I turned a corner, and there it was: The Arch. I gulped down my surprise and walked down the cobbled street, toward the strange yellow structure. Plump women in patterned huipiles perched on the sidewalk with baskets of fruit.

Robert Isenberg is a writer based in San José, Costa Rica, where he serves as a reporter, videographer and photojournalist for The Tico Times, Central America’s most respected English-language newspaper. He is the author of The Archipelago: A Balkan Passage and the poetry collection Wander, as well as numerous plays and stage works. Originally from Vermont, he spent 15 years living in and writing about Pittsburgh.

I was like a stranger in a strange country who was welcomed, who felt at home, who shared festivities, births, marriages, deaths, banquets, concerts, birthdays, and then suddenly became aware that I did not speak their language, that it was all a game of courtesy. — The Diary of Anaïs Nin

The Chapín is getting married. (Chapín and chapina are words that Guatemalans use to refer to themselves — as opposed to gringo and gringa, which refer to people from this country.) I always imagined that would come as the most devastating news of my life. But the e-mail he sent me, nearly six years to the day we first met, arrived just as I was starting a new job as a college writing instructor. I was too busy figuring how to teach the structure of a good story to worry about the Chapín.