11 hours of culture shock in Miami

  • "Why is the garbage can so far away from the toilet?"
  • "Why is no one smiling?"
  • "Where are the little corn tortillas?"
  • "Oh the joy! Oh the sweet joy of washing my hands in hot water!"
  • "Have all the roosters died?"
  • "I feel really short."
  • "I didn't have to remind my waiter 3 times to bring my drink?"
  • "Why does no one say 'pase' when I say 'con permiso?'
  • "Where are the diesel fumes? I thought Miami was a big city."
  • "It's 5:30 am, why isn't there a taxi across the street honking his horn for 20 minutes?"
  • "Um, I just downloaded a software update of 8.3 MB in 18 seconds?"
  • "There's a glass in the bathroom. As if I'm going to drink from the tap!!!"
  • "I don't have a cell phone on my hip and no keys in my pocket. Something bad has happened."

  • And 7 of these 11 hours have been asleep!


    Aviones, Trenes, y Automobiles

    Our plane was delayed coming out of Guatemala City this afternoon - about 80 minutes late. Add to that the 60 minutes it takes to go through the passport check, luggage collection, customs and finding the airline desk - we missed our connection to Montréal. So, I'm typing from a posh hotel room (with free wireless) in Miami after enjoying a bounteous meal, courtesy of American Airlines. We arrive in Montréal 18 hours after we intended to arrive there, so Amber's a bit choked as that was all her sister April time.

    We took 7 hours yesterday to complete the usually 4-hour trip from Tactic to Antigua - this included 2 breaks, but it still felt really long. Construction caused the delays mostly. My friend Bernd rode with me all afternoon in the car and that gave us a chance to catch up and talk about all manner of things - personal and ministry related. Good stuff. The car is parked at a seminary while we're gone. Took a cab from there to the airport this morning.

    Our travels these coming weeks include Montreal (Film Festival and friends and family), then New Brunswick. We'll hitch a ride with my father from Montreal to NB likely. The trip back to Montreal we plan on buying Via Rail tickets. Amber is very excited about taking a train. The only other time she took one was into NYC from upstate NY during spring break 2 years ago.

    Blaise has been a really awesome traveller so far. He's been bucking his head though, giving me a bruised lip and lots of tears for the little guy. I joked that if he broke my sternum, I could sue the airline. It was funny at the time. Everything has been funny today. I'm so tired.

    White Forest

    In Poqomchí, zaak = white and che = forest. My name therefore means white forest.

    Maybe birches in the wintertime? Hmmm? I did peel about 3 weeks ago after a good sunburn, like a birch, but I don't think anyone could have made a canoe with the skin bits.


    Film Screenings

    Strength and Honour is scheduled to screen at the National Film Board Cinema on Rue St. Denis in Montreal. Times are:
    3:20 pm on Wednesday Thursday, Aug 31
    5:30 pm on Sunday, Sept 3.

    See you there.



    I drive a van for the ministry when teams are here and occasionally for ministry errands. There are 2 vans - a Toyota Hiace and a Kia. The Kia incidentally has a wickedly annoying alarm system installed. I've had a mishap with both of the vans.

    Mishap #1: Backing the Kia out of the Beerseba School, you must back it onto the street. On one of my attempts, the van was too close on the left to swing the van out. Anticipating this, I backed out halfway so that I could pull ahead further to the right to allow the van some room. When I went to pull ahead in first gear, I didn't do it fast enough (there was a vehicle ahead of me that I didn't want to crash into by gunning it) and the van rolled back crunching the driver mirror and front left fender. BONUS: Les, Rita, fellow teachers, and a team from Canada were all present to witness the spectacle.

    Mishap #2: Driving home from the guest house in the Toyota through the northwest corner of the market in Tactic. It's a tight spot to begin with, but this time there were vehicles parked on the right-hand side of the street. I pulled the 15-passenger van up to the intersection and paused to check for pedestrians, cyclists, pick-up trucks and dogs, then swung the van to the left only to hear a big crunch. There are metal posts along the left-hand side of the street (for some unknown reason) and the ladder that sits on the left-hand side of the van caught one of these posts and ripped off.

