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Our trip to Guatemala - day one

Our love of Guatemala began years ago when each of our kids went to work at an orphanage for a two week period.  Little did we know at the time that Nate was going to end up making it into a longer-term commitment.  When he came back from his first visit (right after his senior year of high school), he declared that it had been too short and that he was going back the next summer for two months.

Well, two months turned into two years.  Nate met and married his great love, Lizzie, who was one of the daughter's of the orphanage directors.  He returned to the States for a time, but last year Guatemala called them again, and this time they went off for a year (well, a bit more) with our granddaughter Katherine in tow.

Mike and I have just returned from our second working vacation to Tzanchaj Atitlan, Guatemala.  You won't find Tzanchaj actually on the map at this link; it is located about 5 miles southwest of Santiago Atitlan, and is just a tiny little village right next to Panabaj, the scene of total devastation during the 2005 mudslides caused by Hurricane Stan.

We arrived in Guatemala City at around 1:30 pm local time on March 19 after an uneventful and easy flight via Miami.  Then we were off on Mr Toad's Wild Ride, driven by Nate's friend Micah, the most fearless driver I have ever met.  Until I met Dave, later at the orphanage, that is!  Going the wrong way up a divided highway in order to make an obscure turn is expected.  Visibility may be nil, but as long as you have nerves of steel you'll be fine.  Traffic rules?  What traffic rules?  We don't need no stinkin' traffic rules.  Besides, they're more like guidelines anyway...

 A taxi

The bridge is out because of mudslides?  Don't worry, we just drive right through the stream, even though water is coming in under the doors...  Stopped by some cops along a particularly bad stretch of highway and you can't find your registration to prove it's your car?  No worries!  They actually let us go.

As we got closer to Lake Atitlan, we had to travel through many smaller towns, still at breakneck speed of course.  Micah knows where every speed bump is along every road, so the suspension (such as it is) didn't get too much worse on the ride.  Wheel alignments and shocks?  Why bother!  Narrow streets and people milling out in the middle of them didn't slow Micah down at all.  He says that second generation missionary kids are the best/worst drivers, because they learn to drive just like their dads, but without the fear.

 A tuk-tuk.  Yes, it really does look like a clown car.

Five hours later, we arrived at the hotel that would be our night-time home for the next week.  The sun goes down fast in Guatemala, and we were hoping to get there in the usual 3 1/2 to 4 hours, but we had to stop for lunch and at a couple of other houses on the way.  Mike and I forgot that missionaries would want fast food at any opportunity! 

Copyright 2011 Cyndi Lavin. Not to be reprinted, resold, or redistributed for profit. May be printed out for personal use or distributed electronically provided that entire file, including this notice, remains intact.

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Living in rural Mexico, I can relate to so much of this, Cyndi.

Traffic rules? Apply mostly to foreigners.

Fast food? My mouth is watering.

Speed bumps "en todas partes"? REALLY hard on cars and tires ... and human spines.

On the other hand ... the people, the climate, the culture ... priceless.

Glad you had a safe journey and I look forward to hearing more about your trip.
Cyndi L said…
Thanks Eileen! We ended up pretty battered and bruised from the several long trips that we made while there. But was it worth it? Of course!