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Breathe in, Breathe out...but maybe hold your breath at the landfill...

Written on: Friday March 13th, 2009

A journal entry from: Guatemala, mi amor.

Hey all, sorry about the delay in the blog post, this has actually been a surprisingly busy week and the next week will be even more so.  This past week was only school busy and not as travel busy as I was hoping it would be.  My friends and I all had great plans to do different things, but with complications arising from hotels not having working telephones or responsive emails, our plans fell through.  On top of all that, we had an essay due and a midterm.  
    For me, it has been a great week because I have begun to take yoga classes.  They have been absolutely beautiful for my sanity!  I brought my travel mat with me, but after the first 2 weeks, my home practice flew out the window.  I also finished my daily Spanish classes with Pedro.  I signed up for extra classes because he was so fantastic that I just wanted to keep learning from him as well as to in touch with him.  He recently told me I should come back next year.  I never thought about that!  There are people who consistently return every year for more lessons but I'm pretty sure most of them are retirees or people who can work from home.  I will not be either of those next year so I guess I won't be a returnee.  
    Our coordinator decided last Sunday was going to be our 'welcome' dinner (yes, it has been 2 months) so she offered to cook us dinner and to have us just hang out.  The conversation was interesting and funny and the night was actually a good time.  Plus, I drank 4 glasses of wine... so I was kinda tanked considering that I rarely drink here.  I've missed wine so much!  It gives me the giggles and apparently people noticed.
    This week we did have a field trip to a place called Lake Amatitlan (not to be confused with Lake Atitlan) where we looked at a garbage dump and water processing 'plant'.  I thought it was great!  We actually spent some time on top of the garbage dump heap and it was so strange because someone could jump 3 feet away from me, and I would feel the ground move under my feet.  It was so strange!  Before going, we watched a video called 'Recycled Life' which I highly recommend people watch.  Its about a garbage dump here where people actually live off 'the land'.  Essentially, they sort through the garbage and sell off the recyclables and keep the things that could be reused.  Think what you will about it because it's a complicated issue, but one man argued that it's an honest living, which it is.  They work in very difficult conditions, unsafe conditions and have an impact on the environment as they remove 1 million pounds of trash every day (there are thousands of them).  They had a sense of community there.  I'm not trying to glorify this lifestyle, but its certainly one that exists and is likely misunderstood.  The landfill we went to had those individuals organized and wearing t-shirts so their safety was more ensured.  I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty sure seeing us tourist kids hop out of a bus and take pictures of heaps of garbage was the funniest thing they'd seen in a while.  
    After the landfill we went to a water treatment area where they used lagoons and natural plants to clean the water.  One of the rivers that flowed into Lake Amatitlan was the River Villalobos, which received much of the garbage, human waste and industrial waste from Guatemala City.  The cleaning process wasn't overly efficient as during the dry season it cleaned 1/3 of the water and during the wet season it only cleaned 1/10 of it, but I still thought that their process was incredibly fascinating.  The water was quite clean and although it was re-mixed in with the contaminated water, the natural cleaning process of the lake was made easier by having a smaller volume of contamination to deal with.  This water though, was incredibly disgusting.  It was dark grey sludge.  There was another river that was bright lime green because it carried away detergents.  It's a difficult situation because there is not enough legislation to prevent this from happening, and further if there was legislation there is no money to enforce that legislation.  
    Oddly enough, I really enjoyed the field trips! They were pretty stinky and gross, but very interesting none the less.  This next week is going to be an interesting week for me.  On Saturday I'm going to be going kayaking through some mangroves near Monterrico.  The day after that, my class is going to Todos Santos and San Marcos for 4 days.  Before it was to be a field trip to visit a gold mine, but now it is appearing to be a trip just for fun.  It sounds like we'll be able to go for a hike, go to some hot springs and visit small towns along the way.  It's four days, so hopefully we find a few things to do!  The next day after we return we will be visiting hospitals in Guatemala City which should be interesting.  I'm hoping that we don't just go to all private hospitals.  Our professor is pretty high up on the social ladder so I'm a little concerned that it won't be as 'gritty' as it could be.  In reality, private hospitals in Guatemala City would likely be equal to hospitals in Canada.  I guess I'll find out for sure, but there is a lot of money in Guatemala City (believe it or not) so I wouldn't be surprised to see hospitals of the same calibre.  The day after that tour, I'm going to be going surfing in El Salvador for the weekend.  The only concern with that is that there will be elections going on the last day we will be there so it might not be the best idea to be there, but I'll be talking to the surfing company to find out for sure.  
    Anyway! I hope you all have a good week! I'll be writing again next week with a review on everything that has happened!!  I hope you all take care and I'll write you soon!



From George Barnhart on Mar 15th, 2009

We look forward to your blogs Meghan. You do get to see some interesting sights! Conditions are so different there.

From Brother Jason on Mar 16th, 2009

That's why trips like that are so great - you get to see the "real" parts of the country, not just the tourist hotspots. Glad to hear you're having a good time!

From Lynne Cargill on Mar 20th, 2009

With everything you have going on, I can't believe you remembered my birthday! And took the time to choose such a funny e-card! Of course, it goes without saying --You are my favourite niece!