La Cucaracha

I’ve come to the conclusion the song/dance “La Cucaracha” was developed by someone who was watching their friend freak out because a cockroach was trying to kill them running around their feet, and it seemed like the perfect dance/song to make up. Now this is because last night, I happened to be that freaking out person, dancing that dance. On this particular evening, I was already just dozing off when I heard the faintest rustling next to my bed. I had an already-opened but re-sealable bag of chocolates sitting next to my bed, and a few other various “plastic-y” items, so as I lay dozing off, I just assumed something was adjusting on its own. But when it didn’t stop after a few seconds, and there really was no way for anything to be moving on its own (that was my ridiculous “sleepy logic” deploying itself), I chose to investigate.

Sunset in Pana
Sunset in Pana

I turned my flashlight on, when what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a freaking cockroach trying to weasel it’s way into my snack bag. I quickly tried to shoo it away, but instead of dodging away from my menacing hand and flashlight, it chose to come towards me. I couldn’t tell if it was just in shock, or if cockroaches have just finally learned ‘attack mode’ in the years they have spent scaring many unsuspecting home-dwellers or tired travelers. Unluckily my bed was practically touching the bedside table as this cockroach was proceeding to wiggle its way closer to the edge, as I tried to figure out my best plan of attack, but mostly keep it off my bed. My first move was to jump up and hope that if the roach somehow made it on the bed, I wouldn’t have to touch it, and instead kick it away. However, this no longer allowed me to be close enough to use anything around to capture or at least shoo it away enough. I really wish I hadn’t been so sleepy and been able to think quickly enough to kill it, but of course I was not and could not, and the dang thing scurried behind my bed, and has yet to be seen. So, I lay back under my covers, all snug in my bed, and tried to fall asleep with visions of cockroaches crawling into my mouth dancing in my head.

Panajachel has been this kind of adventure. Actually that’s not true at all; it’s really been much better than a cockroach trying to steal my food and haunt my dreams. However, it had been an adventure! I have spent time getting to know much of the 20-something crowd that resides in Pana, and who all work in various non-profits in the city. It’s a fun crowd, and there’s also a fairly large ExPat group here from the states. I’m currently living in a hotel which is really not a bad living situation for short-term living. My bed is made every day and towels, soap, and shampoo are also refreshed. I have breakfast included, and wifi in my room. So it’s quite a great set-up! It’s not the same experience as doing another home stay (tho with all my food problems, I’m kind of glad I don’t have to burden another family), or living in an apartment, but it’s been great! I actually did try to rent an apartment with a girl who just moved back here after moving back home for a few months. She works with a roommate of Nikki (who I work with here in Pana). We found this great house just down the street from main street & Nikki’s house, but someone quickly rented it the hour before we found it! But it ended up being a good thing, because the girl who I was going to move in with ended up actually having to change her plans and go back home in 2 weeks, instead of 2 months.

The belly dancer performing (yes there were small children - it was weird)
The belly dancer performing — Yes there were small children. Yes it was weird

I’ve been able to fill up my social calendar pretty quickly here as there’s always lots going on! For Mardi Gras, we attended this fundraiser party that pretty much brought out the entire ExPat community in Pana, aka all the white people. The event was a fundraiser for an English/International school here (where the event was held) and there were in attendance, in addition to a lot of old white people, a large handful of the younger ExPat crew, a lot of teachers at the school, and a good amount of kids. Honestly, I pretty much forgot I was in Guatemala that night, with such an “American” vibe.  Along with masks, crazy decorations, and an ever-busy alcohol table and buffet, there was a live band who was just one of your typical Old Guy cover bands. (Don’t worry dad, you and your buds aren’t old, and you’re much better than these guys were.) My favorite part was that I heard many people exclaim that this was the best night they’d had in Pana in a while. And while it was certainly fun, I wouldn’t say it was exactly my cup of tea. But it was cool to meet lots of new people!

I’m sad to say I caught some sort of food poisoning/sickness thing again. Yeah, what else is new? I spent today working at the hotel instead of traveling to the office. Luckily I got to work in the common area right outside my room, which has a lovely view of the mountains. I enjoyed being outside; even during a huge storm we’ve had all day. It’s been pouring rain and booming thunder and flashing lightning, but as long as I’m dry, I’m happy; and hopefully on the mend as I’m definitely getting sick of being sick. But Round 3 of being sick is significantly better than rounds 1 + 2. I think just being in Pana makes it better, even with the storm & cooler weather we’re having. It’s still not as cold here as it was in Nebaj. And actually this weather is very strange for Pana, as the rainy season here in Guatemala doesn’t usually start until about late April. But maybe that means the hills will be green and beautiful! I really can’t complain because even though the streets are now rivers, it’s still pretty warm, and I’m just enjoying my time here.

Like I said, I worked from the hotel today. I started work officially on Wednesday here, as Mon + Tues were spent in our 2-day monthly meeting with all of the Field Coordinators and Regional Coordinators from all over Guatemala. While a lot of it was interesting, the entire meeting was done in Spanish, because everyone is fluent, so it was pretty difficult to keep up at all times, especially without many context clues. But I had a chance to meet everyone, and from what I was able to understand during the meetings, I was able to learn much more about the company and how things run. So it was a great learning experience. Now, here in Pana, I have started all the projects I’m assigned to for my time here, which include: revamping Soluciones Comunitarias’ (SolCom) marketing materials, improving social media efforts, and designing a consistent store plan that each office or store space that sells out products will be able to implement for future use. So I have plenty to do here and am already busy everyday. So even though I was sick, I had to keep working hard to stay on top of my projects. But I enjoy the work a lot and am getting great experience.

Mike the Coffee guy at Crossroads Cafe, the coffee place he runs here in Pana.
Mike the Coffee guy at Crossroads Cafe, the coffee place he runs here in Pana.

I found my new favorite coffee place here in Pana. This guy, Mike, lives here with his family – wife & three kids over 16. He moved here years ago and has raised his kids here in Panajachel. He roasts his own coffee, buying the green beans from coffee fincas from all over Guatemala! This day he took us back into his “Secret Room” which is literally a secret because it’s hidden behind a bookcase, but it’s just where he stores & roasts all of his coffee. He makes all kinds of drinks in his little hole-in-the-wall coffee shop, but with a guy as passionate about his coffee as anyone I’ve ever met, I’m sure he prefers to just make a cup of coffee pure — black & lightly sweetened with some local cane sugar or his homemade coffee honey. If you are planning to come to Pana, definitely make Crossroads Cafe a stop on your itinerary! It’s a little off the beaten path (I only know how to get there, not yet how to tell anyone else how to get there), but so worth the awesome coffee! I plan on going here a lot before my Spanish classes that start next week because this is on the way to class and it closes just after I need to be in class, perfect timing 🙂

There’s so much more I have to tell about Pana, but I’ll save it for a new post. Thanks for reading!

Until next time!
-M

(P.S. La Cucaracha is actually about a dying/dead cockroach)

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