Written by Carrie
Okay hello everyone! So we had our “weekend” break from clinic on Sunday and Monday, and took a road trip to Chichicastenango and Quetzaltenango (Xela) to celebrate. Chichi is a big tourist destination here in Guatemala because of its huge market days. Needless to say, it was pretty awful! We walked around for about 30 minutes and were harassed by tons of Mayans (men, women, and children) selling over priced touristy crap. I enjoyed exploring the Chichi Catholic church, which is made up of an odd blend of Catholicism and Mayan religons. For example, there were lots of altars down the center aisle of the church where the Mayans burn offerings and scattered rose petals in various rituals. However, mass is celebrated there regularly. We headed out of Chichi pretty early for a 2 1/2 hour chicken bus ride to Xela.
Xela is the second largest city in Guatemala and is unofficially known as the Mayan capital of Guatemala due to high number of indigenous people who live there. After spending a week in Quiche deprived of good restaurants, cafes, and sidewalks, Xela was a welcome relief for us! We managed to find a really good and authentic Indian food restaurant for dinner the first night, and topped it off with some great and cheap mojitos at a local bar/cafe. On Monday, we woke up early to take a shuttle bus to Fuentes Georginas, local hot springs. What makes these springs so awesome is that they naturally occur from the side of a volcano in the area (Guatemala is full of volcanos, many of which are active!) and have a great waterfall that runs into them. We slathered ourselves with volcano mud and laid around in the hot springs until it was time to catch another chicken bus for the approximately 3 hour ride back to Quiche. Too bad the chicken bus ride undid all the relaxing effects of the springs!
Honestly, I hardly have words to explain the ridiculousness that is riding a chicken bus for transportation here. Now that I have about 7 rides under my belt, I’m starting to feel like an expert on the topic. So these things are manned by a team of two people- the driver and a “helper”who basically screams the destination of the bus whenever its stopped and collects money. The helper typically runs around manically in order to drum up business and climbs on top of the bus (sometimes while its moving!) to position and throw down passengers’ baggage. This person performs an amazing array of acrobatic tasks such as running behind the bus, grabbing onto the back ladder, and swinging himself through the back exit door at 30 mph while going around steep mountain curves. Keep in mind that these curves are usually very tight and not quite built for a huge American school bus to go around at breakneck speeds! The driver, who typically has the highest standards for the safety of the passengers, fixes this problem by simply blaring on his horn while blindly taking up both lanes to round these blind corners. This is all set to an soundtrack of ear splitting Mariachi music. The whole thing reminds me of Grand Theft Auto!
We have a rural clinic tomorrow at a place we have to hike our supplies up to. Anthony taught me how to take blood pressure readings, and hopefully tomorrow I’ll learn how to check blood sugar as well. I’m so thankful to be able to help these people who are so in need of attention and care (not entirely medically!) Okay, bedtime! Hasta luego!