So here I am. The trip from door to door took roughly 21 hours. I shared the train departing Bern at 04:21 to Zurich airport with some party folks returning home with the first train. They had something else on their mind, they either wanted to sleep or had some drunken conversations, while I was nervous prior to my adventure. Am I gonna catch all the flights? Will anybody be there at the airport to pick me up? Are the people at the place where I am going to stay nice? Will I be able to talk to them with my basic Spanish skills?
Spoiler alert, everything went well. If you want to know how these doubts disappeared one by one, I invite you to continue reading.
The check-in at the airport was done within 5 minutes. No big deal. After some troubles with the plane deicing infrastructure (yes, it was a freaking cold night when I left), we were on the way to Madrid. We landed with no more than 10 minutes delay, which left roughly 30 minutes until boarding of my second flight to Guatemala started. So, for those who have never been at Barajas airport: It is huge. On their signposts through the airport, they indicated how long it takes to get to the other gates. The indication towards my gate showed 24 minutes. So I had to get going. A couple of escalators, elevators, trains and passport checkpoints later, I made it in roughly 15 minutes to the departing gate of my flight to Guatemala City. We were seated in a brand new Airbus aircraft, whose main advantage is a decent entertainment system. My seat was in the very last row, on an aisle seat, which I liked. As boarding went on and the seat next to me was still empty I started to hope for a two seat flight – until a french speaking couple started to make seat swapping arrangements. Apparently they did not manage to get seats together, so the world seemed to collapse in front of them. First, they asked to switch seat with me. I was not able to see why I had to give up my luck with the two seats in the last row, so I rejected, making me look like the bad guy. But they didn’t give up. Finally they convinced another guy to take the seat next to me without consulting me again, and there goes my luck. After being pissed for a while, I got over it. The flight was OK. Not particularly great, but apart from the seat swapping fun and an upcoming headache no problems. Having found my luggage and having passed through immigration and customs without any issues made me forget that headache quickly. I was happy to breathe some fresh air and not being wedged into a small seat.
So, how about the promised pickup at the airport? I was told to look for person holding up a sign with my name at the exit of the airport. Well, there was none. I waited a couple minutes, giving me time to soak up some first impressions. Yes, I am really in Latin America, no doubts. People are really friendly and helpful. Finally, while a guy offered to help me call somebody, a girl showed up, holding a sign which looked familiar. Doubt number two gone as well. It turns out that there were three students on the same flight. The other ones are from Germany and – who would have thought – Switzerland. It turns out that the Swiss student and myself are even placed at the same host family in Antigua Guatemala. It was a rather interesting one hour ride on which I found out a couple more things about Guatemala.
- Driving is different. Lanes and speed limitations don’t seem to be as important.
- Guatemala City is covered by heavy smog. For such a big city during dry season not a surprise actually.
- Hills and mountains. We had to cross a couple hills or almost mountains (altitude more than 2000 meters) to get from Guatemala City to Antigua.
- It gets dark very quickly and early. Again, not surprising when thinking about it. Winter and being close to the Equator has that effect.
So, let’s move on to doubt number 3. Short answer: Yes, they are very nice people. We were warmly welcomed by the whole family. The parents with their 3 “kids”, where kids is a slightly misleading term as they have all reached adulthood. We were shown to our rooms, which are basic but have everything that I need. We had some short conversations about who we are and what we do – in Spanish. It went OK, so doubt number 4 is gone. And I was tired. Sleeping was the next task on my list, and there was no doubt that I will be able to do that well.