Fast Food in Tactic

Last night, Amber had a hankerin' for some churrascos. So I jumped into the car (with Blaise) and fired into the centre of Tactic where hundreds of other locals were making their way too.

The churrasco is a very thin piece of beef steak, similar in cut to what they dice up for you at Edo Japan. The beef has been marinated and precooked over coals, so it only lacks a quick warming up.

The dish that is prepared is a bed of cooked cabbage with mayonnaise covered with a 10 cm X 10 cm churrasco that is covered with 4 corn tortillas.

Then we pick up some accessories: some deep-fried breadfruit (mazapán) and french fries (papas fritas) doused in mayo, ketchup and green hot sauce.

Two tasty meals like this for exactly $4 (Q28).


Collective Thought

Got an email from my friend Carole suggesting I take a look at this video clip from TED.

It discusses using technology to link the collective images on the web to form one master image of the world. In other words, if I post a picture of my house and add a bit of meta data, people could come across it if they take a 3-D look at Tactic, Guatemala - and it could be connected to other pictures of the area. The video shows this effectively using photos from Flickr that are tagged with "Notre Dame" and composites these photos into a 3-D (sort of) image of the cathedral in Paris.

This is not a new idea, just a new application of the collective thought. The most successful application of it so far has been Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that anyone can contribute to. There is also Project Gutenberg where people can submit and share eBooks for free that are free domain (over 50 years old).

This article in the NY Times (you might need a free subscription) shows how they are doing the same thing with maps.

The most important part of all this is that no one owns the information because everyone contributes and can share it for free. Those who put together the composite can charge advertisers to pay for their costs, but that doesn't hurt anyone or put controls on what is happening.

The idea of collective thought is a recent one for me. As social ideas shift and are moulded through time, it is believed that we all start to think the same thing and hold the same memories. Globally, this is a recent phenomena due to information and communication technology. I detect a serious danger in the way that social ideas can moulded by advertisers (or amoral corporations). These ideas can't be checked because once they are out there and permeate the culture, it takes time to dismantle.

Example: Many people in Guatemala feed Pepsi and coffee to their infants in bottles. This idea won't go away too quickly, but it will over time as it is introduced to a healthier idea through the collective thought - as long as that is the idea that is passed on from the majority.

Finally, there is the issue of collective guilt. If we all believe the same things and as a consequence do the same things (for example add to landfill sites), then we are all at fault and responsible for finding a solution (global warming, urbanization, use of water sources, etc.).


The Swamp

Blaise and I kicked the soccer ball back and forth a bit in our driveway before supper. He's quite a good kicker, though he enjoys carrying the ball in his hands too. He says "One, Three, Five, Goal!" before kicking.

He smartly suggested we play in the grass and I agreed, not so wisely. Our front yard is a swamp, only when it rains though. It rains almost every day.

We got our feet wet.


Travel Guatemala

I've been really blessed to see a lot of the Guatemalan countryside (and neighbouring Honduras and El Salvador) over the past 2 years and on our trip 5 years ago. Some unique places include:
  1. Salamá & San Miguel Chicaj
  2. Tikal
  3. Flores & Santa Elena
  4. Lake Atitlan (and 5 towns around it)
  5. Pacaya volcano
  6. Copán Ruinas and aguas termales, Honduras
  7. numerous mountain villages around Tactic
  8. Livingstone and Río Dulce
  9. Antigua Guatemala
  10. Guatemala City
  11. Fray Bartolomé de las Casas
  12. Semuc Champey and Lanquin
  13. Cobán
  14. San Juan Chamelco & Caves at Rey Marcos
  15. Santa Ana, El Salvador
  16. Juayua, El Salvador
  17. Purulhá
  18. El Rancho
  19. Caves at Candelaria

For a long time, I've wanted to get a GPS system that I could carry with me and connect to my computer to generate maps of where I've been. I look forward to many more trips in the future, there are huge chunks of Guatemala that I haven't seen. We hope to go to the Cancún area of Mexico in January to meet family, so that will take us through Belize.

Trip to Salamá

This little afternoon/evening trip marked the first time I had been anywhere new in Guatemala for a very long time. Vicky invited us to go to Salamá and meet her relatives and eat boshból.

