This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, November 28, 2007 was originally posted on December 02, 2007.

DAY 9: In the reality show The Amazing Race, competing teams of two sometimes form alliances to help each other out in times of need.  For the past couple of days, I had already been helping out Jim of the Berkeley team by lending him my cell phone a couple of times to call his bank, Washington Mutual, back in California; the Berkeleys hadn’t declared that they were going to use their card overseas and were blocked from using it.  So far, Jim had run up some long, expensive phone calls in attempts to get it active again, with no luck just yet.

“I can loan you money if you want,” I offered.  I’d been in the situation many times before and knew what they were going through. 

“I think we’ll be okay,” Jim said, optimistic in his next opportunity to try out another ATM machine.

WE WERE UP AT STUPID O’CLOCK to take a 5 a.m. minibus out of the jungle lodge and back to the ATM-equipped civilization of Coban.  Riding with local villagers, we rode the rocky road through the darkness brought on by the jungle canopy.  Cramped but manageable, a few local boys in the standing room behind my seat clung to my backrest for support — my morning ride was spent alert, feeling out possible pickpockets, but everything was fine.  The radio played Spanish ballads, some salsa, and that reggaeton “Gasolina” song until we arrived in town by daybreak.  I bid goodbye to Matt, on his way eastbound, and the Polish girls en route towards Tikal and Belize, who fortunately bought off my leftover Belizean dollars.  Camilla, the Berkeleys and I were headed south from Coban to Antigua, a popular travelers hub not far from Guatemala City.

“We’re going to look for a bank,” Jim told me as we waited around in Coban — we had time to kill before our second transport of the day departed.  He was hoping that WaMu had his card active again, after days of phone tag and call center runarounds.

In the meanwhile, Camilla and I hung out at a random bakery in the less modernized part of the city where we had been dropped off.  We watched the bags and got some rolls and coffee as the locals started to awaken and activate the town“Cinco pan de sales,” said a cute little girl, ordering five rolls from the bakery woman.

THE TURISMO-CLASS MINIVAN took me, Camilla, the still cashless Berkeleys, and a couple of young French girls who kept to themselves, out of town and down the highway.  The roadside got more modern the closer we approached the more developed, southern region of the country; roads were paving the way to an economic betterment, although it was still a work in process with many construction vehicles and workers taking up construction lanes.

The five and a half hour journey went by fairly quick, with the driver’s music CD of singable pop songs that people usually won’t admit to listening.  From Men At Work, the Righteous Brothers, the Cranberries, Toni Braxton, Bryan Adams, and Kelly Clarkson, we’d jump in with the sporadic lyrics that we knew — I even caught the French girls getting into it a little bit.  “They should play that Carrie Underwood song,” I said.  Most memorable was when Camilla and I pseudo-sang along to one particular George Michael song that regrettably stuck with us for days:  “I’m never gonna dance again, Guilty feet I’ve got no rhythm…” (Careless Whisper)

We only stopped once for a bathroom/sandwich/milkshake break at a fairly modern service area.  “I never win these things,” I said, scratching off the sweepstakes card from my milkshake order.  Camilla had better karma, winning a free super cone — but perhaps my karma would make a turn for the better before the day was over.

THE ROADS BECAME LESS RURAL and more commercial the closer we approached the urban sprawl of Guatemala City, where we’d have to pass through to get to Antigua.  Capital of the country, Guatemala City (a.k.a. “Guate”) was a city of contrasts; the ultra poor lived not far from a more developed area of fast food restaurants, malls, office buildings, big hotels and something I hadn’t seen in a while: traffic lights.  We hit mid-day traffic on the highway, surrounded by cars, trucks, and all the black air pollution that they exhaled from their tail pipes, but kept our spirits up with our corny sing-a-long.  “I’m kind of excited to hear what’s coming up next.”  By mid-afternoon, we arrived at our final destination, Antigua.

ONCE THE CAPITAL of Spanish colonial Guatemala from 1541 to 1773, Antigua still retains its charm as a Spanish colonial town, flanked by the beautiful extinct Volcan Agua (picture above), with many buildings historically preserved with red-shingled roofs and textured exteriors in different hues — including buildings that now housed American chains.  With cobblestone streets surrounding the Parque Central, the picturesque town was not only functional for the locals, but a complete draw for tourists.  Far less crowded and much more manageable than Guatemala City, Antigua is the country’s main traveler hub, with many accommodations at every budget level, cafes, restaurants, camera shops, English bookstores, and boutiques selling vintage furniture, fashionable apparel, traditional woven goods, and jewelry — most made of jade, indigenous to the region.  Many people stay for more than a vacation, enrolling in salsa lessons, or one of a plethora of Spanish language schools around town.  Of course, all of these things are attainable, if you have the cash to spend.

