Saturday, 26 January 2013

Buenos Nachos

It’s crazy how time flies. It seems like just two and a half weeks ago that I boarded a plane for Guatemala. Since then I have had quite a few interesting experiences. Below are some of the experiences I’ve had and observations I’ve made arranged in a completely random but extremely organized way for you to enjoy.

In a Nutshell…

After I arrived in El Chal I basically just joined the work crew from Woodlawn that was already here. Joining them doesn’t just mean that I did the same work as they did. I worked with them, ate with them, went swimming with them, and even slept in the same attic as them. School started a week and two days from the day I arrived and there was much to be done before then. The main projects that I helped with during the first week were cementing and painting.

I helped paint most of the outside of the old school.

Juddy and I painting

I don’t know a whole lot about cementing, but I do know that five pails of gravel get dumped into the mixer. Then a bag of cement. Then four pails of sand. Oh yeah, and water gets added to that mixture randomly. Then, after all that mixes for a little bit, it gets dumped into wheelbarrows and taken to the pouring site. Then that process is repeated… and then repeated again… and again… and again… and it’s hot… and the sun is blazing. Basically, cementing is fun!
Cementing is fun!

On Monday evening (Jan 14th) the work crew got on the night bus heading for the city. I definitely missed working with those guys. Those were some good dudes. But I did not mind getting the upstairs attic to myself.

Top row: (left to right) Max, Me, Jay, Juddy
Bottom row: (right to left) Jesse, Jason, Nick, Greg, Trevor

My sleeping quarters for the first week
My sleeping quarters for the second week

Jason’s family and his Grandparents (Paul and Fern Huber) were visiting Jason as well. They stayed in El Chal until Friday morning. We spent that week finishing up a few jobs that needed to be done before school for grades 1 to 6 started. Basico (grades 7-8) started a week later. One thing about the second week that was very different from the first week was the temperature. On Tuesday (Jan 15th) it rained really hard for a good part of the afternoon. The next three days after were really damp and cold. One night the temperature dropped all the way down to 17 degrees Celsius. But trust me, it felt a lot colder than that because of the wind chill. I actually had to dig out my sweater. 

On Thursday a bunch of the staff went to a restaurant in Flores called Villa del Chef for Melanie Mummeret’s farewell. The evening was quite enjoyable as well as the food. I had a chicken burrito with guacamole on the side. I’m pretty sure I can get used to the food here in Guatemala.

On Saturday Stephan wondered if I’d go along with him and his boys to Santa Elena. I said, “Sure!” Santa Elena is a city about a half hour north of El Chal. Kevin and Chito have computer class there every Saturday and Stephen needed to run a few errands. When we were about to leave Stephan asked me if I wanted to drive. I didn’t, but I decided that if I don’t ever start driving in Guatemala, I will never learn how to drive Guatemalan style. So I drove… and I’m still alive. But I did learn a few things about driving in Guatemala. For example, if the vehicle in front of you is signaling left he most likely is not turning or switching lanes. He is probably telling you that you can pass him on the left. He might be turning, you just have to figure out what he’s doing based on the situation. Another thing I learned involves roundabouts. In Canada, the vehicles inside the roundabout have the right of way. In Guatemala, it’s the exact opposite. The vehicles entering the roundabout have the right of way, which means you may have to come to a complete stop inside the roundabout to let traffic enter. Not all roundabouts are like this, however. You just have to know which ones are and which ones aren’t. Stephan was on his phone when we entered a roundabout and he didn’t explain the whole “right of way” thing. But he did mention afterwards that the tuktuk driver that I totally went in front of probably had a few choice words for me. But we asked God to help him be understanding. One day of driving in Guatemala under my belt.

Jason and I spent the beginning of my third week here finishing up some last minute projects before Basico started. We got all of them done except for some painting and putting wooden frames on white boards. School started on Thursday as planned so obviously we did our job.

Top 5 Highlights…

·      Swimming at Cotusa. It’s this place way back in the middle of nowhere. You have to drive for twenty minutes on a really bumpy road and then walk for another ten minutes to get there, but it is totally worth it.

The tall waterfall we jumped off of

It's just a nice place to swim

·      Lunch at James and Sylvia’s one afternoon. Hamburgers. Enough said.
·      Going to the beach. The work crew and Stephan’s went to a lake near San Jose one afternoon. After some swimming, we had a nice supper on the beach. We even got to hear Jason, Trevor, Greg, Max, and Jesse’s rendition of “I’m My Own Grandpa.” Lovely evening.
·      Learning how to weld. But only because Stephan was teaching me. Stephan could probably even make something like learning now to change a diaper fun.
·      Wednesday night volleyball. Every Wednesday night Douglas gets a bunch of guys together from town to play volleyball at the mission. Then, after volleyball we go out for coke, and you know how I feel about coke!

Top 5 Quotes…

“You can land a helicopter on the new school. But the old school… don’t you dare even ride your bicycle into it.” – Stephan

“When I get home, I’m going to flush an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet… just because I can.” – Nick Huber

“Well… I guess Kevin lost that battle.” – Paul Huber (said when we were half way done pouring concrete after Stephan had been pushing to get it done that day and Kevin was going to convince him to wait until Monday)

“Hurry up Reekey! You are like molass in January!” – Kevin

“It’s a great phone to have because it’s cheap. Like, you can drop it in the lake and not even cry.” – Stephan

Spanish Vocabulary…

escoba (ehs KOH bah) – it means “broom”

Memory tool: picture Yunel Escobar playing short stop with a broom and you will never forget this word. That worked for me anyway. 

Fun Facts…

In Guatemala…
·      You can arrive at an event half an hour after it was supposed to start and still be on time.
·      You can be painting… in the shade… in January… and still sweat buckets.
·      The pigs run free… the way it should be.
·      You can ride on the back of a pickup with the tailgate down whenever you want.
·      It is a tradition at birthdays to convince the person with the birthday to take a bite of their cake. Then, when they are about to take a bite, someone shoves the cake in their face. I can hardly wait until my birthday.
·      You can drink more coke than in Canada… because the coke in Guatemala is just better.

More to Add…

Two more things:

1. For some reason, it is a whole lot more fun to say “Buenas nachos” instead of “Buenas noches.” Don’t ask me why.

2. I thought I’d let you all know that I’m learning how to drive a motorbike here. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it and I haven’t wiped out more than once.

Thank you everybody for your prayers! Buenos Nachos! 

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