Mass Transportation – Guatemala style!

Last Saturday, while we were waiting for the bus, we noticed many Mayan women waiting on the steps of the local church nearby. We figured something was going to go on – a funeral, a wedding, or a church service. But to our surprise, a box truck pulled up, the side door opened up, a step ladder dropped down and all these people started to climb in!

A woman standing next to us explained that these women lived up in the mountains beyond the bus route and this was their transportation.  We were curious if they’d drive away in darkness with the door closed, but they left it open!

We catch our bus from this spot, but on Sundays the area is packed with flower vendors selling gorgeous varieties – primarily to the families paying their respects to those who are buried in the adjacent cemetery. This particular cemetery is absolutely huge, perhaps a mile long!

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Walking around town

Walking around Xela is always an adventure! Ancient cobble stoned side streets, uneven (or non-existant) “sidewalks” that vary in height, width and quality make for interesting trips! But other things that you might encounter are:

Little “herds” of goats are a common sight. They provide on the spot goats milk.

 

Stray dogs are everywhere you walk. There are 10 strays in this photo, and some of them are absolutely beautiful. Tourists who are dog lovers will have a hard time seeing a scene like this. Generally, the dogs are more afraid of you than you are of them, but I always give them a wide berth.

 

Unfortunately, this too is a not too uncommon sight. Guatemala faces significant challenges and for some, alcohol is the only way out.

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Radical contrasts and rapid changes

My good friend Eddie has been selling me 2 pounds of strawberries every few days for the past 2 years from his little stand (literally) on the street.

But since Leslie and I have been invited to serve here in Guatemala with the Peace Corps later this year, I’ve been reflecting on the rapid changes that are happening in our city of Xela and the impact it’s having on the culture and fabric of this society, and especially to people like Eddie and his little business.

His street is filled with other vendors selling fruits and vegetables, all mixed in with cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and big (former US) school buses (“chicken buses”).

I buy pineapples, mangos and other fruit from along this street to mix (with yogurt) into smoothies.

Many of the women vendors still wear their traditional Mayan clothes of vibrant fabric while they carry their little ones wrapped on their backs.

But exactly one block over, a new mall is being built with 4 stories of underground parking plus a 12 story new hotel.

Our town, deep in the mountains of Central America, has all the latest “stuff” you can get in the US.

HDTVs, the newest iPhones or Samsung cellphones, computers – you name it, you can buy it here. Plus, the new theater that’s going in here will have all the first run movies you see in the States.

How will all these rapid changes affect Eddie and all the other vendors one street over? It’s not unusual to see an older Mayan women, sitting cross-legged at her spot on the street, chatting on her smart phone. The ancient culture of this city is rapidly being assulted with technology and “progress”.

And so I reflect about what our roles will be in adding to that mix.

You can stay here when you come to visit us!

Eddie, Leslie and Don

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