We were enjoying our meal at a popular open-air restaurant on the main tourist drag in Panajachel, Guatemala, when some tourists about our age walked slowly by. Billy says Hey, the food’s great here, why not give it a go?
The man looked interested, the woman looked horrified.
I chimed in with Order the Amuerzo Economico and you will pay half the marked menu prices.
The man took two seconds to decide on this good deal, and made a move to sit at a table next to ours.
We’re going to eat here? The wife questioned.
Clearly she held resistance to entering this clean, brightly decorated eating establishment.
I’m telling you it was no dump. There was a flat screen TV on the wall and lively Salsa music on the stereo system. Clean hand woven Guatemalan table cloths covered every table which also supported fresh flowers. Original indigenous artwork adorned the walls.
The woman, who was noticeably beautiful and well-kept, had her hesitation distinctly written all over her scrunched up face.
I hope they speak English here, she said with an audible sigh as she flopped down.
I want a Coke. Do you have Coke? What do you have to drink here? She demanded in rapid-fire English. The bilingual waiter kept up with her rush of questions pretty well.
You have chicken or pork? I’ll take the pork. Honey, they have chicken or pork.
Meanwhile, the husband and Billy were chatting away about retirement, finance and travel, having a grand ol’ time.
The drama darkens
Bottles of Coca-Cola and empty glasses promptly arrived at the table and again, this poor woman looked stricken. Simply appalled.
I couldn’t imagine what the problem was, so I tried to catch her reactions out of the side of my eye.
Mrs. Visitor had personal drama going on and I found it mesmerizing. Apparently some of the syrup had leaked out at the top of the Coke bottle, causing a tiny dark sticky blob to appear.
She looked at her husband, then at me, then at the bottle, then at her husband, then at me, then again at the bottle. She disgustingly ran her finger at the top of the bottle and now she had that tiny sweet dollop on her finger. She again looked at her husband (who was ignoring her by now), then at me, then at her finger, then at her husband, then at me, then again at her finger!
By now I am thinking She has no Kleenex in her purse? If she has been blown off course by this small and common occurrence, what is she doing traveling in this country?
If this innocent ooze of syrup upset her so much how her meal would go?
No disrespect intended
Since no one was rushing to her rescue to give her a hot, clean, wet, soapy cloth or whisk her away to a 5 star restaurant complete with apologies, eventually Mrs. Visitor looked to her left, then to her right, and rather guiltily, wiped the syrup off on the table cloth. I don’t imagine it ever occurred to her to ask the waiter for a napkin.
A part of me felt badly for not coming to her deliverance. She was afraid and out of her element, and I could see her frustration towards her husband for taking her here to Guatemala. Lost in desperation with no help from her spouse, this well-groomed woman was face-to-face with the edge of her comfort zone¦ and it was not pretty.
I was both stunned and completely transfixed. I had forgotten that my twenty-two years of world travel had trained me to put a tissue in my purse for unexpected events such as this one.
So here are a few quick survival tips for travel that you might find useful.
Bring baby wipes. Women have babies all over the world. If you are in a location that has some semblance of civilization, you will find baby wipes in the grocery stores. Go to the baby section, find the wipes. Put them in your purse. Then when you travel on buses, want to sit in a chair that has strawberry syrup on it or find that you need toilet tissue in the bathroom, you have a clean wipe to come to your aid.
Put napkin or wipes down soda bottle necks. If you are eating outside in warm weather and are having a soda, flies or bees often gather for the sugary syrup. Place napkins or said wipes down the bottle neck and you can avoid a nasty creature falling into your pop. When traveling overseas, it is commonplace to wipe off the mouth of beer and soda bottles even in upscale locations.
Use sliced limes to clean your fingers. Platters of fish or shrimp are often served whole at the beach and eating seafood can leave your fingers messy. Using a thin napkin at your table can be unsatisfying. Apply the sliced limes first then utilize your napkin. In this way you won’t have tiny bits of paper stuck to your fingers to annoy you further.
Say Provecho! When entering or leaving a restaurant in Latin America, say Provecho! to other diners. This basically means Enjoy your meal and it’s a very socially polite thing to say. It shows that you are an experienced traveler and that you are an all-around-nice person.
Don’t let your comfort zone limit you. Life is for living. Grab a bite and relish it. Situations and circumstances are not always the same as they are back home and that’s not a bad thing. Who cares if you make a mistake? So what if one lunch wasn’t your favorite? A smile goes a long way for those around you and while you are at it give one for yourself.
You deserve it for being brave enough to take a chance.
Editor’s Note: Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website www.RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.