Riding a chicken bus from Antigua to Guatemala City!
I first met Franz at a block party on September 15th, on national independence day. Paul had told us that he was from the Netherlands and so I was excited to talk to him about bicycling, having heard all summer about how “everyone cycles in the Netherlands”. It turns out that he is actually from Switzerland, but he does bicycle. Unfortunately, he mostly runs now because he has had two nice bicycles stolen around these parts. But he does run, and in fact in a week and a half he told me that he was running a marathon, but when he told me that there was a half marathon happening that day as well I quickly changed from Spanish to English and said, “Where do I sign up?”
This is how I ended up riding for the first time a “chicken bus” from Antigua to Guatemala city. They’re called chicken buses because on occasion in the past, people have carried chicken’s in their laps on the bus. That, and you feel like a chicken packed in there if it’s crowded or during rush hour. These chicken buses are old school buses from the US, re-painted, reseated, and souped up with one heck of an engine. We raced over the mountain pass to Guatemala city so fast! We were racing up the mountain, passing all of the cars and avoiding pedestrians to the best of our ability. I think the driver was trying to beat his personal best time because even though it was raining, we screamed up the mountain and back down to Gutaemala City.
I didn’t really like what I saw of Guatemala City. It was like most underdeveloped cities, and it isn’t really something you want to see, smell, or feel for the most part. I realize that with God there is much work to be done there, but with Government and corruption there is also much work to be done. I thought I knew what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for such intense smog and smoke. While Antigua is very much a city, it made me truly appreciate the relative cleanliness here. Antigua is still pretty cool. Antigua was the first city of all of the Americas, and all of the western world. The first printing press on this side of the Atlantic was in Antigua, and many of the ruins in the area are anywhere from 300-500 years old. Very cool.
This last weekend I was trying to find something active to do here because there has become a slight dichotomy for me between either having friends and hanging out with all the truly awesome people in our group of 18, or going out solo and attempting to practice my Spanish. Not a good battle.
The other day I saw this weird parade outside my window. It consisted of pairs of men in costumes dancing for some sort of competition. I still don’t really get it.
Today we toured the Godchild Project, which has a wide variety of services for women, children, education, sex-trafficking victims, and homeless people. It is quite a multi-faced organization and I was amazed and impressed with how they had everything set up within their quarters. Afterwards I finished reading Globalization by Manfred Steger for a class with Paul Nemecek I received a phone call from a Couchsurfer I had contacted this weekend!
Chocolate Bob picked Alyssa and I up in his 70’s cruiser and took us up to his house/chocolate factory. We saw what a Cacao fruit looks like fresh off a tree, and he explained the whole process, in detail to us! It was incredibly fascinating, and I am so sad that I do not have any pictures!
We made it home for dinner, barely, but had quite an incredible experience hanging out with Chocolate Bob! I am looking forward to getting to hang out with him more.
On Monday there were not 3, not 5, but 6 earthquakes here in Guatemala! I only felt two of the earthquakes: Once when we were eating lunch, and the second when I tripped up the stairs in the local supermarket (wink, wink 😉 )
Altogether after hanging out with Chocolate Bob I feel quite rejuvenated about life, and any sorts of discouragement that I had from hours upon hours of practicing Spanish is now gone! I am loving the one-on-one lessons more than any class I have ever had! I’m hoping to take up to six weeks of private lessons here as opposed to the original three.
Currently there are two very promising and potential NGO’s to volunteer with throughout this semester, as I mentioned in the last post (Namaste w/ micro-financing, and Godchild’s Project with sex trafficking victims). I’m trying to discern which to go for precisely, which is to also say that I am trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up! I’m very interested in both subjects!
Here’s a picture of some other Antiguenos with our group!
Here are a couple of other bloggers.