October 3, 2009

You take your kids to Pizza Hut in Guatemala City??

In Guatemala City, the places we most often take the children are chain restaurants – Pizza Hut, Pollo Campero, Wendy’s, and the like. Although I am not generally a fan of taking my children to places where the food clogs your veins and makes you fat, in Guatemala City, we have done this, perhaps more than anywhere else we have lived. We do have our reasons for this.

The first reason is that each of these places has an indoor playground. When we take the kids there, they meet other children, and have a blast running through the purple and green slides and mazes. Within walking distance of our house in Zona 9, there are at least five different chain restaurants with indoor play places. When we take the kids there, I can relax, read a book, and even get online. Most of these chain restaurants not only have play places; they also have free Wi Fi. The food, I know, is bad for you. My solution to that is to not buy too much of it. That makes these places some of the cheapest entertainment for children in Guatemala City. That brings me to my next point – it is inexpensive.

In most places I have lived in Latin America, the chain restaurants are much more expensive than the local restaurants. In Guatemala City, that is not necessarily the case. The cheapest meal you can find in Guatemala City is Q15 (about $2.00). A decent meal will usually cost you Q20 or Q25 – up to $3.00. A nice meal usually runs at about Q40. At Pollo Campero, they have bargain meals for Q25. And, at Pizza Hut, the whole family can eat for Q79 – less than $10. That includes a pitcher of soft drink, a medium pizza, and dessert. For US$10, the whole family eats, and the kids have a blast, making it a real bargain.

Another reason is safety. Luckily, we have not had any unfortunate incidents in Guatemala City. However, there must be some reason why every store with anything of value has an armed guard stationed outside. Walking down 15th Avenue in Zona 13 with my daughter yesterday, I noticed that even small taco joints have their own personal security guard, with a typical long shot gun, stationed outside. Inside well-lit chain restaurants with their own armed security guards outside, we feel pretty safe.

The final reason is that it gets dark very early in Guatemala City – around 6 pm during the month of October. The only playground near to us – a very nice one on Avenida de las Americas – is not well-lit. It is not really a good place to take children when it is dark outside. This makes indoor playgrounds ideal for evening play for children.

During the day, when it is sunny and warm, we don’t take the children to chain restaurants. We take them to the Parque Central to feed the pigeons, to the playground on Avenida de las Americas, to the Aurora Zoo, or just to walk in the Parque del Obelisco. None of those places, unfortunately, are suitable for evening activities. That is why we end up at the chain restaurants.

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