Friday, February 03, 2006

Visiting the Embassy and Zona 1

We woke up around 4:30 in the morning to try to get ourselves ready to make our 7:45 appointment at the Embassy. The US Embassy is about 15 minutes away from the Marriott in Guatemala City, but knowing us, we'd need all of the morning to try to get everything ready to go and grab something quick to eat.

So around 4:30 we got up and began showering and getting ready for the day. Savannah slept pretty well for us during the time, waking up around 6, which allowed us to get ready and get her ready and fed in the morning. We met our translator at 7:15 and made it to the Embassy without a hitch.

The Embassy was very busy. We waited outside (nice that it's in the low 60s at this point in the morning) and met with a "gatekeeper" person who checked our appointment time and would eventually allow us to head through the security check. What was surprising was the number of locals at the embassy as well to receive Visas to visit or work in the States. There were easily 100 people outside also waiting their turn to get inside and receive a Visa. I was happy to see that there were apparently plenty of people who took the time to find a legal way into our country rather than try to skip across the border. Granted, it's a long way for these folks to travel to the US since without a Visa they would have to drive all the way across Mexico to make it here. Otherwise they can catch a flight.

Regardless, we made it into the Embassy and began waiting for our papers to be filed. We sat while our representative filed the paperwork for us and fed Savannah some Cherrios. There were many families there adopting, probably a good dozen who were in the Embassy at some point in the process. After about a half hour or so, we were called in to the interview. We were asked some simple questions, signed some papers and then waited again.

At this point the paperwork had gone back so that they could make sure that there was nothing that the US doctors saw wrong with Savannah. This report was in the sealed documents that we presented to the embassy. Since there was nothing, we received our recipt for the Visa and an appointment time to come back on Monday to pick up her Visa.

All said, it was about an hour process. We were then able to take a quick trip down to Zona 1 with our representative. She wanted to show us the difference between the poor and the weathly in Guatemala. You could see it in Zona 1, Many old buildings, homes. Seemed to be fairly safe during the day, but at night you could see it was a rough neighborhood. At first glance, when you see the private business guards with the semi-automatic weapons, it's a bit shocking. However, once you realize what they are there for, it's not so shocking. It actually makes you feel nice and safe if you were to shop in those establishments.

We then drove over to Zona 14, where many of the weathly live. We were able to head back into a gated community and see some of the other consulates for other countries and many of the larger homes worth millions of dollars. The differences between the rich and poor is probably very much like what you would have seen in the US during the time of Carnegie and Rockefeller.

One of the other things you notice is all of the American style fast food. McDonalds, KFC, Burger King, Taco Bell. It's all here. Camperos was the Guatemalan fast food and it was also everywhere. There are other things that seem odd as well. There's a Hooters in Guatemala City. The Hooters Golf Tour makes a stop here for the $200,000 Guatemala International Open event the week of Feb 13. We saw many adverts for the open on the sides of bus stop shelters. Stuff you wouldn't expect to nessesarily see, but you see it here.

Once we got back we decided to grab some lunch at the Mariott. We were able to sit in a covered outdoor patio and it was very nice to be able to do that. We then head over to the local grocery to pick up some water and see if there was anything else we needed. We had been told not to eat the fruit unless it was in a peel, but were tempted when we saw apples with the familiar Washington State sticker on them that we see here. Again while we walked to the store we saw the familiar armed men guarding the various businesses.

The rest of the day we spent relaxing as we prepared to head to Antigua tomorrow with our tour guide Eduardo.

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