it feels so good to be back. Lake Atitlán, our de facto home away from home, and the best place in all of Central America to find a tuk tuk with a Batman-themed windscreen. Good sleeps, healthy food, plentiful exercise (mainly hunting flies with a well-worn, yet deadly, swatter), hammocks as far as the eye can see. Without a doubt our location of choice to regroup, recharge and occasionally relapse (into drinking beer at 9 am while watching soccer).
We rolled in after the 4-hour journey from Guatemala City, our rented van weighted down with the impressive result of a massive Walmart shopping excursion, my proudest purchase being 5-dozen tasty 5% Brahva Extras for the bargain price of $35. We also did pretty well in the nacho department but, really, when don’t we? Then we were only just able to finish unpacking before Chris Looney – travel friend/Antarctic cruiser/Mongolian camel whisperer/fellow Archer fan – and his friend, Jeremy, arrived half-primed and ready to join us on a long, probably ill-advised, night of booze, off-colour jokes and smoked meats.
The next day, due to the narrow overlap of our schedules, Chris and Jeremy were off to nurse their varying levels of hangover in Antigua while I was left to trick mine into submission by drinking beer alone at Alegre Pub while Arsenal once again failed to score for a full hour and a half.
Day 3, though, that was where things started to settle back to normal, although it took almost no time to discover the large group of surprisingly eager afternoon drinkers who also happen to be making themselves at home here in Pasaj-Cap for the foreseeable future. And it’s not just drinking, these people really like to, as they so casually put it, “do things”, something we are quite unused to from most of our previous visits. Hikes to nearby villages, daily “Happy Hours” in the palapas, Spanish classes, long-distance swimming competitions, large groups of people eating salad without anybody forcing them, never a dull moment around here. Well, except for the other 7 or 8 hours each day where we are free to do our own thing. But still…
The other night we even attended an impressively organized birthday party at an organic farm perched up on a nearby hill with terrific views out over the lake, arriving in a 5 tuk tuk cavalcade to enjoy a generously-funded open bar, surprisingly professional 4-course meal and unquestionably the best brownie and ice cream to be found anywhere south of the dented, misshapen tin brownie pan next to the toaster in mom’s kitchen. There was a brief moment of panic when it became worrisomely apparent that the 7 pm, pre-dessert dance party was more mandatory than “optional if accompanied by a lame and transparent excuse”. Thankfully, at least a portion of the awkwardness so inherent to dancing sober was alleviated by the surprisingly unanimous, if somewhat reluctant, group participation.
Thus inspired, I planned a correspondingly big Valentine’s Day itinerary:
1) Get up at sunrise with Laynni, instead of sleeping in, if only to try to stream the Arsenal-Leicester game.
2) Soccer game at 8 am in Tzununá, followed by a brief stop at home to eat, possibly stop sweating and a very remote chance of discovering a fountain of youth that would enable me to find the energy for –
3) A second soccer game at 1 pm in San Juan, this time with my usual (i.e. previous) team of about half Guatemalans and half expat Europeans.
4) Sausage-shopping in San Pedro which, happily, is absolutely literal and in no way a metaphor or euphemism or even a tacky joke that ends with “and you thought the bratwurst was salty!”
5) Return home via the last boat of the day out of San Pedro, just me and a couple neatly-dressed Spanish teachers, one cable installer with a prodigious amount of tools and communication devices dangling from various parts of his wardrobe and, of course, several shoeless hippies making their uncertain way back to the bargain meditation clinics and hopeful holistic gatherings, the lot of them gazing around as though unsure of exactly where they might be or what they were up to, until their attention would eventually be captured by one or another of the various cheaply hand-crafted bracelets and neck ornaments struggling mightily to spruce up their ragged appearance.
6) Shower, for quite some time.
7) Happy hour!
8) Supper, another outstanding hour of season 2 of Fargo, then retire to bed, smugly content with treating Laynni to yet another memorable and thoroughly non-cliché romantic holiday.
Other than that, I’ve been mostly catching up on internet projects (i.e. my website and redundantly speculative stories about the Blue Jays), sleep and vegetables. And, of course, dancing around the task of starting my new book, which will be a thorough, and uncomfortably graphic, profile on the shameful lack of recognizable minorities in otherwise practically meaningless movie awards shows. Of course, so far the main conclusion I’ve drawn is that Will Smith and his squawky wife need to simmer down, so I’m considering abandoning the project in favour of something a bit more upbeat and maybe a little bit apartheid-y. Or I might end up going with a travel theme, we’ll see how it all turns out.
So far, however, any progress I’ve made has been regularly interrupted by a combination of the final season of Mad Men and finally getting a chance to the watch the Blue Jays-Royals ALCS games. Even though I know the outcome I still can’t help but root for the Jays the whole time, which is starting to seem a little self-defeating and probably a touch moronic, if I’m being honest with myself.
So, going forward, I think it is safe to assume much more of the same – reading, writing and movies, a few hikes, plenty of happy hours, weekends spent fooling myself into believing I still have the legs to challenge 20-year old Guatemalans on the pitch – and I’m undecided as to how much of these weekly patterns I’m going to document in blog form. I may just go with a few specifically informative posts about the lake for potential visitors (i.e. when to visit, where to stay, what to do, which tuk tuk drivers will stop to squeeze in at least 6 family members on any given stretch of road, where to buy the freshest bags of milk). Or maybe I’ll test some book excerpts. Or maybe I’ll just find more overly optimistic articles projecting big things for Justin Smoak and J.A. Happ…