Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanks You! (or how the security guard made my day)

So I live in a gate- community. Sounds fancy, but it's not really. It's just plain necessary in order to be semi-safe in this entirely unsafe country. So we have a gate that is guarded by our nice security guys with big bad guns (seriously, these guns are huge). The security guards know me now ... at first I got weird looks since I am most definitely the ONLY gringa in our pueblo. But now they know I'm here to stay.

When I have to take a taxi home from work sans the man, sometimes some of the newer security guards stop my taxi to ask questions. This recently happened with one new security guard and one of my favorite security guards who definitely knows who I am. The newbie stopped the taxi and looked at me and asked: "What's your last name?" "J___" I responded, glancing over at my security buddy. He was grinning like he wanted to laugh. I paused before saying quickly, "But I live with the B____ family." My security buddy's grin got bigger - he was obviously enjoying the entertainment - since he could've easily told the newbie hey, she's cool. Let her pass. The newbie nodded when he hear the man's last name. As the taxi driver was pulling into the community, I heard my security buddy call after, "THANKS YOU!"

BEST THING EVER. I've never heard him speak English before which makes this extra adorable. He was already my favorite security guard and now he has no chance of losing that position. :o)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Round One: Transportation

**Since I've been working like a machine lately, I haven't had a lot of time to write posts. So I've decided to write some short posts about the differences between Guatemala City and Santiago. This is Round One of the Smackdown.**

ahh, public transportation... One of my favorite topics EVER. (that was actually NOT sarcasm, by the way). So let's see how Guate and Stgo measure up...

As you read in previous posts, Guatemala's public transportation system has some serious problems. There is no subway (big bummer) and the buses are interesting to say the least. The alternative to the buses are taxis. Taxis aren't exactly safe either though. Taxi drivers will rob you - whether it's just scamming you into paying more or by threat and force. Walking isn't much of an option either. Ask any Guatemalan and they will tell you that nowhere is safe. So what's your option? Stay at home, locked into your little safe haven and pretend the scary Guatemala doesn't exist? Yeah, you get hungry eventually.

And then there is Santiago with Transantiago. Subway - check. Although overcrowded at times and with it's fair share of pick pockets, the metro system is clean and consistent. The metro stops are even pretty, with artwork and such. Now, I have to admit that I didn't really take the bus all that often in Stgo. But the few times that I did, everything went smoothly (expecially in hindsight now that I've experienced lovely Guate buses). Taxis in Santiago will try to swindle you, especially if you're a foreigner - but I always felt like I could handle those situations. Oh and you can walk (imagine that!). I walked home alone numerous times late at night (gasp!) and all was well.

Ding! Ding! And the winner of the first round is..... SANTIAGO (duh).

Yeah, that's right, Stgo, I gave you an easy one for the first round... don't expect every win to be that easy....

Stay tuned for Round Two.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Gring@ tax

All Latin American countries seem to have this wonderful thing called "the gring@ tax."* This is when you are charged above normal prices for things only because you are a gring@. Guatemala is no exception.

Generally I'm always accompanied by the man (yes, I miss my independence, but have an escort everywhere is a good thing here where armed robbery is frequent), but lately I have had to take a taxi home alone since the man gets out an hour later from work. We had been lucky in finding a cool cat taxi driver to drive me home. He is nice and friendly to me without being inappropriate. And most importantly, he charges me a reasonable price for the ride. Unfortunately his taxi had to go into the shop at the end of the week and he was unable to drive me home. The man called another taxi driver who he promised was good also (he had caught a ride with him before and the charge was fair**).

Here's where the gring@ tax comes in. The charge was fair for HIM, the Chapin, the Guatemalteco ... This does not mean I - the redheaded gringa - will have the same luck. When the taxi driver got to my house I handed him a 100Q bill. The driver's response was " oh I'm sooo sorry. Pardon me! But I don't have ANY change! I left it all at home!" This was accompanied by a large grin. Obviously the man had made sure I would be charged a low fare, but since my Chapin escort was not with me the rules had changed. Of course the taxi driver assumed he could rip me off with his sad story of having no change at all. PUH-LEASE. He had change, the little liar. My response to his little show, "OK wait" - Kelly digs through her purse and comes up with exactly 35Q - "Here ya go!" The taxi driver's face just fell as he said, "Oh thanks. I'm sorry for the bother."

HA, sucker! Thought I would give you 65Q more than I was supposed to?!!? Guess again, dummy!

Needless to say, I will never call this driver again. And I informed the man that he is a very bad judge of character.

*gring@ is being used as gender neutral. So it means gringo or gringa. got it?

**In case you're wondering... No, there are no meters in the taxis here. It's purely based on what the driver wants to charge you. So when taking a taxi in Guate, ask for the fare BEFORE you get into the car!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

no more peliroja????

Sooo I might have to change the title of this blogs because there is a good chance that I won't be la peliroja (the redhead) for that much longer. Say what??!? Yes, that's right... I'm considering dying my hair. OK make that more than considering... I actually purchased hair dye today (it was onsale...I couldnt say no).

I've always said that I would never dye my hair... I love my red hair and the uniqueness of it. But it makes me stick out WAY too much in this country. I also stuck out a lot in Chile, but I never felt like this fact put me in any danger. In Guatemala, I feel like I need to play down my gringa-ness as much as possible so that I wont make myself more of a target for robbery. And since robberies here tend to involve firearms.... yeaaaahhh.

I feel like I should have the experience of dying my hair once in my life at least. And now I have a legit excuse for changing my lovely red locks for something a little bit more common - BROWN.

The man is excited about it (much more than I am... I'm a little more freaked out). Of course, he wanted me to dye my hair BLACK... I said no. I dont want to look emo, gothic, or like a walking corpse. So I bought a color called "Rubio Cenizo Oscuro." I have no idea what this means or how it will turn out! I'll probably give it a shot next weekend... so you all have a week to talk me out of this!!!!