“I like your legs”, says the motorcycle man. “Muy bien” I stammer, pausing to look down at my legs.
“But how much do you want for the motorcycle?”
Interrupted by the roar of a chicken bus engine, Andres, aka the motorcycle man continues to pass judgement about my legs as I attempt to haggle down the price of an ancient Kawasaki KLR 650 motorcycle with no paperwork and dangerously bald tires.
The words Guate, Guate, Guate drift past as young men holler to locals from the open doors of bright yellow buses once used to take kids to school somewhere in America now bound for el capital, Guatemala City.
“Andres, I think it’s leaking oil?”
His wife, Itzel who’s wearing typical Mayan clothes the colors of tropical flowers, the busy patterns an emblem of the one thousand year legacy of her ancestors agrees, she quietly nods her head.
All three of us distracted momentarily by the familiar sound of gentle clapping as Doña Maria next door begins to manipulate a mound of corn flour dough known as masa into perfectly small, perfectly round tortillas ready for lunch.
Turning my attention back to the patch of oil on the cobblestone ground underneath the motorcycle, Andres gazes out of his shop over to the dusty bus station, the same view he’s had for the past twenty seven years and says.
“Si, pero son gotas de calidad”! Yes, but it’s leaking quality oil!
On the surface, Guatemala’s turbulent history isn’t portrayed in the friendly faces of the locals. Itzel looks and me and gestures questioningly, “arroz con frijol?” I’m invited to join them for lunch, as I hand over twenty Quetzales, Andres disappears next door to the tienda.
White rice, black beans and tortillas, fried chicken for them not for me. The three of us, myself, Andres and Itzel perch on beer crates and eat in comfortable silence broken only once by a young boy of around 6, maybe 7 selling cinnamon flavoured chewing gum.
Andres looks at my legs again, I’m wearing jeans.
“Strong legs, you’ll need them for that motorcycle, it’s five times the size of you”!
“Seis mil, el ultimo precio.” Six thousand quetzales, the ultimate price.
The synapses in my brain firing, I’m trying to work out the conversions quickly in my head but find myself distracted by the sensory overload that is Guatemala.
“$800, ok done.” We shake on it.
Andres grins, his face lighting up, Itzel reaching out, puts her hand on my arm and squeezes in gentle reassurance, translated by Andres she let’s me know that god is watching over me in her mother tongue, Kaqchikel, one of the twenty or so indigenous languages of the country.
Guate, Guate, Guate……
Clutching a new set of keys and the one item of paperwork the motorcycle comes with like it’s newborn kitten that needs protecting, I take a running leap onto a chicken bus bound for Guatemala City — an interesting exchange I think to myself considering I only left the house to buy a sandwich.