Pasteles y trajes de baño

Michael Wilson


October 3, 2009

This morning I awoke gradually in utter darkness because there is no outside window in my hotel room. I woke thinking there was a frequently traversed railroad track behind the hotel, when in reality it was just cars on the cobblestone streets outside the hotel.

Thus began a day of exciting exploration. We first went to a very quaint little commedor where I ate eggs and beans. Something new on my breakfast menu.

After we had finished our rules and regulations discussion, we ate at an awesome restaurant called Gringo Chapin. Gringo is the word for niave foreigners and Chapin is the word for native Guatemaltecos. Thats right, they took us to an authentic native restaurant with an out of place foreigner flair. It was actually a pretty good fit.

We spent the afternoon acting out security skits and Laura and Ian proved themselves to be good thieves. Now I know how to ride a chicken bus safely and how to respectfully decline very relentless street vendors.

They then unleashed us on Antigua for two hours, and we innocently decieved Luis, telling him we were going to go check out the ruins of a 17th  century Catholic church and browse the local marketplace. In reality, we spent the afternoon shopping for his birthday present and trying  to buy a cake with 34 candles. It was quite an adventure.

First, we spent the first half looking for a neon colored bathing suit, because he laughed histerically at the one I brought which is straight out of the 80s, he says. Unfortunately that really did not translate very well and we ended up in three different childerens clothing stores and a rediculously overpriced American surf shop (Q700 for one bathing suit…not happening). Thats when we called it quits on the bathing suit. We got some pretty odd looks here when we asked for a bathing suit. Apparently men don’t wear them or something because we had to keep explaining what it was and everyone thought we were confused and that we really meant a bikini. We just explained it as a crazy joke we were playing on our leader for his birthday and then our desire for such an item made perfect sense to them.

So about a block after we bailed on the bathing suit idea, we passed una pasteleria (cakery) and Ian stopped me and we decided to buy a cake.

Two gringos with very limited spanish pastry vocabulary trying to buy a cake in a foreign country was pretty much hilarious. I probably asked the poor woman 10 different questions, each with about 4 or 5 clarifying questions just to understand what she was talking about. After that she started describing the cakes with English words… But we managed to buy the cake successfully. It cost so much less than even the smallest Harris Teeter cakes (or Safeway, Whole Foods, Kroger, Ingles,take your pick).

Which brings me to my next point, they only have one size cake there. HUGE. For the price of a very small American cake we bought a cake that fed the 6 of us plus the entire kitchen and wait staff at restraunt and we still have  more than half the cake left.

After we bought this cake, I stuffed it in my backpack and carried my backpack in my hands so as not to dump the cake out. We met up with Luis and he just thought I was walking funny. And was in some huge rush, but had no idea I was carrying his enormous birthday cake. He even saw us give the lighter to the the waitress and still was completely oblivious to the fact that we had bought him an enormous birthday cake.

We presented him with the cake, sang Feliz Cumpleaños and gave him our present. Which was a book by his favorite Brazilian author. We just wanted  him to have a great birthday and I think we did a pretty good job.

After dinner we returned to the hotel and skype talked to Alec, who was sleepless in Dakar. He was having jet lag problems so he couldn’t sleep. Lucky for us though, we got to have a nice connection to the other half of our group on the other side of the Atlantic. It was awesome!

Michael Wilson