Month: March 2016

We (Barely) Survived Driftwood

A couple of weeks ago something unexpected happened: Lucky Rabbit closed for 2 days. Why? Because the owners are awesome and decided that we all needed to take a break and go to the beach together. So on a Monday morning 11 people and 2 dogs piled into a shuttle. Two hours and one convenience store beer stop later we arrived at The Driftwood Surfer at El Paredon.

To the people who have never been to Driftwood, a beach vacation may sound like a relaxing break from the bustling bar scene that is Lucky Rabbit. To the people who know better, it was not. It took less than ten minutes to go from beers in the shuttle to friendship shots in the pool bar. Lucky was not working, so what better way to celebrate than continue to do what we do best: party.

A pool, a swim up bar, a floating beer pong table, more friendship shots, a run to the beach, a jump in the ocean, back to the pool where Julio had set up his DJ equipment… The first afternoon was a blur of debauchery and fun. We were taking advantage of this day off.

The sun went down and everyone ran into the ocean. That’s when it all went wrong. The riptide is strong at Paredon, especially at dusk, and a friend got carried out too far. We heard the shouts for help and two people had two different but equally important reactions – Julio went into Driftwood for help, Brayan swam out to Javi. I won’t go into details, but it was a tense time when no one on shore could see what was happening in the ocean as darkness quickly took over. We walked the direction the current was moving and finally saw Javi crawling to safety, but Brayan was still out there somewhere. From the beach no one could see the surfboard rescue happening in the waves, but when the approaching shadows turned into friends the relief was beyond anything I can write. Everyone was okay. Exhausted, scared, and suddenly sober, but okay.

The next day people were tired, some opted to leave, but those of us who stayed had a tamer but still great time enjoying another day of freedom. A long walk on the beach and a hearty breakfast bolstered the afternoon at the pool bar, and this time sunset was enjoyed on land only.

By the time we went back to Antigua we felt like we’d truly escaped for a few days. Although we weren’t rested by any means. Dominos delivery and chill time at home were in order before the week could carry on. It will probably be a while before I return to Driftwood, but do not be deterred by our fairly traumatic experience, it is still a worthy escape from Antigua.

My Unexpected Reaction to Being Back in San Francisco

I approached the Bay Area at perfect sunset timing. The sky was beautiful, and its vivid colors were reflected on the shimmering ocean. I resisted the urge to take out my camera. Just enjoy it, I told myself. San Francisco was welcoming me home with a stunning nature show.

Returning to San Francisco didn’t worry me when I left Antigua. I knew that I had a flight back, that this trip was just a vacation from the life I had begun in Antigua. I mentally prepared myself for the inevitable culture shock – I can flush toilet paper! I can drink the tap water! I can understand everyone around me! – that I had experienced before. I also mentally prepared myself to face the changes that had altered a city I once loved and called my home. A city that, just the day before, I permanently marked on my body in a new tattoo I got with my SF roommate.

I did not mentally prepare myself for wanting to move back. Within the first 24 hours of being back I was riding Andy’s hoverboard (technically it’s called a OneWheel but hoverboard is way more fun) through Crissy Field with the Golden Gate Bridge in front of me. Then we stopped for empanadas before meeting friends at a bar to watch March Madness, where I happily drank a Lagunitas IPA and Chainbreaker White IPA, my two favorite Bay Area beers. More beers and empanadas followed, and my night ended in the bar we’ve affectionately nicknamed “the littlest bar” talking literature with men twice our age. My San Francisco was still here. It wasn’t totally the same, but after two years neither am I. The point is, new me and new SF can still hang out.

Shit.

It hasn’t even been two days, so I’m not saying I will feel this way by the time I get on that return flight. But if it’s only taken this little time to feel at home here again, I fear for what will happen when my entire family comes to town next week. Best friends, all my family, and feeling again like this place is my city soulmate. I’m in for one hell of a trip.

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Back in the Swing of Life

It’s been over 150 days since I left the U.S. this round. It’ll be around 180 by the time I set foot on U.S. soil again in a month. But this time I have a return flight back to Guatemala, so this trip is actually just a visit. It’s the first round trip flight I’ve bought since Christmas 2013. That’s been quite a thing to wrap my head around.

Of the time I’ve been abroad, it’s been over 100 days since I arrived in Antigua. I always knew this phase of Travel Abrodge would be different, but I think with  65% of my time being spent in one place it’s safe to call it my expat phase.

Expat life is very different from travel life. I still consider myself a traveler, but I now have ties to somewhere that I haven’t had in years. I can recommend the best weekend activities, the locals’ favorite beers, nightlife according to your mood instead of the hostel flyers, and hidden gems for cheap eats that aren’t mentioned in Lonely Planet. Things that I searched for and thrived on when living in San Francisco and NYC are popping up again here. And this time I’m finding myself in a better position to share that knowledge – as a bartender.

When I work at the little front bar at Cafe No Se I am not just someone pouring drinks, I am a visitor’s guide to Antigua. Where can I get a quesadilla? Where can I dance on a Saturday night? Is the volcano hike worth it? The amount of questions I am asked about this town multiplies every night I work, and I am happy to actually know the answers.

When I’m not at work, when I’m just going about my daily life in town, or when I’m walking the dogs, I have places I want to return to or test out for the first time or just stop into for an errand. And on the way I run into people I know. Small town Antigua is like living on Nob Hill again – impossible to venture outside without saying hi to someone.

I went to brunch with a group of girls friends on Sunday. I’m going to the beach with all the Lucky bartenders for two days next week. These are things that I used to do regularly before traveling, and they’re back in my life now just in a different place with different people. It’s the things that I missed back in October when I started to think about settling down somewhere for a bit.

This the longest I’ve stayed anywhere since I left San Francisco back in May of 2014. I don’t know the next time I’ll be somewhere for as long as this, but I also don’t know when I’ll leave here. People like to ask me that too: “How long will you be in Antigua?” My typical answer: “Ask me when I leave.”