10 day Serial Travel-blog in Guatemala

About the Blogger:

My name is Bridget and I’m a NICU nurse and midwifery graduate student. I’ve known Nancy for several years and on serve on the Advisory Board for Supporting Safe Birth. I have done a lot of international travel, but this was my first trip to Guatemala and my first medical mission trip, both of which I had been looking forward to for a very long time.

Day One: Arrival

We landed in Guatemala City at dusk. It was a very easy flight and everyone’s luggage appeared in record time. Surprisingly (to me), it was only about 5.5 hours of flight time from Chicago to Guatemala City and Guatemala is only one time zone behind our CST. In spite of that, upon exiting the airport to wait for our driver, the overwhelming impression was “Toto, we are not in Kansas anymore”. “Overwhelming” was a word I would find myself using again and again as the trip went on.

Our driver, Eric, is someone Nancy and Dave have known for years and consider their Guatemalan son. He has a quiet, reassuring presence and I would quickly come to trust him and his judgement. Tonight though, he texted to say he was stuck in traffic. Meh, I thought, it’s a big city, of course there is traffic.  Well there is traffic, there is big city traffic, and then there is Guatemalan traffic.  I don’t remember how long we waited, but eventually Eric appeared and we loaded up the van and were on our way to dinner.

Driving through the city at night was a little bit shocking, intimidating and overwhelming. I was not prepared for the security measures that Guatemalan’s employ almost universally: walls topped with razor wire and heavy metal doors as the only passage through the wall.  I learned that this is the physical manifestation of widespread corruption and the subsequent lack of trust in the entities that are charged with protecting the populace.

We arrived at the restaurant the veteran Guatemalan travelers had chosen: Kacao. Like many places in Guatemala it was sort of indoors and outdoors at the same time, which I thought was very cool. It had a thatched roof that soared above us, billowy, white panels of fabric, hanging lanterns, string lights and lots of beautiful Guatemalan textiles. And the food was amazing!  Before dinner I was finally able to call home and speak with my husband and son and, admittedly, I got a little weepy.

After dinner we headed to our hotel which was located in a gated community. Gated communities in Guatemala are similar to gated communities here in principle. It looks a little different though. Here, there is a gatehouse with an armed guard letting people through (in our case) or not (as in the case of the car in front of us). But before we knew it we were safely ensconced in our hotel and ready to crash. The roosters, I was told, would wake us up early.

Check back tomorrow for the adventures of Day 2: Mercado Central.

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