“We’re going to look for a bank,” Jim told us as we walked around, checking out different accommodations since we had the daylight time to shop around.  Camilla and I ultimately settled on the Casa Rustica del Parque ($22/night), a centrally-located, yet quiet hotel set back in a courtyard away from street noise, in a room with two comfy beds, adequate lighting and electricity (you can’t always get that we discovered), and a private bathroom with a shower that unfortunately didn’t turn off once we turned it on. 

“Does this count as a flood?” Camilla wondered — it put us three for three.  (We didn’t mind when a plumber came to fix it, with touch ups the following morning.)

WE WALKED BACK to the Parque Central to meet up with the Berkeleys, only to find them in a bit of a predicament — one that caught the attention of many passers-by and one helpful English-speaking local woman who ran the jade store next to a bank.

“Our card got stuck in the ATM,” Jim informed me, trying to hold back his frustration.  “I need to use your phone again.”

“Okay.”  I handed it to him.

“[What happened?]” Camilla asked the jade store woman.  She told us that the ATM took their card and that Tilu was guarding the machine because there was a common scam where thieves altered the machine in a way where a card gets stuck — only for a victim to leave under pretense it’s lost.  When the coast is clear, they take the card.

I looked over to the vestibule area, where a frantic Tilu was crying in complete English-speaking freak out mode.  I didn’t know what I could do at that juncture and kept my distance for the short term.

“I think I need more fruit in my diet,” I told Camilla, apathetic to the situation in a Seinfeld-esque way. 

Meanwhile, a very stern Jim was angry with the Washington Mutual rep on another expensive phone call.  “I DON’T HAVE MY CARD NUMBER,” he said so heavy-handedly I have to use capital letters.  “IT’S STUCK IN THE MACHINE.  I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU MY SOCIAL SECURITY…”

“Are you having problems down there?” Camilla questioned me, in response to my fruit comment, also not getting involved with the Berkeleys just yet.

“No, I just feel I should have more fruit in my diet.”  In the background, Tilu was sobbing, tears gushing down her face.


“I have high cholesterol,” I said.  “It’s hereditary.”


“Then you should have more fruit, then.”

Tilu continued to cry, and Camilla went over to give her a hug.  Jim asked me for a pen and paper so he could write some numbers down and I gladly gave it to him.  The whole ordeal might come off as cold and a case of schadenfreude, but cut me some slack; after their card had been canceled and Tilu calmed down, I loaned them a hundred dollars in U.S. currency for them to get back on their feet — for good karma perhaps, although that wasn’t really on my mind.  The Berkeleys thanked me and checked into a different hotel that accepted credit cards.

CAMILLA AND I WALKED AROUND TOWN for the rest of the day, checking out (and inside) the main Cathedral of San José near the central plaza, and some of the ruins of other churches that survived centuries of earthquakes.  Not surprisingly, we were accosted by several indigenous women hawking woven goods and jewelry at each stop.  We went out for snacks, Antiguan flan, and beer, and watched the horse drawn carriages circling the park — each of which used the smart invention of a poop bag mounted behind each horses’ ass to keep the streets horse manure free.  I marveled at the 250-year-old fountain, La Llamada de las Sirenas, where fountain water spewed out of the breasts of mythical sirens

Before we knew it, dusk turned into night and we met up with the Berkeleys for dinner, who were finally cleaned up and feeling back on track.  Feeling good, we ended up going to a fancy place, La Fonda de la Calle Real, an upscale restaurant where Ricky Martin and former U.S. President Bill Clinton once dined (according to the pictures on the wall).  The restaurant, proudly specializing in “La Comida de Guatemala” (“The Food of Guatemala”), was done in colonial decor with words of wisdom tastefully painted on the walls amidst the vintage props.

While Clinton’s favorite dish was a big platter of grilled sirloin, chorizos, longoniza, and chicken, I opted for a lower cholesterol specialty, a sampling of three signature dishes:  Pepian de Pollo, chicken in a sauce of tomato, cinnamon, pumpkin and sesame; Revolcado, a stew with pork liver and head in a tomato sauce; and Cakiq, a turkey-based soup with tomato, mint and cilantro.  We clinked our glasses with a bottle of wine over our appetizer, a plate of nachos (Jim’s favorite). 

In the end, perhaps I had good karma after all; the Berkeleys graciously paid for our dinner (with a credit card) for helping them out and putting up with their setbacks.  Jim told me the whole thing was “embarrassing” for them.

“That’s okay,” I said.  “I know what it’s like.  I’ve been through that myself.”

At the end of the day, everything was fine; the Berkeleys arranged a wire transfer via Western Union [like I had once done] from Tilu’s brother to keep them funded for the rest of their trip.  Camilla ultimately claimed her free ice cream cone, and I managed to get some fruit in my diet after all.


“I never wanna dance again…” I continued singing to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper,” humming the words I didn’t know, in our hotel room.

“And by the end, Camilla shot Erik,” was Camilla’s response.  “There goes the end of the blog.”

“Blame George Michael.”

“You have George Michael Disease.”

