Hello there! How are you guys?! I’m cold here! Really cold, haha! It gets pretty chilly at night, but not usually this chilly. I’m wearing three layers or so, curled up in bed– and thinking now would be the ideal time to answer all the questions you guys sent me about us living in Guatemala. Cool? Cool! Let’s go!
By the way, many questions were asked multiple times, especially questions about Marlowe going to school and our safety 🙂 But all in all, there was a good mix of topics! If you guys have more questions, feel free to leave them in comments, I can answer them there 🙂
PS .These photos were from two different day adventures to two different Guatemalan towns– the first set being in Santa Cruz from our first week in Guatemala on Lake Atitlan where we were basically the only non Mayans in the town. And the second set being in the town of Chichicastenango (say that ten times fast). This town has slightly more tourists (but definitely not a lot) because of the giant market that takes place — it’s supposedly the largest open air market in Central America! I definitely hope to go back again… but maybe without Marlowe so I can take my time to shop 🙂
I’m pretty sure you don’t need a visa at first, but when?
Three months! It obviously varies country to country but in Guatemala you must acquire a visa if you plan to be in the country longer than three months. Right now we are not worried about obtaining a visa. We have two trips planned, one the end of November and one in the end of February. This buys us until about June to acquire anything. Before June we’ll have to figure out if we want to get a visa or become residents. At this point we’re thinking we’ll opt to become residents, but its in the air!
How did you find a place to live?
Well, we haven’t yet! We’re in the process! Right now we’re in an Airbnb until November 1st. On November 1st we’re moving into a short-term rental until we can find a long-term rental that we love.
Whats the process of finding a home there?
It’s similar to the states or most other places (I imagine). There are realty offices set up in the town, a lot of places are listed online, some on craigslist, etc. We found our short-term rental through Airbnb/a property manager we had rented from before. We are meeting with a realtor to look at more properties soon!
Are you renting/buying?
Renting! I hate renting, you guys know I think buying Is wayyyy better than renting, but it’s really just too early to decide if we want to commit to Antigua just yet. If we love it here, I’m not opposed to buying!
Where do you find used furniture if it isn’t furnished?
Right now were looking more towards a furnished place— just for convenience. But you guys know I really like setting up house– so it’s definitely been tricky finding a place that has furniture that we don’t hate haha. Even though we’ve only been Antigua a week, we’re thinking this might turn into a longer thing than originally planned. So now we’ve opened up more to the idea of renting an unfurnished place. If we find an unfurnished place, we might actually plan to have some furniture built. We just want really simple, functional pieces— nothing fancy. Table top, four legs: BOOM a table!
Where do you shop? Did you find an organic farmer? Is that even a thing there?
We are getting into the groove of finding the items we need and comparing the prices now. Finding and buying things like organic rice is turning out to be A LOT more expensive than planned. Right now we’re actually thinking we might buy a giant (10lb+) bag or organic rice in the states and bring it here, haha. For fruit, we plan to buy basically all of it in the main market. Nothing in the market will be marked as organic or not– that’s not really a thing. I plan to stay away from things like strawberries and apples in the market– as those tend to be the highest in pesticides and stick with things like bananas, pineapples, and rambutan.
There are organic farms though– for sure. We plan on buying most of our veg/greens at organic farm (Caoba Farms) just outside of town. It’ll be a lot more pricey than in the market, but obviously worth it. So yeah, it’s tricky to navigate right now, but no impossible. If you look at the back of packaged goods– its not great over here. Even a simple thing like canned beans has MSG in it. I mean, we stopped buying cancer goods a while ago, but still.
How is the fruit?
It’s great! Marlowe is SO happy to be loading up on rambutan everyday. But Alex and I still agree the papayas in our backyard are better than any other papaya anywhere. The pineapple has been great though!
