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Guatemala, Day 2: Setup and project tour - JonM

Dec. 1st, 2008

09:26 pm - Guatemala, Day 2: Setup and project tour

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The noise of the buses and traffic on the busy street below woke me well before the alarm clock. A very sad JonM was nearly had, until the shower decided at the last moment to switch from ice cold water to scalding hot water. After a quick continental breakfast, we loaded up into a van and headed out to Guatemala City, to setup the aerial rig and get a tour of the Camino Seguro project.

Back down the winding road into the city, with a bright yellow aerial rig tied to the roof and spirits generally high. We stopped at the Camino Seguro project to pick up the coordinator, breaking out of the van after the wait proved longer than we could endure. Amy finally showed up, and we went over to the complex where we would be teaching.

Zona 7, where the city dump is and the Camino Seguro project operates, is highly impoverished and crime-ridden. Homes which do not have electrified razor wire have broken glass topping their walls. Armed guards are everywhere, and the sports complex was no exception. After a short wait, Professoro Roberto, one of the managers of the complex, came out to show us where we would be and what would be possible for us.

There was a large covered building, with a smaller grassy area to the side. Mark designed the aerial rig to stake down into grass, so we decided to setup there. The rig came together and went up quickly, and with a few minor adjustments was staked down and secure. We climbed up and rigged a sling on it to test it out and see how it fared to our adult sized antics.

After a little fun, we took down the equipment, leaving the rig standing tall, and loaded back into the van. Lisa took us over to a bluff overlooking the dump, so we could see the reality of these people's lives first hand.

The Guatemala City dump fills in a large gorge, roughly 600 football fields long and several hundred feet deep. The air above the dump is thick with vultures, circling overhead and flocking in spots along the bluffs and in the trash. Hundreds of trucks operate throughout the city, delivering many loads of garbage throughout the day. Meeting these trucks are over a thousand people who pick through the garbage, pulling out recyclables to sell for money.

As the trucks pull up, dozens of people come forward, setting a hand on the truck to claim a portion of the goods. The truck backs up and dumps its load, which is instantly picked through for valuables. The people load up sacks the size of loveseats, for which they'll get 5 or 10 quetzals (about a dollar) from the recycling middleman. The dollar a day feeds a whole family, often including 8 or 10 children.

There are no environmental regulations in Guatemala, and there's no control applied to what is put in the dump. Oil, medical waste, electronics, and anything else undesired, are thrown in the dump. By far the most atrocious "waste" comes from the cemetery, which abuts the dump. If the families of the deceased don't pay the yearly rent on the crypt (150 quetzals, or about $20), the crypt is chiseled open and the coffin is thrown into the dump, body and all.

We stood on the bluff, looking down on the scene below, while Lisa talked about their conditions, and how Camino Seguro has made progress in their 8 years of work. Things really are improving: last year all of the children met the standards for ideal weight and height for the first time, they had their first high school graduates, and several women have graduated and gotten scholarships to nursing school.

We walked back to the van rather sobered by the scene.

Back at the van, we made the decision to head back to Antigua, get a snack to tide us to dinner, and do any last minute preparation before the first lessons tomorrow. We stopped at the Guatemalan equivalent of a Wal Mart to get some more supplies, and then hit the road, running into some heavy traffic getting out of town.

Back in Antigua, we stopped at the Camino Seguro, met some more of the staff and got a couple of shirts we could wear through the week. We returned to the hotel, and split up; some of us wanted to get some food, others had more supplies they needed.

I went off with Matt, Lara and Jim to get some food. We headed off into the marketplace, a large conglomeration of stalls, selling foods, wares and sundries.  Lara bought a variety of odd fruits to snack on, but Matt and I were looking for something a bit hearty, but quick, not really finding anything. Eventually we emerged from the market, and headed down the street, winding up at a smaller cafe.

We ordered "tostada con carne", thinking it would be like small tacos or something. After a nice wait in a quiet courtyard, we got our food and went back to the hotel, to discover that we basically got hamburger patties on rice, with some tortillas on the side. It was pretty tasty, but more filling than we wanted since dinner was only a couple hours away.

Out on the grass behind the hotel, we got together and worked out some acrobalance moves we could do for our introduction pieces, practicing several times until it looked pretty smooth. Then we gathered up and headed off to dinner, which was all the way across town, seven blocks away. Antigua's a pretty small city.

When we got there, there was a little confusion about the food. We were geared up to be upset when the guy told us that our two options were burritos with chicken, or with vegetables, and that they just had chicken, no rice, beans, or cheese. An English guy leaned over from the bar and told us that they were good plates of food, so we relaxed a bit. What came out was closer to enchiladas, really: the chicken was cooked with onions and bell peppers, wrapped in a flour tortilla, and then topped with red sauce and cheese. It was quite tasty, and the dessert portions were huge, too.

We trundled back to the hotel in the dark, and set to work finishing the plans for tomorrow. After introductions and a group music piece, we'd be splitting up into four groups and doing some circus-y aerobic activity to fill out the hour, so we needed to decide what we'd be doing with the groups. With that sorted, we went outside to run through the whole lesson plan and practice the music.

Ten PM came too quick, but we had to stop making loud noises then, so we did some more quiet singing and then retired inside to make up signs for the four groups. We decided to give them circus animal names: los tigres (tigers), los bonobos (monkeys), los elefantes (elephants) and los osos (bears).

If the fun we had practicing and getting things together is any indication, tomorrow should be a blast. It's been great collaborating with these people on such a great project, and I'm excited to see how it will turn out.

Comments:

[User Picture]
From:jennaxide
Date:December 2nd, 2008 05:29 pm (UTC)
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Eee! Jon, this sounds heavenly. I love reading about your trip. Kiss Sari from me and have her play a ukulele song for me :)
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