Month: May 2016

A Different Kind of Driftwood Trip

When my schedule was changed last minute and I found myself with two days off in a row my first thought was “I should go somewhere.” Then a few hours later, I was being invited to the beach for those exact days. Call it serendipity or the universe sending me a sign or call it nothing at all, whatever aligned at that moment I couldn’t say no. So I went back to Driftwood Surfer.

It was a totally different trip this time around. Polina, Virginia, and I were going to relax, decompress from Antigua, read books and give no fucks for a couple of days. It sounded perfect and it was.

We were happy to arrive to a calm Driftwood. The party starters weren’t there, the large group of rambunctious Aussies weren’t there, the friendship shots weren’t happening. Thank god. Instead we spent our days exactly as planned, taking long walks whenever we pleased, getting in some good hammock and book time, and, of course, hanging out in the pool at the pool bar. Even after day one I already felt like a different person, back to my chill self.

Of course we are the girls of Cafe No Se, so it wouldn’t be right to go three days without mezcal. Luckily Driftwood had a couple of bottles on hand, so we decided to lighten their load and take a bottle of Joven off their hands. For ourselves. Which we completely devoured over the course of 8 hours on day two. Bottle service of Ilegal Mezcal to the pool please and thank you.

By the time we boarded the shuttle back to Antigua on Wednesday I felt refreshed. It was exactly the trip I needed. Not just the escape from Antigua and time in the sun (my tan was entirely gone), but the company. I wish I had known earlier just how well the three of us got along. It was a joy to get to know Polina and Virginia beyond our work interactions. I feel lucky to call them my friends.

(Photo credit to Virginia)

Cafe No Se

On any given night at Cafe No Se you could find yourself sitting next to an expat from the U.S., a traveler from Europe, a professional from Guatemala, or a local Antigua business owner. You could be part of a conversation about the different things that are valued in a life of travel versus career, the variety of cultural offerings around Latin America, the political issues of the United States, or, of course, the ins and outs of mezcal. Visitors find themselves back in the bar night after night, promising just one more drink and lying every time until eventually the lights turn on and the alcohol is pulled off the shelves. People who have never met before leave as best friends, whether or not their friendship will last past this one night. But one night, one encounter, is all it takes to fall captive to Boshimon’s spell, to understand the vision under which Cafe No Se was founded, to call this place your home away from home.

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Back in Antigua

So I came back to Antigua. When I left in September I thought that my return to San Francisco at the end of March would signal the end of this Phase 2 of Travel Abrodge, yet here I was, sitting on a plane on my way back to Guatemala. Much like on the way to San Francisco I knew I had a lot to look forward to upon my return to Antigua. I had my puppies and my boyfriend and a new role at work to begin and people to catch up with and a few events in April I was looking forward to, plus it was about to be low season so I would get to experience Antigua outside of hectic tourist season.

When my airport shuttle hit the cobblestone streets I was genuinely happy to be back home. Town looked bright again, like it did when I first arrived, and my house welcomed me back with comforting arms. But as time moved on I realized that I was not the same person who had left. My trip to San Francisco had messed with me more than I had realized at first, and more than I ever thought it would. Every day I woke up was a coin toss – would I want to live here today or yearn for the place I had just left? I found myself unhappy for no good reason, riding an emotional rollercoaster with no end in sight. I wrote this.

I knew I had to wait it out. There was a reason that I had decided to stay in Antigua, made a life for myself here, decided to get on that plane to come back. Removing myself from the bubble to go back to a life that was familiar, comfortable, loved, was a risk, but it didn’t mean that was the life for me right now. Right now I was here, living as an expat, living out a bartending dream, living with a new family I created here with Brayan, Molly, and Mary. Right now I was doing this. So it was time to really do this.

Spanish classes three times a week. Volunteering at Caoba farms. Going for walks and runs. Creating a perfect work schedule. The uncertainty didn’t go away entirely, but it faded with every day.

