I remember touching down in Guatemala. My wife and I hustled through customs and walked out of the airport. That’s when we were bombarded with people – people trying to sell bulk produced bracelets, food I couldn’t eat without shitting myself for a week, and shoe shines for my damned tennis shoes. I mean people were literally begging to give you a ride or just help out a little for a modest tip. I didn’t know who to trust, so I just waited for my ride, and tried to ignore the pestering of the city folk.
FINALLY my “shuttle” pulled up. By shuttle I mean a 1995 Honda Accord. Sure I thought it was a little sketchy, but the guy knew my name and had a very official “I’m a taxi” sticker on his car so I decided to hop in like a good little tourist. Anything to get me away from the guy with a scraggly beard who smelled like piss.
My wife and I hopped in the car and it wasn’t long before I realized we weren’t getting on the interstate. We were pulling into a neighborhood. A neighborhood in Guatemala City. A neighborhood with razor wire and busted glass bottles lining the top of cement barriers.
The driver, who looked like he had possibly murdered someone at some point, didn’t say anything. He just stopped the car and honked the horn. All the bad things and all of the warnings I had read and been told began to shout at me in my head. This was it – we were going to be robbed. My heart started to pound and I began shoving my I.D. and credit cards in my shoe. I thought I was going to have to leave my wife behind and make a break for it. If I was nervous I could only imagine the terror my wife must have been feeling.
Then it happened. The moment that changed everything. My stomach dropped and a guy opened the passenger door. “Sorry Guys! I’m Late” A lanky and clumsy guy from Azerbaijan hopped in the car. He was running late and was sharing the shuttle to Antigua.
We later found out that he even knew a mutual friend of ours. What a small world. Then on the radio, a sports program, Guatemala scored a goal. The driver screamed “GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!”
For the first time I saw him smile and I knew Guatemala was going to be alright.