“It’s one of the diseases out here.  I haven’t been vaccinated for it.  Careful, it’s contagious.”

Soon, Camilla was singing and humming along too.

Next entry: A Coffee Story

Previous entry: Slick Shoes

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Comments for “Karma”

  • Hi from Antigua… I’m getting caught up slowly but surely.

    TADA.  Here’s one more…  I’m going out for nachos now.  More to come…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  10:28 PM

  • actually i think that sampling probably had the same amount of cholesterol the clinton dish…

    and yes this post should serve as a reminder to all you travelers to call the bank before you travel overseas, especially those big banks like WaMu!!

    Posted by markyt  on  12/03  at  12:27 AM

  • E - do you have a plan? As in, where you want to hit? I will say that Nicaragua is a lovely place. The Caribbean Coast is bliss and Grenada is lovely as well. The isletas are fantastic… I wanna go back!!!

    **E or Markyt - I’m having loads of problems on the “submitting the word below” thing - I keep typing in the word and numbers and it gives me: You submitted it wrong… And I go back, do it again and it’s still wrong… am I the only one?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  02:42 AM

  • Finally caught up to you!  I am having problems with picture links on this entry and last. Enjoying this trip.  Is the weather hot? I see you in t-shirts and others in what looks like winter jackets.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  04:52 AM

  • I had no problem with this being posting.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  04:53 AM

  • Yeah Carrie Underwood! 

    That bathroom is fairly reminiscent of the last month is your apartment in NY… did it bring back fond memories?  (maybe fond isn’t the right word)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  05:17 AM

  • GREETINGS FROM MY HOMEBASE OF ANTIGUA… I’ve been here about five days (yes, I’m that behind), but not for long… I’m making headway to the surf camps of El Salvador today…

    Stay tuned… hopefully I’ll be all caught up from my long bus ride today!

    P.S. Happy Hanukkah!  Good things, good things…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  12:45 PM

  • NOELLE:  No plan really, only that I don’t want to have “repeat experiences” as much as possible.  I’m here to see “Central America” not each individual country, so I probably won’t rush around to every Mayan site in each country since I’m a bit ruined out.  As of now, I’m off to San Salvador, the La Libertad, then I may flight out to the Bay Islands of Honduras… After that, I don’t know…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  01:03 PM

  • just trying not to stare…at la llamada de las sirenas.  pepian de pollo sounds pretty good.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  02:19 PM

  • Hi there, strangely the RSS feed I have hadn’t been updated for the last 4 entries and I thought you got eaten by a jungle animal (and of course I stupidly didn’t check the actual site to see if RSS was just disfunctional!)  It is 25 degrees and windy here in the city, and enough tourists here to drive one batty!    That picture, btw, with the candles is awesome.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  03:22 PM

  • ps.  btw see how much better at posting I have become.  SbR no more.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  03:32 PM

  • NOELLE - that issue you are experiencing occurred one time for me.  When you get that error and go back, simple copy and paste your post (as to not re-type it), refresh your browser, paste your post then type in the new word.  The problem is sporadic…

    RSS FEEDERS - If RSS Feeds are not getting updated, simply remove and add again.  We’ve fixed up some issues between the last blog (Two in The Boot and Beyond) and the current one (The Central American Eviction Tour)

    Posted by markyt  on  12/03  at  03:41 PM

  • El Salvador? Yo soy Guanaca! That is what we call ourselves. Ser Guanaco, es ser El Salvador!

    If you have any trouble, I have the hook up there. Whatever you do, watch yourself. It is dangerous in el campo and be sure to eat some Pupusas, an El Salvadorian fav. Oh and the black sand beaches! Don’t forget those.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  03:44 PM

  • Markyt - that’s what I’ve been doing, it just gets a bit old after the 8th time or so… smile

    Yes, E - you should have pupusas!! MMMM.
    And Nicaragua is lovely - I just wandered around - no Mayan sites that I saw there… smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  04:24 PM

  • NOELLE - then it is obviously USER ERROR…. wink

    Posted by markyt  on  12/03  at  05:32 PM

  • Markyt - I may be a blonde in spirit, but not THAT blonde… yet.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  05:50 PM

  • Wow…I feel bad for the Berkeleys but it turned out well in the end. I couldn’t stop laughing at you and camilla’s conversation during their traumatic ordeal…ahaha

    Posted by Tezza  on  12/04  at  11:34 AM

  • NOELLE - I’m offended by the blonde comment…it’s still USER ERROR…

    Posted by markyt  on  12/04  at  01:36 PM

  • I had my card eaten by a money monster ATM in London a couple of hors before my flight! its a bummer.

    And thank you, now I have Careless Whisper in my head and it will probably still be in there when you come back!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/06  at  06:18 PM

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  • w with pork liver and head in a tomato sauce; and Cakiq, a turkey-based soup

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

Next entry:
A Coffee Story

Previous entry:
Slick Shoes


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

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The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

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