In A Nutshell…
On Friday Morning, (January 25th) Jason and I left for a two-day-one-night trip to Belize. The purpose of the trip was to get new tires on the truck we were taking, buy some supplies for Stephan, and get a stamp in my Canadian passport. When I entered Guatemala back on January 8th, I used my American passport. Big mistake. I guess I used it because I was traveling through the USA and I didn’t feel like switching back to my Canadian passport. I really didn’t think it would be a big deal. It was. Since all my paperwork that I brought along with me was Canadian, having an American passport would really complicate things. The stamp needed to be in my Canadian passport. It seemed quite simple really. Go to Belize, use my Canadian passport to enter, slap some tires on a truck, buy a couple of items, and come right back. But I guess the Belize border patrol doesn’t like you very much if enter their country only to exit it again with a stamp you need, and since Jason and I knew a few people at a mission just across the border, we decided to stay for one night.
If the Canada-USA border were a drive-thru, the Guatemala-Belize border would be a dine-in… with lousy service and bad food. It’s nothing like any border I’ve been across. First, you park your truck and go to a desk to get an “exit stamp” on your passport. Then you get back in the truck and drive through a pathetic little fumigation thing and park the truck again. Then you walk into another building on the Belize side with all you’re belongings. Here is where you get your “enter stamp” on your passport. This is where I tried to use my Canadian passport. It did not work so well because they will only stamp a passport into Belize if it had an out of Guatemala stamp in it. I showed them my other passport and tried to explain. I even got to go into a room and argue with a supervisor for a while, but quite obviously, I haven’t been blessed with the “persuasive gene” that some of my relatives have. The lady in the room just could not figure out why I wouldn’t just get my American passport stamped and be on my merry way. I think she thought that I was trying to “trick the system” or something and she wasn’t about to let this one slip through. She said I could only get a stamp in my Canadian passport if there was already one in it from the Guatemalan side. So I went back to the Guatemalan side and asked if they’d kindly cancel the stamp on my American passport and stamp my Canadian passport instead. The reply was, “No es posible.” Great. I left it at that, because my persuasive skills are even worse when I’m speaking Spanish. So I went back to the Belize side and used my American passport, got through with no problems, and found Jason waiting for me on the other side. Everything seemed to have gone smoothly for him. Little did we know how wrong we were…
Now that we were in Belize, we headed to United Christian Missions where we met up with Ryan Martin and Tyler Troyer. Jason knew Ryan well from Maranatha Bible School. I had met both guys before but didn’t know either of them really well. After we were served lunch, Ryan, Jason, and I headed to Spanish Lookout for tires, camp fuel, and three swing swivel sets. We got new tires on the truck with no problems, but we got clueless looks when we mentioned camp fuel or swing swivel sets. One guy was nice enough to take us through the paint section to look for camp fuel, but for some reason, we were unable to locate any. Oh well, we tried.
|the truck with no tires|
|the truck with new tires|
That evening, we went along with Ryan and Tyler to a youth night. We played a few interesting group games with the Belizean youth. It was nice being able to understand what people were saying for once. They had such awesome accents, and they were really funny. I think I spend most of the evening laughing. After the activities Ryan had devotions and we sang a few songs. Jason and I were really glad we got to be a part of the evening.
The next morning, we got invited to go parrot hunting with a native guy named Danny. I didn’t know that people hunted parrots. I always thought that parrots lived in cages, but “parrot hunting” sounded like way too much fun to turn down. So Danny, Tyler, Ryan, Jason, and myself, armed with a pellet gun, a machete, and binoculars, marched into the jungle to hunt parrots. It was raining slightly, which made for muddy ground and less parrots. But on the bright side, there weren’t as many mosquitos.
|in the jungle...|
The jungle itself was very beautiful. There were many kinds of trees and plants that you just don’t see in Canada. We walked by one tree in particular that Danny warned me not to touch because it was poisonous. Right after he told me that, he told Ryan to chew on the leaves for a while to see what happens. I guess I will never know what happens, because Ryan chose not to chew on the leaves. Smart move, I think. After a couple of hours of seeing two or three parrots too far away to shoot at we came to some sort of clearing. Just for fun, we set Danny’s water bottle on a fence post about 30 meters away and started shooting at it. After we had all taken multiple shots at it with no hits, it made sense why we hadn’t shot down any parrots, especially since you’re supposed to aim for the wing or tail of the parrot.
|shooting at a water bottle|
The idea is not to kill the parrot, but rather to injure it enough so that it can’t fly, capture it, and take it home and stick it in a cage. I didn’t think that seemed very nice, but Danny assured me that we were doing the parrots a favour by taking them for pets. I still wasn’t convinced, but I was pretty sure that there was no way Danny was going to shoot down a parrot. I was wrong. We came upon a tree with about eight parrots in it, and he hit one of them. When we got to the place where it had fallen, we saw that it was hit in the back of the neck, and Danny was sure it was going to die. Fifteen minutes later, the thing was still squawking like a witch being boiled in oil, and Danny was pretty sure it wasn’t going to die. Tyler decided to keep it for a pet, and we had ourselves a successful day of parrot hunting.
|our poor parrot|
When we got back out of the jungle, Danny knocked down a few coconuts and we all tried some. We also had lunch at Danny’s parents house before heading back into civilization.
|Danny cutting coconuts for us|
Once back at the house where we were staying, Jason and I packed up our things and got ready to leave. We were starting to get a little worried about our trip back to the border because of people’s reactions when we told them about our border crossing on the way. We had no idea what we were doing when we crossed the border and apparently we had messed up.
“You guys didn’t buy insurance for your truck?!? You could get a huge fine if you run into a police check! Good thing you didn’t on the way here!”
That’s the thing. We had gone through a police check on the way there. The vehicle ahead of us was stopped at it, but when we pulled up they just waved us right through. I don’t know why.
