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Marjolein in Guatemala
A baptism party and more
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Hola a todos!

Yeah I know, it has been a while, but here another huge update from the wonderful life in
Guatemala! First I will let you know that everything is just great over here, so no worries! Secondly I will let you know that this will become a pretty long email, because I have a lot to write, so be prepared! Maybe some coffee or soda with it won´t be such a bad idea!

Yeah, everything is okay here. I am getting used to so many things, such as the fact that you always have diarhea, the incredible heat (around 40 Degrees celsius, near 100 Degrees Farenheit) every day, the fact that you always have to wait for everyone here, and even a ride in the back of a pick-up truck is not a new experience anymore. Oh, and the fact that some  taxi driver was shot on the road from Flores to San José, the road that we have been taken way too much lately, does not even surprise you! Although we sometimes almost forget we are in a Third World country, once in a while it becomes clear again. For example when the electricity fails more times a day because the generator can´t handle it anymore with all these ventilators during the summer. And one other time when our regular bus took a  ´scenic-route´ through some kind of poor neighbourhood. It was an incredible poor neighbourhood, with little houses that would fall apart during the slitest rainstorm. We felt pretty awful when we were sitting there in thus bus driving through this area wearing our sunglasses, not for protection of the sun, but because there was too much dust coming through our windows! Or when we heard the story of the feeding problems they have here. Because it is not that the people die here of hunger, but they just simply don´t have the money to buy food with all the vitamines and minerals in it. The result is that in some cases the brain does not develop the way it should be. And this has the result that when these children will get the smallest hit on the head, they will just go knock-out!! Yeah, hearing these things makes you realize you are in Guatemala, and not in some Western holiday resort

Today was something weird going on! I already noticed it when I went to the store this morning, all smoke clouds on the other side of the lake. Well, that itself is not that weird, because people here burn a lot of their trash, but it got worse and worse! The sky turned really weird sort of yellowish and grey, and there was a rain of ashes falling down on the streets. It looked like a volcano had just exploded! Or like the last days on earth or something. The thing is that during this season, all the farmers burn down part of their land to make it more firtile. Doing this in large amounts, gives this effect! Pretty ugle and pretty strange! It´s even hard to breath, and you rather want to stay inside then go out! People even say that this will continue some weeks! We´ll see!

Anyways, enough about Guatemalan problems. I will tell you something about my work. Yeah.....we´re not ONLY celebrating holidays here!! Although we almost forgot the word ´work´! The plan was that I would work for Ecomaya to make them a marketing plan, and Sara would work for Alianza Verde to help them with their internetsite. Well, just working on an internetsite is not really our main education, so that´s why we changed plans. Now we are working three days a week (Monday, Tuesday and Friday) for Ecomaya to make them a marketing plan, and the other two days for Alianza Verde with their internet site. Yeah, good guess, Wednesday and Thursday. When working for Ecomaya, we can more or less schedule our own hours. We do not work at the office, but most of the time we are out interviewing people, doing research etc. However when working for Alianza Verde, we translate texts for them from Spanish to English, or we check already translated texts. The work is okay, but we also work a lot of times in their office, and THAT is the fun part! We are seated between four other people. First of all there is Billy, our supervisor. He doesn´t speak English, however he sings English, and he does not much more then listening music all day! Then we have Monica, she is his girlfriend, who is always putting on make-up, doing her hair and more women stuff like that. Then we have Tere, she is extremely nice, speaks prefect english, and looks a lot like Yasmine from the Aladdin stories! Then we have Tico, his name is actually Francisco, but for some reason they added a T and it became Tico. He´s really nice as well! 

All our Alianza Verde collegues

There are more people working at Alianza Verde, but look at the ´collegues´ chapter for more details! It is pretty funny to see how the real business life goes every day. They really don´t do anything! Well, that is exagerated, I know, but compared to the Dutch business life, they barely do anything here! They arrive always a half an hour later, if not even later, so we always have to wait, wait and wait! We are already getting used to it, and we always arrive half a hour late now! WHEN they finally arrive, they share all the gossip and jokes of the day. Than they put some music on, and after that they realize that they only have a few hours and they should finally start working! But it is definitely very fun working there, plus the word ´burn-out´ does certainly not fit in their vocabulary! They are also really surprised when we translated two texts in one morning! They think we work very hard, however we just work normally.

When working for Ecomaya we can schedule our own time. We have to do a lot of research, so we are always on the road, interviewing people, etc. This is also fun! Manuel is the director of Ecomaya, and is very nice! He always helps us a lot, even when it concerns our health!

The last couple of days we have been working on our destination analysis of Flores, an assignment of our school in Holland.  It is the same report we made in Thailand as well. This means searching a lot of information about Flores and Petén. Everything turned out pretty okay so far, although sometimes we think some people just make stuff up!  But what can you do about that! Plus they don´t really know how to use the word ´no´ here. People here never really try to admit that they don´t know something, which can be pretty annoying once in a while. Especially when you want to know where something is situated, for example a store. Either they give you the answer ´allá´ which means over there, or they will give a huge complicated explanation, so you can´t follow it at all! And IF you understand something, it is not even right! Weird people sometimes these Guatemaltecos!

