So far Traci and I are glad that we were warned to ‘Prepare for failure’ numerous times in our training. We spent most of last two weeks trying to figure out how to get internet at our house. Sounds like something that should take about an hour or so, and a few phone calls right? First we had to sort out whether or not we had a phone line connected to the house. According to the owner of the house, there is a line connected. I even found the line coming into the house to verify that it truly does exist. Unfortunately, it appears that in the years since it’s been deactivated, they have disconnected it from the box nearby, and the box has subsequently been filled. Don’t ask me to explain how their system works because I’m not convinced they know either. In any event, in order to get a phone line run to the house, we’d have to find a box in town with a space in it, and run cables all the way out to the house, at an expense of approximately $100, and a 3 month wait, although we heard another $100 would speed the process up.
After finally discovering that the phone line was NOT the way to go, we began looking into internet via cell phone- like Verizon offers at home. We found a brochure, everything looked good and we hitched a ride to Guatemala city on Sunday the 14th, which begins the second leg of the internet saga.
Aclax is a minivan driver that the hospital uses to pick up volunteers from the airport. He’s a really easy guy to talk to, is used to broken Spanish, and was a joy to spend time with. We learned about some really interesting cultural beliefs/superstitions held in Santiago that we still don’t quite understand. There’s the ‘Mal de Ojo’- roughly equivalent to the Evil Eye, but there is a firmly held belief that someone giving you the evil eye can make you sick, hurt your crops, or do any number of bad things. Some people think they have a powerful evil eye, and one man was so convinced he might accidentally kill his newborn daughter with his evil eye that he didn’t look at her for 5 years. There was another story about a truck driver that refused to drive over the mountain because a rat crossed the road from the left to the right-surely a bad omen. Needless to say, because of all these beliefs we’re not familiar with there may be more difficulty in building relationships down here than we initially expected.
So on with the Guate city trip. . . we made a pit stop to fill up with gas and put more water in the radiator. The engine sits under the front passenger seat, so while Traci and I were in the back, they tilted the seat back and opened the radiator cap. Bad idea. Hot, oily, foul water started spraying everywhere- I was hit full force in the face before jumping out. Traci managed to avoid most of the spray and I was lucky not to have been burned, but the next hour in the van was a stinky one. Once we arrived in the city, we were dropped off at CASAS, where we dropped off a key we had accidentally taken a month earlier. We chatted a bit there, and began walking through town on a mission to find a Tigo office to get mobile internet. About 20 blocks from CASAS is a mall that has a Tigo office, so we started heading up that way- getting hungry, and a bit grumpy too. As we approached the mall, a Chilis restaurant sign caught our eye and we immediately gave in to the temptation of American cuisine. To be fair, we hadn’t really figured out how, or what to cook in Santiago, and we’ve both been a bit hungry for a few weeks. Let me just say that we were extremely satisfied after lunch.
Feeling much better, we continued on to the Tigo office only to discover it is CLOSED on Sundays. We had been told by a number of people that it would be open, but we shouldn’t have been too surprised. We’ve heard a number of very convincing people say things that turned out to be WAY off. Rather dejected, we started walking towards the Hiper Piaz- Guatemala’s version of Wal-Mart, which was coincidentally bought by Wal-Mart a few years ago. We had created a rather extensive list of things we needed for the house that cannot be found locally, at least not in the quality or quantity we’re looking for. Pots and pans had been a headache at our house- most of them rusty, crusty, or otherwise unappealing. (Washing dead spiders out of a skillet sort of turned me off of that skillet permanently) There were a number of other things on the list that are best bought in bulk, which is not an option locally. For example, vegetable oil is sold in 4, 10 or 16 ounce bottles in Santiago. We bought a gallon. My biggest problem with the small sizes is the waste it creates, which is especially a problem when there isn’t a good trash system.
To wrap this little story up, we spent about 7 hours in a van that day, shopped for about 3 (with an additional 1 hour spent sitting in some lawn chairs for sale in aisle 4), and then waited an hour for Aclax to pick us up, because he had been delayed coming to get us. In case you haven’t caught on- waiting is the name of the game down here. It’s not always so bad, but Sunday was about the worst we’d experienced so far. We slept well that night.
