Thursday, December 29, 2011

No More Pana Mañana

As hard as it may seem, this was an even greater kick back day than the others. What slugs we are becoming. Tomorrow, we leave for Guatemala City, so we need to get those pesky last minute things out of the way, like shopping, laundry, and getting money. Breakfast is included at the hotel, but the coffee is less than spectacular. Guatemalan coffee is supposed to be so excellent, but breakfast coffee tastes like Nescafé.

There is a coffee and pastry shop down the street that we have discovered. Their lattes and cappuccinos are excellent. Ron has taken a liking to their desserts, though I have to admit their cheesecake is pretty good. Ron had cake with his java; I refrained for once. Right near there is the bookstore where I found the 3rd book in the Steig Larrson series. I had only brought the first two at Ron’s advice due to their weight. The first book The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo was 624 pages, but I finished it in the first week. The second book The Girl Who Played With Fire ran a grandiose 728 pages and that was completed early today. Now I need to read through the third and last book filled with 824 pages. Quite a lot of words. Fortunately, the book is only 7.20 Euros, so I feel like I can buy a copy even if one is sitting at home. I have been giving books away as we read them so the load is lightened and makes space and weight reductions for buying things.

I did buy one other book, but took notes of titles from books that were just too heavy to consider. They are now on my Amazon Wish List for future reference. This store also had really divine photo frames; the outer edges were all hand woven by indigenous women. We found reasons to buy six of them. They are light.

Back to the hotel to drop off our spoils, we picked up our dirty laundry and set out the Laundromat. Dropping it off for a wash, dry and fold for over ten pounds will cost us 55 quetzals, 5.5 Euros. Can we take this woman home with us? It will be ready in 2 hours, so we take off again.

We quizzed an ex-pat from the US who now runs a second hand bookstore about which ATM machine was safe to use. He gave us a map and showed us one that is in a Mercado with the advice that the Mercado is owned by Walmart and no on screws with Walmart, not even the Colombians. That is where we head since our next stop is Guatemala City, which is supposedly dangerous on a daily basis just in general without using an ATM. On the way to the Mercado, we found the Women’s Free Trade Collective, a place where women can sell their craft work and receive all of the money they sell it for. It is called Thirteen Threads and was started by a woman from the US.

There were mats that I really liked, but the weight made me think “Airline Alert”, so I passed them by. A woman came rushing in as we were browsing and started through the same mats. Had I overcome my luggage limit phobia, there was one that I especially liked. This woman had it spread on the floor and then placed it on the counter. Darn her!! Turns out she is from California and is here to teach Yoga for 8 months. We chatted about the mats. I had in mind a Welcome mat, but she intends it to be a bath mat, another great idea. I never did get the chance to ask her how or why they needed to import her to teach Yoga for 8 months. Are Guatemalans so desperate to learn the downward facing dog or one-legged king pigeon that they had to import someone from California to twist and turn them? Ron bought some bookmarkers, but the airline scale phobia was as overwhelming as having a scale in our bathroom, so I let them go.

One last stop before the ATM was the hunt for a restaurant with a used bookstore inside run by a Canadian. We went up and down the street, but could not find it. What we did find was a concrete park with patches of wonderful flowering plants in small squares of non-cemented soil. Across the street was stand after stand selling fireworks of more sizes and varieties than I thought possible.

Finally, we made it the “ugly gray building that serves as a Mercado” just like the US American said and the ATM was a non-descript machine inside with an armed guard. Hoping that no one really does screw with Walmart, we withdraw the maximum of 2,000 quetzals. I hope to the smoking god that we don’t find our account cleaned out when we return home. Paranoid with having money, 200 Euros in our possession, we head back to the hotel to drop it off and then head out again.

There are no Hard Rock Cafés in Guatemala or Belize, but in Pana there is a PanaRock Café. They have a similar logo as their name sake, so it is kind of cute. We stopped in for a beer, but being extra thirsty, I ordered a liter. By the time we were done, I really wanted a nap more than I wanted to pick up our clothes at the laundry.

All of the time we have been here, in the room next to us has been 3 amigos. Initially, I hadn’t given the first guy a thought, but when I finally saw the other 2, I realized they were Friends of Dorothy or to put it other ways, they walked with a light step or they were part of the ‘family’. Although they responded when spoken to, they never initiated a greeting or engaged in any conversation when we would see them on the balcony. Two of them were Caucasian and one was definitely Hispanic looking. All three were speaking fluent English. Just like the people we met on the boat trip, we ran into these guys around the town quite often also. My guess is that they are in their 30’s so it was surprising how early they returned to the room and didn’t leave again. Their door squeaked terribly, so it was easy to keep tabs on them.

Our farewell dinner was at a steak house we had eaten at before, but we broke with tradition by ordering pizzas. We were both quite pleasantly surprised that the pizzas were excellent. The crust was wonderful. After dinner, we tried doing a little exercise stroll, but it was more like a roll. We both felt like balloons. Tomorrow, we are out of here on the 12 noon shuttle to Guatemala City. Pray for our safety!
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