Charlotte Newell Guatemala Diary -- Day 3


The next day I met up with Javier and his friend in the city center, before taking a taxi to the base of San Pedro. Ryan kept calling it a “hill” every time we talked about it before I left, but he said it took about an hour and a half to climb, which made me seriously doubt its hill status. I might be from Florida, where we don't have much of anything that's even above sea level, but that sounds like a mountain to me. After realizing the day before how out of shape I was, I was a little bit nervous about climbing the hill. I didn't want to make a fool of myself and look like that pathetic little girl who can't handle physical labor, because I totally can. At least that's what I kept telling myself. Fortunately, we were able to take the truck up even though it was rainy season. It hadn't really rained for several days, so the road wasn't too slippery. It was really bumpy though. We were sitting in the truck bed, and I hadn't yet been able to get in contact with Charlie, who was going to drive me to Antigua on Sunday (in two days). So I was pretty nervous since Javier didn't think we'd have cell service in San Pedro. So a couple of times I sat down in the truck bed to text Charlie or my mom (she worries) and it felt like I was playing popcorn on a trampoline. Except it was more painful because a truck bed doesn't provide nearly as soft of a landing as a trampoline does.

On the Road to San Pedro

But when I wasn't being bounced around in the truck bed and was actually sitting on the edge, it was really cool. It was still a bit difficult to keep myself seated at all times, but the view going up the mountain was amazing. The Volcán Pacaya was right across the valley from us and it was smoking a bit. We also got lucky because it was a really clear day, so we were able to see all the way to Lake Amatitlán and further. It was really beautiful.

When we got to San Pedro, we got dropped off in front of the school, which was a relatively small building. We saw the Vice President of San Pedro and someone else cleaning out this large hall-like building right next to the school. I was a little confused about why, so we were going to just go to Calixto's house, where we were going to stay. But then we overheard the VP say something. I didn't quite catch what it was, but Javier looked at me and said “I think they think you're a doctor.”

Wow. Awkward.

They don't have a doctor in the village, and they have some people who are sick and need a doctor. I felt terrible because here they were expecting me to help them and I couldn't. So we had a few awkward moments when Javier and I were trying to explain to the VP that I was just there to take pictures and talk to people about First Things Foundation.

Once we had explained our way out of that really awkward situation, we walked to Calixto's house. It was just two houses away, so it was really close. Not that San Pedro itself is big – it's actually quite small. We got there and talked to his wife, Maria. I brought some food with me from Amatitlán, since they don't have a ton of food in San Pedro since it wasn’t harvesting season and the last thing I wanted to do was take some of Calixto and Maria's food. At that point, we didn't have very much to do because Calixto was still working in the field. I had brought a book and my journal, so I started to read a little bit, when some of the little neighbor girls came by. They were very intent on showing me how they could jump off the short wall surrounding the porch (don't worry it was no taller than 2 feet. Not dangerous)

See? Not dangerous. We also played a little bit of soccer and they showed me how they could climb trees. They were really cute, although not at all concerned with what my name was. When they were talking about me, they'd call me 'La Gringa.' (La Gringa viene! = The white girl is coming!) Which was funny, although they'd also address me as 'Gringa' as if that were my name. (Gringa, queremos jugar pelota! = White girl, we want to play ball!) I thought that was really funny too. Like the kids at the monastery, they were shocked that I spoke Spanish. Once they really realized that, they started quizzing me on what everything was called. They'd point to the table, the door, the window, the tree, the animals, literally anything they could see, and ask me what it was called (Gringa, cómo se llama? = White girl, what is this called?). If I got it right, they looked surprised, and if I told them I didn't know they'd all giggle and look at each other, waiting to see who wanted to tell me which was the right word.

Guatemalan Children

Are they absolutely adorable, or are they absolutely adorable?

So for most of the day it was really sunny and I was worried that I'd gotten sunburned on the truck ride up to San Pedro. It was only 30-ish minutes long, but I hadn't put on sunscreen, and the little girls weren't exaggerating when they called me “white girl.” I burn so easily it's not even funny. But I got lucky and only got a little bit red on my cheeks, so that was a pleasant surprise. But around 5 or 6 in the evening, clouds started to roll in. That's nothing new for me, I'm from Florida. Clouds are totally normal for me.

These clouds were different, in that we were inside the clouds. The mountain was so tall that if you looked into the valley from Calixto's backyard, you could see the tops of some clouds. So much for it being a hill.

Inside the Clouds

After the clouds rolled in, I spent some time talking to Maria about First Things and what kind of stuff other nonprofits had done in San Pedro. Apparently World Vision had been here, and someone else came in and installed a filtration system for their water. But the people in San Pedro decided they didn't like it because then the water made them feel more sick, so they got rid of it after the nonprofit had left. That's exactly the kind of thing we want to avoid. It's only worth spending money on a project if the people actually want and will use it.

Calixto later came home and we talked a little bit too, and overall I had a really relaxed first day in San Pedro. I was officially off of Whitman's highway, and I loved it.