Where is your license plate? Where are your papers? Demanded the cop in Spanish. Around him stood 4 AK-47 toting masked military men.
It’s times like these that you need to decide. You either let your nerves dominate you, or you…
Boom. Game time. Spanish words that my subconscious somehow picked up from “Money Heist,” began pouring out of me like Euros from the Spanish mint. I was El professor & Denver combined. I even had a bit of that Spain Spanish lisp all of a sudden.
(If you haven’t seen Casa De Paper / Money Heist yet, I highly recommend it.)
“Si si, discuple, no tango mi papeles porque una hijo de grand puta fue a la ciudad la dia después yo compro mi moto. Hijo de grand puta! Se llama Nico!” And again, “hijo de grand puta!” One more time, “hijo de grand puta!” I yelled out, my hands more animated than a Sicilian public bus driver .
Basically, what I was saying was, the day after I bought my motorcycle 6 years ago, the dealership closed down and the owner ran off to the city. That, followed by lots of “son of a grand bitch,” the main phrase I learned from “Money Heist.” And that’s why I don’t have any paper work or a license plate for my bike.
“Ok ok, calma te,” responded the cop. “It’s fine just remember to wear your mask or you’ll be fined $1000.” He said as he ushered me to the next part of this new road block.
I pulled up, got my temperature taken, my motorcycle wheels sprayed with bleach, and was finally allowed to pass into the lakeside town Panajachel.
Chuckling a deep sigh of relief as I accelerated hard into 2nd gear, it was now red sea clear that Corona had arrived to Lake Atitlan.
So what’s it like being on lockdown on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala?
I feel a bit guilty saying this, but it’s actually not that bad. That is, it’s not that bad for me, and I’m extremely grateful for it.
I’m fortunate enough to be in e-commerce. Backpack Buddha is doing better than ever. People are at home, and seem to be online shopping with a passion.
One of my favorite cafes in town, Cafe Kitsch, is somehow open, most likely as a result of some kind of deal the owner made with the police. Here I take my morning muesli with yogurt, a watermelon smoothie, and an espresso. I shoot the shit for hours with the old guys. I’m really starting to feel like a pensioner, and I gotta say, I kind of like it.
Then I head over to Mister Jons for his burrito and double taco deal ($3), and stash it away in my backpack for later. Or some authentic Japanese soul food! Checkout this Katsudon and Yakisoba below!
After that, I sometimes ride over the river to Jen’s house, my old high school friend. But lately, It’s been my goal to discover all those little back alleys I’ve never been down before.
As much as I love Lake Atitlan, I’m really ready to leave now. Today is a week and 2 months since I’ve been here. I was only planning on staying a month. There’s something about being stuck in a place that makes you want to get out. I’m sure most of you understand this sentiment at the moment. Plus I want to get back to Sweden for the food, the the spring and my lady. The sun is already setting at 9pm!
Unfortunately, the airport remains closed. Not only does that mean I obviously can’t leave, but it also means no American or European tourists can come here either. A reality with severe consequences for a town that relies heavily on tourist dollars.
With most shops closed, the 6pm curfew, and the inter-town travel restrictions, many are out of work. Fortunately, Guatemala is a very fertile country. It seems many are returning back to agricultural to survive. However, despite a surplus of fresh and exceptionally delicious produce, those who aren’t in agriculture can’t afford to buy food, and are now dependent on government subsidies. This is a common occurrence in famines around the world. Food does exist, but people can’t afford to buy it.
As a result, many of the expats here, myself included, have been doing our best to help support the local economy. A friend of mine started an NGO called Think Twice, and has been collecting donations at the local supermarket. Together with the Fire Department they’re getting that money directly to those in need.
I’m also working on developing a facemask out of Mayan fabric. The goal here being to bring in money to Lake Atitlan, and also bring more masks to the US. If you’re interested, you can join the waiting list here. 90% of the profits go to local Mayan women, while 10% goes to cover shipping costs.
My love for Lake Atitlan not only lies in its natural beauty but in the solidarity of its communities. More than any place I’ve been, whether you’re a local or an expat, you feel part of a bigger family. Despite the hardships resulting from this virus, Lake Atitlan will survive. But if you feel so inclined and are financially able to make a donation and help us out, everyone here would definitely appreciate it. And when this is all over, definitely come down for a visit!