The Real Antigua
|The sign is actually pretty hilarious.|
|I love the outdoor feel of Antigua's gym. |
It is only empty like this is in the morning before the rush.
This gym scene is in stark contrast to the Italian one I lived where I could only conclude that the majority of Roman gym-goers wanted to work out only secondarily to wanting to socialize: either to each other, the trainers or on their cell phones. If they did end up doing exercise, it was only to the extent that it didn’t mess with their outfit, makeup or look in general. Sweating is bad. Exertion is unnecessary. And contrary to here where the gym is essentially outdoors allowing a nice breeze through the slits of the tent-like roof, in Rome, windows are usually closed because drafts are dangerous. Fans are non-existent and air conditioning can outright kill you.
|I completely admire our Salsa teachers |
for their love towards these stray pooches.
Just like in Italy, food is a huge part of life. Shopping for it, cooking it, eating it as a family, sharing it, cleaning up after it: food makes up at least 50% of our conversations at school. Echoes of Italy ring in my ear with each discussion, though I replace the words Amatriciana or Carbonara with Tamalitos or Pepian.
Grocery shopping is a real part of living in anywhere. In Antigua, there are only two grocery stores and unfortunately, they are overwhelming filled with junk food. Like in most places, junk food here is much cheaper than good food. Cereal, juice, jam, peanut butter, oil, bread, crackers, cheese: you need to scan the labels carefully to understand what its contents really are. Anything that is not filled with chemicals and sugar is usually about 3x the price of its faux alternative. This is clearly the influence of the US, but it is particularly upsetting because you know that the salaries of the vast majority of people make it so that the good alternative is not really an alternative. Paying 6 USD for juice just because it has no added sugar is usually the luxury of a foreigner.
Some other observations: Everyone has a cell phone, usually a smart one. Selfies are popular. PDA is not a bad word or concept here. Beer is equally popular with women as with men. Politeness is a big part of the culture and is included in the way people to speak to each other, locals and foreigners alike. Con permisso and para servirle are some of the most common phrases. Pinatas are actually very popular and accompany many celebrations. Kids are one of the most important things you can have in life, but they are also a big source of economic difficulty for people who struggle to get by with the income they have.With its first female mayor just in office this month, Antiguans are excited for change.
But if you don’t want to, you don’t have to see this Antigua. If you want to come to Camp Guatemala where the beer is cheap and your Spanish is an adornment not a necessity, you can have that experience too. You can eat sushi, go to yoga, eat bagels for breakfast and hamburgers for dinner and never be the wiser. There are enough foreign restaurants, bars, hostels, tourists and tour groups to shelter you from the full reality of this little city.
Antigua has a bit of everything, so you can do as you want here, but me, I already know how I would choose.