I’ve been in Guatemala for just over 48 hours and so far, so good. I had a beautiful view of the city as I flew into La Aurora International Airport. I haven’t flown into Guatemala in the daytime before so it was nice to catch some views of the volcanoes that surround my new home.
Fresh off the plane I dropped my bags at the hotel (too early for checking in!) and went to Pizza Hut with some of my guatemaltecos. Then I relaxed at the hotel for a couple of hours before heading back to the airport (on foot!) to collect my friend Reanna who is visiting this week. Upon arrival at the airport, we caught C. D. Suchitepequez, one of the top professional football (soccer) teams in Guatemala leaving the airport to cheers from the crowds and several news cameras. I’m probably in the background of some Guatemalan news shots looking confused.
On Friday morning, I went with my friend Kevin to Antigua to sign the lease on my apartment. We went via chicken bus, always a fun experience, and arrived just in time to meet the real estate agent I had been in contact with. Then I met my landlady and saw my apartment for the first time. It was just as the pictures had shown, very cute and clean with a shared roof-top terrace that has views of the volcanoes. The landlady speaks no English and the real estate agent, Diego, only a little, so navigating conversations in my broken Spanish was a challenge.
After I saw the apartment, we all walked across Antigua to the office of a lawyer/notary public, who was drawing up the lease contract. They talked a lot, and I talked a little, and the lawyer drew up our lease. I read it over, trying to make sure I wasn’t signing away my first born child, and understood most of it. We signed the contract, then I told them I needed to go to an ATM to withdraw my money for first months rent. Finding an ATM proved to be a challenge, and then when I was able to withdraw money, I discovered that it won’t let me take out more than 2000 Quetzales every day, which is only half my rent (about $266). In hindsight I should have planned ahead better but I didn’t know there was a limit.
So my backup plan was to exchange the dollars I had with me for quetzales, so we went to two different banks before we found one that didn’t have a huge line. I was so grateful for Kevin who speaks Spanish (but not English) and helped me navigate Antigua a little. The bank only accepted about half of my $20 bills, however, because the others were not in good enough condition (they’re very picky about the condition of bills). So I was about 1600 Quetzales short on my rent.
The only thing I could do was to go back to the landlady, who patiently waited in the lawyer’s office, and explain the problem and apologize profusely. She was very nice about it and we agreed to meet on Monday in the apartment for the remainder of the rent money and for me to get my keys. I was embarrassed to get off to a not-so-professional start with my landlady, not the first impression I wanted to make. But she was nice about it and I will be more conscientious in the future.
Today Reanna and I took a relaxing day, sleeping in, breakfast at McDonalds down the street from our hotel and then sunbathing/swimming (and getting a little burned, because, tropical sun) by the pool.