Uncle Jose and the Doorstop Gang
By Rotton Tacos
Every time I visit my grandma she sees me off by waving from the porch and saying “Now you make safe choices”. And every time I reply by saying “…you know I will”, while knowing I’m lying though my teeth as my brain says “… there are some things you never tell grandma.”
The first time I entered Guatemala was, technically, illegal. On my first trip out of the jungle in 2 months, I was dropped off at the Belize-Guatemala border at 5 am, alone and determined to go 2 days non-stop to Nicaragua for a New Year’s Eve party.
Being my first solo border crossing, I put on my best “don’t even try to fuck with me” face. Money-changers yell, I ignore them. Randos hanging at the border doing lord knows what get all “mamacita”, I flip them off. Cab driver trolls me shouting something that sounds like “…need….pus….”, I shoot a death stare.
A 12 hour micro-tuktuk-bus-cab later, I arrive in Guate, befriend a Nicaraguan women that has also chosen spontaneity, and we wait for midnight, when we can buy tickets to purgatory that will take us from Guate to Managua on a 20 hour bus you’re not allowed to take a shit on. As midnight comes a family of 78 people appears, bus tickets for each one. We’ll have to wait til 1 am the next day.
Remembering another bus-hotel office I passed earlier, Nica and I go investigate. The bus leaves at 7 am. We’re not allowed in the hotel, but Jose the doorman pities us and lets us sleep on the downtown Guatemala City hotel sidewalk. As the night goes on our level of silliness, delirium, and comradery increases. Uncle Jose is simultaneously our bodyguard and psych ward nurse. Two drunk Italian women join the queue, as stereotypically drunk and stereotypically Italian as can be. I make a mental note to avoid Italy.
7am arrives and there are just 3 tickets left for Nica, me, and the Italian pair — so someone is about to get screwed. Nica is successful. The attendant checks my passport and hands it back saying “No sell ticket. No stamp.” “What does that mean?!” The attendant sells my ticket to the Italians and I watch the bus depart. Uncle Jose watches it all.
“Jose…what do I do?! How do I leave Guatemala?!!!” Uncle Jose handles it all. Within 10 minutes they’ve stored my bag and put me in a cab to the embassy. I learn that because I don’t have an entry stamp I must 1) pay for an entry stamp and 2) pay for entering the country illegally.
With another 14 hours to kill until bus attempt #3, I daytrip to Antigua and stare at walls. 41 hours after leaving Belize, 30 hours after roaming Guate like Queen of the Hobos, and $100 lighter, I take my seat. As the bus rolls on I wonder how I could’ve just walked into Guatemala, why didn’t anyone stop…and then I remember the cab driver at the border and I curse my stubborn ears: “….need …..PASSPORT….”.