I was to fly out of Guatemala City on the 3rd, and after arising early in Antigua and getting to the airport on time at about 9:30 AM to be at the gate by11:40, I found out at my gate that the plane had maintenance issues. I will tell you more about that, in a second.
First there was a luggage issue. Many of you have experienced a trip where you knew you planned on shopping and bringing back things from where you have been. I carried a large zipper bag with me, figured I could put my dirty clothes in it and check it, and the things I bought while on the trip could take their place in my bag. When I checked my luggage at the ticket counter, I knew I was allowed 2 free bags, thinking I would pay - and was ready to pay about $50 for the dirty laundry bag. The ticket counter guy said, "That'll be 234." I said, "Do you mean Quetzales?" He said, "No! That's American dollars." I about fainted right on the spot. He explained how he had watched the fee go up and up over the past weeks, a few weeks ago it had been $68. I was at a loss for words. But then this nice man guided me down to an open spot, where I could transfer the items in the zippered bag to my 2 pieces of luggage - literally stuffing them, and trying to keep them under 50 pounds each while using a scale. If it was over 50 pounds, I would have to pay an extra $138. Can you believe that? Well, I got the deed done and was off to security, where they confiscated two bars of soap I had bought in an Antigua shop. Grrr..I wasn't thinking of putting them in my check-ins at all, but bars of soap aren't allowed on International flights.
We were told that the plane would arrive at the gate in the next hour. Then is was by 3:30 PM, then 5:30 PM and then they had to fly another plane from Atlanta (3 hour flight) so we would be leaving at around midnight. Finally got out of the airport around that time, arrived in Atlanta - had to go through immigration, get my luggage - go through customs - get my luggage to the conveyor for my connecting flight, go through security, wait for my plane to leave around 7:30AM...all without any sleep...I can't sleep in airports or very well on planes, but my body and mind crashed on the flight from Atlanta to KC.
So there I was with 177 others waiting for a plane to fly to Atlanta on. My biggest concern the whole time was getting in touch with my parents in KC, to let them know that I wouldn't be arriving in the middle of the night, like I was supposed to - to avoid them having to drive to the airport...only to find I wasn't on that plane, and then not knowing what had happened. I didn't have cell service in Guatemala and there were no payphones (*believe it or not) but a very nice young man let me use his international cell to call them (twice, as things transpired) as I found out I wasn't going to be arriving that night. There are really nice people out there! The other kinda funny thing is that every announcement at the gate first came out in very fast Spanish and then very fast Spanish accent English..I didn't catch any of it and always had to get in line to hear it slower and more precise from a gate person. I wasn't alone, and when I found those bilingual people, I glombed onto them. They readily passed on the info to me.
Believe me I have nothing against the airline, as I wouldn't have wanted to travel on an aircraft that had maintenance issues. They fed us coffee, cokes and sandwiches throughout the ordeal, although I didn't eat or drink any of it, my stomach was still pretty messed up. Many had small kids, and I think it really helped pass the time for them. I have a whole new outlook on those who experience a layover in an airport. It's not fun. Has that ever happened to you?
So...you now know the basic itinerary for a 12 day trip with "Explore Guatemala". I highly recommend that you go on a trip like this if you are an artist (or even if you aren't) and like learning from other artists once in awhile. Not only was it a great painting trip, but I learned so much about another world out there. One where the people work very hard and live very differently. What an eye opener! I always felt secure on this trip. Our guides, John Korte and Anita Rogers were most knowledgeable, gracious and giving. The language was never a problem, most people spoke English along with their village language. Tourism is BIG there, they HAVE a need to communicate with us. Would I go back there? Probably not.. not because I didn't like it, but we saw so much and did so much..it would be hard to top this one. I would go somewhere else, though.