I had the great fortune of being in Central America for the third year in a row during holy week. The first year it took me by surprise. Back in 2013, I had been traveling with my girlfriend in western Honduras and had planned to do a big loop during the national weeklong holiday. I had heard stories of inconsistent public transportation, clogged highways and general abusive drunkenness during the weeklong celebration and I was anxious to get out of town. As far as I knew, everyone, and I mean everyone, packed up and went to the beach. So my woman and I rented a car and planned some city hopping. She had some family out west, so west we went. We had rented a hotel room in Gracias and the next morning packed the car for an early escape. The hotel’s gate doors opened and we found quite a bit of this, everywhere.
“Oh yeah, the carpets. I was wondering if they did those yet,” my lovely lady lazily remarked. “I guess we aren’t going anywhere.” “No, not until after the parade.” “They weren’t here last night” “Yeah, they work on them overnight.”
I was intrigued, so my second year living in Honduras I looked for an opportunity to work on an alfombra. As luck would have it, the owner of the school I was teaching at did one yearly near his house with his family and extended an invite. It was a quite a treat. At 10pm, hordes of people swarm the streets, dragging large sacks filled with dyed sawdust, fruits, vegetables, and who knows what else. It’s more or less a friendly competition between local ministries, churches, schools and religious organizations to produce the most badass alfombra by daybreak. Not only is it a local competition, but it also gives bragging rights to the people of the city to thumb their noses at other nearby cities that produced lesser quality carpets. I suppose we do the same thing with our fireworks on the fourth here in the USA. Bigger, better, badder. It’s all about winning.
This year I got my first taste of Guatemalan alfombras. As you can see from the photos above, the competition is fierce no matter where you are in the Americas.
Cue music. (time passes)
The holiday had ended and I fell into the routine of the double life I was living. I was a student, taking 5 hours of one-on-one Spanish class every day, Monday through Friday, but a the same time I was completely free to explore, adventure and slide into whatever delinquency I cared to find. Unfortunately, I had no time for delinquency. Before I stopped to think what was good for me, I picked up some English teaching hours at my Spanish school as a trade for the Spanish hours was paying for. I wasn’t hard up for cash, but had the urge to teach. (shrugs) Before long I was putting in long days.
Mornings by foot. Moto by night. My morning commute to school was roughly 15 minutes a pie. I enjoy my morning walks, I really do. At 7:30am, the hustle and bustle of the second largest city in Guatemala has been set to a low simmer, which gives you the chance to see a naked version of a place that is normally thickly coated in cars and trucks and people spilling fumes and noise and garbage that pollute the senses. The city is still sleeping, which, in my opinion, is the best time for gazing.
For a short while my routine kept me confined to a semi-strict work week schedule: wake, eat, Spanish, home for lunch, relax for an hour and then ride back to school to give English lessons for a few hours. Then, ride home for dinner, study Spanish for another hour or so and then call it a night. Sound interesting? No? You’re picking up what I’m putting down. I needed a change. I felt I needed a change. Change it did. I made some new friends… … …….. ..and quit teaching.