Salamá is the capital city of the department of Baja Verapaz. It is much hotter, cleaner, and prettier than our capital, Cobán. We walked around the city market and central square for an hour and a half, then made our way to San Miguel Chicaj about 10 minutes further.

We met up with Vicky, Eldin, Mercedez, Belén, and their relatives in San Miguel and were promptly served a corn drink (sweet like cream of corn) and boshból. Boshból is a squash leaf wrapped around some corn dough that is then boiled. A spicy red sauce is added to it. It reminded me quite a bit of fiddleheads.

We got in at 9 pm. Blaise didn't sleep a wink the whole trip home.

girl / boy

Fresh from the cute patch.

Living to rumble toughly.


Visitors, Crawlers, and Geography

On occasion I like to get an idea of how many people visit my website and what pages are visited most often. The stats give me an idea of which days there was the most traffic (like last Sunday after I sent an email to family and friends that I had posted a bunch of photos).

Two things don't work too well with these stats:
  • pictures that I post on my blog monopolize the stats for most visited URLs because my blog gets more traffic than my website and the photos are stored on my website
  • 75% of the surfing on my site comes from Web Crawlers
Now, I know the web crawlers do a service, they allow people to find my site based on searches, like these ones: her ankle, tan lines, zaakistan.com, abbadie de saint-castin, amber isaguirre, amber pacific, amber tan, amber hay, anne van nostrand, ben pyper universe, bronze cross, exerpts from chicken soup for the teenage soul, fireweed souvenirs, madokawondo

I added ClustrMaps to my website a couple months ago. I like this one because it localizes where people are visiting my site from. For instance, I know now that my relatives do indeed visit my site from Vancouver, central Alberta, Montreal, New Brunswick, Florida, and China. I can also assume that the dozens of visitors from the midwestern USA are actual web crawlers. Then there are the international visitors like us in Guatemala, friends in South Africa (hi Waldrons), Romania (hi Chels), Peru (hi Victoria and Anna), and Germany (hi Steffi).

There are a few mysterious ones like Switzerland and the one on the edge of Hudson's Bay. Maybe they are the ones searching for tan lines and her ankle.


Rolled into One

I've been super busy. The last two days, I've put in 24 hours of work, plus 8 hours on the weekend. During all of this, I've had lots to write about, but now I've forgotten most of what I've wanted to say. Here are a few snapshots of some experiences / thoughts.

I've installed 23 stoves so far. Jorge helped me out with the last 10 and we had to hike up three mountains to install the last 4. We ran into his brother. Jorge told me that his brother's wife left him a month ago while her husband was at work. She took their two daughters. No one knows where they went.

This is one of the reasons why these stoves are important. This is the soot on a tile roof. The hole is where the stove pipe will go.

My firstborn son turned 2 on Friday. We had a little party that lasted 3 hours - pizza, piñata, and cake. Oh, and lots of toddlers and preschoolers running around. Blaise is awesome.

It is election year in Guatemala - municipal, departmental, and federal. So a helicopter can be seen over Tactic occasionally as it transports campaigning politicians to our region. I want to do a post outlining the various parties and how people campaign in Guatemala.

I am managing a pharmacy at a 4 day medical clinic in Mocohan this week. Got a little break this morning so I could get some translating done. See you on the other side.



This is a day worth celebrating!

I think it is cool that we get to live through two palindromic years - 1991 and 2002. The next one is in 105 years.


About 5 weeks ago, I drove a 13-year-old to a private pediatricians clinic. The boy had been steadily declining in his condition of stiff joints and severe pain for 6 months. His parents had brought him to a local doctor who had said that he had rheumatic fever and prescribed some antibiotics and other things. The drugs had done nothing to improve his situation so far and he hadn't begun his school year in January because of his condition. The director of the children's afternoon program he is involved in asked me what Impact Ministries could do.

The doctor I took him to asked for a long series of tests to be done. The next week, we were told he likely has systemic juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and she referred us to a specialist, the only one in Guatemala, in the capital 4 hours away. Systemic JIA is a very serious disease that attacks the tissue in joints and can cause irreparable damage to joints and the spine if not treated early on. I contacted the boy's sponsor and asked if he would be willing to help with the costs of the treatment and he said he was and has sent money.

