Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Saturday, April 27, 2024

Xtra funny or Xtra Confusing: Stories from A to Z

The free breakfast was quite nice. They set the table and put out a basket of rolls on our table for two. On the sideboard was fruit, yogurt, milk and cereal. I noticed a small dish of what looked like bay leaves next to the manzanilla (chamomile) tea. Forrest and I each added a couple of leaves to our teacups. 

Later, we learned they were coca leaves, very common in Peru, used for energy and to help with altitude adjustment. Peruvians will chew on them throughout the day. 

The Internet had come on during the night. Forrest sat on the couch in our room with his iPad, catching up on his couch surfing buddies, I supposed. Or maybe his brothers and random friends. I left him to go explore the neighborhood.


It turned out to be a lovely area. I had chosen the hotel specifically for its location near the historic central park. While out, I noticed a Spanish school just up the street from us. How convenient for Forrest to take classes if he wanted to do that. 

Besides the wonderful park, I saw tiendas, lavanderias, street food, and sidewalk cafes on neighboring streets, with people out everywhere enjoying themselves. I was glad we planned to stay in Arequipa this month before going on to Cusco. Our hotel, however, was available only for the three-week reservation. Our final week, I had booked a different one.

Arequipa's lovely central park

Estancia 107 (the strange name of our hotel) was clean, quiet and ideally located. I checked to see if they had any availability in September, when we came back this way after Cusco. No, they didn’t. "July is our quiet month," the receptionist explained. After that, they are busy with retreats for business meetings. 

View of the courtyard at Estancia 107

By dinnertime, neither Forrest nor I were that hungry. I had eaten breakfast and later bought some street food, and Forrest had gone out to lunch with a couch surfing group.

I said, “Let’s go out for dinner anyway. We can save most of it for tomorrow and won't have to buy food on the Sabbath.” 

We chose one of the little sidewalk cafes on a side street. It had a board out front stating their basic menu and prices-- a small inexpensive place with local food. 

I ordered a fried chicken filet that came with rice, a cucumber salad, and the ever-present soup with potatoes and vegetables. Tomorrow after church, I'd cut the chicken in pieces and mix with the rice and salad like a cold chicken salad. Delicious!

I tasted a few bites of the chicken, which was so good it was hard not to finish. But the soup was amazing too and wouldn’t make me too full. I ate the soup and left the main meal to take home and put in the kitchen fridge at our hotel. 

We sat there for quite a while ignoring our food. Like me, Forrest ate his soup and left the rest, a pork chop he declared was incredible. 

The girl who had brought our meals cleaned up while two little kids, perhaps her siblings or children, played around on the tables, making a great deal of noise as they chattered and clattered near us. 

I complained about it to Forrest, who laughed and said, “Mom, you had ten kids. I can’t believe you’re so sensitive.”

 “Maybe it’s my age, I don’t know, but they’re sure annoying.” I called the girl over to our table, said we were finished and would like to take this with us. “Para llevar, por favor,” I said. 

She hesitated and said, “Recojo?” 

Si, para llevar.” 

Recojo?” she repeated, looking puzzled.

"Una caja para llevar," I said. A box to go. 

She took our plates to the back and was gone quite a long time. Soon she returned to continue her sweeping. At least the annoying little kids had disappeared. It looked like they were preparing to close, although it was barely six. 

“They don’t eat late in Arequipa,” Forrest said. “The main meal, their dinners, are eaten around three because of the altitude.”

 “What’s altitude got to do with it?” 

“Apparently an altitude this high interferes with digestion, and if you go to bed on a full stomach, you don’t sleep well.” Forrest was always picking up interesting information from his couch surfing groups. Like what he had told me about eclipse chasers and eclipse celebrities. 

We kept waiting for the girl to bring us our takeout, seeing how it looked like closing time. “What the heck is going on, Forrest? Why isn’t she bringing our food so we can leave?” 

Forrest wondered if I had expressed myself correctly. “You said para llevar but she said recojo, with a question mark. ‘Recojo?’” 

He looked up recoger. “It means ‘to take care of,’ "to pick up,' or ‘to take.’ She must have thought you wanted her to get rid of the food rather than box it up for us.” 

“Based on that definition, ‘take care of it’ could mean dispose of it or box it up for us.” 

“It could, but I have a feeling it means take it away or throw it away,” said Forrest. 

“Don’t tell me she tossed out our barely eaten dinners!” 

“I think so, Mom. Probably those little kids playing around here earlier are in the kitchen right now enjoying our food.” 

We looked at each other, accepting the truth. “We tried,” Forrest said with a smile. 

Who the heck doesn’t know the meaning of para llevar? I used it all the time in Guatemala and Mexico.  Everyone knows it means take away, as in the CUSTOMER is taking it away not the SERVER.”

 Forrest laughed. It was a big joke to him, like the sixty days had been to me. For days afterward, he’d say “recojo?” and start in laughing while I fumed about not getting our take-out. 

“I could barely hear myself think with those kids yelling and clattering, plus the TV blaring. She probably didn’t hear me.” I was so annoyed. “Let’s get out of here.” 

At least the meal was cheap, coming to only three dollars each. “The soup itself was worth three dollars,” I said as we left. 

So much for our plans to not buy food on Sunday. As Forrest said, “We tried.”

Our $3 bowls of soup


  1. I would have been kicking myself for the rest of the trip for that miscommunication. I see Forrest got his revenge for the 60 days . (I'm still curious to find out how that ended up).

    1. Alana, he did indeed get his revenge. As for the 60 days, it was like I suspected. We had a little delay crossing back to Chile and had to pay a fine, but other than the inconvenience it wasn't bad at all.

  2. Oh, dear, what a shame. At least it didn't cost a lot, but even so, it spoilt your plans.

    1. I know!! And nobody likes when their well-thought out plans go awry.

  3. Glad the soup was good. What happens if you speak English would she know that? Sorry you lost the rest. Also, if I go to bed with a full tummy, I don't sleep well either.

    1. The soup was amazing! The simple meat, vegetable and broth soups in Peru were all so delicious. If I had spoken English, she'd have been even more confused. We didn't come across many local folks who spoke English at all.

  4. You tried indeed. I am sorry that you missed the take out (which we call take away) but glad you at least got to try your delicious meals.

  5. I wish I could taste that soup. I felt I was with you in Arequipa,

  6. Not getting to finish your meal and leaving hungry was probably enough to keep you awake, without the altitude adjustment. But it sounded like it was delicious soup and chicken, so maybe you can stop by another day, but earlier in the day, and then figure out a way
    to get your message across if you need to take some of it back to the hotel. :-)

  7. Oh no, sorry you missed out on the food because of a miscommunication.

  8. Some yummy food lost in translation. Glad at least the soup made up for it.


Comments are welcome!