Just to be safe, Ryan drove ahead of us to the border to make sure that there were no police checks on the way. There weren’t, and we got to the border with no problems. We figured we’d be good to go, but when Jason told the border official that we were bringing a Guatemalan truck back into Guatemala and he couldn’t find a stamp for the truck in Jason’s passport, we found out that we were not good to go. Jason had to go into a room for a while, and I waited outside. Obviously, the officials were very understanding and in a good mood, because they let us off with a warning. I think they realized that it was not only our fault because when Jason had driven his truck through the day before, the guy didn’t even look at his passport. According to the official that talked to Jason, the punishment for smuggling a vehicle into Belize is $500. She claimed we could have even gone to jail. I’ve heard of people trying to smuggle drugs across the border, but I’ve never heard of anyone trying to smuggle a truck. Apparently, it can be done.
After a bit of begging on the Guatemalan side of the border, they stamped my Canadian passport. We ended our little excursion at Pizza Hut in Santa Elena. After we got home, Jason and I thanked God for a successful trip… and also that we were not in jail. God bless Belize.
The very next evening I jumped on the night bus for the city to get some photos taken for my residency papers. When I boarded the bus in El Chal, the lady in the seat in front of me was sleeping with her seat all the way back, leaving me not very much room. Since I didn’t know Spanish for “Lady, can you please wake up and move your seat for a few seconds so that I can sit down?” I just squished. I got in my seat after awhile, and there was not much room for my legs. The position of her seat didn’t change at all throughout the whole eight-hour trip. I hope she slept well. My day in the city went fairly smoothly. I got done everything that I needed to, plus I got a toothbrush! After I paid for my toothbrush, I started walking away without it. Thankfully, the guy game running after me and stopped me before I left the store. Roy Biehn, who was with me at the time, told me not to worry because stuff like that happens more and more as you get older. So I am not going to worry. That evening I took the night bus back to El Chal, and I had enough legroom.
|for those that care... a cactus plant still hangs at the mission in the City|
For the next week or so before Jason left El Chal, he and I worked on some projects here and there around the school. Some of them included installing a tetherball pole, painting the gate white, painting the school name on the wall, and finishing up the portable divider wall in the new classroom.
|the tetherball pole... still a work in progress|
|the white gate... you really should have seen it before|
|the school name on the wall|
It was nice to be able to spend the first month of my time with Jason. I will definitely miss him. On Tuesday evening, (January 5th) we watched Jason board the Fuente Del Norte for the city.
The very next day I had lunch at Stephan’s place since Edgar and Sadie were in Santa Elena for the afternoon. After lunch Wilian and I went swimming in their pool. After fifteen minutes of swimming, I got the brilliant idea to try to jump from the trampoline into the pool. That idea in itself, I must admit, was pretty stupid due to the distance between the trampoline and the pool, but to do it when my feet were already wet was even more stupid. When I went to jump, my feet slipped back just a little bit. Half of me landed in the pool and the other half did not. Wilian witnessed the whole thing and couldn’t stop laughing. I didn’t think it was very funny at the time, and I’m still a little sore. When I told Stephan what happened, he laughed and said, “Next time why don’t you try moving the pool a little closer to the trampoline?”
Friday morning I headed to the city again, this time for a week of Spanish school. I got to fly in a little airplane with Danny Beachy. That was a neat experience! He even stalled the plane a couple of times for me. It was definitely better than travelling to the city by bus!
|me in an airplane|
|view from the air of Guatemala City|
Top 5 Highlights...
· Getting my new text message “ringtone.” At the youth night in Belize, one guy named Kadeem (or something like that) was wearing a t-shirt that said “(Facebook symbol for ‘like’) a boss.” Then, half way through the evening his phone said, “Excuse me boss… you have a text message.” I thought that was hilarious and asked him where he got that ringtone. Rather than answering my question, he offered to Bluetooth it to me. I accepted. So now, every time I get a text message my phone says, “Excuse me boss… you have a next message.” It makes me feel important, even though it’s most likely a text from an unknown number telling me I’ve won yet another free computer.
· Parrot hunting. You know the drill.
· Lunch at “Tacos Mexicanos.” One afternoon, Jason took me out for tacos. They were excellent. It would have been a perfect afternoon if I hadn’t driven the bike into the flowerbed on the way there.
· Jason’s farewell party. It was sad that he had to leave but Sandra’s chicken and French fries helped ease the pain.
· Soccer in the rain. One afternoon Jason, Kendall, Milton, and I played soccer. It rained, but we didn’t seem to notice.
Top 5 Quotes...
“Ricky Martin… I sorry but before I let you through I’m going to have to get your autograph.” – Belize border official
“I don’t tink it gonna die, Tylah, I don’t tink it gonna die.” – Danny
“Do want to kill a bird?” – Kevin (after someone hit the volleyball way too high)
“Que muchacho!” – Pricsilla (it means “what a guy!” It was the secretary’s reaction when she heard that the new VS guy entered Guatemala with his American passport when he had Canadian paperwork)
“You are sooo dumb.” – Jason (don’t worry, I think I deserved it J)
Hoyo (OH yo) – it means “hole”
Memory tool: it’s a yo-yo without the “y.” As for remembering to associate “hole” with “yo-yo”… I’ll leave that up to you.
· You can get away with driving at night with no rear lights at all… but I wouldn’t recommend it.
· Small towns do not have reduced speed limits… they have speed bumps.
· Everyone knows who the famous singer Ricky Martin is.
· You can buy 9 360 tortillas for three hundred dollars.
· The coke comes in 2.5L bottles, rather than 2L bottles.
More to Add...
Next week I’m going to Antigua for a week of Spanish school.
Thanks everybody for your prayers!