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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Guatemala Day Three

After a nice and refreshing 10 hours sleep in the surprisingly cool Guatemalan air we awoke to breakfast having been set on the dining room table by the Maid. We decided to relax most of the day today to try to recover from the trip down but there were a few things we needed to get done today in preparation for the rest of the week. So it was nice to have breakfast waiting. When we had showered, we sat down to some fresh Guatemalan fruit juice (sorry, I can't remember the name, I will try to get it for tomorrow's post), bread and black beans, cereals and leche (milk), and cinnimon rolls. I wish I could say that I tried the black beans and bread but I was still pretty shot from the trip down and wasn't in the most andventurous mood so I had Sugar Puffs. After breakfast we headed out to find a bank in order to get some money changed over to Guatemalan currency. This sounded easy but turned out to be quite the task. I will only relate my efforts and not the others' in order to spare humiliating them. We went to a large, three story shopping mall that is in the town we are staying in outside of Guatemala City. There were two banks on the outside of the mall so we tried the first only to find out that they could not do the transaction I needed which was getting money from my business Visa card. The bank that holds my card assured us last week when we called to advise them I would be using the card in Guatemala that getting money would be as simple as going into any bank and showing two forms of ID. Turns out that wasn't true. And it wasn't going to be the last of the statements they made to us that turned out to be less than truthful. So we went to the next bank, they told us they could not do it either but a bank inside the mall could. So we went inside to find this bank of all banks apparently. I should digress and mention what it was like entering a bank in Guatemala. Each bank had multiple armed guards at the doors which is not terribly unusual even in the US but these guys meant business. They weren't sitting in the corner playing cards, no these guys were on high alert. At the first bank the doors could only be opened by the guard from the inside and he let you in. At the second bank, a man wearing a black jacket walked in before me and tried to walk past the guard who found that to be a highly offensive move and promptly grabbed the man and pushed him back into a wall demanding, it seemed. to see what might be in his jacket. The man was clearly frightened and quickly opened his jacket. It was a little disconcerting to say the least. I was not bothered as I made my way into the bank. So at the third bank we stood in line only to be told that while this bank could indeed do the transaction we needed, they would not be able to do it at these service counters. So we had to move to another area of the bank and get back in line for those tellers. We finally got to the person we thought would be able to help us but when we told her what we wanted, she seemed a little confused. And then she got up and went in to speak with her supervisor. From the completely confused and slightly disgusted look on the supervisor's face, I began to doubt that I was ever going to be able to get the cash I needed. However, when the teller returned she did in fact verify that she could do it. When everthing seemed to be in order, instead of handing me cash, she handed me a reciept which, we were informed, we had to take back to the first counter we had waited in line for when we first walked into this bank. So we got back in line and finally had the cash in hand. This turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. We headed into the mall in search of a soccer shop in order to purchase a couple of balls to be used at a soccer scrimmage we were hosting for the Nazarene teens the following night in Guatemala City. We weren't able to pack any balls with us so the idea arose to purchase a couple really nice ones and then after we finish playing that night we would present them as a gift to the youth group at the Nazarene church. Everyone here plays soccer but very few have the money to rent the feilds to play on (so they play in the streets or empty lots, both of which we have already witnessed yesterday) or to buy a decent ball. So we thought this would be a nice gesture, especially since the price for things here is significantly lower than in the States. We found two great balls for a quarter of the price they are in the States and we were very excited about that. However, when I tried to use the credit card for the purchase, it was denied. Somehow, in the 15 minutes it took us to get from the bank to the soccer shop, my card had been cut off. I wasn't completely surprised because this happens nearly every trip I take with the Youth Group. As soon as the card company notices a transaction outside of North Dakota it raises some automatic red flag and they stop the card. On the other hand, I was a bit surprised because in anticipation of that very issue, we called the company last week to specifically inform them to expect that very transaction in Guatemala. Apparently that made no difference to them and as soon as I made my first transaction in Guatemala they cut the card. Previously when this has happened I was able to simply call our secretary and she would call them and get it sorted out, however, for this trip I needed a special phone that was able to be used in Guatemala and it hadn't worked since we arrived. I discovered after much searching that the SIM card had been inserted backwards into the phone. This was done by employees in Bismarck so I can't completely blame them because North Dakota does not use SIM cards in their phones on this particular network and therefore the employees were not familiar with them at all and there was not way to test it since we do not have a network that uses them in ND. So after inserting the card the correct way, WALA! service! That only lasted about an hour and then the Data service became disconnected which, despite calling customer service has still not been restored. But back to the card issue. Thankfully I had the cash from the earlier transaction that caused all this trouble in the first place so I was able to make the purchase. We shopped around a bit and then decided to go eat lunch and then head back to where we are staying until it was time to go to the church in Guatemala City to meet the Pastor and begin to practice for our upcoming services. We decided to eat at a local chicken restaurant similar to KFC or Churches. The restaurant was very nice inside and you actually took a seat and the waitresses came out to your table to take your order. One member of our group simply assumed that we would order the same as our fast food restaurants so she just walked up to the counter where all the waiters and waitresses were standing but we caught her before she started giving her order and informed her that we need to sit down not walk up and order. The selection at the restaurant was also different. The typical things you would expect to find at a chicken place were all there such as different varieties of fried chicken, fries, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw but there were other things that were quite different. Each table was supplied with a bottle of green hot sauce for your