April Showers Got Nothing on May
The month of April, as it does here, showed a significant and predictable change in the weather. The lucid blue and virtually spotless skies of dry season slowly began to cloud over, even giving us a couple of afternoons of rain. My walk home from work has begun to feel a bit like a crapshoot, the early evening threatening to drench me on my cross-town commute at the end of every shift. Ladies and gentlemen, rainy season is again rearing its ugly little headwinds.
For those of you unfamiliar with Antigua Guatemala’s particular weather phenomenon, it is thusly: November through April is Southern California without the smog, and June through October is knee-high rubber boots and water-logged hearts. The rain cometh and cometh with fiber-enriched regularity. In our first year in Guatemala, my cane-style black umbrella was such a fixture at my side that our staff manager, Hergil, nicknamed me Mr. Peanut (as seen with a monocle, top hat, and black cane on Planter’s brand products).
Anyway, it seems our days of arid summer fun are reaching an end, and so in preparation for the stormy days ahead, I thought I might recount some of the highlighted atrocities of my life under Guatemalan rainclouds. I will not succumb to fear. I will not succumb to fear. I will not succumb to fear, I say!
Tropical Storm Agatha: Earth Lodge 2010
We’d been back less than a month when Guatemala seemed to be naturally imploding: Volcan Pacaya had just spewed about three-foot of ash onto Guatemala City, a massive sinkhole suddenly swallowed an intersection, and Tropical Storm Agatha was bearing down. The rains had come unrelentingly, knocked out our power, washed out sections of the road and caused mud and rock to block others. Guest arrivals and departures had become questionable at best.
We had a yoga retreat at the Lodge that weekend. They’d rented most of the place, and the sessions were to be held outdoors. They were not. The storm simply pelted us inside. The main communal space, under major construction at the time, had rough concrete floors and garbage bag windows. The yogis, to their credit, sucked it up (often with a shot of whisky) and did classes on the concrete, a small circle of candles providing the only light on those sunless days.
We went nearly a week without electricity, cooking for a full-house via candlelight and torch. Finally after a few days, I had a mental breakdown and could no longer sit inside. In torrential rains, I talked a guest into playing muddy cornhole with me, which sounds a lot dirtier than it is. The storm resulted in terrible mudslides throughout Guatemala, some of which buried the nearby town of Cuidad Vieja in a bad way. El Hato was not without slides of its own.
Kayaking to Livingston: Rio Dulce 2012
A few weeks back, Emma and I traveled to Rio Dulce near the Caribbean coast of Guatemala for a visa run and some R&R. The day after we arrived, the sun was like a heat lamp, almost unbearable, the sky unblemished. We stayed around our wicked jungle hotel, Finca Tatin, swimming and lounging the day away, both of us sunburnt pink by that first evening. It was more or less the last sun we’d see for the remaining three days we had there.
Trying to overcome the deluge, we took a kayak out for a trip to Livingston (on the coast), the nearest city and about two-hours’ worth of paddling. We figured that a little drizzling wouldn’t dampen the spirits of water-sporters. About midway down the Rio Dulce, the drizzle turned into an all out water hose in the face. We could barely see beyond the tip of the kayak. There was around an hour to civilization in either direction.
Following the lead of some local fisherfolk, we pulled our kayak under an outcrop of rocks along the walls of the canyon. There we sat waiting the storm out, stuck soggy-bottomed in the kayak. It lasted long enough for us to discuss when we’d just go. Having followed the locals under the shelter, we decided to follow them back out. After it slowed down to a drizzle, they set off as did we. Could’ve been worse: we’d only waited there a little less than an hour.
Mr. Peanut & Shell: El Gaute 2008
That first year in Guatemala, when Emma and I were working in the city, one of the first classes I got was an off-campus account with the Shell (Oil) Corporation. The office was about a thirty minute walk from our school, and every afternoon I’d head there to teach my class, little black cane-umbrella in hand. Generally, the weather would be fine on the walk to it.
When I left Shell, the rain had always just reached its peak. Without a car, without a good command of the buses, I was stuck walking back to work. Umbrella or not, those walks nearly made me pack on out of here. I’d get back to work late afternoon, two more classes to teach, with my pants soaked from thigh to foot, my shirt disheveled from rogue wind gust that would turn my umbrella inside out.
Mom’s Day in Antigua 2008
My mother, against better knowledge of Guatemala City, came to visit us in 2008. Visiting the city can be a little limiting as walking around after dark, riding the bus, or wandering into one of the omnipresent unsavory areas basically keeps you indoors 90% of the time. We’d done our best to entertain my mom, taking her to Zone 1, where the historic buildings and tat market is. But, by and large, we were banking on our trip to Antigua as the clincher, the jaw-dropping finale.
We took the chicken bus and basically arrived in time to escape a downpour by ducking into Red’s Bar, a little hole in the wall sports joint. After a couple of hours, my mom’s day in Antigua got reduced to being rained in and increasingly intoxicated, not always a bad thing but not exactly a cultural eye-opener. We’d gone to Red’s to wait out the rain. It never really stopped.
Rain on a Wet Tin Roof: Earth Lodge, Todo El Tiempo
On shit days at the Lodge, usually the thing I most wanted to do was bury myself under communal blankets in the movie room and watch as many of the 1000-plus DVDs as possible. Generally, the anemic WiFi just completely coughed out, books were less appealing without a hammock to swing in, and it was an excuse to not have to earn my keep via construction work. I just could sit on my ever-plumping ass and watch crap.
One problem: When it rains, it typically rains hard. The lodge’s roof is made of tin, and not the plush, heavily insulated and silenced kind my father put on our farmhouse in Baton Rouge. At EL, it’s loud. Though we had a subwoofer-surround sound system hooked up to the 1990s hand-me-down TV, the cacophony of rain on the tin roof could drown out a clown riding Harley wielding a machine gun. I just wanted to some Sons of Anarchy.
I’d usually battle with it for an hour or so until I finally gave up and grabbed a beer. And, least be honest, starting on the booze at 10 AM is probably not the best remedy for warding off a gloomy day.
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This year I will not succumb. This year I see myself as a pedestrian Lt. Dan shouting out to the heavens to bring it on. Rainy season, you suck.
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