Download Opera, the fastest and most secure browser

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Guatemala Day Four (Drive, Drive and Drive Some More)

Today started early at 6:30am because we had to be to the Church by 9am for rehearsal. So we awoke and had breakfast (frijoles negro and bread) and then set out on our drive into Guatemala City to the Church. Our daily or sometimes multiple times a day drive to the church takes us through an area with many prostitutes on every corner. Prostitution is legal here so they are all along the street without fear of arrest. That has been a source of many discussions with the group as they have not seen a real prostitute before. I mention this because even as we drove in this morning, there were prostitutes out on the corners which surprised me because you tend to think of it as more of a night activity. But I guess it is 24/7 with those poor women. We arrived at the church and set everything back up and began to have a real productive practice. The spanish songs are coming along great and I had some time to work more on my sermon for Sunday. Its funny that though this was only the second time we have been inside the Church it was already becoming more familiar to me and more comfortable even. Today, since we were there early, the ajoining Nazarene Elementary School was in full swing and the sounds of the children were so loud at times it nearly drowned out the music. I felt bad for the teachers because I know how distracting it can be when things out of the ordinary are happening around the school (like four Americans playing music). The staircase that leads from the other end of the building where the school is located to the rooftop playground area passes right next to the stage in the church. There isn't so much of a wall there as a bunch of bars with semi-transparent glass that can open like a venetian blind. These were open to allow air to flow through and today, more than yesterday, the air had a very pungent odor to it. It wasn't really foul just powerful and thick and it turned out to be the smell of burnt coffee beans. Coffee is the number one industry in Guatemala just before Tourism. And the church is near a coffee plant and the roasting of the beans do not give off the wonderful aroma that we are so used to when we think of coffee, rather the smell is that which eminates from the carafe at work when someone leaves a tiny amount of coffee in the bottom yet still on the burner and it begins to burn. The opening in the ceiling that I described earlier actually opened to this rooftop, caged-in playground area. It seemed during recess the children, dressed in their school uniforms, were much more interested in looking at us than playing soccer and basketball on the roof. So I looked up at one point and a group of young girls were sitting on the steps with their faces pressed between the bars watching our worship team practice. And during some of the more lively songs they even began to move with the music a little. It was such a cute scene that I had to take some pictures. But when the flash went off the girls screamed and covered their faces and some ran up the stairs. Kind of startled me. I am not sure why they were so frightened of the flash but they quickly returned and the many other pictures that were taken didn't seem to bother them as much. After practice the guys helping us on guitar had to leave because they are also still in school this time of year so they had to go to school. We then were brought over into the school to be treated to a Guatemalan breakfast of Frijoles Negro, bread and made from scratch Limeade. We had already had this breakfast but we had eaten at American breakfast time and it was now Guatemalan breakfast time so we sat down to eat again. Yesterday it was two lunches due to the timing issue and today it was two breakfasts. Tomorrow I was hoping for two suppers but with the service going through what we would consider supper time I don't see that happening. Anyway, I digress. We have enjoyed the Frijoles Negro quite a bit but we have had alot of it (nearly every meal) and as we understand it is actually a part of every meal. In America, we have such variety of foods and they do here as well but we are beyond having a staple food anymore I think. We might have pasta and then potatoes and then rice and another time beans but here as in many many other places around the world they still stick to staples pretty strongly. And so I think we might be Frijoles Nergoed out by the end of this two weeks, ha ha. After breakfast we then had a tour of the school. The building was all tiled floors with concrete walls, similar to the church which seems to be the norm here. With torrential rain storms and hurricanes this makes sense. Its no wonder students from UMary like it here so much as it must make them feel like they are back on campus. (a little cement humor there). The main room is long and high with two classrooms off to the side and the school office and a bathroom. We couldn't help from peeking into the classrooms and waving at the excited children. I'm sure to the teachers dispair. The upstairs had 6 rooms; a computer room, a kitchen, a classroom, two playrooms for the younger children and a spare room. Up on the roof there is a cement area about the size of a basketball court. Before we left we needed to use the school phone to call some of the soccer