Antigua, Panajachel, Guatemala City, and the roads in between, Guatemala;
When I was a kid, I checked out all 9 books on ancient Egypt from my elementary school library on rotation. Sure, I checked out all of the books about all of the African countries, but Egypt was my shit. There was no internet back then (well, not in my house, at least), so those 9 books held all of the knowledge one could possibly know about Ancient Egypt – and I knew everything in them.
One book featured the bust of Nefertiti, the famed queen of Egypt, monotheist, and wife of Akhenaten. According to the book, her tomb had never been discovered, the bust was all that egyptologists so far had found. My life was set at that point – I would become and Egyptologist like my hero, Howard Carter, and I would find Nefertiti’s tomb.
Of course, in the time it took me to get through middle school I learned that Not only had the tomb been discovered, but that it had probably happened when I was in elementary school, and just the books in the library were out dated.
As middle school went on, I began to believe that there were may not be any more mysteries left to solve, and focused on drawing cars.
In 2016 I got to go back to Central America – this time, to Guatemala for a week. Like El Salvador, my favorite part of Guatemala was the buses.
The country being considerably safer than El Salvador these days, I was able to whip my camera out and get a few better shots (though many were still with my phone).
There is always an odd tension trying to be an amateur photographer in places like Central America. The danger in these places isn’t just internet chatter (like so much of the danger the internet describes). In many places, it is the locals that caution against so many things, and the guy standing outside your coffee shop with a shotgun isn’t there for fun.
At the same time, these are the places that just long to be photographed. Such color, such beauty.
I’ve started to realize the past year the bubble we tend to live in – especially as Americans, but I believe as Westerners, and probably humans as a whole.
On the one hand, there are lots of travelers that seem to have been all over the place. They tend to fall into some broad categories – Business Ex-Pats, Digital Nomads, Seasoned Backpackers, ‘gap-year’ Backpackers, English teachers, through-hikers / cyclists – each with their own physical artifacts, outlook, income, and level of dedication to the international lifestyle.
This community may be- a newer extension of the much longer tradition of perpetual expats. Even working my way through John Keays’ The Honourable Company I feel like the itch to travel and explore has always been a part of the culture (my heroes have always been travelers of all eras).
At the same time, almost nobody I know from my home town has ever been to – or even considered really travelling. Going to Guatemala, Southern Mexico, or most anywhere in Central or South America isn’t considered, and despite the fact that the experiences can be bought with a rather reasonable price tag, many still “dream” of going to Paris, Tokyo, Spain, or whatever.
At the same time, photography of exotic places seems to be at an all time high, but even when I try to find pictures of things, my searches come up short. Try finding a nice picture of Maximón or a description online in Spanish, let alone English. In the age where we feel like everything is online, I still can’t seem to find what is in the Salvadoran moon-shine called “Chaparro” that I tried.
Sometimes I wonder if the sheer amount of information – photographic and written – blinds us to looking for more things. Sometimes I wish everything was online to be found. Other times, I like knowing that I couldn’t have seen something unless I was there. Tension.
When I was about halfway through writing this – I hopped over to Wikipedia so I could spell Nefertiti’s and Ahkenaten’s names correctly. I got to reading and learned that the discovery of Nefertiti’s mummy in 2001 (I would have been in 7th grade), or other claims made in 1999 and 2003 were all debunked – her mummy, as of January 3, 2017, has not been found.
Had I known, I wonder if I would have ended up becoming a software designer.