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Published: June 26th 2017
I arrived in Guatemala City late Friday night to find Guisela (Guise), my Airbnb host awaiting me with a giant sign that was shouting my name in capital letters. A tall, busty woman in her mid-60s with white spikey hair and bright purple glasses--she was sweet as can be and we took an instant liking to one another. She was especially delighted to learn that I speak Spanish and insisted I speak to her in Spanish (although we'd switch back & forth as we were searching for the right words). Upon arriving at her charming home, I set down my bags and joined her for a glass of wine at the kitchen counter. A few glasses later, we felt like old familiar friends and were ready to hit the hay.
My first morning in Guatemala began with me flooding the bathroom floor, of course, in an attempt to operate the shower head. I was too embarrassed to tell Guise, and so instead of using my bath towel to dry up the floor (because she'd wonder why my towel was soaked & why I needed a new one) I got on my hands and knees--one wad of toilet paper after another until
I finally dried up the mess. After a quick but satisfying shower, I walked into the kitchen to find Guise chatting over coffee with Sebastian, a friend of hers that popped in for a visit after traveling 2 hours from his village to do some work on her neighbor's house. The heavy rains have caused a great deal of damage to many of the homes. She invited me to sit with them and poured me a cup of coffee. Then entered Nelson, the boy that is staying with her while he finishes up school and trains with a local swim team. Nelson grew up in a small town a few hours away and had befriended Guise's late husband a few years back while training with him. Guise's husband has since passed away but she's invited Nelson to stay with her while he finishes up school. She's also helping him to apply for a swim scholarship at a private university in Guatemala City--a process her husband started with Nelson before he passed away. So there we were--Guise, Sebastian, Nelson and I chatting over coffee while Guise cooked us breakfast--and I truly felt as though I was amongst friends. Breakfast was delicious--2
Guise's rooftop garden
bakery door on right hand side
fried eggs, Guatemalan black beans with crema, a slice of toast (the bread was freshly baked in Guise's upstairs bakery), dulce de guayaba, and platanos maduros (also with crema). It was a feast! We continued chatting after we finished our meal and then Guise offered to drive me into town and drop me off outside the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia y Etnologia where I'd begin my day. But before leaving the house, she insisted that I head upstairs to see her rooftop garden and check out the bakery. So up the steep staircase I went with Grizzly (her German Shepherd) leading the way. The garden was breathtaking--lush and green with mangos, papayas, pineapples, tomatoes, culinary herbs and exotic flowers throughout. The bakery, a small space but well-maintained had loaves of bread packaged and ready to be delivered to her customers across town. A sweetness permeated throughout the air.
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