I was a bird outside of the cage today, exploring my neighborhood and in search of a few items. I decided the best way to acquaint myself was to walk instead of hopping in a cab to go a few blocks.
My first stop, the Farmacia. I’ve explained in blog posts past, a farmacia, is equivalent to a small drugstore in America (or “The States” as non-Americans refer to the US). A farmacia is much like an independently run Walgreens with no food, clothes, vintage lame films on DVD, “snack daddy” heaven, or freezer section. No ever-expanding beauty aisle, and no person standing in the vicinity, with a hell of a story that forces the human being within you to give your precious change for their unique cause upon exiting the store.
A girl stood alongside me as I looked to decide if this store had what I needed, asking me for money.
I heard her whispering, “mi abuelo”. I looked over to observe that for sure an older gentlemen was sitting on the curb looking 10 minutes from dead. My heart strings weren’t tugged. Hung from better describes it. However, I didn’t think it was a wise idea to start distributing cash, in the middle of a crowded store. I knew that I was getting the “look there’s a tourist” stare from at least 14 men, women, and children. If I would’ve given her money, that may have opened the floodgates and I would’ve made my charitable contributions for the rest of my twenties and into my mid-thirties while standing in store.
I find that essentials like soap and women’s products are inexpensive here. I bought both and paid Q20. With an exchange rate of $7.40 to Q1, that breaks down to $2.70! If you were to buy these same products at Family Dollar (the pretend discount store of urban city dwellers) your total wouldn’t have been under $5.00.
Next stop, a clothing store. Here in Coban there’s an abundance of clothing resell shops. Guatemala is the market for the clothing we’ve divorced like a cheating spouse in the US. These stores are the equivalent to Value Village, Salvation Army, Goodwill, and the metal boxes on the side of busy streets where you can deposit clothing items you no longer have a need for. In a 5-block radius I passed 6 of these stores, all independent. The items found within these stores vary significantly in quality. You can find anything from an old prom dress, Halloween costume, or school uniform; to old lint-covered pajamas, H&M apparel with patches of fabric missing, and recycled underwear and bras. There’s literally everything, prices ranging from $0.67-$16.89. These stores are for those people who enjoy the sport of rummaging through heaps and mounds of nothing to find a gem. If you’ve watched Hoarders, these stores are perfect for ruining a family.
Coban is 10-20 degrees cooler than Semuc Champey, although I still sweat when sitting. While searching for a sweater to rock with everything (which consists of warm-weather clothes and a few pairs of overpriced REI fancy-scmancy pants－thank you babe-a-licious), I kept my eye open for a pair of lounge pants. I work from the Airbnb and see no need to wear working people attire.
I was considering buying a couple of over-sized, men’s t-shirts because they looked so comfortable and cost $0.67. The Nike sign on both was backward but who cares. I wasn’t trying to take photos in them or make a fashion statement. I am my most productive when I feel like I am at home and free to stop a task whenever I want. My boss would be so proud! I came with a backpack that’s pretty heavy and full; I would hate to pop a zipper for a couple of $0.67 shirts that I didn’t need. The backward Nike sign was telling me, “Don’t Do It”. I must say that traveling with this backpack keeps me sane. I could buy piles of shiny, comfortable looking randomness. The backpack reminds me of what’s essential, and what to leave for someone else to waste money on (i.e. an awesome mini keyboard for $1.25 or these red ribbon-laced tap shoes that I tried on but don’t fit).
Many of these stores have neon signs on the outside advertising their lowest price. Okay, so they aren’t neon signs as we know them. Neon poster board paper, drawn on with black permanent marker and if the designer was fancy, thick bubble lettering. The sign’s hung from string so it twirls in the wind.
I’m not complaining AT ALL, the signs catch my attention. Consumers get a clear understanding of how cheap, cheap is and find the perfect spot to fit their budget. Think about it. If items sold are cheaper than $1, construction paper is the perfect advertising material; gotta balance the budget!
As a tourist, I hope to purchase local products made of local textile.
Unfortunately, because I am in an area of the city that has a high population of locals, typical clothing isn’t what is appealing to them. When I asked for a place to find said sweater, again and again people kept directing me to these resell shops to get “beautiful, high quality American clothes”. Interesting that we each want what the other person has an abundance of but is sick of looking at.
I was unable to find a sweater because I didn’t want to settle for an American thrift store (and not a cool vintage thrift store) find.
I walked to 7 stores, 7! I told you I sweat sitting, so I feel like it is raining underneath this grey dress. I haven’t managed to find what I was looking for. What I did find was a scarf to cloak around my neck. My amazing friend Ashley Lee (yes, I was born at a time when Ashley was the name to give your daughter apparently. Thanks dad) taught me that if you have a warm scarf, the rest of your body isn’t so cold after all because your core is warm. Sounds stupid? I know, until I started trying it! Thanks Ash. If anyone ever tells you you’re worthless, you’re a genius to me!
And the hunt for a warm sweater continues, for another day.
It’s funny being myself, and watching myself evolve. I am moving confidently, navigating without wandering into the outlands (hint: Lion King! Simba wasn’t allowed to wander in the dark places), asking questions of people, speaking up, and smiling. I’m famous for looking upset, pissed, mad, hurt, disappointed and lots of other unpleasant adjectives. I looked at my reflection in a storefront window, and noticed I was smiling!
Funny how we grow when other people aren’t trying to throw their own brands of Miracle-Grow in our soil!