Monday, May 25, 2009


I think the latinos and latinas can tell that I´m about to turn thirty years old. They have gone from calling me Señorita to Señora. Maybe the eighteen-year-olds will finally leave me alone.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Run for the border.

Life as en expatriate in Guatemala requires little to no maintainence. However, since the government here is poor, they like to make us do things to get more of our money and to keep tabs on us "rich" foreigners.

As I write this, I am currently sitting in a city in Guatemala called Quetzaltenango, Xela for short. This city is amazingly beautiful, small, and far less dangerous than the captial. Plus there is a lady here who does waxing, god bless her. Xela is also on the way to the border of Mexico, where I am headed tomorrow.

You see, though it seems as though the Guatemalan government can´t get anything right, they make us foreigners leave the country every six months to renew the stamps on our passports. Actually after three months the stamps expire, but we are allowed one renewal stamp in the immigration office in the capital. But after three more months, they want us out before we come back in.

Fine by me, I kind of need a break from the small town life. Xela has it all except the overwhelming pollution. They even have Hiper-Paiz, the Guatemalan version of Wal-Mart. The longer I am in Guatemala, the more reasons I have to never live anywhere else.

And though I like to think that this barber has no borders, the Mexican one is looming, calling me, "Sarah, come to me and renew your stamp so you can stay in Guatemala". So I will head to Tapachula tomorrow, a low elevation city just across the border of Mexico and Guatemala. I will sit there for three days with my pig flu and my pesos, and sweat in the summer heat.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

First taste.

Latin American countries are somewhat infamous for having corrupt governments, police, and just about everything else, right down to convienence store owners. Living in Guatemala, I have seen and heard a bit of this and a bit of that involving corruption on small levels. For example, paying off the cops for false or legitimate arrests, people paying for lawyers and the lawyers skipping town, etc, etc. However, I am experiencing my first taste of federal government level corruption as we speak.

If any of you read or watch the news, maybe you have heard. Two days ago a video was released to the media of a lawyer named Rodrigo Rosenberg(pictured above). In this video, Rosenberg said something along the lines of, "If you are seeing this video, it is because I
have been murdered by order of the president(of Guatemala)". In the video he said much more, including other accusations and giving support to the Vice President of Guatemala to heal and take back the country.

True, this man is dead, and in proper Guatemalan fashion, they printed pictures of his dead body in the newspaper, laying right beside his bicycle where he was murdered in broad daylight.


A day after the release of the video, the President of Guatemala(Alvaro Colom, pictured below)denied having anything to do with this mans death. Also, a day after this story broke to the media, there were massive protests in front of the presidents house calling for his resignation. The Guatemalan government also promtply
flew mayors in from towns and cities all over Guatemala, to the capital to support the president. All this done on the tab of the Guatemalan tax payers, and at no small price.

Forgive me, but this is so fucked. Basically, there is hard core, prerecorded proof that this mans assination is directly related to the President, and done by his order. Now, we must consider that it is potentially a conspiracy created by this Robert Rosenberg himself, in order to stir up the government. However, the history of Latin American governments points to this story and his accusations being true.

There have been promised "unadulterated and unbiased" investigations into these recent happenings. And my response to that is: how can anyone possibly believe that these investigations will not be corrupt? This country was born from corruption and unfortunately it may fall from the same corrupt practices. What could happen? It will be so interesting to find out.

Get on Google and read something. This is too crazy to be true, and it has every single person in Guatemala talking. Imagine a video of a very notable and famous lawyer coming out saying that if we are seeing this it means he is dead and that our president is responsible. Seems it could never happen. Nuts.

In turn, nobody knows what will happen. Will the president step down? Will more people turn up dead? Will the investigations acutally be legitimately un corrupt, unbiased and clear? How can we feel safe in this kind of political environment? The questions in the minds and heard from the voices of people here, myself included, are unending.

The Prensa Libre(the main Guatemalan newspaper)printed today that the FBI is getting involved in the investigations. However, that does not really mean anything. I am sure the Guatemalan government has worked with the FBI before to the disadvantage of the people. Hmm, let me think, oh yeah, the nearly 40 year civil war this country went through.

I cannot deny that part of me is furious at all of this. And most of my anger comes from the fact that whoever killed this man will likely walk free the rest of his life as many murderers do in this place, whilst this corrupt president continues to rule this oh so fragile country. . .

May Rodrigo Rosenburg rest in peace.

Thursday, May 7, 2009


Anyone that has ever traveled to a third world country, I´m sure is shocked at the amount of trash everywhere. Even in such a pristine place as this lake and these mountains, there is plenty of trash, in the lake and on the mountains.

It seems as though nobody cares. But that is not the case. The case is this, there are not very many ways to actually properly dispose of one´s trash here. Walking down the pathways and the streets, I think I have seen two public trash cans. In a town of about 13,000 that number is very low. Leading to people throwing their trash anywhere. Another factor in this lack of care for the environment stems from the economic situation here. Why should we worry about trash in the lake and streets when many people here worry about what they will eat that day?

Many people here burn their trash. Sounds horrendous, but it´s going to pollute the earth in one manner or another, so the difference between burning and throwing is cancelled out. Plus this place creates such a small amount of trash, relatively speaking, that the piles being burned are often very small and only burn for a few minutes before tapping out.

In my house, with two other people and me, we create about one or two bags of trash per month. Not many, but still difficult to get rid of. This is how it works. There are no trash companies that come by every week, twice a week to collect our waste. Plus we live on a dirt pathway, not a street. The collection of trash is managed by the town municipality and consists of a huge dump truck and a small pick-up truck that drive around town honking a special, distinguishable horn to signal that it is near and that all should come running with their bags of trash. When we hear the horn, Gary(my roommate)and I look at each other with that look. The look that says, "We need to get our asses to the street! Like now!". The anxiety of missing the trash truck is too much.

We then promptly grab the bag or bags or whatever else we are trying to get rid of and run down the pathway to hopefully not miss the truck. There is no regular schedule for the trucks passing so if we miss it, we must just wait until next time. I hate having to carry trash back to the house.

If we are lucky enough to not miss it, we happily give our trash to the men and pay 1 quetzal(Guatemalan currency)per bag. Likely this payment of roughly 12 cents per bag is a tip for the collectors of trash, fine by me, they deserve it. After the trucks are full, they drive up the road on the volcano, pull over, and dump the trash in a sort of designated area, right off the side of the road. Upon seeing this heap of filth the first time, covered with street dogs and vultures, I came to realize why people throw their trash just anywhere. It seems as though people would rather spread it out as opposed to concentrating it in one area. Plus, I know there are families here who chose to not pay to throw their trash.

Sounds crazy, coming from such a well managed country, in terms of waste disposal. Then this thought crosses my mind; trash in our country is so well managed because if it wasn´t, considering the sheer amount of waste the United States creates, the country would be have been buried beneath its own filth long ago.

And ultimately, I draw this conclusion: though some of the things I have just written about how trash is delt with may seem horrifying, the people here in San Pedro and in Guatemala in general produce a signficantly less amount of trash than most Americans could ever dream. So, though it may dishearten me to see kids and adults alike throwing their chip bags and water bottles anywhere, it may be the only trash they throw all week.