February 1993, Antigua Guatemala
Moana and I were settling into a daily routine at the Cervantes School in Antigua, where we did our Spanish language lessons. Initially we boarded with separate families in order to, we hoped, encourage us to speak less English. We found that each of our families had up to 6 foreign students at a time. The only language we had in common with our fellow boarders, who came from all over the world, was English. We quickly gave up the idea that we would progress better if we lived apart. Moana joined me where I was staying and we walked to the school together to start lessons at 8 am each day, finishing at midday. At some point we decided to take our daily walk home via an uphill detour to El Cerro de la Cruz, a lookout above the town with a magnificent view of the volcano, Volcán de Agua. The first few times the steep track nearly killed us. By the end of my 6 months there, we tripped up with little exertion. I think neither of us had been, or have since been, fitter.
Once again no photobooths were in evidence in Latin America but yet again I needed an id photo. After only 4 weeks in Guatemala, Carlos, the director of our school advised me to start the process of getting my visa extended. I still had two months to go but he had experience with the ins and outs of the immigration department and thought 8 weeks early, wasn’t early enough. This photo was taken at his insistence. I was not pleased at his nagging, as I had just had a home-made haircut from a new English friend Justine and additionally was suffering from a nasty coldsore.
As it turned out Carlos was right and the nightmare of getting the visa extended only ended after 3 or 4 trips to the capital, long waits in multiple queues per visit, payments for paperwork, further payments for stamps, finger-printing and finally, a small bribe. I received the official documentation in my passport just two days before I was due to leave. In all it took me five months to get it sorted.