Guatemala - Prologue, Departure from Boston


We met Humberto during our visit to Guatemala in 2004, when he took us on a day hike up the San Pedro Volcano. We really enjoyed his company, and he told us about his lovely wife and their four young daughters. We kept in touch with Humberto and his family via e-mail after we returned home. In 2005, he opened his own tour company, Lago Aventura, in Panajachel. We became web masters for his website. He and his wife Paulina were also blessed with a fifth daughter at around this time. We kept in close touch, and he sent us photos of Paulina and the girls. We looked forward to visiting and getting to meet them all in person.

The opportunity arose over Independence Day weekend in July of 2007. Craig and I got two days off from work, so by taking only one vacation day, we could plan a 5-day trip to Panajachel. Humberto was thrilled by the idea, and invited us to stay in their house. This sounded great to us, as we wanted to spend as much time with the family as possible. We were able to use our frequent flyer miles to get free tickets. In order to maximize our time in Guatemala, and to take advantage of the free tickets, we decided to fly via a rather roundabout route. We would fly out of Boston Friday night to Los Angeles, then take a red-eye to Guatemala City. This would get us there before 5 am Saturday morning. We would have a long car ride to Panajachel, but we would still get there in the morning. Humberto lined up all of our ground transportation. He was giving a tour of the lake at 9 am, and he told us that if we arrived in Panajachel by then, we were welcome to join the tour.

We were very excited to see Humberto again, and to finally get to meet Paulina and the girls: Claudia Vanessa (almost 11), Jessica Paola (8 1/2), Yasmin Azucena (6 1/2), Yoselin Stefania (almost 5), and Darlin Aracely (almost 2).
Clockwise: Humberto, Paulina (holding Darlin Aracely), Yoselin Stefania, Jessica Paola, Yasmin Azucena, Jessica Paola

Friday 6/29/07 - Departure

Today we had a pot-luck lunch at work, and we were able to leave soon afterwards, at 2:00. We made a quick stop at home, and while we were getting our last minute things together, we got a nice phone call from Tom in Florida wishing us a happy and safe trip. We were on our way to the airport by 3:00. It took us half an hour to get there. We went to the United check-in area at terminal C, and everything seemed to be self-check-in, except for a line which said "Additional services: wheelchairs, young children, etc." We weren't sure where to go, and many others seemed to be confused as well. We asked an employee and without even listening he shunted us into the slef-check-in line. I said, "Even if we're international?" He ignored me, but another employee heard me and said that if we were international we needed to get into the additional services line. We thought this to be rather ironic, as ANY services these days seem to be viewed as above and beyond. We checked in and the employee at the counter asked us if we wanted to upgrade to Economy Plus for extra legroom. Craig asked, "How much is it?" "Five extra inches!" the employee said enthusiastically. No, how much MONEY. $118. No way. The employee said, "The 5 inches of extra legroom are worth it!" Craig said cynically, "I hope they just didn't obtain the 5 extra inches by taking legroom away from the rest of us." The employee kind of raised an eyebrow and smiled. We thought as much. This tactic of upselling annoyed us. The airlines try to take advantage of you when you are most vulnerable, when you are flustered at the airport, to try to bleed extra money out of you. They realize that when you are purchasing tickets, you go for the lowest fare. But once you are already on vacation, they see if they can con you into spending some extra money for immediate comfort. Instant gratification, baby, it's the American way.

We went through security, which took a few minutes. They are still doing the 3-1-1 thing, where each traveler is allowed one 1-quart ziploc baggie with a maximum of 3 oz of any particular liquid or gel, so that slows things down a bit. We went to Burger King to get burgers and fries. The fast food was anything but fast. One of Craig's burgers was left in the microwave way too long and was very overdone. We went to gate C21. The gate and the concourse were packed with people, as two Chicago flights had been delayed. Our gate got moved to gate 16 to accommodate the delays.

We boarded at 5:45, but there was a backlog of planes so we were delayed taking off. United gives away free headsets, but they didn't have enough for everyone, so the flight attendants begged for people who weren't using them to turn them in so they could be given to other passengers. The flight attendant got all mushy about passengers helping one another out, etc. Service sure seemed to have gone downhill on this airline. The movie was "Breach", and it would be the same one from LA to Guatemala. I guess they don't expect many people to fly west across the U.S. and then South to Central America. We had no interest in this movie, so it seemed we wouldn't be watching a movie between Boston and Guatemala. On the entire flight across the country we got only pretzels and drinks.

As we descended into LAX we could see fireworks. I was surprised at how low in the sky they were, very far beneath the plane. We arrived at 9:55 and had a mere hour until our connecting flight took off. Many people were in danger of missing connections, enough so that the flight attendants asked any people who did not have tight connections to let others disembark first. When the plane arrived at the gate, we and our Australian neighbor got up to deplane. A lady a few rows behind us started yelling at us, saying that we were so rude for not letting her through because she had a connection to ctach. It didn't even occur to her that we might be in the same predicament; she just thought that she desreved priority over everyone else. When we got off the plane, we saw that it was our same plane continuing on to Guatemala City (the flight attendants hadn't announced that) so we were at least at the proper gate, and now had no chance of missing the connection. I stopped in at McDonald's and got us some cheeseburgers and honey mustard chicken snack wraps. They started boarding the plane and had a stupid litle "red carpet" mat for the first class passengers to walk over as they board. They don't let the rest of us even step on it; we have to walk around it and instead walk on the CLEARLY inferior gray carpet. I bet we could buy our way onto the red carpet for a fee, though. How lame.

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