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Locked down but not out in Italy

Singing from the balconies! One nice thing about this crisis ... solidarity! “Guess you’re not living like a tourist anymore,” was the funny, truthful and somewhat gut-wrenching message of a friend the day the lockdown in Italy began. Today is day 6. My beloved Italia has been hit hard with the COVID19 epidemic. With the second largest elderly population in the world, the epidemic has meant a disproportionate amount of deaths in the country. So though I haven’t been worried about contracting it myself, this isn’t about me or someone like me who, if contracted it would probably have a sucky couple of weeks and then recover. It is about if someone like me contracted it and then spread it to a person with a complicated health history or an elderly person with a weakened immune system. Eerily orderly: Lines for the grocery store, each person one meter apart In a country with no concept (and no physical room really) for personal space, and in a city with reproachable hygie

A week of Antigua

The famous arch, a must for photos of Antigua
We have been here in Antigua Guatemala for a little over a week and what a full week it has been. I have joined a semi-outdoor gym, run to the next pueblo over, eaten my weight in aguacates (avocados), learned how to make Mayan chocolate, bought papaya and bananitos at the market, and purified raw fruits and vegetables with a solution that is likely more harmful to my health than any bacteria hidden on the fruits itself.

Making chocolate powder. Everyone agreed, I am terrible at it.
We have taken a chicken bus to a small town (San Juan del Obispo) and a zippy, bumpy, rickety tuk-tuk back to our slightly far, but charmingly convenient apartment. We have learned some new moves, and improved some old ones, in one group and one private salsa class. And most importantly, 40 hours later, I have learned the present, past and imperfect tense of Spanish and the meaning of words like madrugada (early morning), hiciste (you did) and albondegas (meatballs), random words that have floated around in my head for years, most likely thanks to a J. Lo or Ricky Martin song... I am sorry to admit.

The weather here is perfect: 75/24 degrees, every day, cloudy or sunny, and it has yet to rain. You can wear open-toed shoes with a button-down sweater and be entirely comfortable. They call Guatemala the “land of the eternal spring”. To me, this is what the temperature in heaven must be like.

El Sol
The people we have met here are some of the most polite and nicest I have met anywhere. Canada has competition. And thankfully, the Spanish spoken here is very clear and easy to understand (perhaps a useful outcome of mass tourism?).

We have bought an exprimador (squeezer) for lemons and a separate one for garlic. Our fridge is filled with local favorites: limas (limes), cebollas (onions), ajo (garlic), queso fresco (fresh cheese), the local favorite beer Gallo, and fruits whose English names mean nothing to me: loquats (in Spanish nispero), a type of fruit like a sourer apricot and sapodilla (zapota in Spanish) a fruit that strangely enough tastes like pumpkin pie.

These market fruits I know. Most I do not.
Thanks to my husband’s multiple visits and chatty personality, we regularly run into people we know in the streets.

We are locals to the extent that light-skinned, debutante Spanish speakers can be. But for the price we are paying for our apartment, or for pretty much anything we buy at the markets and restaurants, we are definitely not locals. Nor are we expats. As is our MO, we are tourists, but ones who like to live in the countries we visit.

Ah, tourists.
As people living here, I still need some time to understand Antigua; its outer layers are filled with scenic photos, organized tours and tourism talk. I want to pull away some of the glossiness and see the place for itself. Hopefully, my next post will convey my findings.

As a plain tourist though, it is easy to see why Antigua’s popularity is growing. La Antigua Guatemala is certainly charming.