Friday, December 5, 2008

do not pass go, pay $200 Quetzales

The local bus station was just down the block from our hostel-- so early in the morn we went to the curb and waved down the ones that said Guatemala City. The bus callers were yelling "Guate!". We were satisfied to have fit into one seat together, with our backpacks. Then noticed a family of 5 sitting in front of us. Arrived early at the Tica bus terminal and prepared to buy our international bus tickets. But alas, there was more work to be done. After thumbing through our passports, the bus ticket seller informed us that we had no Guatemala stamp and would need one to leave the country. Not ideal. Little did we know we were illegal immigrants for the past two weeks. The border from Belize must have forgotten/purposefully not stamped our passports upon entry to the country, something that we learned later happens a lot. The only place to get one now would be "Migration" in downtown Guate.

All along, we'd been trying to avoid downtown Guate. An urban city of that size wasn't what we were looking for on this trip and with the highest murder rate in Central America... But it was the only way to get to El Salvador, so we headed further into Guate by local bus. A man on the bus said he knew where our stop was. But when the time came, he got up, and motioned for us to follow him. Another man on the bus motioned for us to follow him too. But wasn't he getting off at a later stop? I was a little confused but we got off with him and he said it would be a few blocks before we reached Migration. He didn't talk further, but lit a cigarette and led us down the street. Not ideal. It was a gamble of trust and we went with it. The walk was long and by the end, the stores were broken down and we began to wonder if this had all been a very bad idea. And then there it was! We thanked him profusely. The man had left the bus early and led total strangers to where they needed to go. We would have been hard pressed to find it otherwise.

Migration was a lesson in bureaucracy and everything you would expect. forms in triplicate. multiple lines for forms, forms needed to wait in other lines for forms, fines and fees (200 Quetzales) and finally.. our stamps! We were free to travel and hoofed it back to the bus station.

The bus was an hour and a half late, coming from Mexico. So our second border crossing of the trip, and again in the dark. Not ideal. We wizzed along the Guatemalan countryside, seeing funerals in progress, corn fields and small villages, all while watching an Adam Sandler movie.


Jeremy Joseph said...

Why would you spoil such unspoiled (except by murder and robbery) scenery with a Adam Sandler movie!?
Oh Lucas.

Jeremy Joseph said...

Shit, it's AN Adam Sandler movie.

Jeremy Joseph said...

Which is probably exactly the comment I'd utter upon realising it is the only movie on a boring flight somewhere.

Sandy B. said...

Not ideal!

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