This is such a nice end of the day, when it´s too late to be out and about, sitting by the fire and blogging about the trip. My mom does the same thing in her journals, but I´ve somehow never caught the journaling bug. It´s so different when other people can read it…
Anyway, this morning I enjoyed my breakfast on the rooftop terrace. When I heard that Thursday is market day in Antigua, I decided to postpone my trip to the hillsides until tomorrow, and make today a shopping/city exploration day. What a market it was, too!
I was joined for that part by a couple who are flying around Central America in their own small plane – what a way to travel. Nice people too. She helped me haggle, which I am notoriously bad at. I´m always like, oh, that seems reasonable :) they seem to happily drop their prices to 2/3 of where they started though, so now I at least have a benchmark.
The textiles here are amazing; I´ve never seen anything like it. Most of the fabrics are too colorful for me, the market is just a riot of color. But I do really like the woven placemats and tablecloths, I may end up with some of these before the trip is through. There is also wonderful work with leather and suede in every possible form – purses, shoes, handmade books…
And of course the food market, which is extensive. I am always sad that I can´t buy and eat things at these markets. I would hope that if you lived somewhere like this your system would eventually acclimate and it would be safer. But we had fun puzzling out the fruits and vegetables, mystery meats and fishes, and even a bowl of very small seeds, of which some were dyed various colors (there`s those colors again). That one is still a puzzle.
I shopped for jade a while longer, not really finding the right thing exactly, and had lunch in a beautiful garden courtyard. It´s strange to stand out this much – I am taller than almost everyone here, with very few exceptions. And of course much lighter of hair and skin, as almost everyone is Mayan.
I quit carrying my backpack as it was just too obvious and we were warned against it. I´m leaving almost everything in the safe and just carrying a few things in my pockets. It´s liberating actually. There´s all these older women self-consciously decked out in patagonia-type traveling gear, and students wearing very little compared to the locals. This seems to be a center for Spanish language study, and there are many extended stay schools here.
Of course, it´s hard not to stand out when the women here are wearing traditional highland clothing, carrying their babies in cloth slings or baskets and their purchases on their heads. The older women seem to carry that off with aplomb. I only saw one tourist attempting to push a baby stroller, a near impossibility in the cobblestone streets.
I got up after a nap just at sunset and spent a couple hours walking in the city at night and sitting in the central park, reading and people-watching. There were lots of young people smooching on the benches, families strolling and tourists out as well. I ate at a Peruvian restaurant which brought back good memories. The food was unusual, a pastry made of black beans and rice, filled with seafood and covered with a mild pepper sauce.
One wonderful thing is the candles that are everywhere. They light the stepping stone path to my room, and are on the floors and walls of every building at night. Another thing many stores are selling is beautiful wrought-iron candle sconces for walls, often with spreading leaves.
The quetzal, Guatemala`s national bird, is everywhere, on weavings, jewelry, art, and even the money is named after it. They´re very hard to see here though, they are more likely to be found further south in Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. I had the good luck of seeing one in Monteverde. I did add one bird to my life list this morning, the azure-crowned hummingbird :)
Hope these aren´t too long, but it´s my way of remembering what I saw. I did actually buy a one-use camera, so I´ll have a few pictures, too.