I had asked Matt Stabile, the editor of this website, whether he was interested in a story from Guatemala, and he recommended I get in touch with Luke Maguire Armstrong, a russet-headed friend of his who also contributes to The Expeditioner.A few e-mails and text messages later, I was riding caboose on Luke’s scooter, bouncing over cobblestones.

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Several people mentioned to me that in 2009, more Guatemalan civilians were shot, stabbed or beaten to death than in the Iraq war zone.

Ninety-seven percent of all murders in Guatemala go unsolved.

I was able to report my story without a single gunshot wound and didn’t have any other problems with crime, but the stories of kidnappings and roadside robberies had made me feel a bit paranoid, and I was looking forward to decompressing in Antigua before the flight back to New York.

Or at least that’s what Leta relayed to me — I couldn’t make out most of the syllables from the front of the bike. I had just spent the week working in Guatemala City, one of the most dangerous cities in the Western Hemisphere.

The jaunt to the convenience store was a short one but I was already enjoying the cool night air and the stares from the Guatemalan and European tourists heading to the bars and restaurants near Parque Central. “You’re actually not even allowed to have two people on one of these,” Luke told us. I actually enjoyed my time in Guate (GWA-tay), as locals call it, but the tension was undeniable.

Guatemalans were constantly warning me to be careful, and I saw plenty of evidence that the warnings were justified.

Nearly every storefront had an armed security guard, most of whom looked like nervous high school students.

Just make sure you don’t burn your leg on the exhaust.” I straddled the back third of the scooter seat behind my newfound gringo and gringa companions, Luke and Leta, and started looking for a bar or something to grab onto.

“Put your hands around my waist, no need to be shy,” Leta told me.

Hearing that from an adorably freckled 20-year-old girl with bright blue eyes let me know that my night was beginning fortuitously, even if she meant it in a prosaic, crowded-scooter kind of way.

“We have to make a beer run first, hope you don’t mind,” Luke said.