Books Worth a Look

  • Little Bee by Chris Cleave - This book is a must read. Better than anything else I've read, it takes you vividly into the life of a person in the 3rd world who has no choice but to escape. It is brilliantly written & works well as an audio book. Often I've sent info about the wonderful refugees I've met in Europe. We know only so much of their plight as it is painful for them to recall much less live through again by recounting it. But over time it is clear what they've lived through. This book is excellent as you discover the horrors of their world. Somewhat how to me, it is like being in Europe near a Concentration Camp. One has an obligation to visit it. 'Never to Forget.' In this case, to have our eyes opened.
  • Garbage King by Eliz Laird - The book is set on the streets on Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia and here lives Mamo and his sister Tiggist. When Mamo's "uncle" offers a job, he soon sets out on a bus to work. Little does he know that he is actually being sold into slavery...

Sunday, August 22, 2010

What a Weekend !

Completing my first week of study with a terrific teacher I set off for Lake Atitlan. In Mexico one travels easily by 1st class bus. Sadly not here. You can go either by chicken bus - not advisable - or in mini vans. For a 2 1/2 trip that should be a problem. Ahem!

Actually the going was much better. We were crammed into a van - 14 of us - but everyone was affable so it was bearable. The roads are an experience.

Arriving in Panajachel I found the dock. The adventure begins! There are 8 or 10 slips with no indication as to what is what. Instantly you are deluged with offers of boat trips. (One must go in a boat to get anywhere on the lake.) The first offer was for 200Q, a mere $25 ! The actual fare is 10Q about $1.25.

Arriving at Santa Cruz de Laguna, again no signs. The hotel is pleasant, simple and amid lush vegetation. There is one choice for dinner, grilled chicken. No problem. After dinner, they have first musical chairs & then the limbo. No, I passed! This part of the trip was fun as I met several interesting people from Australia and South Africa. People dressed up in readily available costumes. The next day I told a group of guys from Kent, England that they looked great in their dresses the prior night! Again, boring, I passed and kept my own clothes, thanks!

Toward the end of the evening I spoke for about 40 minutes with a local man & youth. I realized I had been conversing without too much difficulty. That was a good feeling.

The rain from Antigua caught up with us. It rained & rained. Oh well. Es la vida! A man from NY reminded me I was in a banana republic. I don't particularly care for the term, but it does indicate a bit of the experience.

There was no Sunday Mass available. I went up to the pueblo & was stunned by how much was not there. A school, a very poor church with only 1 Mass a month, and no store to purchase food. People have to bring it in, via boat,.

So imagine going out to Safeway, except you first have to go down a very steep hill, wait for a boat - basically a small fishing boat - and shop. You haul back your groceries via boat, and this day in pouring rain. Then you can hike up a very steep hill that takes about 30 minutes to walk.

OR, you can take a tuc tuc (motorized 3 tiny wheeled vehicle that can accomodate 3 people up to the pueblo for 5Q, 65 cents.) or climb into a pick up & ride up, again for 5Q.

Before I walked back down from the pueblo, I stopped for a soda. I bought a can and discovered the top was rusted. I tossed the can. The church I visited was probably the poorest, most basic I've ever seen. Even the vigil light was electric. Clearly candles are just too expensive. I'm reminded just how poor many people are & how fortunate we westerners are.

By now it is really raining hard. Oh well, I have to get back to Pana to catch the mini van. Now I readily admit that my agility has lessened considerbably since beginning my 6th decade. So getting into & out of the fishing boat which has no step or anything to step into - except the hull several feet below - can be a challenge. In this case it is raining hard & the boat is rocking & moving to & fro the dock. A so easy to slip!

Ok, aboard, I'm ready. Well, imagine moving at a good clip in pouring rain and the boat slams hard every 3 seconds. I was not fearful though I'll admit I did review things like recalling that they say the water temp is 72 degrees. Also questions like: "If we sink, do I really have to take my shoes off in the water?" to "Just how long do we have to tread water before help arrives?"

Interrupted thoughts: The flap on the side keeps coming loose & rain comes & every 45 seconds water drips above my head!

Well, we've arrived back in Pana! Phew. Woo, not so fast! Once on the pier I notice that with umbrella & small suitcase I am to negotiate two boards onto the beach & then tip toe across beach and rivulets!

Ok, I'm up on the street. Now where? Similar to London I get conflicting directions to Calle Santander. I walk on & mercifully a tuc tuc comes my way. I get in & we set off for Aeterna Primavera - how ironic! But where the ---- is it? I am truly blest at this point. my young Guatemalan tuc tuc driver will not give up. After many streets & stops to ask for help, he finds it. A fine tip he earned!

An hour later I'm off in a much more comfortable looking mini van. Ah, appearances!

As we head out of town, I see a motorcyle coming straight for us. The van driver steering to not kill the cyclist has to drive into the ditch. Yep! While everyone is seriously inspecting & concerned with the panel dammage, I get out to suggest looking closely at the axle. I recall well the hairpin turns on steep hills coming our way.

Now the driver with help has to drive out of the ditch. He does it! Later he feels a need to stop to rinse the mud off of the fender. Hmm. it's pouring & why I wonder is this a priority now?

Now, recall the comfortable van? It is except my fine driver chooses to take hairpin, snaking turns sharply. I spend an hour hanging on & bracing myself against gravity. Fun? It gets better! There are two basic groups on this ride of 15 people: an Israeli family & a Dutch group. So?

Dutch like German to me is not a melodious language. Problem is the Dutch youth need now to talk non-stop - not a second of silence. Add to the fun, the mother & daughter sit in the front & dad plus two sons sit all the way back. I get to pass muffins, money back & forth etc. My every genial disposition is getting sorely tested as I pass, hold on or brace for dear life & listen to non stop Dutch & Hebrew.

Not to worry. We hit a major traffic jam and sit amidst these melodious tones for about 40 minutes!

Back finally, Quite a Weekend!

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Thoughts on the amazing people I get to meet.

Rich, my 19 year old friend, soon to be Franciscan and recent community member at Haley House in Boston. An article he wrote.