Rio Dulce; Three Days

Along with these friends we took a 3-day road trip to the east. Our initial plan was to take a 6-hour gravel road, but a bridge washed out in the middle of it, so we took the 4 1/2 hour paved one.


On our way to Rio Dulce we stopped at the ruins in Quirigua. One of the stone carvings is portrayed on the 10 cent coin. The park is quite beautiful with a large field with massive stelas rising from the earth.

The ruins date back about 1200 years on average and they include a ball court and several ceiba (the national tree).

There is a jade museum at the entrance and this little idol reminded me of Donnie Darko's rabbit.

The ruins are just 6 km off the highway through a Dole banana plantation.

Our family stayed at the Tortugal marina and hotel right on the Rio Dulce which connects Lago Izabal and the Caribbean. It's a very inexpensive place to stay with a great restaurant. The only access is by boat taxi or on foot from town. We stayed in an isolated bungalow where the kids could run around naked.

The water is incredibly warm and there is some terrific swimming at the hotel, just not shallow water for the kids.

The Tortugal has a large library. This book was in our room (the title had me laughing all weekend) (the title has something to do with pupate state, but the book was on government). I stuck to 2006 issue of The New Yorker. Read a great article on Deep Springs College in California - very independent of thought where half the learning is on the ranch and the other half in the classroom (at the ranch).


We headed out to Puerto Barrios, one of the three major ports in Guatemala and the only one on the Atlantic side. We hired a boat (after some severe bargaining) to take us to Livingston and Punta de Palma.

Amber and I had been to Livingston before and there wasn't much desire to return; it's just tourist shops, drug pushers, and hair braiders. We had lunch there and hung out until the rest of our crew was ready to go to the beach.

Punta de Palma is just 10 minutes away by boat from Puerto Barrios (a gross port city), but it's a gorgeous beach with calm, warm, shallow water. The kids loved it and so did I. A real change from cold Tactic.

Day 3

The Castillo de San Felipe was built in the 1500's to protect Spanish trading posts in Lago Izabal from English and Dutch pirates. We could see the castle from our hotel. We spent our last morning of the holiday walking around the site and then hanging out on the shore of the Lake. Along the walk to the castle, we passed a cinnamon tree and an allspice tree. The leaves smelled delicious. It is a beautiful place!


Qu'est-ce que c'est?

Points for the
Person who
Pegs what is in this


On Monday morning, dudes from my church gathered together on the new church property wielding machetes. We tore through the back part of the land that descends on a creek and a spring. We had to make a path for surveyers who are coming next week to do up plans for new construction.

We killed a lot of plants. A lot. There were another dozen guys that climbed the hill before I took this photo. We cut around coffee plants and larger trees. We ran into some wild rhubarb too. The guys said it took away thirst.

Someone behind me even killed a water pipe. I got all wet in the process.

The guys kept asking me if I was tired after an hour. I wasn't tired, but my hand was sore. They would say, "it's probably your machete that 's tired," and then they would lend me their file. Despite my best efforts (which didn't include wearing gloves, because no one else was wearing gloves), I got a hand full of blisters and scratches.


from Chitzujay to Cuyquel

I've installed my last stove. The owners asked me in December to hold delivery until their new house was built (I delivered my second to last stove in May for the same reason). Their house is in Chitzujay, Cobán - up over the mountain to the north for 30 minutes of back roads.

The drive was pretty insane. I had Impact Ministries' Toyota van with the stove, Blaise, and 5 people from the family in the back. Switchbacks with washed out cement tracks on the steep parts were freakier than the cliffs.

Blaise was a real trooper. The kids loved him and he played with them really well. They gave him a green short and fat banana and some sugar cane. I got a cola.

I worked with the father to set up the stove. We had to build a 6-inch dirt platform for the stove because the stove pipe wasn't long enough to reach the high ceiling. The family is Q'eqchí and the mom doesn't speak a lick of Spanish so it took a while to explain how to care for and use the stove.

On the drive back to Tactic we could see the landmark church in Chi-Ixim to the south of us. The church towers high above our town.

Later the same day, I took Amber with me to get a photo I needed to send to a donor. From Cuyquel, we could see the same church in Chi-Ixim to the west of us.

It was nice for Amber and I to get away - thanks to Jess for looking after our napping babies. After a terribly bumpy drive that Amber had to weigh the back of the van down just to get up some climbs, we had a 20 minute walk down and up and down a street and some corn fields. The recipient family wasn't home, but I got a picture of their house construction.

