Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Xela in the Rearview

Someday I'm gonna leave this dirty little town
Where the talk is cheap on the dirty little streets
And the trees are dying underneath the sky thats purple and brown
You can't drink the water can't breath the air
If you go out at all well you better take care
People packin' heat on the mean old streets of this dirty little town
          Kieran Kane  (Steve Earle/Lucinda Williams)

Seriously, I love Xela, my wifes first visit was an unqualified success (she'd like to return) and I don't want to be like the folks who move to my little corner of Pennsylvania thinking its wonderful and then immediately want to change everything BUT everytime I watch a gay caballero dump garbage from their car to the calle I wonder if there's any concept of civic pride amongst the average citizens of Latin America.  Today it was a guy in his guard uniform casually dropping his soda can at arms length from his buddies Honda as they rolled by the bus station.  From Puerto Rico, to The Dominican Republic, Honduras to Guatemala everyplace I've visited has the same FU attitude towards crapping in their neighbors and their own backyard.  My first visit to Xela, two years ago, the kids at El Mundo organized a Cero Baul clean-up.  While I didn't go check I'm guessing it was not a permanent solution.  Another possible project for those energetic evangelicals perhaps.

Puerto Barrios has a nice airport that doesn't have any flights in or out, ditto Xela.  The bus to Puerto Barrios is 6hrs and $13 bucks for what was a 35 minute $40 flight at one time.  While I was out touring with taxista Manuel we were stopped at a government checkpoint near the Honduran border.  When he told the PNC (scary big gun toting quasi military) officers that I was a tourist from the USA they practically rolled out a red carpet. They value our limited interest in their beautiful country very highly.  Which doesn't mean you don't need to check your restaurant/bar tab but the welcome mat is out.

Speaking of bus travel I learned first-hand the difference between first-class and direct.  Comparing schedules I thought that the 1:00pm Transportes Galgos would get me to the capital a couple hours earlier than the 3:30 Linea Dorada (before dark).  Wrong-o!  The lightly populated old greyhound (love that they use the old logo as well,   do not believe the picture of the bus     http://www.transgalgosinter.com.gt/ ) pulled out of the Rodolfo Robles station about 1:20 and proceeded to Minerva to round up more passengers, followed by stops at Quatro Caminos, Los Encuentros, and everyplace else anyone could be persuaded to climb aboard.  I think we beat the 3:30 LD by 40 minutes however I did save Q20.

In the hard way to make a living department.  A handsome, ambitious guatemalteco, complete with sample case, climbed aboard our old hound in the middle of nowhere and after briefly conferring with  piloto and ayudante proceeded to deliver a sales pitch for some miracle healing herb he had available for purchase.  I thought at first he was speaking allegorically and would eventually get around to a little soul saving but not the case.  Recipe books were also available to help get more of the herb into our diets.  No sales were made to the tough but captive audience and he left us at the next stop to board another rolling showroom.

The Albamar restaurant off the square does a pretty nice job.  A huge boiling bowl of caldo tlapeno soothes the road ravaged tummy as well as anything I've run across.  It's pricy by Xela standards with tablecloths, chilled crockery beer mugs(but with huge chips) nice bowls of condiments (but cracked enough so liquid would run out and thus used for queso or cebolla).  My favorite twist is the urinal cake hanging from the flush lever (they last longer if you don't pee on them).

I hate that my government doesn't want me to have any of the great trucks, vans and cars that populate the autopistas and calles of Guatemala.  From the little tiny cargo vans and chinese hatchbacks sporting Chevy bow ties to the 5 speed diesel mini-vans that don't want to go the mall.  Flat bed forward control dump trucks with available 4x4 that will fit down 500 year old  cobblestone streets and little tiny Nissan El Camino/Ranchero clones.  I'd probably just hurt myself and then sue somebody.

 How we roll
Willie Loman doesn't know
 The rest room smelled fresh
 Excellent gas mileage if you don't overload it
no se divierten

I don't know why I love you like I do, I don't know why I just do.  Hasta luego, hopefully.