contradictions and cream

Right now we’re stuck in Guatemala City, just waiting to go home. We have bits and pieces of work to wrap up, but it’s not enough to absorb me. We planned to do fun stuff over this time, and we have, but I’m really no good at vacationing. I need people, activities, work. Just hanging out, going to the next fun thing, gets dull super quick. Plus, doing all that while in the middle of transition—with no place and purpose to anchor me—makes me whiny: There’s nothing to doooooo. I’m boooorrrreeeed.

In my present state, I should probably be banned from the internets.

Okay. So. We have done some stuff. We spent the first two days in the city getting wildly and hopelessly and UNBELIEVABLY STRESSFULLY lost and having meetings. It sounds kind of funny now, but it was on the other side of awful. Good news: we survived.

One afternoon we went to the zoo. (Our original destination was the children’s museum, but when we finally arrived, after driving in circles for 35 minutes, we discovered it was rented out for some private event. Cue mighty Anti-Guatemala City Feelings and a few choice words.)

Yesterday we went to Antigua.

human statue: putting money in the box to make him move

giant rosary
(she scored the flowers because that’s just what she does)

in a random market stall
I had cappuccino and dulce de leche. 

Today we went to some thermal hot springs.

Vacationing on a budget in a rough-it-out place is a thrill (albeit an exhausting one), but vacationing in rich places on a budget is a real killjoy. Not in Antigua—that little city was delightful—but at today’s outing, we sat in hot-to-the-point-of-nausea pools and watched the elite with their armbands that granted them access to the private pools, attendants that delivered their smoothies poolside, fancy rooms with couches, and the saunas with the soothing music. When the kids had we-are-starving meltdowns, we splurged and bought hotdogs and three waters.

(Elite being relative, of course. We were at the hot springs, after all.)

(Also, didn’t someone just write about the dump?)

I’m not complaining. The children had fun; we had fun. We had a private truck to drive there in (and we didn’t get lost). I just wonder sometimes what it’s like to go on a vacation and not even think about the cost. To make decisions sans the ever present internal “is it worth it” debate. Is it okay to jump for the cappuccino instead of the lower-priced café con leche? Can we spend an extra five bucks for towel service? “Hey, I wanna massage, so heck yeah!” You know, that sort of thing.

When I think about it longer than two seconds (as I am doing right now), I realize that I really don’t have any desire to actually live the sort of life in which money isn’t a factor. I’ve happily made some intentional choices that keep me on the café con leche side of things. I’m mostly cool with my plastic armband-free wrist and staying on the outside of the gated thermal pools.

Just sometimes I get lustful.

(To be clear: we have had The Family Trip of a Lifetime, traveling all through Central America and learning Spanish and making friends with all sorts of wonderful people. I have no right, absolutely no right, to fuss about what side of the gate I’m on. I am grateful. Truly, deeply, profoundly grateful for this incredible, wild, fabulous adventure we have had. So I take back all my fussing. I really didn’t mean it.)

(Actually, I even considered deleting those last couple paragraphs but decided against it. Because my fussy truth is as real as my grateful truth.) 

Anyways, this afternoon my husband took the kids to the fancy mall to watch a (dumb) cartoon movie in the theater. (We ate supper in that mall the other night. I kept looking around at everyone and thinking, WestgateWestgateWestgate.) I’m sitting on a hard wooden bench in the corridor outside our SEMILLA apartment, enjoying the cool late afternoon and the buzz from my afternoon Coke (that tasted like soap—what’s up with that?) while trying to keep the computer from sliding off my lap and crashing to the tile floor.

Tomorrow we pack (and re-pack) and tie up loose ends. Then Tuesday morning, Raul the MCC driver picks us up in the big van and we drive to the airport.

Oh. One more thing. This morning I clicked over to The Washington Post food section and read a whole bunch of articles. I never read the Post’s food section (thus proving I’m not a true food blogger), and it was so much fun. While here, I’ve (mostly) turned a blind eye to food publications because no cream. But this morning? Reading those recipes was a thrill-me-to-my-toes experience. In only a couple days I could actually, really, IF I WANTED, make them! The prospect makes my stomach knot with exuberant excitement. On my list: apple soup, roasted cauliflower, curry, sourdough bread, whipped cream (WHIPPED CREAM), cookies just because, and everything cheese. If you see me stumbling around, a glazed look in my eyes, you’ll know it’s because I O.D.’d … on cream.


  • Suburban Correspondent

    As good as having the right ingredients is having the right pots again – not fancy ones, per se, but the ones you KNOW will work for specific types of recipes or to make specific amounts.

  • Rachelle

    I have really enjoyed reading about your experiences the past months. The pictures were great and it was really amazing to read about it all. I'm really glad you were able to keep up writing the whole time!

  • Kate

    I feel that way about vacations, too…Especially since I ALWAYS end up sick about half-way through, which means that I'm basically wasting money.

  • dr perfection

    How does she get the flowers? Does she go up to the flower owner and look longingly? Or does she verbally admire them? Or does she kick and scream until they give her the flowers to keep her quiet?

  • Starr

    I can't believe your trip is ending. It's been fun reading about it, but I'll be glad when you get back home, making things 8 times in a week to perfect the recipe.

  • Mama Pea

    Having to make decisions is stressful in itself. Sometimes. (Most of the time?) Throw in decisions involving money and the stress level goes up. It's hard to find that feel-good balance between being grateful for ALL one has and denying oneself of what would be a good (and not overly indulgent) experience. As always, your honesty in your posts is appreciated and welcomed..

  • Sarah

    Oh man! We have so many of the same thoughts (I hate vacation, Is this worth the money? Why am I thinking that? This life is so great, I hate this place, I love this place, WestgateWestgateWestgate. I want affordable/real food. I can't REALLY complain.)

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