Friday, March 7, 2008

More Guatemala


No politics today: Today I again refuse to satirize the Democratic nomination process. They are doing quite a good job themselves. Instead I will talk about some excitement during a recent visit to Guatemala. It is a beautiful country on the south border of Mexico. Like the U.S. if is bounded east and west by the Atlantic and Pacific oceans respectively. The weather is not unlike Hawaii – eternal springtime.

First visit can get one hooked: My first visit to Guatemala was in early 2007. I spent most of my time visiting three universities and a college of dentistry that are all in close proximity of one another in the capital, Guatemala City. University Francisco Marroquin was named for a holy man and is the one that caters to the wealthiest students. Their curriculum: law, economics, medicine, assures that they produce many of the country’s movers and shakers. Universidad de Valle is also beautiful but most of its students do not come from the privileged background of its neighbor. Universidad Galileo is my favorite. They are the “University of the 21st Century,” as they were founded in the year 2000 by a brilliant scientist, politico and educator, Dr. Eduardo Suger.

Former capital Antigua: For many years Antigua was the capital but an earthquake changed all that and the capital was moved to the current location. Still, Antigua is a must-visit, especially if you get lonesome for ex-patriot Americans or if you wish to immerse yourself in one of the many Spanish language households.

Highways, byways, and buses: This time we were taken to a village several hours away in the mountains. The highways are improving under the plan of newly-elected President Colom, but driver education is something to be imagined. Our driver was named Louis. He had worked several years in the U.S. but returned home to care for his ailing father. Louis carried a handkerchief that he used to wipe his right eye while driving to Chichicastenango.

The narrow mountain roads had no apparent speed limits as we passed several police cars while doing 60+. Center lines mean little as we were passed around blind curves by buses doing 80+. I learned that every little boy in poverty imagines being a bus driver. The buses are personalized like some of the 18-wheelers in the U.S., with girlfriend’s names and home villages painted or etched in gorgeous artwork.

Locals and Yokels: Locals ride the buses along with their goods to sell at market, including pigs, chickens, bricks, tile, clothing, and any manner of items. The goods are stowed atop the bus and a “conductor” rides the top like a bucking bronco rider as the bus swings back and forth around suicide curves. At each stop the conductor amazingly knows whose baggage belongs to whom, for as the peasants exit the bus their stuff is tossed down to them even as the bus clamors to get back on the road. Time is money, you know.

After several close calls with other vehicles and mountain roads with no guardrails, we arrived in Chichicastanango. I asked our guide about his eye and he replied, “I recently lost this eye and have very bad cataracts in the other one.”

Thinking quickly I said, “I’ve always wanted to drive in Guatemala. Do you think I could drive back?” He agreed and I drove the return trip. The ride home was not nearly as eventful or as quick, but we arrived.

A little blogging music Maestro... Duane Eddy’s “Forty Miles of Bad Road” comes to mind.

Dr. Forgot

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

SUPERB highlighting of a country most Americans cannot spell, let alone locate on a map! Thank you.