Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Life in Linda Vista

As I have mentioned in my recent blog posts, I am currently living in Villa Nueva, the second-largest municipality in the department of Guatemala in the country of Guatemala. Confused? For the sake of comparison, Guatemala (the country) is divided into 22 departments like the United States is divided into 50 states. There is a department named Guatemala which is the largest of the twenty-two in terms of population, and it is comprised of 17 municipalities. Villa Neuva is the second-largest city i.e. municipality in the department of Guatemala after Guatemala City. Within the municipalities, the smaller towns are often referred to as pueblas or colonias. I live in Colonia Linda Vista, which is essentially a village within the sprawling municipality of Villa Neuva. Within the colonia, I am in a small neighborhood which is comprised of two streets (13 Avenida and 14 Avenida) that form a U-shape with a gated entrance at either end.
lake and volcano in guatemala
view of Lago Amatitlan and Volcan Pacaya from the curve
in the U-shaped road in my gated neighborhood
Linda Vista has a few blocks that are lined with fruit and vegetable vendors; tiny bakeries and butcher shops; cage-enclosed convenience stores (meaning you can't walk through the store and browse; you walk up to a small window-like opening in the gate and tell the shopkeeper what you want); second-hand clothing stores; a few churches and mechanic shops; and even an Alcoholics Anonymous. There are a couple of schools wedged in among the residences and shops. There is also a small supermarket named Super del Barrio where you can buy some basic groceries.
small town in central guatemala
There are no restaurants except a couple of tiny counter-service places in the Pradera Express, a small shopping strip adjacent to the next closest supermarket, Despensa Familiar, which is a one-mile walk each way from the house. The nearest restaurants are almost all fast food e.g. Pollo Campero (Guatemala's answer to KFC), Burger King, McDonald's; and they are a 15-minute chicken bus ride away at the larger shopping complex "Centro Comercial Santa Clara" that is also home to a Walmart and a movie theater.
small grocery store in guatemala
walking through the parking lot of the Despensa Familiar
Once a week I walk 20+ minutes each way to the Despensa Familiar, which has a limited selection but is sufficient for purchasing most basic supplies. Alternately, I take the bus, which costs the equivalent of $0.26 each way, to Walmart if I want a better selection. But my favorite excursion is to the Mercado Concepción, the traditional local market. It is farther away in the city center of Villa Neuva, only 3.5 km as the crow flies but it is not walkable, so I have to take the bus which follows a more indirect route over 10 km. It still only costs $0.26 per ride, but takes an hour each way due to traffic and making multiple stops.
chicken bus and produce stand in guatemala
catching the chicken bus to go to the Mercado Concepcion
The Mercado Concepción is a typical Latin American market housed in a large corrugated metal warehouse which is generally divided into sections according to the category of item sold: frutas y verduras (fresh fruits and vegetables), carnicerias (butchers for meat, but in this area you will also find pescaderia or fish and seafood vendors), ropa (clothing), miscelaneas (everything else). You can truly buy almost anything here from baby formula to pirated DVDs; paintings or pots and pans; pets, like a chihuahua puppy for only 450 GTQ or $58, or a handmade leather belt. You can even get a haircut in a 5' x 5' stall with no running water. There are also dozens of comedores (literally, a dining hall; in this case a large seating area lined with food vendors) selling everything from ceviche to pupusas, jugos (fresh juices) to hot dogs.
fruits and vegetables from the market in guatemala
the haul from my first trip to the market
My neighbor Miriam took me to the market for the first time last Thursday so she could show me how to get around by local bus. She also pointed out areas in the city center of Villa Neuva that she cautioned are frequented by pickpockets and purse snatchers. I was a little surprised when she didn't try to bargain on any of the quoted prices for fruits and vegetables, especially at stalls where I bought multiple items, but then I realized the asking price was pretty reasonable to begin with. It was fun to wander through the multiple aisles of stalls which were packed to the gills with whatever range of products they were offering. We had some good laughs, too, particularly in the "alternative meats" section when we were eyeing a glass display case filled with the internal organs of various animals along with hooves and other body parts. I pointed to a pile of large ruddy globes that would each more than cover the palm of my hand and said "corazón" the Spanish word for heart. But Miriam immediately burst out laughing and said "no, no, testículos!" I think you can figure that one out for yourself. I did not take photos at the market that day because Miriam did not seem comfortable with me having my phone out, even though it was securely leashed to my purse. So here's one from the Mercado La Merced in Mexico City to whet your appetite:
sheep's head and other organs at the market in Mexico City
at least items like this are inside at the Mercado Concepcion
but they are still not refrigerated while on display
It gets completely dark by 6:00 p.m. and it is generally unsafe to be out at night alone or otherwise. In this area it is not necessarily because of crime but mostly because it is dangerous to be anywhere near a road (there are no sidewalks) which are in horrible condition for the most part: there are no marked lanes so people drive all over the place, weaving in and out of traffic; there are tons of motorcycles, pedestrians, stray animals, trash, and large potholes to dodge; there are few street lights so you can't really see where you're going; and people drive without headlights even when it's dark! Walking during the day is not exactly pleasant for those same reasons and also because the chicken buses and other large transport vehicles continuously belch out black clouds of diesel fumes which burn the eyes and lungs.
my favorite chicken bus is blinged out with pink accents
In general life is pretty quiet here in Linda Vista minus the random fireworks, dogs barking, cats fighting and rooster crowing, which I wrote about in my last post. It is the perfect place to hole up at home and read, write and study. The only other welcome distraction is every Friday morning when Miriam comes over to clean the house. I'm very organized and keep things neat and tidy anyway, but she cleans the bathrooms, dusts, mops the floors, changes the sheets, etc. It is always nice to end the week with a spotless, fresh-smelling home plus it's a good opportunity to chat with a native Spanish speaker and catch up on the latest news and neighborhood gossip.

1 comment:

  1. The Chicken Bus!!!! Testiculos!! OMG.. hysterical :)