    This has amazed me for awhile. Instead of building a bridge across the river in Sayaxche, the town has decided that it is more profitable to keep the ferry running. The ferry holds about 10 vehicles at a time and crosses the small river in about 5 minutes, charging each vehicle between Q10 and Q25 ($1.50 and $3.75). The ferry is a barge propelled with two outboard motors.

    Despite the mishaps, I've grown comfortable driving the vans. Driving my car, in contrast, makes me feel like I'm driving a Porsche boxster rather than a Kia Rio. I took this shot while driving of Mike taking a shot of the straight road that heads into the mountains.

    Creatures of the Peten

    Saw my first jaguar in Guatemala last week. Everything near tikal is either named after Tikal or Jaguars. The pelts of the jaguar were used by the Mayan kings of old. Now they are an endangered species.

    There were a pair of them at this little island zoo in Lago Itza. I was surprised at their size, I expected wild cats the size of ocelots or bobcats. Instead they were tiger or leopard sized. I was very impressed at their regal movements.

    While we walked through Tikal, the Red Willow group kept stopping to inspect the insects. I'm sure at least an hour was spent taking photos and filming the mites and their tunnels, the spiders and the beetles. This spider was huge, easily the size of my hand. There were three of them on three different webs that spanned three square metres. We watched as this spider spun a web around a captured fly, it was just like Shelob wrapping Frodo up.

    The group appeared to be just as fascinated, if not moreso, with the strange and wonderful wildlife they saw while in and around Tikal as they were with the Tikal ruins itself. Personally, what strikes me the most about the ruins is that they are ruined. These huge rock structures were slowly taken apart and covered with vegetation. The gods of the Mayans are long gone, holding no majesty in this age. The God of creation however...

    Red Willow in Guatemala

    It is so awesome to have 16 people from our home church, Red Willow Community Church, here in Tactic with us. What an encouragement! It's really refreshing for me to be able to converse with people that I have a history with - not having to begin at square one with every team member.

    The group is really awesome too - they're working hard and doing a great job in their children's ministry. I've enjoyed taking them to meet their old and new sponsor children. It's great to watch them react to Guatemala as well.

    A huge thanks to everyone who contributed to the gifts we received with the team. They made us sit down the first night in Tactic and open everything right there in front of them. I was choked up as I took the entire Lord of the Rings extended DVD trilogy out of the bag (thanks Rick, you're awesome!). That night we added 29 DVDs to the collection we started after every single one of our 300 DVDs was stolen at the end of February. The count is now sitting at 106 (including the 24 home movies that are backed up and need to be duplicated back home in Red Deer). I was also given some clothes, chocolates, some music, and a couple great books. Blaise and Amber benefitted the most from the gifts, only natural since they're so gorgeous - and, when their happy, I'm happy!

    In the Paper

    In today's Edmonton Journal, my family and I are featured on page B3. Amber Shortt wrote an article about us living in Guatemala. She did a fine job. If you want to read the article, you can either buy a paper if you're local enough, or you can buy it online ($1) as the link directs you - you have 1 week to buy it before it becomes unavailable.

    How did we end up in the paper? Sirdar tipped off Ms. Shortt at the Journal and she contacted me. Pretty cool. I've already had a couple people email me about it.

    New Land

    I've known about this for a while, but haven't had a good picture to fit with the story. Now I do.

    Impact Ministries had been trying to purchase land for new schools for the past 6 years. The problem was that hardly any land was available and what was available wasn't really nice land or it was insanely expensive. Two pieces were purchased about 2 years ago - one in Chicoy, where our second school just started in January, and another large piece of land in Chijulhá where another school and other stuff will be built. Our goal however is to build 7 elementary schools and a high school - along with a Bible training centre and a medical clinic.

