Rockin’ Guat 2009: Episode 3


Estamos en Guatemala! But it took a long time to get here. We had to wake up at 3:30am for a 6am flight. Luckily we had a friend in Chicago who was willing to drive us to O’Hare at that time. Our whole reason for the early flight time was to avoid the lines and save money; we saved lots of money but met lots of lines. Apparently our strategy was not unique. We saw at least three different high school groups in brightly colored t-shirts, probably on mission trips. Oh, the good old days when adult chaperones took care of all the busy work that travel requires.

After a connection in Fort Lauderdale, we finally made it to Guatemala City, where mom and our local friend Jeanette were there to pick us up. It’s a surreal thing arriving at the Guatemala City airport. Outside the doors hoardes of locals wait for their loved ones. We had to walk through the crowd as the only gringos in sight. Driving through the city, the cultural immersion takes effect immediately. The city rests in a beautiful verdant valley, so as we wind around curvy mountainside roads we pass beautiful homes in gated communities and then makeshift huts of corrugated tin and found trash. This is Guatemala.

The view from our homestay.
The view from our homestay.

But we won’t be able to start serving until next week. Right now we’re just settling in and enjoying some downtime. The house we’re staying in right now is very nice. Definitely not like what rural houses look like.

Some important things that one discovers while living in Guatemala:

  1. You can’t drink the water. Only severe diarrhea and upset stomach await those foreigners who drink the water or eat any of the food that is not processed, cooked, or boiled. This means no brushing teeth from the tap, no buying vegetables or watered fruit from the market, and extreme caution when taking a shower. Which leads to lesson #2…
  2. Depending on where you’re staying, you may have to take a bucket shower. Music festival goers may know what I’m talking about. I took one just this morning since our house is currently lacking hot water. All you do is boil some water on the stove, put it in a bucket, bring it in the shower, scoop the water with a cup, and go to town. I’ve learned that all you really need to clean is your head and your arms and you feel clean. But getting the other essentials, especially by pouring hot water on them, is an adventure in itself.
  3. You can’t put the toilet paper down the toilet. The plumbing in Guate is not very good, so no paper products are allowed. There are waste baskets next to every toilet, so after you wipe you toss it in the basket. Talk about culture shock.
  4. Most people are really friendly here, which means that when you enter a room, you give a cheek-kiss as a greeting, even to perfect strangers. This happened today when we visiting a local water birth clinic. Some clients came in as we were talking to the nurse and just jumped right in with kisses. It’s as automatic as a handshake. Again, something that will need some getting used to.

After I hit up the ATM for some cashola (the currency down here is the quetzal–which is also the national bird–and the current exchange rate is 8 quetzales to one dollar. In other words, very favorable), Elise, Mom, Jeanette, her husband JuanCarlos, I went to see Up in the theater here — in Spanish. I was curious to see how the movie would hold up in another language and was relieved to find out that the storytelling survives beyond the language barrier. Cheers to Pixar for that.

Pan dulce. The greatest thing in the world.
Pan dulce. The greatest thing in the world.

We had some pan dulce (sweet bread) at dinner tonight, which so far has been the highlight of my stay (alumni from my last Guatemala trip know what I’m talking about). Tomorrow night from 6pm to 6am our host family is hosting an all-night worship session for a local group. Jeanette is bringing a guitar on which I can play my newly learned Spanish songs. More on that later.

Next time: playing Spanish songs and pulling an all-nighter?

One response to “Rockin’ Guat 2009: Episode 3”

  1. hey, great photos and narative, descriptions. please keep them up. helps me stay engaged with what you are doing. would like to see photos of you guys…………..