rfay's blog

Patchwork quilt to honor the dead and disappeared of the civil war

Patchwork quilt to honor the dead and
disappeared of the civil war

During the 1980's peak of the Guatemalan civil war, the area where we are was devastated by the army's attempt to root out the guerrillas, whom they could never seem to find. So seemingly they just destroyed all the villages and killed anybody who lived near a piece of communist graffiti. Entire regions of the highlands were deserted due to destruction and the flight of the people. Many fled to Mexico and the US, where some remain.

The amazing wood carriers of Guatemala

The amazing wood carriers of Guatemala
We see the people here carrying amazing loads in amazing ways. The women carry incredible loads balanced on their heads, but that just seems ordinary when you see men, women, and children of all ages carrying their firewood down from the hills. Sometimes they have what appears to be hundreds of pounds tied up on their backs, and they use a little forehead strap so they can use their head and neck for support. They look like burros carrying these loads, and some of the loads look as big as the load of a burro.

This boy said he had only a 1-hour walk with his load, but we know many carry their loads farther. Some are gathering wood for their own use, but many people are also gathering the wood for sale and carrying it many miles, since it's the only way they have to earn a little cash.

Fancy bike gear: Sandals

Randy's Sandal bike shoes
After spending my whole life avoiding sandals, they're now the only shoes I own. I left my old running shoes behind in Juchitan, Mexico, and bought some simple sandals. The idea is simple: I don't have to wash out my socks every night. But there are loads of other benefits: I don't have to worry about riding in the rain, because nothing gets wet that matters. With shoes, you always have to think about what the shoes are going to be like the next day. And my feet, which are always prone to stinkiness, are now properly aerated!

By the way, both of us abandoned fancy clipless pedals and shoes some time ago (like in Victoria, British Columbia). For me, it's just that I want only one pair of shoes, and a clip isn't a very friendly thing on your one pair of shoes. For Nancy, it's that she never does get all that confident about the clipped-in thing. Anyway, we're just normal people with normal shoes these days. Or sandals, that is.

Drunks in the street

Drunk guy at Sacapulas

One of the more disturbing things about a couple of the places we've been recently is seeing drunks just laying unconscious on the sidewalk, or even sprawling out into the street. There seems to be no custom of getting them off the street, or having the police come and bundle them off to a detox center. They just collapse and sleep it off right there in front of everybody. One place where we used the internet we regularly had to step over a drunk to walk in the front door. Of course this is ugly. We know that this level drunkenness happens everywhere, but it seems like our custom at home is that it's hidden inside somewhere, or if not the police make sure that it's removed quickly from public view. Sometimes it's so extreme here that we wonder whether it's some kind of an art form. Just how drunk can you get before you have to collapse and start drinking?  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Donde nos encontramos y lo que estamos haciendo - Agosto de 2007


Nancy empujando su bici
a una entrevista en Nebaj

¡Saludos desde Chimaltenango, Guatemala! No hemos alcanzado ningun progreso este mes, pero hicimos un gran recorrido de los altos de Guatemala entrevistando a las señoras maravillosas que son clientas de Puente de Amistad.

Puente De Amistad hace préstamos pequenos a microempresas para que puedan amplificar o mantener sus negocios. Por ejemplo, algunas mujeres quieren comprar una oveja, o el hilo para su tejido, o productos para sus tienditas. Lo que nosotros estamos haciendo es visitando a las señoras y sacando sus fotos y entrevistandolas para poner un perfil en Kiva.org. Kiva es una página web que muestra los perfiles de prestadores en todas partes del mundo desarollando, para que inversores del mundo desarollado puedan hacer préstamos a ellos.

Do any of you have cameras to spare? And monthly update...

Nancy pushing her bike
up to an interview near Nebaj

Hello from Chimaltenango, Guatemala! We haven't made any forward progress this month, but rather did a big loop around highland Guatemala interviewing the amazing women who are clients for Friendship Bridge.

We'd like to ask your help with something: We're coming home for a visit next month and we're going to try to get together 12 digital cameras for Friendship Bridge to use to continue the work we've been doing, posting profiles on Kiva.org to raise loans for the women. Do any of you have digital cameras that you don't want any more? We don't need this year's model - in fact, 2-5 year old cameras would be great. If you have one that you could send to Denver, or if you would like to donate money to this cause, please let us know at randyAndNancy@hobobiker.com. All 12 cameras could probably be bought new for around $1200, but used cameras should work fine too.

We have new photos on the website,

Escuela Para todos: School for Everybody

Nancy's been laughing at me for weeks now because I've been devouring a little "almanac" I bought in Chichicastenango, which cost me about $1.40. It's a little book maybe a little like the Old Farmer's Almanac, but with more content and, for me, more cultural insight. The "Escuela Para Todos", or "School for Everybody", is published in Costa Rica expressly for the rural people of Central America, and I've learned so much about rural life from it. It's written at a fairly simple vocabulary level and also has pictures, and those of course help me with the language. If you're studying Spanish, this is the best little reader I've ever come across.

But it's the content that has enthralled me. There's the history of Central American independence, and how it was all one country at first, and how some would like it to be that way again. And how mosquitoes do their dirty deeds and how to prevent the spread of Dengue fever. And how to make concrete posts for fencing and improve the grass in your pastures, all things I never thought much about.

But the very best piece was a little mini-novel telling the story of a girl who got married when she was already pregnant by another man. It turned out OK in the end.  read more here... lee mas aquí... »

Guatemala's GNP: Cellphones and Politics

Political posters on the rocks everywhere
Tomorrow is DOBLE SALDO on TIGO, which is the cellphone company we have our cellphone with. When you buy a recharge card for your cellphone, you get TWICE THE MINUTES. It's the talk of the town. The whole country starts salivating on double-minutes day. We found out late in the day, and then we heard people talk about it on the bus. Guatemala has great cellphone coverage, with at least three major companies, and almost everybody has prepaid plans. Tomorrow we'll buy a card for 100 quetzals, or about $13.00, and we'll get $26.00 in airtime credit! It's so exciting. But wait until triple day comes.

Judging from the number of places that sell cellphones and prepaid cards, cellphones must account for about 50% of the GNP of Guatemala. Today we were out in a pretty remote village where the women scratch together money to rent a small plot on which to grow onions. They have next to nothing. But a phone rang somewhere and our hostess pulled a cellphone out of her brassierre...
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