There are two sides to San Pedro: One, is what my Spanish teacher affectionately termed as “Gringolandia”, a strip along the water crammed with restaurants, hostels, bars, blonde hair and tanned skin. The second is just a little way up the hill, crammed with fresh produce, colourful walls, skirts, and religious iconography.
I’m not sure if there is a set amount of time you have to spend in a place to be considered visiting or living there. While I certainly would never claim to have lived in Guatemala, I can comfortably say that by the end of my stay, I knew and would walk down the streets of San Pedro and recognise more places and people than I would back home in Melbourne. Where did the best falafels, the freshest croissants, the cheapest smoothies, the strongest drinks. Bbq days, quiz nights, live music, and after parties. Which pool tables were wonky; who had the strongest wifi; how to sneak free water. The Japanese guy only open for lunch; the tostada lady who catches the last rays of sun; Israeli places that close Saturday days–but open again at night when Orion’s Belt peaks out from the sky.
I learned the right way to pat down tortillas, cooked enough curry over a fire to feed a family, and danced every night. I tried shakshuka for the first time off a stranger’s plate, made pina coladas behind the bar, and accosted people with fliers and free shots in full zombie 90s getup. I watched a man get fed moonshine like a baby bird, partied on a boat, and co-organised a treasure hunt for Katty on her birthday.
It was a wonderful three weeks and made leaving hard. On our last day, we meandered aimlessly through unexplored alleyways and sat under speckled sunlight exchanging knowing glances and indulgent smiles. We danced all night one last time and group hugged all the crazy characters we met along the way, making empty promises to meet again one day in other distant lands. We caught the shuttle the next morning, glancing back sadly one last time at the lake and the volcanoes towering over it, casting long shadows over the day.