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...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Corte de pelo (haircut) for $ 5, McCafe, chicken bus vs mini van...

Imagine an excellent haircut for $5, & that´s expensive here. Care is taken, including a straight edge shaving of hair above the neck. You do not leave until all cut hair is carefully brushed away. Oh & the barberia doubles as an internet kiosk.

McCafe - It is not easy getting decaf coffee in Latin America. After the corte de pelo, I eyed a McDonalds. Oh yes they have decaf, but in the next room. Wow! Like a coffee, pastry, cake place in a Border's bookstore.

After a sip, I wanted more cream, so I askd for a bit more. No problema! They empty the cup into a container, add cream and then blend it again! Such service & in a ceramic cup mit saucer for $1.25. When I finished I started to take the cup & saucer to the counter. The young man rushed out to get it from me. Oh and there's a lovely outdoor garden in which to enjoy your coffee.

Nicknames - I never use Philip, no me gusta, only Phil, but in Spanish I've never seen Phil, solo Felipe. BUT, in San Pedro, hope!! The Spanish Phil is lipe BUT the Tzutijil Phil is lip. So Senior Phil as they prefer to say is Talip. That I like!!

SAFETY - Mini-vans vs camionetas (chicken buses) - To the visitor it makes no sense that chicken buses (recycled & incredibly decorated American school buses) are much less safe than mini-vans. Mini-vans are full of tourists w/ cameras, laptops, money, jewelry etc. I've learned the reason is two fold. 1st camionetas (chicken buses) will likely be safe as long as the driver pays either the police or local gang. Exception is luggage carried on top of the bus. Mini-vans are likely safe because the robbers etc. know that foreign governments will come down hard on the Guatemalan gvernment to find the perpetrators. Thus safer to rob locals & gringos (anyone not Latino) who stray into very dangerous areas, for example Guatemala City.

Venturing en camioneta (chicken bus) out of Antgua - Taking a camioneta to a nearby village is an interesting experience. Occasionally you'll see a gringo, but basically locals, esp. the indigenous people. There is a driver & caller. The caller gets off the bus & loudly calls out the bus' destination, as in Antigua, San Felipe or Guate (Guatemala City). The fare can vary from 1.5Q to 5Q which are questzales (19 cents to 64 cents). The caller also helps indigenous people with their large bundles. He also collects the fare during the trip.

Venders often board the bus to sell chicklets, creams, newspapers. Sometimes bombaderos, firemen, come on board to ask for contributions.

The buses roll along just like school buses, but sadly often their exhaust is terrible. Young backpackers including young women often travel country to country in chicken buses. It can take many, many hours to make one trip like that. For me it would be not only uncomfortable but I think unwise given the varying degrees of safety given the rural areas.

Today I went to the Pueblo, San Felipe. The church has a unique & attractive facade. Across the street is a outdoor market which sells clothing and cloth products. Quite reasonble prices, 1/2 what they are in the mercado in Antigua.

Riding the bus this morning, a young father sat down next to me holding his 5 years old daughter. Though Gautemala City has hospitals, many come by bus to Antigua & then to San Felipe for broken bones to be reset & put into casts. His daughter had both legs in casts. She had lovely eyes & was quite personable. The indigenous here are mostly Cakchiqueles, pronounced CAK chee KEY les. My name in Cakchiquiles como Talip is Ma le´p.

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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.