Tom's Tales: Keipi Journey Crazy Time

John, our boss man, came down to Guatemala with a posse. Three professional filmmakers, five high school students, his daughter, Andrew the field Grinch and a partridge in a pear tree. Eileen, my coworker and I had one job; help these poor souls through this country without falling ill. Oh, and show them all a good time. To skip all the boring stuff, Eileen and I arrived at the airport to meet with the rest of the crew. Andrew had reserved a minibus for the trip and we went off for lake Atitlan. The trip started nicely, full of excitement and students waving at every passerby. Four hours later through dusk, dirt roads and dusty air, morale had sunk. Our driver got lost. Our two hour trip turned into a 6-hour tour. Passengers were getting nauseous, nervous and you could hear the gnashing of teeth. And then we made it. In the dark, there in the mountains, we reached our beautiful digs. Folks who were thinking of calling it quits got some sleep and regained some sanity. Students began to learn again. It all reminded me of jumping in a lake; its cold and uncomfortable at first but eventually you get used to it.

And by the way, we did jump into lakes.

Lake Atitlan in the early morning

Lake Atitlan in the early morning

And pools too. I took two boys, international Keipi goers from the Czech Republic and Spain, to the natural spring pool. We got there on the back of a wayward pickup truck, gringos hanging off the end of a truck that is jammed packed with humans. When we got to the pool the boys were immediately dared to jump into the water from on top of the diving board. Odd, yes. See, the diving board had a roof, so these boys climbed on top of the roof to dive in. Now, everyone was I impressed, the unwritten rules in Guatemala are if you can make it happen then all power to you.

John's students with Guatemalan kids.jpg

Then these same two young adults asked where the public baths were. I had already taken them to a waterfall and shown them a small bath which was occupied by three families. The young men didn’t want to go inside the baths then, so I figured they wouldn’t  want to see the public baths either. But I was wrong. They begged me for directions and I sent them on their way. It turns out they not only went into the main baths but they had someone take a photo of them, including a full on mini-movie of this Guatemalan tradition.  Incredible. Big props to these young Keipi Journey brothers for getting out of their comfort zones and doing something completely alien.

After lots of swimming we all went to the FTF Keipi dinner. It is the dinner we throw on all of our journeys. This Keipi was truly a melting pot. We had visitors from all over the globe. Our Health&Help crew came with people from Portugal, Honduras, Germany and China. There were Japanese JICA volunteers, local Guatemalans, and the American students. Wine and pizza flowed like water from the mountains. Speeches were made in various languages and musical instruments were played. Singing, toasting, crying, and friendships abounded.

The brutal chicken bus

The brutal chicken bus

Perhaps the best part of our trips are how we introduce the simple life led by the folks we work with. Local transport is one way to learn such things. A few students expressed interest in taking local transport between our stops. What is local transport in Guatemala? Well, think a souped up school bus and no rules other than prepare to feel like a packed sardine. We took four different buses and our guests got to see the transfer stations. Our first bus was only 1/8 full when we left. It would have been a bit more full if it hadn’t left with John. But it did, and we all sort of chuckled. We knew he’d catch up. With each stop our bus proceeded to get more and more crowded. By the last stop our chicken bus was as crowded as it could get. Think Tokyo train crowded. Wait, more crowded even. It was glorious to see the students tired and squished as riders literally climbed over them, throwing thighs over hunched heads, straddling children and old men alike. Sweat and breathe mingled to create a languid humidity. Trust me, there were learning opportunities littered all over the place. Keipi Journey love!

All in all, it was a good trip mostly because everyone came home in one piece. I hope the participants felt they made a few friends in Guatemala and I can only imagine how the experience impacted them in their personal lives.