Cafe No Se

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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Life in Antigua

I realize it’s been a while since I wrote anything. But that’s the thing about a travel blog – when you stop traveling, what else do you write about? A while back I posted that I had decided to stay in Antigua, so that’s what I’ve been doing lately. Living here.

So what’s that like? Pretty great. In December I moved into a house with three friends and three puppies. That means I have to pay rent. Coming from the States I was a bit in shock how much we could get here for so little money. Two-story house, fully furnished (and not just beds and couches, but towels, dishes, even a coffee maker), two car garage with washer/dryer, all utilities included plus cleaning twice a week, in a gated community a 15-minute walk from Central Park. Sounds expensive right? US$900. Split between 4 of us, that’s US$225 each. I can almost hear all of you packing your belongings and booking flights to move here too.

I did the math and with what I still had allotted for hostel accommodations through the end of March I could actually live in Antigua and do nothing but hang out. That’s sounds boring though. And if I am going to stay somewhere for so long, then I should take advantage to work and save money so I can keep going again later, like I did this summer in Vermont.

So I got two jobs. I have always had an interest in bartending but never was in a place to explore it. Now seemed as good a time as any. First I started working at the bar that had welcomed me with open arms from my first night in town, the people I am happy to call my Antigua family: Lucky Rabbit. It also happens to be one of the biggest parties in town on a Saturday night, hands down my favorite night to work there. Lucky Rabbit is a big part of my life here, I owe it a lot. I started over the holidays, working long nights on Christmas Eve and New Years Eve. Antigua was overrun with tourists and locals alike, meaning I was thrown into the chaos of a popular bar during vacation time. It was one hell of a way to learn. But I thrived on the excitement, the adrenaline, the pure fun of being behind the bar. I quickly moved from last-minute fill in to scheduled employee.

I picked up a second bartending gig at the end of January at Cafe No Se. It is the polar opposite of Lucky but it matches the other side of my personality. No Se is the kind of bar I would seek out in San Francisco. It is a candlelit mezcal bar with live music every night and a rotating cast of characters that share life stories and philosophical idioms for hours over dark beers and shots of Joven. It’s also an expat haven, which is a nice complement to the mostly Guatemalan staff at Lucky. Between the two bars I feel like I get to experience both sides of town and of myself. It’s working great.

Otherwise I just live daily life like you would anywhere else. Well, maybe not exactly like anywhere else. When I go grocery shopping it isn’t to a supermarket but at the local market, where vegetables are piled up on wood tables and meat hangs in tile stalls. When I go clothes shopping it’s at the same market but in the back clothes section, and it’s mostly second-hand items and tables of 2 or 3 Q bargains. But I still cook meals at home (or more accurately Brayan cooks and I open the wine) and celebrate nights off by going out with the girls. And now when I walk around Antigua I run into people I know all over the place. It’s becoming home.

Home in Guatemala. I guess this means my travel blog is now an expat blog, tales of living abroad. Maybe I should change it from TravelAbrodge to LivingAbrodge. Thoughts?