We love caoba farms. It’s organic and some of our best meals have been there. We also tried the Indian restaurant (Ganesh) in town this week– it was freaking delicious, but omg so expensive. We probably won’t go back just because of the price– it was comparable, if not more expensive than Indian restaurants in the states. We also love Amanecer — a small juice bar in town — the food is well priced and the owner is so freaking nice.
Phone carrier stuff?
Haven’t even figured it out yet, haha! We’ve lived on public wifi—- one restaurant and café at a time! We’ll probably just unlock our phones and get an international SIM card. That’s a thing, right? Cool? To be honest, I made Alex look more into it. All I know is that I have to call our current company and suspend our accounts.
Do you feel at home yet?
Hmmm. Well, I don’t know if I ever really felt at home in Florida. I felt comfortable IN our home. But I never felt comfortable in the states. Here, I definitely do not feel uncomfortable though. I don’t think we’d say we feel at home just yet– since we haven’t actually set up a home! I think we’ll all feel a lot better once we can unpack our luggage and start cooking everyday. That has been the hardest part— you guys know we like to cook– especially with my restricted diet. We were hoping to cook more in our Airbnb, but learned that we could only use the kitchen in the evenings. It’s hard for us to feel home without a kitchen space and eating out all the time. We didn’t eat out often back in the states either! We just prefer to cook! But we’re hoping all that changes soon!
Were there any culture shocks?
I don’t think so. Off the top of my head, the only one I can think of is a good one. There are boobs and babies everywhere! Whipping out a boob and feeding your baby here is SO much more socially accepted than anywhere I’ve seen in the States. I love it. #freethetatas
What prompted you guys to move?
You can read about that HERE.
How did you choose Guatemala?
What is Marlowe doing for school? Are you planning on homeschooling?
While we love the idea of homeschooling her, we definitely want to get her into the school system here in Guatemala. We’re sure this will be the best way to really get her to fully learn Spanish. So we are sending her to school… in a few months! The school schedule is different here. “Summer” break is from November to January. So if all goes as planned, she’ll be starting at a bilingual sustainable earth focused school in January.
Is it safe there?
Oh gosh, yes. I hate the intense stigma we have on some many countries and places in Central America. Are there some bad people here who do bad things? Yeah, I’m sure! But as a whole, Guatemalans are some of the kindest people I’ve EVER met. I can walk around with my camera in one hand, my phone in another, and a purse on my shoulder and feel completely comfortable. I mean, I don’t walk around like that, haha, but I could! I definitely walk around with a camera on my shoulder and my phone is typically in my back pocket, and it’s cool. Honestly, the scariest thing here is the bang of the constant fireworks (so loud!) or how crossing some of the streets can feel like frogger with all the tuk tuks. But all the streets are cobblestone anyway, so they can’t go THAT fast. Like anywhere in the world, things can happen, but It’s safe, for sure.
Are you worried about the climate of the world and where you guys are living?
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t worry. I totally do. After all the hurricanes hit us and the earthquakes hit mexico and Guatemala, my anxiety spiked for sure. Honestly, pessimistic as it it, I think we’re all screwed. I’ve joked about it for a year, but I’ve said, “id rather take my chances with three volcanos instead of trump.” And so here we are, in a bowl surrounded by active volcanos that gets hit by random earthquakes and landslides too. No big deal. I don’t know, life is short, I’m scared as shit of everything everywhere every single day, but I’m still going to do my damn best to enjoy everything while I can.
Whats your day to day life like?
Honestly, now it is mostly a lot of walking and eating, haha. It’s not so bad. But this will change once we finally have a place to call our own.
Do you feel welcome by the locals? Or do you feel like an outsider that will be accepted in once they get to know you’re not there to disrupt their culture?
Being a Unesco site, Antigua is super international. I hate to say it, but I feel like a lot of the culture has already left the town of Antigua. You still see some Guatemalan/Mayan women in traditional garments… but not as many men anymore. Everyone has a smartphone. You can grab falafel or pizza or sushi or whatever your craving at a ton of different places. Theres even a dunkin’ donuts and a Taco Bell here.
