This is our humble abode for the next week. It is a very comfortable two bedroom casa in a small gated compound which is about a ten minute walk from Parque Cental, the hub of La Antigua.
Let's catch up on the last however many hours... I have no idea how many because it could be less than 24 or it could be more than 100... I have lost track of day and night and which way is up.
We departed Sydney on a Virgin Australia fligh at 2:40 pm on Saturday 31 March. It was pretty much a faultless flight; the worst thing I can say about it was that serving a pasta side salad is not a brilliant idea when the main is a pasta or even a Butter Chicken (which was delicious by the way). Great service, great and plentiful food and top notch entertainment system. Big Jay even got double lucky with a seat across the isle from the kids and I and a bulkhead seat with the extra leg room he needs.
So a smooth flight into LAX. The usual crazy long standing around in Customs; finally fresh LA air and freedom. Straight onto a hotel shuttle to the Hilton LAX. There's nothing like the comfort, physical and psychological of a highly rated hotel. When I walk into a lobby of such an establishment I know that all is well with the world; nothing is too much trouble and everything can be fixed with the swipe of a credit card.
The kids were tired and out of sorts, especially Will who had come down with a fairly nasty cold on the flight; a combination of a lingering sniffle, airplane air conditioning and tiredness. They didn't wan to eat so we settled into the hotel room and went down for some lunch.
The Hilton was hosting some sort of US Army event, uniforms everywhere. There's something bigger and better about a US Service[wo]man. They just seem more of everything, more patriotic, more capable, more don't-mess-with-me-mofo, they fill out their uniforms better, they just project an aura which is "more".
After lunch we headed back to our room just in time to stop a brother-sister squabble of jet lagged proportions. Luckily we didn't require the assistance of the aforementioned military personnel, but it was touch and go there for a moment.
The afternoon turned into evening as we lazed about, dozing on and off, watching Cartoon Network and trying not to think about getting on another plane.
At 8:00 pm we cleared out, somewhat sorry to leave our cozy cocoon. Check-in was relatively hassle free, apart from the slightly worrying moment or two when the Delta check-in chick thought Marianna wasn't booked onto the second leg of our flights from Guatemala to Orlando. Mystery solved we proceeded to the Sky Club Lounge for more sitting around doing not much of anything. Decent snacks and a quiet place to hide from the unwashed masses, that's all one requires in a business class airport lounge.
On board, the business class seats were OK but not what I was expecting/hoping for. Not even a footrest... though the seats were wide and reasonably comfy. I couldn't sleep due to seats, turbulance and not wanting to sleep through breakfast. Guess what? No breakfast. It was advertised on our itinerary but didn't eventuate.
Then the pilot is announcing we will be landing in 8 minutes and the beatiful lights of Guatemala City are spread out underneath us. Flying into a city at dawn is special and this was our second dawn landing in GC. Lucky us!
The airport was virtually deserted and we were through baggage claim and customs in minutes. Our lovely driver Mauricio was waiting, waving his sign above the waiting crowd. In seconds we were in his van and driving through the waking streets of GC. The dusty diesel smell was probably the main memory trigger for me. It brought back arriving in that city in September 2000 full of hope and anticipation.
Now we were returning with our 12 year old son, the baby we had first held on that humid September day. He was tired and sniffly but we could tell the city was making an impression on him. He could tell we weren't in Kansas any more.
One of my favourite feelings is driving through an unfamiliar city, straight off a plane, a little dazed and confused... quietly just absorbing the sights, sounds and smells. Allowing my brain to process, admire and file the sensory data for future reference.
We were going to stop at a WalMart on the way to Antigua to stock up on life's little necessities but they were all closed. So we stopped at a smaller supermarket in Antigua and stumbled around trying to choose what we needed using brand recognition and educated guesses.
Mauricio brought us home and we laid down for a brief rest but very quickly all four of us were fast asleep. Waking at 11:30 am I realised I needed to get everyone up and out for lunch or we wouldn't be able to sleep tonight and thus our sleeping patterns would continue to be out of whack. We would also be very tired tomorrow when we are meeting Will's birthmother, Ana Mercedes.
I got the boys up easily enough but Miss M put up an admirable fight, only being enticed out of bed by the neighbours tiny (I am talking TINY, people!) puppy Tamarindo. After a quick chat with our lovely Spanish neighbour Lilith, we emerged into the street and made our way towards Parque Central, where the Holy Week fun was starting to heat up.
Last time we visited Antigua it was quiet, very quiet. Today it was chock full of people; Holy Week is probably the most important festival on the Catholic Guatemalan calendar and we have landed right at the start of it. There were lots of Mayan folk in their colourful clothing, selling goods and also enjoying the carnival atmosphere with their families. The restaurants were all full, some with queues... including Campero Pollo which was our intended lunch stop. The queue was out the door and we didn't have the patience to wait.
We found a quaint, traditional style restaurant across the road and were soon tucking into the most delicious nachos I've probably ever had. I'm going to put it down to the corn chips and the guacamole - both were sensational and just that much different to what we have at home. Yum!
Slowly we made our way home. The streets around Parque Central are being closed off and we found people (families? church groups?) making signs or pictures out of some sort out of pine needles and other plant cuttings in the middle of the street. We couldn't tell what they might be but they are obviously of some sort of religious significance. All will be revealed in the next few days when Holy Week will rev up to full throttle.
Now Will is resting on the sofa, flicking through dozens of tv channels and settling on none. Big Jay took Marianna for a swim and now they've headed back into the centre to get her hair braided and to pick up something for dinner (dare I hope for Campero?).
I'm weary, ready to go to bed but trying very hard to stay up for another 2 or 3 hours. It's now 5:00 pm... if I can stay up until eight and get a reasonable night's sleep maybe my body clock will start to adjust.
Anyway, that's all the dull details so far. Tomorrow will be a big, emotional day. Stay tuned.