Anyways, last Saturday, Alianza Verde had organised some event here in Flores at the square in front of their office. It was called ´Plaza Turistica´, and event for local people and tourists. We offered to help them, which was a lot of fun! It was an event with local food, music, dance, theater all from Guatemala and specifically from Petén. So there were men playing some instrument called the marimba, a lot of taco´s, tortillas, rice, fried bananas, dances and theater. That morning we were there at around 8 to clean and put up tables and chairs. We all got the same T-shirt from Alianza Verde, Ecomaya and Petén, that we had to wear that night. It was funny,  because when we were taking a  break, we all of a sudden hear this on the radio:

´saludes a Sara y Mari Elena, las dos voluntarias de  Holanda que están trabajando para Alianza Verde...etc.´

´Greetings for Sara and Mari Elena, the two volunteers from Holland who are working for Alianza Verde....etc.´

It was soo funny!!! Apparently Billy, who also has his own radio program, had called the radio to tell them to say this on the radio! So yeah, we are famous all around Petén!! It was pretty cool!! That night around 6 the party begun. It was pretty cool, and a lot of people came.

Last Sunday we went to a baptism party here in San José. Two children of one of our friends, Marco, who works in a restaurant here in Flores, were getting baptised, Rodriguez of three and Oscar of a year and a half.

Marco in the middle

We took the 10 o´clock bus, so we arrived in San  José around 11 o´clock. We didn´t know exactly where they lived, but when we got out of the bus, there was no doubt! We saw a house full of balloons and childrens` heads hanging out of the windows. We were warmly welcomed by the whole family, who was very proud that two Holland girls came to celebrate their party. We had only been sitting down for 2 minutes,when they showed us all their family photo`s they had. The wedding, the children, etc. Around 12 o`clock we sat down for lunch. It was some kind of vegetable soup, however they are not used here to actually cut the vegetables! The result is some soup with one huge potatoe in it,  one carrot, and some other big pieces of vegetables which I had never seen before. And they are also not used to take out the bones of the chicken, so there is also some kind of chickenwing compete with bones in your soup. Despite of this, the soup was delicious! So I can`t complain!

The family in the church

We thought that this whole church thing would take pace pretty soon after lunch, but nope,it would not start until four o`clock! We decided to walk around the touristic (ahum) San José, and put out feet into the lake. It was pretty hot that day!!! Finally around four o`clock we walked up to the church. Where, of course we had to wait for other peope, for example grandpa, who decided to shave himself 5 minutes to four! There were more children going to be baptised that day, and finally around 4:30 everybody was present, and the service began.

You have to know that here in the churches of Guatemala it is not important how pretty your sing, but it is more important how LOUD you sing. So no wispering like in our churches, nope, it is more screaming, I don´t know how else to call it. Also nobody sings in the same rythem, plus there are some people playing the marimba, and I think they have a different songbook in front of them, because they play totally different songs! It is hilarious!

After trying to sing a bit as well, or better, scream a bit as well, and after sweating and sweating and sweating, and after putting some water on the heads of crying little children, the whole service was over.

Now the best part of the party, the cake and coke!!! We were dying for some drinks! Also it seems to be normal here that when there is a party there is a piñata, or something like that. This is some kind of figure, here it was a clown, from paper maché, filled with candy, and that some kid has to break with some stick. Well, we also had one here! I think ALL the children from San José knew that there was a piñata, and thus candy in the house, because at some point there were about 40 to 50 children in the room, a room of about 5 by 5 meters! Plus all the grown-ups! Well, the clown was hanged in the middle of the room  and one of the children got the stick. First it was little Fernando´s turn. He started hitting the clown with the stick, and that thing flew around the room!!! We were in the high-risk zone, because it woudn´t have taken much more or either the clown or the stick would hit us!!! It was a hilarious happening! I have never laughed so much in my life!


After hitting for 10 minutes, only one candy had flown out, so somebody else took the turn. This kid was pretty hungry, knew there was a lot of candy in the clown, so started to hit around with the stick extremely hard! He didn´t want to stop anymore!! Not even when there was candy falling on the ground and children attacked the candy on the floor, he just remained hitting the clown! It was pretty dangerous! So after that, a little girl got the stick and started hitting. It was just SOOO hilarious! Finally the cown broke, and the candies flew through the whole room! All the children were crawling on the floor, it was soo funny!!!

Finally when all the candy was eaten, it was dinner time. Some family member of Marco, who is also teacher at the Bio-Itzá Spanish School, had also baptised his son today. He came to the house of Marco for cake and candy, and now we went to his house for dinner. Again this weird chicken soup, but delicious! After dinner we were pretty tired, it was around 8:30, and we coud get a ride back to Flores with one of Marco´s family members. So  in the back of the pick-up truck back to Flores. Yeah, it was a great party!!! And a GREAT experience!!

Anyways, I think I came to an end with my email! Yeah, finally! And look at this, I am working, and still I have these great experiences here! It just never ends with the excitement here in Guatemala!

Hope everyone is okay, and hope to hear from you!!


Marjolein, or Mari Elena is what they call me here! :-)

Click below to see more:

Baptism party pictures