chicken and fries. We saw some who mixed it with the ketchup and ate it with their fries. They also had amazing ice cream cones and donuts for dessert. Everything was very good and we enjoyed it alot. After lunch we went back to the house and relaxed until it was time to leave for the church. The problem with figuring out when the actual time to leave for anything is that the traffic is extremely bad and extremely unpredictable. The church wasn't in the best part of the city (for instance, it really wasn't advised to walk outside the church) so we didn't want to get there too early and have to sit outside but at the same time we didn't want to be very late either so we left with about 40 minutes til the time we were to be there. Normally it was a 20 minute drive so we figured we had plenty of time. Turns out we were wrong and it took us over and hour to get there. The Pastor and worship leader had waited for us so that was nice and we were able to check out he church and the sound and projector systems to make sure it would work for us. Everything turned out to be fine as far as equipment and sound went and later some more friends came who will be helping us out on acoustic, electric and bass guitars as well as some singing. They practiced for a while and then we closed it all back up. This church was one long room with tile floors and cement block walls and cement ceilings. It has a stage on the far end from the door. The doors are like most that I have seen here and that being a large steel door with peep hole type windows so you can see and speak with someone outside without opening the door. The door cannot be opened from the outside without a key. Everything inside was locked in cages. All the speakers were surrounded by cages and bolted to the floors or ceilings. Everything else except the drums were locked in a room on the side of the main room. This room also doubled as the sound booth. To the side of the stage there was a door through which you could access two sets of stairs. One set led to the basement which seemed to be only one very small room and the other which was secured by yet another chained and locked steel door led upstairs which you could see from the main room through windows built into the ceiling. All were covered by steel bars but through those windows I could see a large chain link cage that house a small basketball court. This, I was told was actually on the roof of the church and was open outside. We left the church and headed to our Guatemalan team member's grandparents' home but gave the worship leader a ride home on the way. One of our female team members, in an attempt to ask him in spanish something about loving something (we never did find out exactly) instead informed him that she loved him. This caused quite an uproar in the car to say the least. Even I who does not speak any spanish understood that phrase. After dropping off the worship leader we made our way to the grandparents' house. The house is protected by a large steel gate about 15 ft high topped by twisted razor wire which is is seen alot here. The gate has two smaller doors within it which allow people to be able to enter without opening the entire gate. After going through the gate there is a small cement courtyard and a place to park a car. Continuing into the home through another steel door we entered a small living room with tile floors and cement block walls. Passing through that room we entered an adjacent dining room/kitchen a little smaller than the living room. I would guess about 15 ft long and 10 ft wide. To the right of the dining area was a single bedroom and to the left between the living room and the kitchen was the bathroom. This is where our next andventure began. One of our female team members (the very same who expressed her love for the worship leader) who was wearing flip flops had stepped off the curb of the street while getting into the car at the church. Unfortunately she stepped into a puddle of fresh urine. Apparently urinating on the street is a very common thing here. This disgusted her to say the least and she went straight to the bathroom in order to wash her soiled foot. Upon entering the bathroom everyone noticed the shower head. This shower head was electrified in order to heat the water right at the shower head eliminating the need for a hot water heater to heat the water for the shower. What made it even more exciting for us is that our paster had just described such a shower head in his sermon the previous week and now here we were looking at one in person. Of course all the cameras came out and it was a pretty exciting scene for a few moments. After the foot washing we got back in the car and followed the grandfather to a Pizza Hut where we would have supper. They wanted to show us the club district first however so we followed them through many streets with many discos, restaurants and clubs. After passing through the same streets several times it became clear that we had gotten lost. The grandfather finally stopped and our Guatemalan team member asked for directions. He informed the grandfather of the proper route but after only two blocks the grandfather turned the opposite direction he was supposed to and we passed many of the same clubs once again. This time the grandfather stopped for directions and we were on our way again. But after seeing several of the same clubs again it was clear that we were still lost. The grandfather stopped once again to ask directions but our endless circling of the club district continued until he finally pulled over and proclaimed the fact that we were lost and he had given up. So we decided to stop trying to get to the restaurant we had planned on going to and finding another that he was more familiar with. We found that one easily and sat down for a wonderful time eating pizza and talking. Then we headed for the house which was going great until we hit stopped traffic on the way up the mountain. Eventually we discovered the reason for the back up was several landslides which had buried half of the road. The landslides are an ever present danger here. We even saw a sign warning of landslides actually crushed by a landslide. Everthing about this place is serious and at least a little, if not alot dangerous. Tomorrow's another day in which we plan to practice more in the morning and play some soccer at night. I am excited. Now for sleep! Nyk

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Steve at Random said...

I'm enjoying the blog. Some of what you describe sounds a lot like places I've been in California. I used to work for a company that owned construction companies in California and these weren't located in the best parts of town so were protected by Concertina wire (also called razor ribbon wire). I also enjoyed your phonetic pronunciation of voila (vwa'-law). Your writing is very vivid so I have a good idea of what you are describing. It will be interesting to see the photos once you return and see if my idea of the showerhead is anything close to what the electricfied showerhead actually looked like. Have fun in Guatemala. Can't wait for the next installation.

Nicholas said...

Thank you Steve for the comment! I will try to continue to be as descriptive as possible. I thought of adding pictures but I think I just want everyone to use their imaginations for now. There will be many pictures in the future. Thanks again!


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