Royal Solitaire or Royal Waste of Time

One of the iPod games I've bought is Royal Solitaire. It is a collection of 10 versions of solitaire card games. FreeCell (one of my life goals is to Win 25 FreeCell Games in a Row) and Klondike (the solitaire game that comes with Windows and also with the iPod) were familiar to me before, but the other eight were new.
Aces Up
Beleaguered Castle
I picked up the iPod last weekend and played Aces Up and won. This is a very rare occurrence because the game has very little to do with skill and all to do with the cards dealt. I decided to try Beleaguered Castle and won at that too. Beleaguered Castle is even harder because most games barely permit you the first move! I then got the idea to beat all 10 games in one day, which I did.

My shame is that the game logs how much time I play and in the past 18 months, I've spent just over 80 hours playing the dumb games. Gotta interact more with people.

The Dam of Chixoy

Last weekend we drove the half hour to the hydro-electric dam in Chixoy. We brought our friends, Hector and Ericka along as they had never been either.

The road goes down and down and down into a valley. After about 20 minutes of driving in the heat we pulled up to some men walking and asked how much longer it was and they said the dam was one hour away. We gasped. Hector asked if it took an hour by car. "Oh, no, by car only 15 minutes."

The sight of the dam is quite breathtaking. It reminded me of the fortress at Helm's Deep in The Lord of the Rings. Arriving at a security gate, the guard asked us if we had permission. I asked what that meant. He said we should have asked for permission an hours round trip away from an engineer who would give us written permission to visit the dam.

We didn't have this. Hector and I were certain we could convince this man with a bit of money that we weren't going to terrorize the dam and that his supervisors wouldn't be visiting as it was a Saturday. After 15 minutes of chatting with him, no dice.

There is a road that winds up the side of the mountain next to the dam and then through the mountain in a tunnel that takes you to the other side to see the lake and the hydroelectric plant. We weren't permitted to go there.

He did let us cross the gate and hang out by the river where some boys and men were fishing for tiny fish. Hector says they are good fried with tortilla. We skipped stones and enjoyed the view of the back of the dam.

Then we went up, up and up, back home.



Yesterday, as I was giving Julie, a fellow missionary, a ride home in the rain, she told me that she was told one of her letters was hanging on a bulletin board outside the post office. I asked if she had gotten it yet. She hadn´t. So we went to get it.

When we arrived and the post office was closed. Sure enough, there was an envelope addressed to her stapled along with another letter to a bulletin board as an example of what a letter looks like. We ripped out the 6 staples and I took her home. It was from her pen pal and had arrived in Guatemala back in January.

Ruth, our neighbour who discovered the letter, had asked the postal worker if the person the letter was addressed to knew the letter was stapled to the bulletin board. He said yes and that she had given them permission to use it as an example.




We've been experiencing frequent blink power outages over the past 2 weeks. Everyday, there are two to three or more of these. My computer shuts down in a flash and then all my other gadgets power-up and I am left nursing my programs back to life.

What gets me the most is that I still forget to frequently save my files, so I often lose 15-30 minutes of work. I figure the reason is that I am so absorbed in my work that I forget to save.

We've been experiencing frequent accidents of the urine sort on our living room floor. Fortunately, they are not as frequent as the power outages. I should identify my son as the cause of these accidents so you are not disgusted with my poor sanitation abilities. He is in the midst of potty training (I give him a maximum of 6 months until he's fully trained).

The tremendous 'uriny' in all of this is that the pee accidents happen for the same reason I fail to save my documents regularly: he's concentrating on his task and forgets that he has to pee until it's too late.

His task is putting together 25-piece puzzles and he's really good at it.

He got a new puzzle today for having filled up another sheet with 35 stickers. He gets a sticker every time he pees/poops on the potty.


Justin: Photographer Extraordinaire

As I mentioned a few weeks back, my buddies Alan and Justin were here for a visit. While here, Justin took over 800 photos with his Nikon. It was great to see what he was able to see through the lens. He captured expressions of our children. He presented us with textures we daily walk by in Tactic. He gave us some sensational photographs that we could print and frame!

Check out a small selection of the photographs here and read an account of his trip here and see large versions of the photos on flickr. Amber is going to publish a blog commenting on these pictures too.

Super pics dude.


3-Dimensional Home

A while back I installed Sweet Home 3D on my iMac and I've been tinkering around with it every now and then. I've always enjoyed designing dream homes and making them as elaborate as possible, but lately, I just want something utilitarian and that is mine.
Four Bedroom
Open Kitchen-Dining-Livingroom
Complete Basement Suite
Laundry and Storage Room
Of course, some luxuries are conceded:
Walk-in closet and freestanding bathtub for Amber
Floor to ceiling bookshelf for me
Recreation room with ping pong table
Tiered movie theatre