It’s 11:30am, and I’m sitting in a little streetside cafe in the town of Panajachel in Guatemala. Lake Atitlan has been a bucket list item for a while, and I’m mesmerized by the majestic volcanoes. Atitlan has 3. As I write this, I’m staring at two of them, Volcan Toliman and Volcan Atitlan. Surrounded by market stalls and Guatemalans going about their everyday lives, it feels great to sit and just observe everything going on.
I’m at a little cafe called El Patio, and I’ll give you one guess as to where the name came from. I’ve neglected my Spanish for years, but when the waiter came to take my order, I managed to order the Desayunos Tipicos – a typical breakfast for this region. First came the coffee. I’ll admit, typically I’m a Latte or Cappuccino drinker, but this stuff is amazing – just plain black. The Guatemalans grow it in the forests on the sides of the volcanoes where the soil is rich with nutrients. Then comes the orange juice – freshly pressed right before it was handed to me. When I think back to what we serve back home, a bar gun fuelled with concentrated bags of orange flavoured syrup, it is quite a world away.
The service is painfully slow by North American standards, but by Guatemalan time they’ve got it just perfect. The longer it takes them to cook my food, the longer I get to sit and watch the world go by. Every now and again, an old lady will come up to me, stacks of home made articles on her head, and try to sell me something. Her weathered lines must tell an interesting story, and at this point I wish I hadn’t neglected my Spanish for so long. All I can really muster at this point is a simple “no, gracias.” As she walks away, my attention turns to the market stalls across the street from me. The owners are setting them up so precisely and accurately, all selling home made items, each with their owners sitting out front weaving away making more. I decide that I must at least buy something before I leave, although I’m not entirely sure what yet.
Breakfast comes, and it’s delicious. The eggs are very recognizable, and are accompanied by fried plantain (like banana), refried beans, tortillas, and what looks like some sort of goats cheese. Some warm, freshly baked bread comes on the side, and it’s amazing. Why can’t bread taste this good at home? As I’m finishing up, there’s a flash of lightning and some giant thunder claps. Rain begins to pour, and everyone on the streets begins to scurry to shelter. For me, it looks like I’m just going to sit and enjoy drinking my coffee for a while.
As I sit and look out over the lake at the volcanoes, I wonder why I brought myself here. There’s not a lot to do, and I chose the wrong season to come – it’s the rainy season. In a funny sense, though, doing nothing is exactly what I wanted and needed to do. It feels great. And on that note, back to my coffee…