The surrounding towns definitely have kept more of their culture for sure. Or a lot of the towns in between the tourist areas— like the town we visited on the lake, Santa Cruz. You walk in and you know only a few tourist show up there each day, if any at all. We could tell by the glances at Marlowe that it must be rare for people to see any tourist kids at all. One elderly woman in Chichicastenango totally melted my heart. We were walking down a more than crowded market alley and she saw Marlowe. A big smile came on her face and she sweetly touched Marlowe’s face with the back of her hand as she walked by. She was just so happy to see Marlowe, haha. Like I said, Guatemalans are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Their so kind, gentle, and humble. We have felt nothing but welcomed everywhere we’ve gone.
I think it’s pretty normal for people to welcome tourists, as the tourist industry is the number one economy booster in Guatemala. I’ve noticed this in the Caribbean islands and India as well. There is a welcoming of outsiders before it helps businesses grow and brings income to so many the locals.
There are a fair amount of expats here too. Which is surprising and not at all surprising at the same time. We’ve been mostly welcomed by the expats too 😉 For me, I think the hardest thing to witness is the huge catholic/christian church influence in many of the mayan towns. You guys know I have no problems with people wanting to practice whatever religion they want to practice, but I hate how so many missionaries come in and disrupt the mayan culture. I get it that a lot of them are bringing medical aid and so on, but I personally feel that you can bring aid, selflessly, without bringing in your religion too. You know?
What are each of your levels of Spanish?
Ha! Well, mas o menos okay. We can get by. How it works is: I understand almost everythingggggg — more than Alex for sure. And I definitely know more vocab than him, but my accent is completely garbage. I trip myself up constantly when speaking because I’m overthinking how I pronounce things. On the other hand, Alex understands less and is often asking me for vocal translations but he can speak waayyy better because he has zero problems with any accents and it flows out smoothly. Marlowe? Well, she knows a lot of food words, but not much else.
I tell people that my family messed me up. I hate when eyes/ attention is on me. And I have prominent memories of saying words in spanish and my Colombian family ooohing, aaaaahing, and clapping for me. I still cringe at that. We (my brother and I) grew up with A LOT of spanish, but I stopped trying to speak as a child all together.
How is the transition going?
Good! We’ve made friends on each of our visits and even more friends since we’ve been back this time around. It’s been really easy for all of us. Other than Marlowe missing Jerry, she’s been good too. I even messed up one of my teeth pretty bad and ended up at the dentist this week and other than screwing the appointment time, everything went pretty well. And it cost me probably about 200$ less than it would have in the states (even with my dental insurance back home). We’ve had a few curve balls thrown our way, but we’re definitely figuring it all out!
Are there any important things we should know before making a plunge of going out of the US and into another country?
I think that totally depends on the country! I think you just have to expect things to be different and harder. Because even if they’re not actually harder, they will be for you– because you have to get adjusted to a new system. We have definitely found ourselves surprised by the cost of some things (some things higher than we thought– and some things were lower). But all in all, I think we readied ourselves pretty well.
Did your dog get to come?
Not yet! Jerry is in Miami with one of my best friends who I love the most, celia. It would have been madness to try to bring him here with us from the beginning. Too many moves, so much walking— he’s 17 and needs a break haha! We definitely have to get settled first!
Is it permanent? Like forever ever?
Maybe! We have no idea. Initially we were thinking 12 months. But then we pushed it to maybe 13-14 because of Marlowe’s school. Now that we’re here and we see life changing a bit, we might be here for even longer! We’re open. We want to see what fits our family best— and we’ll work it all out as it comes!
Are you happy?
Oh yes! I mean, whats the worst thing that happens? We hate it and go back to the states? We’re very grateful to have the opportunity to move to a place we love so much. We are all very happy to be here 🙂