Yolkobsens recently found themselves on foot at least 10 kms (about 6 miles) on a winding road outside of Antigua Guatemala. It was a beautiful going-for-78-degree day here in Guatemala, late October. Normally, we would have enjoyed the clement and soft weather but we were bummed because the house we had rented online turned out to be a musty nightmare. Though beautifully designed and constructed in a pseudo Spanish colonial style, it had been shut up and uninhabited for a long time, making it moldy, damp and unlivable. Though the Spanish colonial style is lovely, a shut-up concrete structure (and it’s a bit damp in Antigua Guatemala) quickly starts to crumble and peel. Well, you get the picture.
So, having arrived there in the dark, directly from the Guatemala City airport the night before, we found ourselves stranded in a house we wanted nothing to do with. It was near a small village, we later learned, but when we woke up in the Villa Nightmare, we found ourselves isolated with no bearings and a limited sense of where we were. Though we had a cell phone, we couldn’t call for a taxi since we didn’t have a handy number and, alas, neither Yolkobsen speaks Spanish.
With no other choice, we set off on foot to follow the road we hoped would eventually lead us to the welcoming arms of Antigua Guatemala. After walking about five minutes, a sturdy green Toyota slowed on the road and backed up. Inside was a kind Guatemalan man who was headed to Antigua Guatemala for his weekly acupuncture followed by lunch with his daughter and grandchildren.
We thought we had been hugely blessed by the lift into town, but we were further rewarded with the man’s story. His English was charmingly accented and excellent. He explained that his father was American and his mother Argentine. Responding to our pelting questions, he went on to tell us how he grew up in Argentina and, as a young man of 20, traveled to Guatemala to work with his uncle, an American executive. The plan, he told his mother, was to stay 6 months for a youthful experience. ”Fifty-four years later, I am still here,” he explained just as the sun was coming up full force over the lushly green highlands that surround Antigua Guatemala. ”I simply fell in love with Guatemala and couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.” Though it broke his mother’s heart, he stayed. He told us that a half century ago there were very few formal highways, including the well asphalted one on which we were driving.
We realized later that he must have arrived just as the 10-year period of democratic and social reforms was coming to an end in this country, leading to the 30 years of civil war. When the Samaritan arrived, it must have seemed a country full of promise. “It was a kind of wild beauty that I couldn’t just walk away from,” he said. ”So here I am, retired, a grandfather.” And there we were, safely delivered to Antigua Guatemala.
By the time we got into town, we had forgotten our disappointment and frustration over the ill-fated house rental and happily reminded of why we chose to come back to Guatemala and Antigua Guatemala in particular.
We thanked this good Samaritan as we got out near the Parque Central, both for his kindness and for a story well told.