Living in Guatemala: Visa Renewal Trip

On Wednesday, November 4, I went to Mexico for about 3 hours. It was a silly, nearly all-day affair that is necessary every 90 days for those of us who are kind-of, sort-of living here.

Guatemala makes it difficult to get anything other than a tourist visa. It’s at least a couple of year affair to get temporary residency, and most people decide that it’s not worth it, especially considering that your 90 day tourist visa can be easily renewed at the border. For those of us living in Quetzaltenango, it’s especially easy because the Mexico trip can take less than one day if you do it right and are lucky. Here’s what I did:

The parents of one of my students (I’m tutoring high school math) were driving from Xela to Coatepeque and had offered to give me a ride. This was very nice for many reasons, but the main two are that it was much faster and much more comfortable than taking the Xelajú bus that makes the same trip. This took a little over an hour. We left at about 8:15 AM and by 9:30 I was in Coatepeque on the bus to Tecún Umán, the Guatemalan border town that I was headed for. This trip cost Q7.

At the border, I didn’t have any trouble. I bought a Q2 pineapple juice in a bag, then sauntered towards the migración booth. I waited in line for a minute drinking my juice, then the lady took my passport and stamped me out of Guatemala, charging me the semi-legitimate Q10 fee for entering or exiting the country.

I walked across the bridge to the Mexican side of the border, waving away offers from the bicycle taxis that wanted to give me a ride across. The woman at the Mexican migración was smoking outside but had a look at my passport before making me go inside and fill out a form. She wanted to know where I was going. I told her Tapachula, which was a possibility, but my real plan was to hang out in the border town (I don’t know its name) for a couple of hours before crossing back. She was a little skeptical but I think it all came clear when she asked how long I was going to stay and I said, “the shortest time possible.”

So I spent two and a half hot, incredibly sweaty hours in this town. I eventually stopped walking around and managed to be slightly less hot and sweaty. Sitting in the shade, drinking a banana smoothie (13 pesos) and reading my book was a nice diversion for 45 minutes, but eventually I made my way to a restaurant for lunch (35 pesos) and then headed back for the border (a block from the restaurant, and about three blocks from the central park where I was hanging out most of the time I was there).

Going back to Guatemala, the Mexican side was super easy. They just took the form and stamped my passport without a word. One blistering bridge walk later, the Guatemalan lady did basically the same thing. So I paid my Q10 and I was free to be in Guatemala for 90 days more. Incidentally, I’m pretty certain the Guatemalan border agent was the same person I had checked out with 2.5 hours earlier. She should have cared, as what I was doing is technically against the rules (you’re supposed to leave for 72 hours), but I’m glad she didn’t mind.

Bus to Coatepeque, Q7 more, and the Xelajú back to Xela was Q17, making the total cost of the trip: dirt cheap. I was back at 4:30 PM, too, so I consider that a success: I was sweaty and gross all day, but got it out of the way. Doing it a few times is fine, but I can see how people who are here for several years get really sick of this and pay the 500Q to the sketchy guy to take their passports to the border.

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A Funny Video!

I’m still here. It’s been a while since video post, so here you go:

Update: this nike skateboarding ad is also pretty awesome.

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Eugene, Oregon to Xela, Guatemala

Disclaimer: I know that lists of travel with costs and times can be pretty boring, but I like transportation, so I thank you for bearing with me.

I left Eugene the evening of August 4th and arrived in Xela the evening of August 6th.

Greyhound, Eugene to LA, 9:20 PM to 3 PM, $84. The ride was surprisingly fine. I watched a movie and actually slept quite a lot.

Two LA Metro Buses: half an hour, $2.50.

At this point I hung out at Ben’s house chatting, drinking beer, and eating delicious homemade pizza until about 11 PM. I had an early morning ahead of me so went to bed.

SuperShuttle: 3:45 AM to 4:30 AM, $27.

Mexicana: 6:45 AM to 12:30 PM, Los Angeles to Mexico City; 1:50 PM to 3:30 PM, Mexico to Guatemala. Roundtrip cost $215! Short layovers in Mexico City suck bigtime. Both of mine consisted of sweating a lot in the immigration line followed by sweating a lot as I ran through the airport trying to find the stupid gate. I also made it both times, but I’m not sure my seat-mates appreciated the smell.

Taxi, airport to bus station: 20 minutes, Q70 approx. $9.
Alamo pullman bus, Guatemala City to Xela: 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM, Q60 approx. $7.50.

So I made it. Woo!

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I’m in the USA!

Currently, I’m in LA, but I’m heading up to Oregon tonight. I’m going back to Guatemala on the 6th of August. Get in touch if you want to hang out!

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Winter Mix

I’m stuck in the Denver Airport. It’s cold and wintery outside here so it seems appropriate to post a link to dmoefunk’s winter jam collection.

