Where the Streets Have No Name


This is that place. It´s probably as big as New Hope and Lambertville combined. With no, totally nada, street names.

Street scene, San Pedro la Leguna

If you want to visit I´ll explain to go up the hill on the street of the Santiago dock, before it gets crazy steep, just before it splits on the way to the market. I´ll have to meet you there, because then we´d have to go down the dirt alley, take a right, then a quick jog to the left, past the little store (if you take a right here there´s a super-secret way doing down the path of broken concrete to the street with all the tourista stuff). A little further we go, past the vacant lot with a barbed wire fence  (which they just replaced on Saturday, very nice!), hang a right, be careful not to bang your head on the low-hanging mangos, and here we are.

View from the rooftop

Of course, we are speaking in English here. I went to visit a friend in San Juan, the next town over, on Thursday evening. We went to a cafe to watch a movie. I was in Spanish with subtitles that were partially in English, partially in French. Many of the translations were half a sentence long — it became clear that there is a drastic need in South America for a good subtitle writer (it´s nice to have a goal for my Spanish now!)

Afterwards Sabine and I wandered into a variety store, one much bigger than the ones I´ve seen in San Pedro. We spent an hour perusing a bunch of school books, until I realized I had no easy way of getting back unless I caught a tuk tuk, pronto. After four tries with drivers who thought I was made of quetzales, the local currency, I was able to find one for five quetzales, the normal rate. Q5 is about 70 cents, so I was splurging on the ride, since the pickup truck I caught on the way there was only Q2, or 28 cents.A tuk tuk is a scooter with a covered chassis that holds two people, or up to seven if you´re particularly close.

Seatbelts? Who needs 'em.

The pickups, or carros, collect a dozen or more people who stand in the back, hanging on for dear life to the welded frame. Well, I was. Everyone else was nonchalant about it.  But I have my moments of drama. It´s particularly fun on the road between towns, because of the potholes (which could swallow a pony) that the drivers swerve to avoid, causing another swerve to avoid the cliff on the side of the road. They have no need of artificial thrill rides in Guatemala.

It's hard to find a good fixman bone these days.

Anyway, it was easy to ask the driver to go to San Pedro and head to the big white Catholic church near the market, since I could give directions from there. Fortunately I had just learned directions that morning. Unfortunately I chose to goof around in the afternoon and had not memorized the words for left, right, straight. Or stop. Fortunately, if you wave your arms excitedly it indicates to the driver that a change in direction is imminent. ¡Aquí, aquí! means left, and ¡Aquí, aquí! means right. And then you just yell ¡No! if it´s the wrong way.

I made it home, which I suppose some of you have been wondering about. I´ve promised myself to learn my directional vocabulary, well, sometime soon. It´s trivia night at one of the cafés later, and there are priorities. My team is counting on me for grammar tidbits.

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About ThesePartsUnknown

I write, I travel, I make art.
This entry was posted in Adventure, Guatemala, language, lost, Ordinary Life, Travel, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Where the Streets Have No Name

  1. don wilson says:

    Hope you are having a great time-be careful and safe Get home soon Tuk-Tuk Yo!!
    Don

  2. Hey Don! Things are great, spent 3 hours today standing in the back of a pick-up with 9 other people up winding, rutted roads to get to a ziplining hike. It was going pretty well until the brakes started to smell on the way back down the mountain…

    The post office here is a riot. There are hours posted, but it takes 4 or 5 tries before there is actually someone there.

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