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5 Endeavors of Tourism Still to Do in Antigua

& a Call to All for Some Localized Adventuring Wherever You May Be

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Isn’t it odd how we become so complacent in the places we are, be them a hometown defined by our knowledge of shortcuts and old haunts or (oh, I don’t know, let me see…) the enchanting streets of Antigua Guatemala. A craving for something new, some slice of adventure, becomes consuming. I think old people call it stir-crazy, or mountain people call it cabin fever, or island people call it trapped on an island. Nowhere, no matter the tropical paradise outsiders may see, is immune to such abandonment. Where there are people, there are people who want to go.

That’s right. It’s been quite a while since this place has completely blown my skirt around my ears. It’s great and all, real sexy for a 16th century town, still curvy in all the right spots with curiously arousing wrinkles, but Emma and I have been around this joint long enough. We have routines: the shopping day, particular routes for walking to work, a place for restless Sunday afternoons when we don’t want to be stuck in the house. In simple terms, it’s become home. As the last eight years certainly suggests, sometimes, we aren’t good with homes.

Therein comes the topic of today’s musing: What to do when the complacency, an overly familiar feeling for a place, overtakes you…me…us, when you’ve done all your favorite things again already. One thing I try to do is remember all the things I haven’t done. I find new things I want to do. I like to make list, so I make lists of this stuff, something I can check off with a sense of satisfaction. Rarely, even after a lifetime, has every nook, corner, and cranny been explored.

So, here as Emma and I are rounding the corner into our halfway mark, five months in and five to go, I’m looking at a few of those items still remaining on my list for Antigua. I’m reminding myself of how much remains unaccomplished, what waits around the bend. In an effort to help the world, or at least the world around me, that’s you my dear readers, I’m inviting everyone to make their own lists. To share them with our little blog community, with others in Baton Rouge, England, Antigua, and beyond. I won’t end this year without doing these things:

  • Make my own chocolate at the Choco Museo: The Choco Museo, staffed by a friendly lot of sugar-riddled and bilingual elves, teaches visitors the history, mystique, and methods for making that long-time Mayan specialty of chocolate. I pass by on the way to work every day. People are always smiling, it always smells deliciously enticing, and I like to make stuff.

Excuse for Not Having Done It Yet: This one is legit. I’m waiting for Emma’s mom to visit us in August. Why can’ It do it sooner and again when she comes? I think it has to do with paying twice for something I probably only need to do once.

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  • Camp overnight on Acatenango, the volcano next to Volcan Fuego, the ever-puffing smoke machine: I’ve wanted this for a couple of years now. I used to gaze daily at these volcanoes from my Earth Lodge porch. Old Town Outfitters, a local tour agency, offers overnight trips, hiking all day up Acatenango, camping that night, and summiting early morning. I’ve heard it’s an incredible view down into the fiery crater.

Excuse for Not Having Done It Yet: This one for sure is money. Old Town handles incoming adventure tourists who have the first-world funds to find the adventure. I will, I think, eventually succumb to the price, but so far, the budget has gotten the better of me.

  • Visit a tiny coffee finca with As Good As It Gets, an NGO tackling sustainable agriculture, fair trade, and reforestation: I’ve written about As Green As It Gets before. It’s an NGO with a project that sounds pretty exciting to me. On the tour, people get to visit one of the small, independent farms (usually around two acres), possibly help harvest, and get to watch how the beans are processed. And, you get one pound of coffee.

Excuse for Not Having Done It Yet: Again, I’m waiting for Emma’s mom so that we can all do it together. Because there is an actual end date in sight—August—this is okay. After then, I will do it, Sheelagh or not! And, yes, ma’am, that is a warning!

  • Eat macadamia nut pancakes at Valhalla, a macadamia nut farm just outside Antigua (also interested in sustainable agriculture and reforestation): This was a farm started a couple of decades ago by a couple from the US. Valhalla is still run by that couple and their son, Ricardo, who was a regular at Earth Lodge. Supposedly, there is a rockin’ restaurant there, and patrons are allowed to snoop around the farm a bit.

Excuse for Not Having Done It Yet: Two words, one man: Bryant Hand. He talks it up. He lives the dream (the dream being eating those macadamia nut pancakes) from time to time. He’s invited us once, at about 11:00 on Sunday, which is when wealthy small business owners wake up and long after I’ve eaten breakfast.

  • Taking the day trip to shop at Chichicastenango, Guatemala’s monster market, which admittedly is quite a ride away, but can be a gone-in-the-morning, back-in-the-evening type affair: This one just made the list, actually. Been to enough markets in my life, but I feel that I would truly be missing something special here. I’m pretty sure, even if I don’t buy a damned thing, the market will be stunning. I’ve seen the photos.

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Excuse for Not Having Done It: I’ve already bought like three or four pair of “indigenous” pants that I don’t wear anymore. I’ve been to markets in Guatemala City and Antigua, shopped in Panajachel and Flores—seriously, do I need to peruse more Mayan textiles and crocheted juggling balls? Apparently, I do.

As I compiled this list of five, not all that trying of a task, lots of other things sprung to mind: Restaurants I want to try, volunteer opportunities, and propositions I’d like to undertake. Funnily enough, when I think back to Memphis, Moscow, Istanbul, wherever, it’s easy to find those next five things I’d like to have done, things that complacency kept me from while they were there at my fingertips. Summer is nigh people, and I propose we find a way to right these wrongs, to adventure locally—respectively—this year. We check off our list items and put another handful on the horizon.

This was a lesson I unfortunately didn’t learn until I moved myself halfway across the world and left all the richness of the US in my dust. Pretty soon, I’ll be doing the same thing to Antigua—more or less, for the third time in my life (left here with things unfinished in 2008 and in 2010). I’m fairly sure I’ll be back round this way again, but it isn’t going to be because I didn’t do these five things. “Seize the day”, aka “carpe diem”, is a commonplace utterance, a cliché as we say in the snub-nosing world of writing, but one that we all ignore far too often. Screw that.

I’d be really interested for you to send me your list of five (jonathonengels@gmail.com) and keep me updated on how the checking off is going. I’d love to put together a blog or two, or the occasional aside, about what sort of mischief, mayhem, and memories people get themselves into. Go forth and live inspired, fair readers of the blogosphere. I have spoken thusly.

Posted by jonathonengels 13:43 Archived in Guatemala

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