Meanwhile, the boy's parents returned to the first doctor they had brought him to who had consistently misdiagnosed him for 6 months. This doctor said that the doctor I took him to was wrong after looking at the tests. They took the boy to an evangelist in Cobán where he was prayed for and liberated from a bad spirit, after which they believed he was healed. He wasn't healed, though he did seem in better spirits.

I managed to convince them to make an appointment with the specialist and they did for the following week. I checked in on them two days ago to see what the specialist said and ask how we could help with the costs of the treatment. They had decided not to go and instead had gotten a referral from their employer to another pediatrician in Cobán who said he just had an infection and prescribed erythromycin, an antibiotic that fights repiratory tract infections along with chlamydia, syphilis, acne and gonorrhea. He is almost finished his prescription. This is his third of fourth series of treatments that will do absolutely nothing to help his condition.

Again, I explained the severity of the disease and the importance of going to the capital. This is a difficult thing to do when they don't want to hear that it is serious and when other doctors are telling them it's just an infection. They agreed after 30 minutes of me telling them they were being irresponsible and careless to make another appointment with the specialist. We'll see if they go through with the trip to the capital or if they will wait another six months to see the JIA worsen and have their son in a wheelchair.


Climb this one mountain

When driving from the Capital, each time I approach Purulhá (Km 164) I reassert that I want to climb this one mountain. It is an awesome sight and the perfect shape. This is it at 8:20 this morning with the mist still shrouding it.

So, in an effort to achieve goals (notably #81) and to be a good host to Will who is visiting, I invited him to climb the mountain with me this morning as I had it open from work. We drove to Purulhá and asked around if we should ask permission from anyone before making the climb. We talked to Don Roberto and he said "Dele!" So we did.

We crossed the barbed wire fence and began our ascent through a thicket of thorns, vines, ferns, alders, and muck. We would run accross a path every now and then, but they usually ran horizontal and didn't give us any hope of reaching the summit. So, without a machete, we scratched our way up the mountain.

After an hour, we were level with the tops of some of the smaller mountains level with us. My goal was to get to the top and see over into other valleys. After scrambling up some rock faces and more scrub brush, we had to quit and enjoy our achievement about 20 minutes short of the summit. We still had to get down, drive home, clean up and then I had to work all afternoon.

The hike down proved more difficult than the one up. We ended up going down the wrong side of the mountain after finding a favourable route, but we would end up a couple kilometres from my car. So we pushed and at a rate of about 2 metres per minute, we bushwacked to the other side of the steep mountain. It was quite demoralizing. It took us just as long to get down as up.

This is Purulhá.

We shot for a corn field that was up the mountain and trudged down the steep hill between 50 cm high corn plants. From there we walked half a km to the car at the base of the mountain.

There was no water for sale at the corner store, so we each downed a freezing Pepsi. My forehead contracted. Both Will and I are very scratched up and sun burnt.

But it was worth it.

After an extensive shower, I went to work deworming children and taking a team to visit their sponsor children in San Antonio.


Pissing my life away


My red baseball cap is on the floor of the bathroom in Pollo Campero (Country Chicken fast food joint in Guatemala City). My elbows hurt and so does the back of my head. I hunch over the sink and breath and slowly wash my hands. I stumble out of the bathroom and make it to a chair where I rest a moment. I zip up my pants. I walk to our booth and sit with the three Guatemalans who are with me to pick up the group at the airport in 20 minutes. They tell me I look very white, whiter than usual. I lay down in the booth behind my own and let the blood rush back into my head. My lasagna arrives.

(2 minutes earlier) It's 9:20 pm and I haven't eaten since noon. After nursing a small sweet coffee, I walk into the bathroom to let out some gas and take a whiz. My stomach has been bothering me all day. As I'm urinating, I can feel the blood leave my head from top to bottom. My eyes stop being able to focus. I put a hand on the urinal separator to support myself. I think to myself that the last time I felt this way I fainted, and because I know this I can prevent myself from fainting again.

(9 hours earlier) I'm eating lunch in Honduras; it's one of those tall triple bread sandwiches. I have more than 4 hours of driving to do before I get to Guatemala City. I've spent the morning in my hotel room playing with the kids, watching Wimbledon, and going between the bathroom and the bed. I take an Immodium before getting behind the wheel.

(5 hours earlier) As I lay in bed, I can feel a bit of gas coming on. I consider sitting on the toilet for this one. It's a good thing I do. It's going to be a long morning, perhaps even a long day.