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School, school and surf.... good week :)

Written on: Monday March 23rd, 2009

A journal entry from: Guatemala, mi amor.

This past week was much more relaxed than I had anticipated.  For the trip that was going to San Marcos and Todos Santos with the class, we were given the option of whether we wanted to go or not because the main purpose of the trip was to speak with the mine.  The mine rejected the request and so it was mostly just a tour with the odd educational speech added in.  I decided that because I was heading off to El Salvador this past weekend, and our food was not included into the price of the trip, I just decided I might as well stay home.  Later I found out that many people on the trip got really sick.  I felt a little better that I hadn't gone after I heard that.
    It was a strange sensation being only one of four of our group left in the city!  Three of my good friends stayed behind as well which made it into a perfect week.  Well, perfect minus the mountain of homework I had to do.   The week made me feel like I was back in Saskatoon doing homework, just minus the snow.  I stayed in my room for much of my time and worked away.  Finally it just seemed far to ridiculous to be sitting in my room doing homework while all the other people I came here with were on a trip somewhere.  My friend Brie and I decided that Wednesday looked like a good day to go to the beach!  We went to Monterrico where I had been once before and just sat on the beach.  The last few people that had gone to Monterrico returned looking like lobsters so Brie and I devised a plan to lay out on the beach for an hour and then run off and get a smoothie, then go roast some more.  I still ended up burning my back, but not bad enough that I noticed it later.  It was a pretty sweet deal as we hopped on a bus at 8 in the morning and then left the beach at 4.  It was perfect!  Until? The ride home was a little on the freaky side.  Brie and I were the only ones taking the shuttle home so it was essentially an empty van.  The dude that was driving us decided to have a friend come along which was fine, but a little strange.  Before we left Monterrico, our bus driver was chatting with the police and joking around – he comes out quite often so I wouldn't be surprised if he knew everyone.  He hopped into the van and we started to leave.  I hadn't noticed at the time, but the police were following us out of the town.  All of a sudden, our driver stopped the van on the side of the road.   I looked out the back of the window and there was a police officer taking a picture of the back of our van, and then he walked around to the front of the van and took another one.  Our driver laughed and said 'It's for the calendar'.  It's March.  Who makes calendars in March?!  Anyway, so Brie and I were sketched out – I also didn't help because I said 'well, it's probably because if anything happens, they need proof of what the van looks like'.  Good one.  So, when the officer was finished being a photographer, we started driving along the same street we came in on and made a pitstop for mangoes.  When we met the crossroads at the end of the bridge, rather than turning right we turned left.  Because I had been to Monterrico before, I knew that there was construction to the left so I knew that to the left was another way out, BUT we turned down a dusty street soon after we started in the new direction.  We stopped in front of a house and the friend got out.  The driver said 'just one minute, we're getting fish for a friend's pregnant wife'.  Brie and I waited while they did their business, sat and had a chat and came back to the van.  Finally, we were off.  The rest of the ride was pretty mellow, until we got to be just outside of Antigua.  We had never taken the 'short-cut' before so I asked where we were going.  They laughed and were like 'we're in Antigua right now!'  Their Antigua was much different from mine because theirs had dirt roads, decrepit houses and little of colonialism.  All in all, we ended up where we were supposed to and the sketchy driver didn't get a tip.  
    After Monterrico we went on a hospitals tour in Guatemala City.  We saw a public hospital, a semi-private ophthalmology clinic and a private dermatology clinic.  The public hospital was definitely lacking in resources.  Friends who used the bathroom said there wasn't any soap to wash their hands.  There were overflowing garbages and when we toured the paediatrics ward, the beds had holes in them and it seemed obvious that resources were missing.  It was a teaching hospital and when comparing it to the Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon, this hospital was in another world.  The problem is that it is often at 105% capacity, and doesn't receive very much funding.  It was interesting as well because many of the students battled with our being there.  For me, it was lucky to be able to see little babies with kwashiorkor or marasmus (types of malnutrition) because I am very interested in community health and will likely need to recognize the signs of each in the future; however, for other students not considering community health, they felt uncomfortable and almost felt like tourists.  To me, our experience there not only showed us the hospital but also showed the division between what is education and what is bordering on insensitivity for patients and individuals.  It was a learning hospital so in theory, it was fine to have larger numbers of people enter to observe; however, the difference is often that they are medical students.  I think many people battled with this.  The ophthalmology clinic was also interesting as people who could pay for surgeries and treatment did, but those who could not would go to social services and only paid partial amounts.  We later went to a dermatology clinic where the contrast between the hospital and the clinic were shocking.  The floor was so shiny I could almost see my reflection.  The sign was made out of glass and metal – one that you would find at an expensive clinic in Saskatoon.  Many of the patients were primarily receiving botox injections among other dermatological changes.  Seeing the contrast was quite unnerving.
    The day after we went on the hospitals tour, I took off for El Salvador to the beach of El Zonte with Brie and Verena.  There we hopped on the surf and sand.  It was a great weekend as it was relaxing but still crazy fun!  I felt so safe there.  We never locked up our stuff, boards and gear was left out wherever, you could leave your board on the beach and no one would touch it.  You could leave your purse on the beach and no one would touch it!  It was wild!  There was a lot of trust there and I think that because the whole town relies on having the tourism, they all work together to keep it safe.  That being said, on Saturday there was a drunk man causing a ruckus and the police came to take him away.  I believe as they were walking down the street together, he started attacking them.  Two gunshots rang out as the policeman was trying to get him to calm down.  It was the first time (and hopefully last) that I had heard gunshots.  The whole town ran toward the street to see what was going on.  In my mind, it didn't make sense for them to run toward the gun shots, but I guess curiosity? well? I'll just say curiosity and end it there.  I got eaten alive by a few waves so I didn't do so hot yet, but I'm on a 6'8 board as I've decided to finally graduate myself up from a schoolie board.  6'8 is still pretty long, but it's lighter and I can duck dive so I'm pretty stoked for that.  I'm heading back in a couple weeks so I'll get more practice.  Before I left Saskatoon, people asked if I was coming back and I was just like, 'naw, I'll probably go meet a surfer named Juan and stay there forever'? well, when I was there, The very first person I was chatting with one of the surf instructors and finally asked him what his name was.  He looked at me and was like, 'Juan'.  I nearly died.  He was nice to chat with but don't worry, I'm still going back to Canada.  
    Anyway, this week is essay/exam week.  Wednesday I have an exam and a paper due, then Saturday I have 2 papers due, then Sunday we leave for Tikal.  It's shocking how quickly time is flying by.  The week after Tikal, I'll be heading back out to El Salvador, then the week after that we have finals and immediately after my friends and I are heading off to Belize.  After Belize is Honduras for me then Nicaragua for my next class.  It's crazy!!  
Anyway! I hope you guys are doing well ☺ Take care!


From George Barnhart on Mar 23rd, 2009

Tikal should be an interesting trip. There is so much history there. Look forward to your blog.