Monday the 15th was Independence Day. We were REALLY looking forward to this, because it meant the school bands would finally stop practicing all their music for the parade. For the last few weeks we’ve been hearing drums and trumpets nearly nonstop. We got up and walked in to town to see the parade, which consisted of all the schools, their bands, and some sort of theme from each one. Most of the kids wore the traditional clothes, some bands had uniforms, and others took on a theme of colonial clothing, nature, or something patriotic. I took a short video clip that I hope to put on our blog as soon as we really do get internet in the house. The whole town was there watching the parade, and it was also avocado day on the square- meaning thousands of avocados were being packed up for delivery to Guatemala City the next day. Check the blog for pictures too.
Tuesday we decided to go to the Tigo office in Panajachel- we were only told they had an office after Sunday’s failure. We showed up at the dock at 8:45, and were told the boat would leave for Pana at 9:15. By 9:30 we were getting antsy, at 10 we were really annoyed, and when we finally left at 10:15 we decided that this whole ‘Guatemalan time’ thing was pretty much crap. (I think we’re still trying to figure out this whole boat system too, because there have been others that are always on time.) The other annoyance with the boats is having to debate over the cost every time. They always try to charge more than it costs, and I have to tell them over and over that I know how much it costs, and don’t tell me the price of gas went up today. So we finally arrive in Panajachel and start looking for the Tigo office. The tuc-tuc driver starts going, and stops for directions, only to be told there is no Tigo office here, just a van that drives around a few days a week selling phones. Grrrr. We do find an office that can offer the mobile internet, but they can’t offer the contract with reduced rates, and I’d have to buy the modem too, instead of receiving it free. They also tell me that it doesn’t work in Santiago- which I know to be false because the Hospital has one that works quite well. After a call to the head office they tell me it’ll work, but I have to go to Guatemala city to set up the contract.
Friday morning at 5 I’m hopping in the van with Aclax again, with yet another attempt to get internet for the house. You may ask why we’re going through all this trouble, but let me assure you that it’s well worth the work! The hospital’s internet goes down frequently- (something to do with the city using too much electricity?) and carrying the laptop over there several times a day got old fast. At night it’s not entirely safe to walk around with expensive stuff either. We’ve missed our reporting deadline, and are failing at keeping our blog posted, and everyone e-mailed because of the current situation too. Keep me in your prayers Friday! I was just informed it may be a 5 hour process to get the contract work done. Yep-5 hours. I have NO IDEA what could possibly take 5 hours to get figured out, but that’s the plan. 7 hours in the van and 5 hours in the office tomorrow. Joy.
Now a bit of happy news! The new pots and pans have dramatically increased our desire to cook. We’ve been eating really well the past few days, have found a few wonderful women in the market we do our shopping with, and are enjoying the city more and more. We visited my old host family the other day and had fun with them. We have plans to learn how to make tortillas, black beans, and a few other dishes from them. We ate a few mangos yesterday from our tree, I’ve been making Limeaid non-stop, and the oranges may be ready soon as well. The avocado trees have thousands of tiny sprouts on them, and I’m hoping by December we’ll have more than we know what to do with. All the volunteers are out of the house now, so we’ve gotten to clean out the fridge, organize the shelves, clean out the bathroom, and set things up the way we want them. When the new volunteers arrive (first one comes in Friday) we’ll have a few new rules, and a good system to keep things organized.
We took a little trip to Panabaj yesterday, which is where the mudslide occurred, and I saw Diego, who is now 10 years old. I used to see him every day I walked to the hospital, and he lost all his family, and a lot of his friends in the mudslide. He’s in a new video the hospital made for their fundraising efforts, and is a really great kid in general. The video is on the Pueblo a Pueblo website (www.pueblopueblo.org) As for work, Traci is slowly taking over the volunteer coordinator responsibilities, and we’ve been trying hard to get the house in shape. The sustainable agriculture center told me about a project they’ve been working on to create a water supply for a small town near their place. The project hit a snag a while ago and they’re hoping I can help push it through with improved communication with the Oregon based Rotary Club they’ve been working with. I’ve also learned about a few past outreach projects the hospital started that I might be able to rekindle. Through several conversations I’ve come to think the wood stoves and water purifiers might be best distributed through the Hospital-which already has a network in the community, and a social worker that can help connect me to the families that need, or want it most. Though it’s taking longer than we hoped, I think we’re well on our way to making Santiago home.