This is Gloria Kilby, from West Nottingham Presbyterian Church in Colora, Maryland.
After an amazingly quiet night in Guatemala City, near the airport, with hardly a sound all night, I woke up at 5:30 to the sound of a very loud jet taking off. At breakfast, some people said they woke at 5 a.m. to the sound of a trumpet call from the neighboring military school.
Up and at ’em for day 2 of our amazing trip!
With our bags strapped to the top of the bus, 16 of us, 2 guides/translators and the bus driver, piled inside. We headed out of town, through incredible traffic. Motorcycles were weaving in and out of everywhere.
Emerson, our guide, filled us in on some of the history and political strife that has been instrumental in molding many of the problems Guatemalans face daily.
Trash pick up and disposal is a major problem throughout the country. The countryside is beautiful. It is sad that litter is everywhere. In the rainy season, trash clogs storm drains and contributes to flooding issues.
Corruption and extortion are rampant in Guatemala. Health care, education and roads are problematic, too. We did see repaving of several sections of major highway which was a good sign. We also saw many police check points and got pulled over ourselves, for them to check our papers. That was a bit scary!
We enjoyed looking for the colorful “chicken buses”. These are old U.S. school buses that have been souped up with powerful engines and painted fancy colorful designs for the community they serve. Technically they are called extra urbanos. People pile in with anything and everything they want to carry. Packages of all kinds get piled on top and lots of locals pile in to overflowing because they are fast, cheap transportation. They may not always be safe.
Out in the countryside, we passed lots of gardens, plots growing cabbages, celery, potatoes, squash, and beans. Fields with plastic covers probably had tomatoes and peppers growing underneath. They use terracing on hillsides too steep to imagine trying to cultivate. Corn is planted in May with the beginning of the rainy season. All that’s left now are dead stalks in those fields.
The highway was carved from steep mountains. We passed many dangerous places where there had been rock slides down onto the highway. I can imagine it being much worse during the rainy season.
In the afternoon, we met with the Mam Association and were greeted with a very exciting Marimba concert. A huge set of instruments were borrowed from the Municipal Cultural Center. The very talented musicians were all ages, and we were so inspired that spontaneous dancing broke out. Then we share cake to celebrate getting back together again.
Afterwards, they gave a very moving presentation on all their projects during the last 3 years and plans for this coming year. These are motivated, inspiring, hard working women! I’m so glad we got to meet and spend some time with them.
We checked in to our rooms, ate a lovely dinner, and met for reflection time to share our thoughts and feelings about the day before retiring for the night.