Thursday, January 29, 2009

Grab Your Neighbor - Or Else!

Blogging has taken a back seat this week to life. That sometimes happens....but I will try to get back in the habit of writing and recording thoughts.

This Sunday, I will be having our first "kick-off" meeting for the 2009 trip to Guatemala. The dates are set: July 3 - 12, 2009. The project is set: building stoves in Pampojila. Now, all we have to do is set the group. Once I have my group in place, the cultural education begins.

One of the things we discuss in "Guatemala University" is transportation. I absolutely LOVE the transportation in Guatemala. We travel one of two ways: walking and the pick-up truck. Within the village of where we sleep and eat, we walk. Everywhere. We walk to go shopping; we walk to go get ice cream; we walk to the lake for photos. We use the two feet that God gave us - and we put them to use, walking. I LOVE this. Everyone walks in San Lucas. As we're walking, we pass other villagers and other volunteers in the village - and a nod of greeting, as well as a "Buenos dias" is shared. I feel so included - so a part of the village - that sometimes I go out for a walk just for the sake of walking. And talking.

Walking is a way of life for the average Guatemalan living in the small villages. It's a matter of survival - as they walk to get firewood for their fires, they walk to sell their goods at the local market, and they walk to purchase their corn to grind into tortillas for their evening meal. When I come back to the States, and I climb back into my little sports car to toot around town - I always experience a sense of loss....I'm missing that walking. I'm missing the fellowship. I'm missing the scenery. (And yes, missing the exercise!)

The other means of transportation that we employ is the "pick-up." This is what we use to travel up into the mountains when we go to work each day. We take one or two pick-ups - and squeeze as many Gringos in the back as we can. I think one year we set a record - we had 25 people standing/sitting/squatting in the back. Standing, sitting, balancing, pushing, holding on - it's all part of the fun. Personally, I like to STAND in the back- not sit - as the views and scenery are incredible. You just have to learn a couple of things:

1. Keep your mouth closed, so you don't swallow any of the bugs (seriously - this has happened to me, and it wasn't pretty.)
2. Deodorant and mouthwash in the morning are a must. That's just common courtesy for your fellow passengers.
3. If someone shouts, "Duck" - duck your head as low as possible so you don't get tree-whipped by a passing branch. This has happened to me, as well - and it hurts. And it can leave a mark.
4. While turning corners, it's okay to grab your neighbor for dear life and hold on so you don't get thrown out of the truck. It's okay, because they'll be grabbing you, too. Just be careful what you grab when grabbing your neighbor....although if you didn't know them very well before this trip - you'll be practically family before the trip is over. Especially when you've grabbed them all week. I'm just sayin'.....
5. While you're buzzing down the bumpy roads at a fast clip, be prepared to hear the joyous shouts of children, screaming "Hola! Hola!" and the incredulous shout of "Gringos!!!" Just shout a friendly "Hola!" back and it's all cool. It's just all part of being in the "Gringo Parade" that the Guatemalan children so enjoy.
6. When hitting "tumulos" (speed bumps), again - grab onto a neighbor - or you'll go flying out of the truck. And, whatever you do, HOLD ON! Seriously. And hold on to your loved ones - so they don't go airborne.

Holding on is very important...because now that I've covered the rules for the passengers, the following are the rules for the driver. And now you'll understand why it's so important to grab and hold on:

1. If another motor vehicle is in front of you, you are required to pass it. It does not matter that you are both traveling at twice the posted speed limit as it is, you must pass. It does not matter if there is oncoming traffic, you must pass.

2. If you are confronted by oncoming passing vehicles on your side of the road and there is a paved shoulder, you are required to pull onto the shoulder to make way for passing vehicles. If there is no paved shoulder, then all involved are required to somehow work things out without rancor or worries.

3. Two-lane paved roads have either a solid painted line down the middle, or a line of dashes. The line of dashes indicates that you must pass immediately. The solid line means pass with caution.

4. Three-lane paved roads have no painted lines, and provide excellent passing opportunities. Use care when weaving through oncoming traffic.

5. Posted speed limits are suggested speeds for old ladies, but they do have the force of law for police cars. If you find yourself behind a police car traveling at the speed limit, pass it.

6. The driver of any passenger vehicle smaller than a minibus who allows himself to be passed by a chicken bus will receive a written warning for the first offense, and will have his driver's license suspended for a period of six months for each subsequent offense.

7. Slow down for stop signs – it is not necessary to stop.

8. Speed limits in urban zones are determined by the space between speed bumps. After passing a speed bump, you are required to proceed to the next speed bump with the pedal to the metal. Drivers failing to put the pedal to the metal may be subject to a fine for obstructing traffic

9. Vehicles equipped with functioning radios are required to pump up the volume.

10. Pedestrians are considered excellent target practice opportunities.

So, there you have it. You may think I'm just joshing with these rules - but if you've ever been in Guatemala - you know I only speak the truth.

So, I'll be getting ready for the upcoming meeting regarding the mission trip. Be sure to do YOUR part today to save the world - one action at a time, one day at a time.


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