Blogs from Eastern Highlands, Guatemala, Central America Caribbean


I've been asked to write about a typical day at work as an AFID accountancy volunteer. As soon as I heard that, I wondered what on earth a typical day was. I can only think of atypical days: they seem more common, and are surely much more interesting. So, there follows some of the types of working days we've had here: the many unexpected interruptions, the unpredictable changes of direction and the brilliant or baffling surprises. As an example, today Friday 7th of June was a 'typical' day at work, and it went a bit like this: Rhona left the office at 10am to head to the school in neighbouring Camotan (by tuk-tuk of course) for an end of term party. By arriving only 5 minutes late, Rhona was of course about 20 minutes early. Meanwhile, ... read more
Rain coming?
The rains
It's clearing up

The who, the what and the why of Assajo & Bethania and our help I've been asked to write about a typical day at work as an AFID accountancy volunteer. As soon as I heard that, I wondered what on earth a typical day was. I can only think of atypical days: they seem more common, and are surely much more interesting. But I suppose there is a pattern to some of our days, and so I'll write about it soon, but for it to make any sense it will help to talk about why we are here, what's being done by Assajo, and what we are helping with. Get ready to dive in to the backstory. This will be less of an aside and more of a full guided tour..... We're here to help an ... read more
In the office
Keeping in touch with home

A couple of weeks ago we were invited to join the Christian Aid Project on a trip to one of the aldeas (villages) to celebrate the end of the project. We´re not directly involved in the project work but supporting this is what we are really here for, so we like to take up the chance to see what has been achieved. A trip to the aldeas involves going up the mountain in the back of a picop. Well, we could travel in the cabin but the view isn't as good and somehow it seems less authentically Guatemalan. Most pickups you see around Jocotan have at least 20 people in the back, they are almost the only mode of transport up the mountains. Nothing else can make it up the steep inclines and rough tracks. In ... read more
The pila starts to fill
We survey the pila filling
Here comes the wee pila

A little after 3pm on the Wednesday before Easter.... This was the scene. As I write this I'm swaying from side to side in the hamaca down next to the kitchen. Don Ricardo the Canadian is digging something in the garden, Sister Paulita has just walked past on her way to the shops and Virginia the cook has just finished knocking mangoes from the tree. Before to long you won't need to knock them off, but for now, they need a little tempting. It's Guatemala the day before the Semana Santa (Holy Week) holiday begins, it's a half day and such activity as there is seems very relaxed. There's that pre-Christmas air around the compound. Everyone is winding down for the biggest holiday of the year. Thankfully the music pumping out of the church has wound ... read more
Downtown Jocotan
The garden

Stories about the heat Memory plays tricks on you. You soften the edges, accentuate the positive, forget the boring bits, and obscure what you don't want to, here and now I will write about just how damn hot it is and has been. This is not a rant or long complaint, this is just trying to put words to this heat and how it makes you feel, because I know after 1 week back in Scotland I'll be thinking of packing a fleece and bunnet for the next time! It's hard to describe just how hot it continues to be. Hot beyond the ken of a Scottish person. You can say a number, but now matter how high it is, it sounds a treat compared to 5 degrees or -5 degrees. Think of summer anywhere ... read more
Recovering in Chiquimula mall
Burnt out by tourism
T-shirt post bus journey

Our 4th day here was a Thursday like no other. Breakfast, as has become our routine, was at 6:30am in the casita of the nuns, Sisters Gloria, Paulita and Mirtala. The nuns are great. They like an occasional beer, will try whisky, add copious amounts of sugar to their coffee and are cheery and mostly full of jokes. They also put salt on their fruit, but apparently that's normal here. At 7:30 we had an appointment with Padre Juan Maria (early 70s, Belgian) down at the church. Instead we met Padre Rogelio (late 70s, Belgian, tall, spindly, wise but unsteady), and Padre Juan Gerardo (40s, Guatemalan, greying, cheeky and lively). They pick up a battered bag each and off we go in the pick-up to a mass they're giving in the hills. At the edge of ... read more

Howdy y'all (we do hope you're appreciating our varied greetings) from Guatemala. We escaped Punta Gorda by boat to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala, where we had a rather stressful re-entry to the country. The boat journey was pretty bumpy and for some reason they decided to separate us from our beloved rucksacks by putting them in the other boat, but you can be sure our eyes never parted from that boat for the duration of the crossing. We are aware that going through Customs is a legal requirement for entering a country, yet Customs was nowehere to be found. We decided sticking with the other travellers was our best bet, so we stalked them the 5 minute walk to this hidden building where Customs was hiding. Customs done, we needed a bus outta there. Re-whacking out our ... read more

Tikal is one of the greatest archaological sites in Central America, most people put it in the top three on the American continents altogether, along with Chichen Itza in Mexico and Machu Picchu in Peru. Our time there was certainly memorable. After spending another night in San Ignacio, we packed our bags, said our goodbyes to the new friends, and got a cab for the border. Turns out the money-changers are lying when they tell you that you get a better rate in town than at the border, and an even better one once you're in the next country. I ended up sacrificing about 7 American dollars on that particular altar of experience. Belize owes me a beer now. We did the stampy stamp thing at the border station and got a collectivo bus (private shuttle) ... read more
Sexy kissing faces
Sunset on the lake, off the cabana
Our hotel room came with a pet

We are in a small town called Esquipulas for Christmas! It is a popular religious pilgrimage site because of the crucifix in the basilica which has a black Christ. Took 4 buses and about 10 hours to get here but we made it in time to find our hotel, clean up, and go to 10 pm mass on Christmas Eve. The church is beautiful and much larger than most other churches we've seen in Central America. History of Esquipulas - the town was founded by the Spaniards in mid 1500s. We've heard different things about why it is a black Christ so I don't want to write the wrong thing here. Will update later. But anyway, the crucifix was installed in 1595 and was accredited with miraculous powers. "But after the bishop of Guatemala, Pardo de ... read more
Candles and another crucifix
Our Christmas Picture :)

Tim Version: * Entered Guatemala through Anguiatu, beautiful easy crossing, and bussed to Chiquimula. * Checked out the Copan ruins with its incredible inscriptions, and Esquipulas. The version that already misses El Salvador: I entered Guatemala from El Salvador (A country that I miss already!) from the Anguiatu border crossing, near where Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala meet, and it was a beautiful easy crossing. Very early, 7am so no-one around to hassle and the border officials all quite happy and unjaded. Its a pretty border crossing over a short bridge, and it has mountain views on either side. Once again though it is El Salvador that has the nicer buildings and more helpful workers. Today I knew was going to be a hectic day, so I enjoyed the slower bus ride from the border to ... read more
Hello Guatemala
Just lazing around
Copan ruined steps

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