I celebrated my birthday in Antigua. I didn’t want to do anything big, 29 is just another year, I’ve had enough birthdays in my 20’s to let this one go by like any other day. Brayan and I went to lunch at a place I’ve always wanted to eat and for a good craft beer. And it isn’t a birthday without stopping at San Simon for a delicious cocktail. And then the day turned into a bar crawl. A friend had invited me to a pop-up DJ show. I walked around with Brayan promoting Ladies Night at Lucky Rabbit. Which of course ended at Lucky Rabbit. Everywhere I went everyone said Happy Birthday. People bought me drinks, gave me hugs, were so happy I came back from the States, and had big smiles as they called me the Birthday Girl. When I got to Lucky they broke out the party hats, free shots, and an embudo in my honor. There’s nothing that makes you feel more welcomed and loved in a new home than everyone you know wanting to celebrate your birthday with you.

I leave for the States again in a month, this time with a one way flight. This is already messing with my head again. Everything was going great and here I am again, unsure about how I feel. People are leaving all around me, should I be one of them? Or will this little reprieve make me happy to return again? Who knows. But for now I’m trying not to focus on that. I’m trying to focus on all the greatness that I did experience here before and after the last round of U.S.-induced emotional turmoil. I’ll let you know how that goes.

My Visit to San Francisco

6 months after I left the U.S. and 4 months after I came to Antigua, I boarded a flight to San Francisco. It was the first time I really removed myself from the bubble I’d been living in, and it was to go back to what I once called home.

Home is a difficult word for me. Is home where I grew up, New Jersey? Is home where I chose to make my life for a while, San Francisco? Is home the place I would go if shit hit the fan, Vermont? Is home where I now pay rent and work, Antigua? None of those really feel right but they also all do at the same time. I declare my status homeless.

Anyway, as I left my new home for my old home, I knew I had a lot to look forward to. I was going back for my sister’s wedding! I’ve been to family weddings and a friend’s wedding but nothing is the same as going to your only sister’s wedding. Not only would I be involved in a variety of stages – from a pre-wedding celebration of Kara (aka a bachelorette party but we’re not really using that word) to a flower market run to hair and make-up the morning of the big day to giving a toast at the reception – but I would also be a part of a family changed. My sister would now have a new first family with her husband and a new branch of the family with his family. I would now have a brother and extended family through him. The Brodgesell’s would now be a fivesome or a trio at holidays.

I wondered how this change would hit me. Would I feel the losing a sister or gaining a brother side more strongly? In truth, I didn’t really feel either. I simply felt happy for my sister. That she has a partner in life, one who I truly believe is right for her and genuinely like, and that they had a celebration of their love. It’s not like things will drastically change, they already live together and share pretty much everything, but we were all able to take a weekend to recognize how wonderful they are together. Isn’t that the point of weddings really? For everyone to be happy together because the couple is so obviously happy that it wafts over everyone like chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven?

Mmm chocolate chip cookies. What’s a girl gotta do to get some freshly baked chocolate chip cookies in Guatemala?

Leading up to the wedding I got to have some great San Francisco time with friends and family. I revisited my old neighborhood and ate all of the food I missed (burritos, sushi, udon, pizza, a legit burger, even a ridiculously expensive kale cesar salad) and drank all of the drinks I missed (IPAs and bourbon). I was fortunate enough to be in town for Easter, a day typically known for its drunken debauchery amongst my friends that was noticeably tamer this year, but at least I got to see friends and then see adults race down a serpentine road in costume on big wheels at the Bring Your Own Big Wheel Race, an event I forever associate with my first weekend living in SF. In between the bigger activities I just hung out with my friends, the real highlight of being back, in the city I love so much.

And then there was the family time. The bonus of being at your sister’s wedding is knowing most of the guests. Family from both sides were in town for the weekend so I got to see everyone on this visit. The longer I’m away the more I truly appreciate spending any time with family, so it was wonderful to see them all this time around.

The wedding itself was beautiful, perfect, seamless, and fitting for Kara and Noah. They looked fantastic. The ceremony was touching and candid. The dinner was tasty and filled with joyous conversation. Then everyone danced until they told us we couldn’t dance anymore. So we went to a bar two blocks away and kept going for a little while longer. Surprise of the night? The dance off between my dad and my sister’s husband. I never expected it and will never forget it, for better or for worse.

All in all, it was a fantastic visit to San Francisco. I couldn’t have wished for anything more. I would be lying if I didn’t admit it made returning to Antigua more difficult than I expected. But I wouldn’t trade my trip for anything, it was magical to be back in my old life for a little bit.