The Comforts of Xela
By Luisa Ditmars
If you haven’t been challenged by living conditions in the outback recently, you might not realize just what a paradise of comfort and accessibility we enjoy in Xela. For example, Xela has sidewalks, and these are rightly famous. They increase mental alertness with a sharp surge of adrenaline after only one plunge into a foot-sized chasm. Sure you get the odd infection that doesn’t heal for two months if you are fool enough to scrape a bare toe in the process. It’s your own fault for not realizing that Xela street dust is two parts diesel cinders, an equal measure of dried urine, and a pinch of doggie doo, all glued together with spit.
Here too, unlike the usual village custom of curtains or empty archways, there are doors. These can be closed, or in extreme cases locked, to secure privacy for activities that one considers personal. And no one will be offended if you decline to invite a crowd in to handle your jewelry and ask bold questions.
Xela has garbage collection and street cleanup, too. While tidy villagers spend a lot of time melting plastic in their woodstoves and hiding the rest, Xela´s hordes of fluorescent green vested workers with corn brooms start at the crack of dawn to heave what was discarded the previous day into the city’s vast vertedero (or at least we hope it goes there).
Transportation in Xela is effortless as well, compared to the obstacles you might face en el campo. Xela´s colectivo routes intersect those of the charming chicken buses, where you can enjoy Duranguense and the cordial company of xelatecos as you zoom to your destination. However, in the mountainous areas of the country, buses grind slowly up steep rutted climbs, flanked by an overflowing ditch on one side, and an unprotected drop on the other. They run infrequently to save on the wear and tear of the ancient vehicles, but this makes it dicey to return in the evening.
Finally, Xela has a climate that is perfect for rational thought and productivity. Away from the highlands, 7:30am is the time to stop hurrying or thinking. Any exertion causes sweat to soak through your clothing and hair, then drip into the fabric of your pricey packsack. Better to put on your winter underwear for your unheated Xela office than to steam year-round.
So, for these reasons and many more, Xela is the place to be if you value creature comforts over adventure.
Editor’s note: The author just returned from 3 months in a beautiful but isolated cloud forest near Retalhuleu. Though she enjoyed herself, she´s very glad to be back in Xela again.