The Lester File

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Guatemalan Independence Day

Today was a big day. Guatemala's Independence Day. 182 years of independence from Spain!
Unfortunately, it was not Celeste's day to enjoy.
Celeste (my ward) and I were told to get up early because Andrea would be coming for us at 9am to go to the parades downtown near the government palace. We got up, showered, got ready... and waited. and waited. Finally, we get a call from Andrea at 9:15 that she's left her house and is on here way. Ok, so psyched! Let's do this. Celeste really wanted to see her old high school march on the city streets because she herself used to be a flag girl. We were really excited and really ready... we were still waiting at about 9:45am and Celeste's began getting restless. Guate time is a lot like Tico time!
We get another call right at about 10am from Andrea telling us to meet her at Mira Flores (the nearest shopping mall).
That required a multiple change, unexpectedly lengthy bus ride. First, we trekked to Paiz and waited for the right micro bus to come a long. By micro, I mean the size of a tourist van. The first one came, they told us there weren't any buses coming to take us to the center of the city so we might as well get in theirs. Celeste wasn't buying it and told them to move a long. The REAL bus came and it was a van about the size I was in during my internship days. Enough room for 10, this one was crammed with about 15 including the driver's entire family in the front seats. It was also the s l o w w e s t friggin' ride ever. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the next leg.
After stumbling out of the tiny van, we waited for another bus to arrive. Celeste was restless indeed. So, when the bus we needed passed us, she grabbed my hand and we raced to try and wave it down. It stopped and we jumped on. This was a true "bus" the likes of which I used to ride with my Mississippi girls in Wuhan. Old, rusty, few seats, and tons of people, yet fast as all get out. So, we were on the move. 15 minutes later we arrived where we were told to meet up and no one was there. Or at least we didn't see anybody, so we crossed the scary, barely standing sky bridge to wait by the pay phones on the other side. Neither of our phones seemed to be working or she would have called or picked up her line , right???!
So, we waited and it was hot and we were losing our fervor. We walked up to Mira Flores (the nearest shopping mall to beat the heat and see if she was waiting inside. We did more waiting. Celeste was sad because her high school band had probably already passed. We went up and down, waiting and waiting. It was not close to 11am and we were no closer to getting anywhere near downtown when we get the call. She could see us from across the street AND she'd been waiting in a car for a long time! The car had left and we had to catch ANOTHER bus to get down.
We jumped on to a loaded bus headed down to the parades. I'm glad there weren't any church groups running torches in the streets as is the custom to the detriment of traffic laws everywhere. We got as close as we could and started walking towards the sound of drums and xylophones. It was hot, I brought my umbrella so we had plenty of shade. Celeste was like a kid at her first parade. She wanted to be higher, closer, and she wanted to see every band that passed; however, we were pretty late. They started at about 7:45am and went until lunchtime for a break at about 12:30. We missed her school, but we still saw some great things. We even turned on the tv during our wait to see some of the big bands with huge costumes and dancers. Up close, we saw military bands marching in half time. We saw one group that was so disciplined, they weren't allowed to move at all, not even to take a drink. So, there were people to come by with bottles of water and pepsi to hold up to each boys' lips so they might not die of thirst in their full military-esque uniforms. We stayed until the very last bad went by and people began flooding the streets to find lunch. We waited for a bit and then started looking ourselves.
After a few failed attempts at finding a place that was not full of people, we realized that everywhere was full of the same people we were just brushing shoulders with in the street. We finally came to a 3rd choice restaurant, full of people still, but we decided to take a pizza to go. To go, means wait another 45 minutes in a place that has absolutely no extra seating. It was a shopping center full of internet cafes, a billiards bar, a movie theater, and a karaoke/food court. Celeste tried to wait for an open table inside the actual restaurant (Macarone), when she found one, another woman came up behind her and told her she'd been waiting longer than her. Celeste kindly explained that she was mistaken and the lady, in turn, called her a "liar." Celeste responded that she was indeed NOT a liar and walked away pretty annoyed.
Next, she tried to sit down on a stair step nearby since we'd been standing for hours. As soon as she did, a security guard told her to get up and move a long. She came over to me, defeated, and we took a stroll around the floor. On the way back, we passed the same stair where now there were kids hanging out all over it and the same security guard (to our astonishment) did nothing.
It was not her day.
Since there were no places to sit, we grabbed our pizza boxes and our pepsi and we went to the park to eat our lunch on a shady curbside. On the way, Celeste and Andrea picked out some cute, 10ยข earings from a street vendor and promptly lost them somehow. We retraced our steps, but they were so gone and she was so sad.
It was not her day.
She realized she'd misplaced about 200 quetzales (about $25).
Not her day.

We left the parade grounds and headed to Andrea's house where here sister was cuddling on her couch with her boyfriend in total darkness watching Rocky IV. Random??

It was a good day. Even though Celeste had a few (trillion) mishaps, she enjoyed herself and I had fun getting out of the house. It is now time to sleep. Goodnight!