complexes and reserve a feild for our soccer night with the teens from the Church. We ran into a problem however when we found out that every soccer complex in the city (and there are alot of them) was booked for the time we wanted due to tournement time in their city leagues. We finally found one feild available for the hour before we had wanted so we booked it. We then invited the Sixth Grade class at the school and they seemed very excited. Not many of the young people get to use the fields in the city because they are expensive to them. For us it was very inexpensive, about $30 and hour compared to $50 per hour that I would have paid for a field in Kansas City. We were also excited to give them the two very nice balls that we had purchased for the night. We left the church and headed back to the house to clean up and then we went off to another mall to meet the Grandparents (who are actually the owners and principle of the school) for lunch. We went to Oakland Mall in Guatemala City, a four story mega mall with a four story cut out of Kaka shooting a ball on the outside. My kind of mall! We didn't have much time so we went straight to the restaurant. It was a themed restaurant called Nais Aquarium. It had very unique booths that surround a huge aquarium in the center of the restaurant filled with many tropical fish including very cool rays. Each booth had its own screen showing a documentary about tropical fish and the many lights shining on the ceiling would change colors from red to blue to green. We ordered a special lunch combo which contained a salad, a soup, a sandwich, fries and a coke, all for about $9. The coolest thing though that fascinated everyone was a soda fountain spout built right into the table so we could refill our beverages at will. Very nice for everyone except the person unfortunate enough to have sat next to it. What we have noticed about Guatemalan restaurants is that the servers take your order, bring your food and then you will never see them again unless you call for them by raising your hand and yelling out to them. We surmise that this fact was the impetus for the developement of the table soda dispenser because bringing people refills would certainly go against all known Guatemalan serving etiquette. Eating was a nice respite from the chaos of driving through the city but just as it had begun, it was over and we again had to head back to the church to meet everyone who was playing soccer with us. When we got there, late as we were, the other driver had still not arrived. We had to leave right aaway because if we did not get to the fields on time the reservation would be cancelled. So our crew left with the addition of two of the sixth grade boys who had come, 7 people in a small sportster, fun, but apparently not at all out of the norm here. We set off and immediately came to a 6 lane street which I need to take a left on across traffic which was bumper to bumper both directions. The way you accomplish this in Guatemala is to continue to inch out into the street until the cars feel as though they can't continue without hitting you at which point they will stop. This is bad enough with one lane but with three lanes it is even worse. But the worst part is the motorcycles who do not use lanes at all and are traveling much faster than the flow of traffic and are very hard to see. So now after pulling out into the street and blocking three lanes of traffic I needed to insert myself from a dead stop into flowing traffic of the other three lanes. Fortunately, there was immediately a small break in the cars and if there is one thing I have learned since being here is that if you snooze you lose. Unfortunately, there was a motorcycle coming very fast and I had no choice but to pull out right in front of him. This gave my little sixth graders a slight heart attack. Fortunately the motorcycles are used to this and he managed to hit the brakes and swerve just enough to miss us. But we were on our way. We were going pretty well and quickly when I needed to exit the roadway on the right but I was all the way on the left and there was a car next to me. I accelerated to get past him but my lane was ending in a row of parked cars. For an intense second we were not sure we would make it. But at the last moment I was able to cut across in front of the car and make the exit. This actually caused everyone to scream so it must have been quite a move cuz no one had screamed to this point and we had already been through some very tight spots. I don't know how people deal with this stress of driving here day in and day out. My only hope is the reality that someday I will once again get to drive the calm and orderly streets of North Dakota. Or even Chicago for that matter. After our hearts calmed and everyone was assured that I was in control we finally arrived at the complex. We went through some of the poorest parts of Guatemala City to get there and it amazed me how literally one turn can transport you into a whole new world. We went from destitution into a shopping district that would rival any in the US with literally one turn. It was like driving through a wormhole or something. The soccer complex was magnificant. It was perched on the very edge of a tree covered canyon that dropped straight down hundreds of feet. In fact, though we tried, we could not see the bottom. The feilds were each surrounded by about forty foot