Three Niñas - Corazon Maya

Three Niñas - Corazon Maya
Lupita, Magdalena and Clarita

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Sunday, December 7, 2008

Travelers Tales - Antigua - Nov2008

One of the joys of trips such as this is meeting fellow travelers and hearing of their experiences. Here are a few tales from some friends in Antigua. (I shall do my best to recount them accurately).

This is from Pedro, a 56 yr old Canadian who is originally from Slovakia. He joined our family in Antigua during my final week. He was there to learn Spanish for 3 weeks.

He told us that he when he arrived in Guatemala a few days earlier, it had been too late to travel the 30 miles south to Antigua, so instead he had spent the night in Guatemala City. Not having much money, he had selected a cheap hotel ($10), in a poorer part of town. It was called the Phoenix Hotel. The next morning, he had caught the bus to Antigua. There he had stayed the night in another hotel.
After his arrival, he suddenly realized that he had left his Sony digital VCR in a table drawer in his room in the Phoenix. The camera was top of the line, and had cost Ca $2600 several years previously. He realized there was very little chance of getting it back. Nevertheless, he asked the local hotel manager if he would be kind enough to call the Phoenix to ask. The manager did so. No one had seen the camera. Trying his luck, Pedro asked if they could please check the drawer in his old room. The maid at the Phoenix went off to check, and returned a short while later saying that, yes, she had found the camera. Pedro nearly fell over with surprise. He wasn’t sure how to get it back, and so was thinking of another day trip to the big city. Don’t worry, said the manager of the Phoenix, he would take care of it. Pedro was a little skeptical, but was grateful anyway.
The next day, Pedro checked with the manager at his new hotel. The manager handed over the camera. Apparently, the manager of the Phoenix had brought it over to Antigua in person.
I asked to see the camera. It was probably fancier than any I had seen before. Just for reference, it was probably worth more than a year’s salary to the staff at the Phoenix.

Friends in Need
This story is from Jenny, a 25 yr old Englishwoman who was part of our family in Antigua, and became a good friend.

A week earlier, Jenny had been leaving a coffee shop downtown in Antigua, when she tripped and fell. She was dazed, but struggled to her feet, and sat down on the steps to recover. There were a number of tourists around but none came to help. After a while she got up and tried to walk, before she realized that her knee was bleeding badly. Feeling light headed, she sat down again, unsure what to do.

Shortly afterward a local Guatemalteco woman came to her aid and asked if she was OK. Jenny’s Spanish wasn’t as good then, but she showed her injury, and then gave her the name and address of a friend in a nearby hostel. The lady called her son and then went off to locate the friend. Unfortunately, she had forgotten Jenny’s name and so was unable to connect Jenny with her friend. Meanwhile, the son showed up, and he could speak some English. He called the cops. Apparently they came quickly. By this time, Jenny was shivering with cold (it gets chilly in the evenings this time of the year). So the cop took off his jacket and put it around Jenny. The cop and the friend then rushed her off to the Public Hospital about 2 miles away. She was admitted to the emergency room, where they cleaned and stitched up her knee – I saw the injury later, and I think she had received half a dozen stitches. They then brought her back. By this time the lady had tracked down Jenny’s friend so was able to unite them. The cost to Jenny of the whole expedition was zero. Jenny later had to buy some drugs – antibiotics and pain killers –about $30 worth. A week later she visited a local clinic to have the stitches removed. Also free of charge. When I left, Jenny was as good as new.
Later Jenny contacted the family who had helped her, to thank them. I believe they all met up to share some good times together. I don’t know if she was able to track down the cop too, but she probably wanted to give him a hug.
Mugging does not always Pay
During my last week, a young European couple who lived a few doors down from our family was mugged in the street at about 2 am, while returning from an evening on the town. Two guys held them up with a knife. They had not been carrying much stuff, but the guys took her purse and some money from him. The couple later returned home, rather shaken.
The next day, they visited the cops to report the robbery. To their surprise, the cops replied that they had caught the 2 guys, and would they please come out back and identify them. It turned out that the mugging had been witnessed by a local, who had called the cops on his cell phone. While the cops were arriving, he had followed the bad guys, and was able to tell the cops where they had gone. (Probably they weren’t the smartest muggers on the block).
The couple identified the two guys, who ended up in Jail. They also got all their stuff back.

A Lucky Escape
This story is another one from Pedro.
Shortly after 9-11 he had embarked on a solo 3 or 4 month bike trip from Victoria BC to Mexico City. He was towing behind his bike a small trailer with camping gear, and started off with a ferry trip to Port Angeles.
He was passing though Oregon when his trailer and bike got out of control while descending a hill. He crashed, and was temporally dazed. The local medics took him to a nearby hospital, when he was examined and kept for 24 hrs. Apparently they found that he was only bruised, so he was able to continue on his way. However, he had to pay $3000 up front before being allowed to leave. Later they billed him for another $3000, which he paid.
He examined his bike and found several broken spokes. These he repaired. He decided that these had caused the crash, so he continued on his way without thinking any more about the accident.
He continued without mishap down through Baja California, and then crossed by boat to the mainland of Mexico. He had a number of long climbs until near Mexico City, when he was able to enjoy long fast descents into Mexico City. Unfortunately, disaster then struck again.
The last he remembers is riding fast down a long hill. When he recovered consciousness 3 days later, he was in a private hospital in Mexico City. He had lost his short term memory. Apparently, he had been found unconscious by some locals, amidst a jumbled mess of his bike, trailer and belongings. They had called the cops, who had collected all his gear and taken him to hospital. He had suffered a brain hemorrhage, so they had given him several Cat Scans and MRIs. They had found a large clot in his brain, but had decided not to operate. His life had hung in the balance for several days. Finally, the doctors were proved right, and the body re-absorbed enough of the blood clot to relieve the pressure on his brain. He then regained consciousness. The Canadian consulate visited him. To save money (after the Oregon expense) he asked if he could transfer him to a public hospital, which they did after 3 days. The cost of the stay in the private hospital was $180 total.
He spent another 2 weeks in the public hospital. It was not as fancy as before, but adequate. He got to know the director and the staff. They treated him like family. He was then well enough to leave. The total cost? Zero.
He visited the cops to get his stuff, and found that all his possessions were intact, including all his money and his video camera. The bike was a little beat up but he was able to make repairs, and later to make a successful return flight to Canada. Later, he figured out why he had had the two crashes. They had been caused not by broken spokes, but by the trailer getting out of control on long descents, and jack-knifing.

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