Friday, September 3, 2010


I now find myself in Coban and man was it a trip getting here. Got to see some of the poorest and most isolated parts of Guatemala I have yet seen and talk to some really fantastic people allong the way. After leaving San Mateo for a town Barillas... another 2 hours down the dirt road, I spent the night in a hostel and then left the next am on pickup truck for Playa Grande... you have to take a pick up as the road is virtually impassable... dont think I understood what that mean until I was on it... It was really close to impassable, some months you actually cant take the road beacuse of the rain, as it was I dont know how the driver did it. It was 5 hours in the back of the buss with an assortment of other Guatemalans and the road wound its way down out of the mountains into the very hot humid and flat finca growing part of the country. It was really beautiful sceenery and was so shocking to pass through some of the towns along the way. Talk about poverty, people were living in thatched roof, wood walled, dirt floored homes bathing their children, washing their clothes and probably drinking from the same water source near the house. Those were the towns on the road too we passed numerous turn offs for pueblos a little bit off the track.

From PLaya Grande... a definite border town (I decided maybe I shouldnt spend the night there as I had planned) I hoppend on another bus on another dirt road... this one not quite so bad... for 4 hours to get to a town Chisec. Once in Chisec I satayed in the local cantina/hotel... felt not so great about all the drinks hanging out where I was living but what the hell it had a shower right... After 9+ hours of travel that was all I could think of... a shower... I made it into the dank bathroom and turn the knob and... NO AGUA. The town was out of water, closest I have come to tears I wander into the cantina in my towel begging the senora to tell me it isnt so. Tried another shower got enough water to soap myself up and again no water... finally the tough duena of the cantina dragged a bucket and ladel into the shower for me and I was able to rinse off for the first time in 3 days, I felt like a new woman getting the dust off of me.

The next day in Chisec I went in search of a local peace corp girl to see if I could get the sitch on the town- gone home for a visit- and had a really fantastic conversation with a cardamom farmer as he gave me a lift. We talked about the price of cardamom and how the little farmer really gets screwed by the middle men and big bulk buyers who set the prices but that these companies have elevated the wage 15 quetzales so there has at least been some benefit having these big companies (foreighn) come in. After talking about some of the issues in Guatemala and talking about what I was interested in he like so many others brought up education as essential. In a country where public schooling goes till 5th grade and most kids dont even go at all it seems to be such a centrally important thing. The farmer brought up another common theme I have come across, that of a lacking contiousness of the long term... he said people grow what they eat and hope to have some extra to sell for shoes or clothes perhaps but really dont think beyond that, their kids are for working- and they have a lot of them- and slowly as time goes on the amount of land per person just continues to shrink. There is no level of education that leaves people wanting more than what seems like this almost day to day existance.

If anything speaks to the need for education it was a 7 year old boy in a USAID sponsored tourist attraction. I stopped by some lakes in Chisec after waiting 4 hours for a pick up to take me there finding a ´´guide´´ and his son sitting in a wooden shack with a termite problem. I think they were shocked to see a tourist, they had to drag the kyack out of the underbrush for a float around the lakes, the whole thing was absurd, a big waist of USAID money on a place tourists couldnt even really get to. The man and his son basically sat in the hut all day in the odd chance someone might come by, the boy spent the day with his only stiimulation being a set of keys as his father definitely said nothing. By the time a pick up finally passed by they may have been as relieved as I was to get me out of there... nice investment USAID... at least they got to stick their sticker in another place.

Finally made it to Coban and a hostel that shockingly costs the same as the cantina but has hot shwoers and a comfy bed and doesnt give me the heebie jeebies... also the attached restaraunt has hamburgers (!) I thought I had died and gone to heaven. Hell of a journey to get here and man did I see a lot, minor excerpts inclided to give you a little taste... this country is so stunng, has some really incredible and friendly people, and some really serious problems that seem to only perpetuate themselevs. All for now again with stream of consciousness I hope it makes enough sense to be followable.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Skye, So enjoying reading your blog! You are one tough cookie...You know that Mercy Corps is based here in Portland. A woman I work with is married to the communications person. Could I help you to locate where there people are working? Let me know. You can email me at