Living with the Q'eqchi  in Caxlanpom, Guatemala In front of the Marin County Civic Center

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                 Salon Antigua is a gathering of writers, editors and other professionals with long experience living abroad. Members reside in the colonial town of La Antigua Guatemala perhaps the most colorful and exciting place in Central America. For all who contemplate a life abroad we offer our experiences including benefits, pleasures and downsides. On a bi-weekly basis we read from our most recent writings of any type for general critique, an essential step toward publication.

Salon Antigua !!  Salon Antigua next meeting :Wednesday January 23, 10 AM at Monte Casita

by "Everyman"

“There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.”


          We have all experienced the extreme joys of love. It comes with unconditional giving and accepting, by way of a lover, a mother or dear, dear friend. Such joy precludes all malice, precludes thinking and touches our souls, open, raw, unadorned and unprotected.

          There is also ecstasy that lives among us. It comes in form of music, art, religion, that carries us beyond the mundane beyond our thinking limits and touches on what some call heaven.

          There are in addition the fervent teachings of priests and other messengers who want us to forgo our rational thought to discover their promise of paradise ahead.

          And there are some who had visions of such paradise who for brief moments were engulfed in a cloud of most exquisite love, who saw beauty and ugliness become one, pain and joy turn into eternal bliss. And who managed to report on their experience with words all but inadequate. We are all connected with everything that exists in this universe, for us to judge it and thus ourselves as good or bad, right or wrong is nothing but ignorant arrogance.

          All the above are moments that allow us to touch on what may be the true essence, the governing spirit of life. It may consist of an infinite mass of love that hovers among us and is unattainable while we remain thinking human beings. We can fathom it when we for brief moments push thinking aside and have the courage to follow our hearts, our souls into what must be our true home.

          It is thinking that makes us afraid of losing life. It is thinking that makes us spend billions in treatment designed to keep us from our paradise even if just for another day or hour. It is our thinking and not our hearts we trust and so we suffer life - and at the same time resist by all possible means the final surrender.


by Jan Theberge

    We came to retire, knowing little. The Internet had been our source of reference. Our first encounters were with other expatriates in park central. Many of those people are now gone, having moved, succumbed to illness and age or the friendships failing to mature.

      The first few years we walked the surfaces rough and uneven. We fell more than once, even breaking a bone, but the unpleasantness was always born away by the immediate concern of strangers, Guatemalans with smiling brown faces, hauling us to our feet, brushing us off, staying with us, offering help; their concern effusive and genuine. 


Language barriers, unfamiliar stores, unable to locate needed items, were frustrations we faced daily, but our love for the country grew steadily with our contact with the people. The robust woman with her young son who offered to carry my bags heavy with produce from the market, refused my offer of payment. She left me standing near a tuc-tuc (small taxi) and bid me buen dia.

Standing in line to pay for medicine at hospital Hermano Pedro, the cashier refused my Q100 bill($13.00), offering an explanation in Spanish I did not understand. A woman came to my side and offered her money in payment. I was left guessing, but assumed making change was the difficulty. She quietly returned to her place in line, her arm support for an elderly woman, my heart changed by her selfless act and sweet smile.

The lady helping me clean brought a gift of curtains for a window, sensing I did not know where to shop, her thought to brighten our home. We shared little in words but everything was said in a smile and with a hug. A middle aged man who often walked by our home frequently brought me flowers from his garden, his welcome so sincere. Having missed a bus from San Felipe to Antigua a car pulled along-side, the driver an elderly lady, offered me, a total stranger a ride, saving me a long walk in the sun. We enjoyed the small window of time together, exchanging names and information.

The ceviche vendor, father of five, whistles and waves every day, giving me his phone number assuring me in broken English that he will come if I need help. The man, who sells me chicken, greets me with smiling recognition, inquiring about the health of my husband, never forgetting his name. The beautician who cuts our hair is embarrassed to accept payment. When we were unable to travel to her, she came to our home, saying she wanted no payment for her services.

Sitting one day in a small restaurant, I listened to a woman talk about the years she had been visiting Guatemala and the changes she has seen, her disappointment the impact tourism has had on the people. Too often in our attempts to be generous, we forget the art of gracious receiving, the counter balance to... it is better to give then to receive. In a country that needs so much, in the face of extreme poverty and hardship, these gentle acts of giving which are so important to the human spirit, have brought us a deeper sense of appreciation, an added tranquility to our lives. They have welcomed us home.


By  Peter C. Meyer

The pinstriped man stood squeezed between a tiny charcoal fire on which three corn cobs roasted and a toothless woman that crouched near his shoes with strawberries for sale. She was dozing in the heat while irritating smoke curled from the grill. Under the market’s low hanging roof canvass three Indian women pushed forward, balancing huge bulks on their heads to block the narrow passage. the elegant man’s skin was the white of fresh whipped cream, out of place among the burnt faces that shuffled near. He saw a pile of fresh ground coffee for sale on a hastily placed board across the way and saw how passers bumped the wooden stand. Fresh aroma of spilled coffee grounds trampled by too many feet now mingled with the stink of produce refuse. A dog sat chewing a raw cattle bone. “Five for ten, five for ten,” yelled a vendor, shoving a handful of combs in the white man’s direction while a little girl’s dirty fingers tugged his sleeve, eyes pleading mouth smeared with mango juice. He rummaged in his pocket.

“What do you need?” an Indian woman yelled by his ear, “Here, take some home! Good price! Ten for a handful, very sweet. He held a banknote, a pittance on the far side of the ocean from where he had jetted to Antigua Guatemala. The little girl snatched it and ran off without a word. At first he felt disgust then laughed out loud but it was unnoticed in the semi darkness over the constant din of voices. He knew he had lost his way but didn’t mind, allowed the crowds to shove him from here to there to stalls of fish to shaving creams, from meats to melons, from boxes of limes to live hens stretching necks from a mesh covered basket, overhead dangled a cage of small green parrots screeching but unheard. A bundle of onions changed prices with each second. “Five Quetzales” yelled a seller, “I’ll let them go for four-fifty,” --“three”, said the shopper, “No,” said the seller a look of disgust on her face, “Not less than four.” -- “Three-fifty” yelled the buyer, “OK three-seventy-five, here, take them.” The onions changed hands the vendor reached into her bra to bring up change. “Five the bundle of onions,” she yelled again. “Five, but take them for four-fifty, four-fifty…”

        The pin striped coat was suddenly ejected into a stretch of fresh air, the sun burnt down, he shaded his eyes. Taxi’s waited. He took a fifteen Quetzal ride ($2.00) to his four star hotel, an old monastery, were the ancient walls whispered of nuns and monks cavorting in near windowless darkness behind walls two feet across. The pinstripe sank to his king-size bed; the sounds of the market in his ear, the smells, the beggars the fruit, the dirt, raw meat on steel hooks dripping fresh. He had enjoyed being lost, had been part of life so vibrant and real that he savored it as a reference point because it was so far removed from everything he knew. But tomorrow he’d jet to Hong Kong. Drink Espresso with a shot of Cognac served by his first class stewardess in the soft cushions of his plane. He would miss the tug on his sleeve, the child slipping away with his money.