Enjoy! (I know I am.)

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Back on the Wagon

Okay, since I’m apparently terrible at writing about my trip to Europe, I’m just going to start writing about random stuff again. I’m currently in Washington, DC. I’ve been here since January 13th. It’s been a fun time of seeing friends and enjoying some inaugural festivities.

Also, I’ve discovered the neighborhood of Mt. Pleasant. It’s awesome! If I move back to DC I’ll for sure try to live here.

I still plan to write about my European adventures at some point, but in the meantime you can look at this nifty map of my travels in 2008. As you can see I did a pretty good job of following my plan.

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What To Carry

Cecily suggested that I start reading her friend’s blog, Capitulate Now, so I did. And now I’ve moved away and will never meet her. Right.

Something she wrote this (last?) week inspired me to write about the packing process. I’ve been working around this stupid issue as I plan what I’m going to take with me:

Anyway, there have been many, many sightings of overly practical footwear, I’ll tell you that much. Overly practical outfits in general. Is it just me, or is it kind of rude to visit a city — a city where there are plenty of modern, educated, worldly human beings who get up and go to work and school and just live their lives every day — and dress as though you’re on some kind of slob safari? And is this rudeness not magnified when you’re white and wealthy and when the country you’re visiting doesn’t have quite so robust a GDP and is also filled with brown-skinned people? I don’t think I’m being overly sensitive. Shit sends a message. Here, walking down the street, we have a Oaxacan native, sipping a coffee, dressed for the office, maybe talking on a cell phone. Nice haircut, good sunglasses. And right behind him we have Tad from Australia, lugging all his worldly possessions on his back and wearing the most horrifying clothes imaginable. Unwashed hair. T-shirt from Thailand. Elastic waistband pajama pants. Flip fucking flops. Seemingly living in fear of the slightest sartorial discomfort, or the possibility that he’ll get stuck in the middle of town and suddenly realize he doesn’t have his camp stove, or whatever it is he’s carrying in his stupid backpack. Which is invariably covered in flag patches. And don’t get me started on what the girls wear, oh god oh jesus I just hate everybody! Put on some real shoes! Put together an outfit! Show some respect! You’re not blazing a trail through the rain forest!

Capitulate Now

So the author has some anger to deal with, but the issue is real for sure. My problem is that the most practical (lightest, most breathable, etc.) clothing available all looks really stupid and outdoorsy, which is unacceptable. I’m trying to find clothes that are both practical and look normal, but it’s somewhat challenging. Suggestions? Please let me know.

As I pack, I’m using and this picture from very small array for advice and inspiration.

what the artist brought with her as she arrived home

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Coast Starlight

8/18/2008 – 8/19/2008

Amtrak: Coast Starlight

This trip from Sacramento, CA to Eugene, OR was fairly uneventful. The train left an hour late, and after stopping to make sure a forest fire in southern Oregon wasn’t too dangerous to pass, arrived in Eugene two hours late. I didn’t sleep much, but had a good breakfast.

Reading: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood – going slower than I would have hoped

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Sacramento, California

8/17/2008 – 8/18/2008

I took a quick two day trip to Sacramento. I stayed with my dad, at his very nice house in Citrus Heights. It was a pretty relaxed Sunday and Monday with lots of eating, running, and playing in the pool. Especially nice was an 8 mile fast run along the American River on Monday with Dad on his rollerblades–beautiful scenery and nice weather.

I also got a chance to have lunch with my old college friend Alec Monday afternoon. I hadn’t seen him in several years and it was great to catch up.

Late Monday night my dad and Kimberley gave me a ride to the Amtrak station and sent me on my way.

Departure: Amtrak Coast Starlight, Sacramento to Eugene, Oregon, $80.00

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Bay Area, California

8/15/2008 – 8/17/2008

All afternoon on the train we had been running a few hours late, but we were slowly catching up to the original schedule. I called Andy at about 7:30 PM and told him that I was almost there. He was apparently not available, expecting me to arrive around 8:30 as I’d been predicting earlier, so he sent his brother Tommy down to the train station to pick me up. Great! After saying goodbye to a few of the people I’d met on the train, and shouldered my packs and headed out.

Berkeley is nice! The neighborhood where Andy and Tommy live has a very nice feel, and I guess they both ride their bikes to get around a fair amount.

Nerd moment: I haven’t played video games very much in years, but somehow Andy and I managed to play through the whole game of Halo 3 during my visit. Fun times. We also had some Brazilian food, played disc golf, and went out in San Francisco.

Andy throwing

All in all, it was a great experience, but it was much too short. On the upside, Andy decided to join us for the cruise in November, so I’ll be spending some quality time with him later on in the year.

Departure: My dad picked me up Sunday morning at Andy’s house.

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