Monday, December 24, 2012

A Post-Baktun Update from Gaute

It's been a helluva first week marked by the usual shenanigans with the usual suspects. Christel and Catherine met me at the Guate airport and found me bleary eyed and exhausted and still slightly high on the Ambien I took that didn't really work (I'm getting too old for red-eyes). Despite the early hour Christel opened and shoved a cold beer in my hand (it's kind of a tradition and the private shuttle driver didn't mind....welcome to Guate). We preceded to gossip with me somewhat babbling incoherently as the beer mixed with the traces of Ambien and exhaustion. Christel and Catherine, not ones to miss an opportunity to heckle the hell outta me, commenced doing so with an inordinate skill and familiarity. We laughed. We always laugh.

I am for the third year staying with Christel and John (aka Captain Chaos, a nickname earned 1000 times over) who earlier this year moved to a large 18th century colonial style house built on a rambling coffee finca that is also home to two museums, a school, and houses for the workers. It's course and gorgeous, surrounded by verdant meticulously maintained gardens and fields of coffee plants, coffee drying fields and compost pits and rutted dirt roads. The finca is in Jocotenango, a small town about a ten minute drive north of Antigua. A stones throw up the street are the whore houses that serve folks from Antigua. At night, guard dogs and armed men patrol the finca which is surrounded by high walls and locked gates. Christel handed me keys and the numbers of trusted taxi drivers who know the finca. And then she explained that I should not walk around the finca at night or I will be shot by a guard or attacked by a dog. Roger that, Christel.

Cafe No Se
After some half-assed napping we headed to Hector's for our traditional steak sandwich dinner and then onto Cafe No Se where I was swamped with hugs and kisses after which I parked myself on an uncomfortable bar stool and preceded to drink a few too many Gallos. Mike soon planted his surly ass next to me and we talked about everything as if only a day had passed since we last did so. The next day I slept for a very long time.

Despite the ridiculous gringo hype and ignorance regarding the Mayan calendar, and the ridiculous talk of the end of the world, the Baktun is simply the end of one 5,000 year calendar cycle and the beginning of another. I joined the gang at Panza Verde where we sat with Bruce, the owner and patriarch, and a smattering of other characters and friends and ate great food and drank excellent wine and welcomed the new era without incident. A night cap at No Se and all is well (enough) in the land of the Maya and beyond. Although there was that one incident earlier in the day on the Arch Street where a large rickety wooden sign welcoming the new era came crashing down in the uncharacteristically windy day, just missing me as I lunged out of the way, catching my breath while I thanked the man who yelled "cuidado! cuidado!" at me, alerting me to the peril.

Everyone here has been kicked in the ass by a flu/cold, and after sleep deprivation, Baktun, kissing and hugging 500 friends 5000 times, I was down for the count. Spent the last two days in my PJs, lounging at the finca, reading, watching movies and appreciating the hell out of Christel and John who have fed and comforted me more than feels deserving. Felt a little better tonight and headed into Antigua for a walk through the park, some shopping, and dinner. Home again feeling wiped and hoping for a full rebound tomorrow for the big Christmas dinner and all nighter with the folks I call family in these parts.