Friday, July 17, 2009

PLANE TRIP - Guatemala! May 2009

See: And go to CNN Hero of the Year
to vote for Paul and his worthy projects.

Catching up with the news on CNN one night in April, I saw a Washington state firefighter/paramedic being interviewed by Larry King regarding his project building fire stations in Guatemala and training the Guatemalan bomberos in emergency medical skills. He is up for CNN Hero of the Year, and I immediately fired off an email to him.

For the last 5 years I have been volunteering with Cruz Roja, collecting recycled medical supplies for them, and doing some training. My head conking goal is to upgrade the local paramedics to Advanced Life Support - without much particular success. We are an hour from good ERs, hospitals, and cardiac care, here at the lake and it bothers me. The overwhelming brick wall that I hit is - how to pay for and sustain it. 911 is never a very lucrative endeavor.

Thinking Paul Embelton might have some ideas for me, and sponsored by an interested friend in Ajijic, I set out for Guatemala to meet Paul and see what he was doing first hand.

May 7th, I wrote home:


I’m here, finally. Flight to Guatemala cancelled in DF at noon, next flight at 9 that night!!! Translates to about 9 hours in the airport, walking multiple trips the length of it to take care of business: immigration, rebooking, trying to dodge the swine flu, wash hands, finding a non-toxic meal, searching for my bag, and trying not to just lay down on the floor and take a nap.

Arrived at midnight and Victor from Dos Lunas was there to get me. Hotel GREAT, like a hostel, met gringo guy who lives in Thailand and travels the world as a dive master, here to Antigua to learn Spanish. We’ll meet up somewhere along the way again. Also woman from Peace Corp with her cat, rescued in Guatemala, and covered in feces in cat carrier, now escaped and hiding somewhere on the property after she bathed it. Heh. Her plane leaves in a couple of hours; with or without the cat. She said to stay off the tuk-tuks and red city buses, gangs are stopping and killing the drivers and assistants if they refuse to pay protection. Dios mio. . .

Pedro picked me up next morning and drove me the 4 hours to Panajachel. Great guy, Mayan, fun, good driver, and fountain of information who patiently answered all my questions laughingly. Trip grueling, after about 2.5 hours of urban driving, buses, trucks and tuk-tuks, congestion, basura, skinny dogs and horses, toxic air and ground, then we started climbing into the forested mountains. Sadly, the clouds had descended and the mirador with a view the lake was obscured with about a 50 foot visibility.

Arrived Pana afternoon, got nice room for 13 US/day. Strolled among the Guatemaltecos, hippie tourists, local expats, dogs, tuk-tuks, diminutive handsome men and gorgeous young women, chicken buses, and hawkers to the lake. Also obscured by clouds. Had great dinner with German-Guatemalan man in his restaurant. Locals very friendly and eager to help. Invited to play scrabble and eat on Thurs night with locals. Slept like a rock, got up to put on socks, it was COLD. . .! Yes, cold, glad to be rid of the dreadful Joco heat and dust, even if just temporarily.

Woke to warmth, a bit of cloud cover again, mild humidity, unbelievable coffee and breakfast, but really no blue sky as of yet. Walked to mercado, shopped, the clothes are to die for. Hope Mexicana loses my bags for real this time so I can come back and buy a new wardrobe!
Will close for now, amigas y amigos, head to the dock to see about a boat for the morning, and try to figure out how to find Paul.

It is truly beautiful here!

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