fences and nets to keep the balls from dissappearing into the abyss. There were sitting areas with tables in between the feilds. I don't know how many feilds there were but I could see three from where we were allowed to go. There were probably more. Fields in Guatemala are not like ours in America. The play on a futsal field which is similar in size to a full size hockey rink. It has smaller goals but still require a keeper. The fields are made of either the newer style of artificial turf (which is what the ones we were playing on had) or actually grass and the fields are all outside not inside. We had about 15 guys finally come to play and we split up the teams and played non-stop for the next hour. It was an amazing time. It truly is a sport that can bring all people together even if they can't communicate. Yet the biggest frustration was the fact that I didn't know any of the spanish words they used to let them know where I was or where I wanted the ball. By the end of the match I was able to pick up a few commands but still, it was a source of frustration for me. It's hard when everyone else can communicate on the field except you. But the night was a huge success and a great experience. After, we gathered to say our goodbyes, take a few pictures and present them with the balls. They really did not have the reaction I was expecting. They were very reserved and really didn't say anything that I could tell. They took the balls and we all parted ways and that was that. I asked our Guatemalan team member about it later and he said that the reason for that response was that they were literally in shock. They didn't know how to react. He said, it was unheard of for someone to give away an expensive ball like that and for it to be a brand new ball as well, they were just stunned that it was happening. They couldn't really believe it. I felt better about it all after that. We just want to be a blessing to them and I hope that they will get hundreds of hours of enjoyment in the future and maybe even have their hearts turned to Christ through the testimony of how they got to have a nice soccer ball to use. After leaving the complex we took the boys back to their neighborhood, drove past the Presidential House, Palace, Cathedral and National fountain. It was amazing. We so wanted to get out and walk around and take some pictures but like most places here, it was far too dangerous to do so. We asked if we could come back in the daytime but were told it was even to dangerous during the day for us. So we will just have to remember the sight of it as we drove past in the night. It was grand and yet such a shame that it can't be enjoyed. We drove back to the house and ate supper which was ham and cheese quesadillas and frijoles negro and then we went straight back out in order to take advantage of the first clear night and stop at a restaurant along the road where you can view virtually the entire city. There was an outdoor patio that sat at the edge of a hill that sloped down to a cliff that dropped hundreds of feet no doubt. We sat there and could see the lights of the city that stretched as far as the eye could see to the left, to the right and straight ahead. We could start recognizing some of the landmarks that we had been driving past everyday. And we could also see, as we asked where each of the places we had been were located why it took so incredably long to get there. They were so far away from each other and some were actually out of sight. I was amazed at how far I had driven through this city and the places I had not yet been. But as the fog quickly descended from the mountain tops into the city below, already obscuring the veiw of the volcanoes surrounding the city we decided to head back up the mountain to the house. The way back was pretty open until it all stopped completely. Yet another landslide to be cleared off the road. They made quick work of it and we went home. Since I was working on 13 hours of sleep for the past four days I went straight to bed. The others weren't so lucky, but you will have to wait til the next post to find out why. :) Pray for us. Nyk

Filled Under:


Steve at Random said...

Thanks again Nyk...I look forward to reading this blog everyday.

Steve at Random said...

Nyk, I saw 140 photos on Sarah Frederick's Facebook page (my wife is her FB friend). The image I had of the electrified showerhead was a lot safer than what I saw in the photo. I would be afraid to be standing in a puddle of water with that contraption overhead...lest I get electrocuted. Also, I got to the see guards with guns. They pretty much met my expectations.

Sherry L. de Alvarez said...

there's a reason those shower heads are affectionately known as "widow makers"! i am a missionary serving here in guate and am thoroughly enjoying your to see daily life here through the eyes of someone else!! :)

i do have a theory, though, on the service at take is that once you are served, the staff doesn't want to disrupt your meal. calling and waving to get attention has been difficult for me to adopt, as i think such would be quite rude in the states, but it's what works here. i do love, however, that you don't get the bill for your meal until you are ready and ask for one. for me that is a refreshing change from waitstaff in the states who slap the bill down before you've even finished if to say...get out! just a thought!!


Facebook Badge Azahel