HOWDY Y’ALL, so if you didn't know Leslie Henry and I, Josh Sermos are getting married this November! The good news is that your all invited too! Please come and visit. I am really looking forward to seeing all my friends, family (new and old) and relatives all in the same place, it’s been a long time coming.
If you are reading this site then it was probably designed for you. Below you will find a treasure trove of both practical and sensible information for the friend or family member traveling to this strange jungle in the Middle of the Americas that I now call home.
THE GOODS: Noon, Saturday, November 24th, 2007, Hotel Porta, Antigua Guatemala, Central America. This is a big, English speaking comfy hotel and I recommend that you stay there: http://www.portahotels.com/hotelantigua-in.htm or call Toll Free: 1-888-790-5264. Welcome to the Land of Eternal Spring, Antigua Guatemala; specifically chosen to be "gringo safe." If this doesn’t meet your budget requirements I will be posting other hotels soon too or just email me with your budget.
Here, you can be free-range gringos. Yes! You can walk, wander around this UNESCO World Heritage Site, a living Mayan Pueblo in the Sky in peace . Generally, in Antigua, no one will robb, harass or run you over with their car. But, because Guatemala is not the U.S. and there do exist certain cultural differences, I have provided the following list of things I learned the hard way and am passing on to you.
RELAX. Treat this like a vacation and don’t worry about anything, I’ve got you covered. Whether it be flood, earthquake, fire or your lousy table service; “Where the heck is that bastard with my check?,” you can bet Guatemalans are in no rush and are generally adverse to any sudden movement, so don’t try to rush anything here, it’s not going to work and the sooner you go with the flow the better off you’ll be. Guatemala is nice safe, clean and friendly, no matter what I’ve told you previously. Leslie and I hope you enjoy your stay here and our wedding so much that you come back to visit.
WATER. At any place in this city that you sit down, the water, ice, fruits and vegetables have been prepared with you in mind-don’t freak out. Conversely, don’t eat anything off the street please, no matter how good it looks. Also, you can brush your teeth with the tap water but don’t drink it. If you want water on the street or anywhere for that matter ask for “Botella de agua pura.” (pronounced: "bowte'ya de agg-waa poor'ah...") If you ask for an "agua" they will bring you a Coke?
FOOD: They have a lot of good food so, go out and eat it. In Guatemala, our steak isn’t genetically modified like yours and tastes incredible (probably because the cows also like to live life in the slow lane), so if you’re a meat eater you are in luck. Also, the Spanish hams and sausages are world famous. For you Democratic sympathizers or vegetarians you can eat Fondue and sit in the chair where Bill Clinton ate during his last visit. Also, the coffee here is great and even the eggs taste fresher, so don’t pass up breakfast and please try the beans, you may be surprised.
WASH. Always wash your hands before eating, no matter what the bathroom looks like or you will get "the poops”, I promise. If that or any other medical condition pops up let me know. Half of Leslie’s family are doctors ("real" physicians, not witch doctors) and there should always be one on call at the Hotel. Medical treatment here is cheap, they come to you and they always have a pill or something for what ails the traveler, so let us know. Also, for those Elderly who forget something or want to score some cheap generic meds’ give me a holler.
FASHION. I know you want to look nice for the big day, but you don’t need to just for me! Please leave any expensive jewelry that you like at home. Furthermore, don’t bring anything you don’t want to leave here. We all remember Barbs pearls in Puerto Rico! Also, for the kids, no "bling bling", for the rest of you, no gold watches, hanging chains or big earrings please. I want everybody to relax and have a good time and they say, the light traveler is the happy traveler.
The weather can vary daily and might be hot during the day and cold at night. Generally, the weather will be sunny and cool, like fall in the U.S. so, if you were thinking flip-flops and shorts you will be cold, we are at 4500 feet, dress accordingly.
Antigua, like the name suggests is old. The whole place is cobblestone so bring walking shoes, ladies leave your stilettos at home, as stuff with heels will not get you around. Coincidently, you can have a Tuc-tuc (three wheeled motorcycle cab) drive you around wherever you want for almost nothing so, for the princess or those who want to be one for a week, feel free to indulge yourself and ignore my advice. Find out more at: www.AroundAntigua.com
WATCH OUT. In the United States, we are accustomed to having the right-of-way as a pedestrian. That is not the case in the rest of the world and here especially. They will run you over so watch out for cars please. Don't be fooled by their low speeds.
MONEY. Here, you can use Visa or debit cards for almost everything so, please don’t bring a bunch of cash. The local Currency is 7.66 Q’s or quetzals to our dollar. If you want cash for the local market or some “folding money” as my father calls it, go to any ATM and pull out 300Q, about 50 bucks up to 2,000 daily. For your safety they prohibit more than that in once day. You will have a hard time spending more cash than that where you can’t use a credit card.
DAYTRIPS. You may get bored of eating, shopping, relaxing and looking at picturesque volcanic sunsets. If you want to get out of Dodge let me know and I will give you advice. My favorite places are Tikal (a plane ride to the Jungle) http://www.antiguaguatemala.com/tikal.htm, Cobán (Pine Rainforest) http://www.antiguaguatemala.com/atitlan.htm, Pana http://www.panajachel.info/ or http://www.antiguaguatemala.com/atitlan.htm (a beautiful lake) the Beach and Xela (another small town like Antigua, good food and scenery). There are canopy tours, biking, hicking, river rafting, kayaking, coffee tours and a “chocolate tour” if so requested. Post your requests in the comment section at the bottom.
Note: Zack, and the elderly with glaucoma, San Pedro near Panajachel, is known as the Amsterdam of Guatemala.
GIFTS. I know all of you want to “show your love” for Leslie and I tying the knot but, I also know you are traveling so, I won’t stop you from bringing a blender but for those of us not still working in the furniture moving business don’t sweat it! Just being here will be gift enough for us. For those who still insist on giving us an undeserved present, Leslie and I would ask that you donate to a charity in our name or give us a check or help us out on our Honeymoon Fund. Since we don’t have any money as of yet we will probably be going somewhere local, but we would love assistance saving for a pervice project in Kenya. For our Honeymoon, Les and I would like to go and work in a humanitarian capacity in Kenya for a week or two, saving babies and such. If you want to help us make that happen send me an email and I’ll send you the details.
Personally, I love being down here and I know you will too. Don’t let anything I said above discourage you in any way please! Show up! Relax and eat great food in one of the most beautiful places on earth and share our special day.
More to come...