    What's so cool about us not being able to buy land is that just in the past year, 3 very nice and substantially large tracts of land have been given - FREE - to the ministry by communities and towns. And another 2 are in the works (meaning they've given it to us, we just don't have the deeds yet). Pictured above is Erick and Les accepting the deed from the mayor of Tactic and a couple dignitaries. We plan on beginning construction on the clinic and high school this fall or early next year. Pretty fun watching this all unfold before our eyes.

    Return to Pacaya

    Climbed the volcano. Again. Went with a team from Merritt B.C. the day before they flew out. This time, because of extra activity, visitors aren't allowed to climb the volcano (well, like all things in Guatemala, it's more of a suggestion). What was more spectacular this time was a brand new river of lava that had formed in the two weeks before our visit. If I wanted to, which I didn't, I could have reached out and stuck my hand in red hot lava.

    I bought a walking stick (32 cents) for the climb with every intention of sticking it into the lava, but forgot half-way up the mountain when I got something out of my pack. Bummer. Rocks don't ignite the same way as wood. The river actually moves too, which is pretty awesome.

    Shout out to Isaias from New Mexico who climbed the volcano with me.


    This is my son.

    What? I'm not picking this stuff up.


    A book for the ministry has been commissioned so they can use it for promotion in Canada this fall. We discussed what photos to use and came up with a list of 25 specific shots we need. I get to take those photos. So, I've been cruising around the countryside - when I get a minute or two - and snapping away. Last Tuesday, my handy little 1GB USB memory stick fell out of my pocket while on a photocapade. I retraced some of my steps, but alas, did not find my green lovely (the stick was green). I've noticed also that Guatemalans have a hard time posing for photos. They prefer to look very serious rather than with a look of joy. Smiling with teeth showing is also very difficult - they end up grimacing when they try. I wonder what makes a culture photogenic.

    I was very fortunate this morning at 7 am to find a girl in grade 6 walking with her 2 little brothers to school. They were in uniform and so I asked them if they would mind if I took their picture. They were very gracious and followed instructions very well. They even walked really slowly for me and walked the same stretch of dirt road 3 times for me.

    I was rather UNfortunate this afternoon when I checked the photos of the Peters family that I took earlier today. Johnny has his eyes crossed in 3 shots and carries a very toothy smile in a host of others, leaving me with about 5 other photos to work with - some of which have closed eyes and other portrait blemishes. Thanks Johnny.


    Amber with me

    Six years ago today. On a Sunday, like today. It was one of the hottest days of the summer in Smithers, BC. We had friends and family travel from very far (everywhere is very far from Smithers, except Hazelton I guess). We wed under the sun in the yard behind her house. It was a day of joy.

    Today. My wife still brings me joy. She is so giving and bright and beautiful. I'm in wonder of her and that she's mine and I'm hers. I'm definitely institutionalized. Here are some things we've done together since August 2000:
    led a youth group in St Albert
    led a mission trip to Guatemala
    cycled across Canada
    worked at a school in Montreal
    drove across North America
    hatched a little Blaise
    traveled across North America with a newborn
    moved to Guatemala
    served the Poqomchí­

    Looking forward to the next ninety years.


    Apple Jeep Mania

    It's true. True Blue!

    Amber says I got too much sun today. She's a wino. Or the opposite of a wino. Exhale.




    I've lived in 15 communities (5 provinces & 3 countries) since I was born. That's an average of moving to a new town every 2 years. Because of these frequent migrations, I have had to be very proactive in maintaining contact with my close friends. This blog and my website are one way to keep in touch - it's always there if anyone wants to see what I'm up to or contact me.

    Sometimes, it can be quite difficult to track down friends. Friends who move and don't forward their addresses. Friends who don't answer their phone. Friends who never check their email.

    I managed to get a quick glimpse of this friend through Matt, a guy who was passing through Tactic and loaded his photos on my computer to free up space on his digital camera.

    Anyway. Tey, you can run, but you can't hide. Others are much better at hiding, Kris for example.