Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Just Perfect Really: Stories from A to Z

Inside, the apartment building smelled of new construction and looked deserted. Unlocking our unit on the sixth floor, we entered with such relief. Going to switch on the lights, nothing happened. The brand-new fridge was plugged in but not cold or running. No electricity. 

We hurried back to the security man, who was surprised to hear it. “No luz?” 

No luz, nada.

He locked up his little building and came with us to check. He opened the box just inside the front door and flipped a switch. Lights came on. Forrest and I both felt a little silly. 

Our unit was immaculate and modern and looked brand new. Two bedrooms, a full kitchen, nice living room, dining area and a laundry room with washer and dryer that were still wrapped in packing material. I thought we might be the first occupants.

Each bedroom had a double bed, dresser, side tables and large closet. I could live here! Too bad we were only staying for one week. Too bad it was $500 a week. If it were $500 a month, I would not want to leave. 

“Do you have the Wi-Fi password, Mom?” 

I checked my emails and texts from Israel. “No, he didn’t send it to me.” 

We went back to get it from the guy. He wrote down the Wi-Fi codes for the buildings on either side of ours. "Your apartment has no Internet", he explained, "but certain areas in the building will connect using these codes." 

A major setback. I needed Wi-Fi for work. Such a lovely apartment and I wouldn’t be able to work in it? 

Oh well, we could try out the hotspots tomorrow. We returned upstairs to Room 610. Before we had left, Forrest had shut the bedroom doors for some reason, and now mine would not open. Somehow the button on the handle had gotten pushed in and it was locked. He tried sliding a credit card through to no avail. 

Third trip back down to security guy. I figured he would have a master key. Instead, he said he offered to call a locksmith, but we had to pay for it. He told me how much. Wait. This was on us? 

I questioned him several times to make sure I understood correctly. Yes, he confirmed, it will take a locksmith and it’s our responsibility to pay him. Should he call? 

What other choice did we have? I had enough cash from what I withdrew at the airport. He called and told us to wait in our apartment for the locksmith, maybe thirty minutes. 

By then we were both so hungry, maybe we could get something while we waited. I asked security guy where to find food, and he gestured toward a direction that looked deserted with no lights and nothing but emptiness. 

“We can find something later, Mom," Forrest reassured me. "Let's wait upstairs." We couldn’t risk missing the locksmith to search for food. 

The nuts and peanut butter were in the kitchen, but neither of us wanted that. We needed fresh, hot, and filling. 

The locksmith arrived in less than thirty minutes and unlocked the door in less than five. I didn’t have the exact amount to pay him, but he said to wait, he had change in his truck. He left, and we wondered if we'd see him again. 

Sure enough, he returned with the change in small bills and coins. An honest guy, just like our first taxi driver. When so many things go wrong in a day, a little positive like that makes up for a lot of disappointment. 

Forrest and I took off in search of dinner, hoping to find something open this late. This area had new construction among empty lots, everything under development. We might have to walk a ways, but at least we didn’t have to haul anything. 

We headed the direction the guy had pointed. After about three blocks, we came to a small, open tienda. They had empanadas in a case, a few empty tables, and a soccer game playing on the TV. 

We got one empanada to share, which they heated in the microwave and brought to our table. I didn't figure an end of the day empanada reheated in a microwave would be very satisfying, but it turned out to be the most delicious thing I had eaten in recent memory. We ordered another one to share, wondering why we didn’t get two to begin with. 

Forrest was thrilled to find a soccer game on their TV. He cheered for Chile along with the few people there watching, employees apparently. We were the only customers. The game soon ended, and they prepared to close. If it hadn’t been for that soccer game, the place would likely not have been open. 

We walked the three blocks back, feeling energized as we discussed the events of the day. How pleasant and luxurious was our bus, how desert-like the landscape. How strange that our building had listed its name as Enjoy Coquimbo when it clearly was not Enjoy Coquimbo. We laughed about the electricity and wondered why neither of us had thought to check the box. 

Forrest was effusive about the soccer game and the chance to watch Chile play in a cafĂ© in Chile and cheer for the national team with Chileans. 

“Those thirty minutes watching that game were worth the whole trip,” he said. “I couldn’t have planned it any better if I’d tried.” It was not a World Cup year, but he was a fan of the sport and followed the games. “I had thought how cool it would be if I could find a place to watch a game while I’m in Chile, and there it just happened!” 

How delicious were those empanadas, we declared. How nice were those people! How honest was the locksmith! What a luxurious apartment we have! How exciting to finally be on our first real stay in South America! 

We bonded over these shared experiences as we found our way home in the dark. A perfect ending to this very long day. 


  1. Hi Karen - it sounds a bit of a pain ... but you circumnavigated those challenges really well - and thank goodness the empanadas were so delicious. Then as you say - a perfect ending ... cheers Hilary

    1. Hilary, it could have gone either way but I'm glad too that all ended so well.

  2. I'm so excited to see you're doing the A to Z! Really enjoying travelling vicariously with you <3

    1. Hi Deniz, thanks for visiting and commenting! It's been fun doing this although my posts are so long and every day like this... I'm not sure how well any readers can keep up with it!

  3. Your patience amazes me. I'm glad you had electricity, but I would've seriously lost it once getting locked out of the room and told I had to pay for a locksmith. I think my voice would've gotten a little loud.
    I do admit that I'm GLAD Forrest's idea of using a credit card on the latch to get in didn't work. I mean, would you have really relaxed if it had worked and then you knew that anybody could get in any time of night, as long as they had a debit or credit card? Yikes!
    Glad the soccer game went well and made the less than enjoyable experiences worth the wait.
    Again, I enjoy your writing. Thanks for the read.

    1. Hi Debi, it was definitely a very secure building through and through. I still think it's odd that the security guy didn't have a master key to open the bedroom door. I was too tired to complain about it though.

  4. You were both tired and hungry so not checking the box is perfectly normal. The place sounds great and the food was good. Now it will be a nice week ahead.

  5. I wouldn't have even known to check a box in the front. Adventures in travel. I'm happy for both of you that everything turned out well. I would have been frightened to walk three blocks in a strange place late at night even with my son.

  6. Yeah, weird that the security guy couldn't unlock the door. Hmmm. When we lived in LA, my son's babysitter was from Venezuela and made the most amazing empanadas!


Comments are welcome!