Being in Comoros made me think back to all the other random places I have ended up. At that time I didn't really have the foresight to document all my travels. I looked at my travel journal and under Guatemala 2011, I found some barely legible bullet points that I will try my best to translate into something sensible.
Getting to Guatemala was quite a process. We were going to Antigua city for a company retreat. The Kenyans (and other Africans) in our midst almost didn't make it there. The visa process was hazy at best. At first we were informed we would have to send our passports to Egypt and then travel there a few weeks later for our visa interviews. Eventually we found a Guatemalan embassy in a Scandinavian country that was willing to have skype interviews instead of in-person interviews. I don't remember doing the interviews, but we finally got our visas. We also needed to have US visas issued before applying for Guatemalan visas - it was a visa requirement - talk about making it almost impossible to travel there on a whim!
The Central American country has a dark past including a 1970s and 80s US backed genocide that mostly targeted the indigenous Mayan population and several coups before that. In the 21st century, the country has experienced significant economic growth and thus at the time of our visit it had morphed into a developing country albeit one plagued by various social problems.
I flew with Ethiopian airlines because it had a stopover in Atlanta allowing me to visit one of my brothers before and after the work trip. On my way to Guatemala I was able to spend one evening at my brother's place. It was so nice seeing him and going for dinner at Chilis! I had forgotten some of the things I liked about living in the US. We ate at Chilis, then went home to watch tons of reality TV and drink courvoisier. I think we might have watched "America's next top model" but for the sake of my brother's dignity, let me just say I don't remember what we watched.
The next day I left for Guatemala. Antigua city was a long bus ride from Guatemala city and the scenery was beautiful - lots and lots of trees. The castle/monastery we were staying at (Casa Santa Domingo - http://www.casasantodomingo.com.gt/gallery-en.html ) was nestled between several volcanic mountains and looked like paradise (inclusive or rare colorful tropical birds all around the castle.)
My bullet list notes included:
- The fact that though Antigua city was relatively safe, one needed to hire police escorts if they were going to hike up the mountains
- The castle had the most beautiful ancient burial site that was one night lit up beautifully for an event we had
- I bought lots and lots of herbal teas in Antigua city - I tend to be a tea addict
- Majority of the people I saw in Guatemala were indigenous people- around 65% of the population were said to be indigenous
- The town had some pretty great bars and our lot definitely kept the bars open much longer than they were supposed to (it was like Alibaba's cave - the doors would appear closed but at the door one would knock and perhaps say "Open sesame" and get in to find loads of colleagues
- The most amazing rum in the world comes from Guatemala. The 23 year old Ron Zacapa rum is simply the most amazing rum I have ever tasted. It has no equal - period.Before early this year in Bolivia, the last time I had ever had it was in early 2011 and if I closed my eyes, I could still remember exactly what it tastes like - it tastes like liquid heaven. The secret? "In the highlands of Quetzaltenango, 2300m above sea level, lies The House Above the Clouds. This stunning location – one of the highest ageing facilities in the world – is where Zacapa Rum slowly develops its complex flavour and character over time."
- Being very confused about where to go after Guatemala. I had planned a trip to Cuba for a few of us after Guatemala, but that almost didn't happen. In Guatemala we started hearing rumors about how hard it would be to get into Cuba given our nationalities and how impossible it would be to get any documentation allowing us to go to Cuba before our departure. Thankfully it all did work out, and we ended up in Cuba....of which I will tell you more about in future entries:-)