After 24 hours in transit I arrived back in Xela, the Guatemalan city where a little over a year ago Chris and I started our time in Central America. This time I was returning on my own. A blown tire that delayed the bus for 3 hours followed by construction that had us averaging less than 10 kilometres an hour meant I arrived in town hours later than anticipated. As it was beginning to get dark I was thankful that I was arriving into somewhat familar surroundings and I quickly settled myself into a hotel near the park, fed myself at one of my favourite restaurants and then retired early to my comfy hotel room.
Before leaving Canada I reread my first impressions of Guatemala from last year. I was so wild eyed and enchanted by this place. Today walking around the city I smiled when I encountered places that brought back memories but it was all much more subdued. For me, much of the excitement in travel is the romance of falling in love with new places. Those butterflies in my stomach as the bus pulls into a new city that is waiting for fresh exploration. The adrenaline rush of navigating the confusing streets of a new town. The joy of discovering a great cafe or even just a perfect spot to sit and watch the world go by.
This time around the objective is not exploration of unknown locales but four weeks of intensive spanish lessons. An attempt to move my spanish out of the realm of polite tourist conversation and into that of truly conversing.
While most of the country I have seen so far seems familar there are glimpses of changes. A country that is in the midst of development and rebuilding after a turbulent history. Those sections of the Pan America Highway that caused so many irritating delays are under construction due to economic expansion. Development that will move goods throughout the region all that much faster and hopefully bring much needed investment dollars. And with highway improvements comes other growth. Restaurants and hotels are built along the highway to accomodate travellers. These aren't just basic comedores(traditional eateries in cement buildings with plastic tables and chairs) and tiny rundown guesthouses. They are swanky establishments with bright shiny glass windows and airconditioning.
Things certainly are changing. They say you can never go back. I know that my time here in Xela will by no means be a repetition of my last stay here. But I do hope that it will introduce me to new people, new experiences and some much needed new spanish vocabulary.