From an aerial viewpoint, the country is breathtaking: mountainous, rugged valleys, intricate rivers that dart and weave. It's quite spectacular to see how small pockets of communities have set themselves up among all of this rugged terrain. Imagine peaks and valleys - now imagine shaving off some of those peaks so that you can build a community - now imagine a town nestled among existing peaks. That's exactly what it looked like from 10,000 ft. At 30,000 ft you could see one volcano after another. At approx. 5,000 ft you got a different perspective: rows and rows of box-like homes with corrugated metal roofs and pastel painted walls. It was something to see. You can tell these are poor living conditions, yet there exists a charm that is unmistakable. Maybe it's not charm; I haven't found the right word for it yet. You can simply tell there is more to what you're seeing. Sometimes, the eyes get in the way.
Once I landed I went through the usual immigration stops. I was happy to have a foreign stamp in my new passport! Just outside of luggage claim is a crowd of men shouting and waving their signs. Some are looking for specific people, but mostly you have to get through the taxi drivers to find the hotel shuttle - which I did after 5 minutes of a series of Spanish oh-la-la-las. In addition to being tall and blond, I wore black high heels (As it turns out, that seems to be the staple shoe for many Guatemalan women living in the city. The last time I saw that many black heels - and nice ones - was in NYC). The ride was only ten minutes to the hotel. En route, I saw a lot of Americanisms (from Chuckie Cheese (yes, really) to Pizza Hut to MacDonalds). I know that's to be expected, but there's something disappointing about that. Maybe what I should have done was gone inside one of those places to see how they modify a meal Guatemalan style. I know the cheese and ham in MacDonald's in France is significantly different than what you find here, and even Walmart in Canada sells products you would not find in Walmart USA.
When I arrived at the hotel, I was taken aback by the beauty: marble floors and walls, antique furnishings throughout the main lobby, floral arrangements in porcelain urns, bird-of-paradise the size of magic wands, etc... The hotel staff was very cordial and patient with non-Spanish speakers like me (I think I know about 10 words and two expressions). I found a few who spoke French so that was both a relief and treat for me. My room was one bottle of champagne short of a honeymoon suite, which is to say it was magnificent. The size of the hotel was massive - I got confused a couple of times trying to access the pool and discovering instead the casino or spa.