Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What's good in the Guat.

What up America? 

So yesterday after our first day of work we had Juan Carlos (one the CCS employees who speaks English) take us around and give us a cultural tour of this awesome city. He was the perfect man for the job because he is super laid back, smart and we can communicate really well with him. Anyways I'm going to try and relay back as much as I can remember because we learned so much and it was one of the most interesting things I've ever done. So let's break this down.


Guatemala City, Guatemala Zonas

The "zonas" are sort of similar to zip codes throughout a major city. Even though the zones are so close together (separated by a street) they changed as you switch from one to another. The zones are basically organized by mostly socioeconomic class but also by industries (clothing, stolen car parts, markets, etc). We are currently living in Zona 2. This is a nice (but no where near the nicest) middle class area of the city. It is for the most part safe, mainly residential and kept clean. 
Zona 3: This is the worst area/ most problematic area of the city. The city's dump is in Zona 3 and it is almost centrally located. We came to learn that a LARGE amount of people/ a whole community lives off the trash. They go down to where the dump site is and scavenge through the trash that is being dropped off. They take home many bags of other peoples trash and go through it once they get home. When you drive through the "residential area" of Zona 3 you see that it is full of trash and even outside and inside the homes it consists of nothing but trash. As a family they pick through it and choose what to keep either for themselves or to sale. Recently they just passed a law that children were not allowed down in the trash drop off, because they had them helping with the collection. It is really sad to see that part of the city and how the people are living.
Zona 10-14: Andddd right down the road people are living large! These are the wealthy areas and most of them are gated so that you can't even get near them. We got to see the better areas that aren't gated off and they looked very Americanized. Nice shops, spas, 5-star hotels and restaurants, etc. There is a big University in the area (I can't remember the name!) and it has a nightlife area, "discotecas" that are supposedly really nice. I guess I'll have to find out!  

The Public Graveyard
While we were on our tour we got to stop by one of the main public graveyards. Weirdly enough the graveyard is located in Zone 3, but they do keep the outside and the area very clean. Most of the burials are overground, but they do still have some underground (it depends on the family). All of the settings look really expensive but we were told they cost about the same as an American funeral. The entire area is extremely religious and most of the grave sites are split between culture/religion (Catholic, Jewish, Chinese, German, British colonies, etc). You will see that some of the less expensive set ups are in the wall and some of the more expensive resemble houses (that you can walk into) or nice statues. 

Castillo Family

 Public Trash Dump
Towards the back of the graveyard is the lookout to where you can see (and smell) the trash dump. This is due to a poor job in city planning. Some families have to sit through the awful smell every time they come to visit their deceased. 
Walking to the back (where the smell became unbearable). 

There is a beautiful lookout over the city and into the mountains surrounding BUT there is nothing but trash when you look down, haha. There are vultures everywhere and you can see the large amounts of people going through the trash down below. 

Natalie, Lili, Me, Clark

To the left of where you can see all the trash being dumped there is an area that is ground level where they have already filled it up and covered it. It is expected that within 15 years the revine where they are dumping now will be completely full and covered... Then what?! Here are a couple of pictures from when we went through Zone 3.. I felt bad taking pictures so there are not that many. 

And these aren't even the worst of it!!

Baseball field turned Community
Okay so I can't remember the exact earthquake that made this happen but I'm assuming it was the biggest/latest one in the 70's. Anyways there was suppose to be a huge baseball stadium built in this one specific area but when many people lost their homes they all moved to the space and packed as many houses as possible. They do not have roads or anything because the space is jam-packed so they have to walk everywhere and trade within the community. If people living in there have cars they park them outside the community along random roads. I got a couple of pretty cool pictures! It's insane. 

Other Random Guatemala Info:
There are stray dogs every 5 feet. It's kind of sad but so many of them are cute. There's only one cat I've seen here-And of course I had to take a pic
Almost every business has a guard with a gun standing outside. I'm too scared to snap a picture of that, sorry. 

10 families have all the power of the Country of Guatemala. The two most wealthy/ powerful are the Castillo's and the Gutierrez's and they reside in Guatemala City. The Castillo's own the brewery right down the street from our house, as well as the Super24 food markets and the trendy bar 'Friends'. These are all walking distance from our area. (The giant gravestone early was for this family... no problem flaunting their money lol)
EVERYTHING IS SO CHEAP. One of our US Dollars is 7.77 Quetzals. And most things on average are under 20 Quetzals. The money is really pretty! look!
Guatemala just recently elected a new president in 2011 and he is currently trying to legalize drugs in an attempt to stop the violence caused by trafficking.

In most places so far, when you order beer there is not a wide variety. They ask you if you want Light or Dark... or my personal favorite Mixta (which is light and dark mixed).

As for today: Today was so great! Started out with the usual 5:30 firecrackers outside the window. We were told they do that for birthday celebrations... so we call into the radio, they set off black cats. Anyways, I am very excited to inform you all that I had a really awesome day of work. The morning was a little iffy because they were all getting either a) prepared for surgery, b) just getting out or c) having their burns washed and re-wrapped. It's really painful so they are very cranky and obviously upset. After the medicine starts to kick in they become much more social! For the most part they remembered my name but almost all of them remembered my face! I brought enough games and activities to really get to spend time with almost all of the kids. I spent the most time today with the two oldest boys Isaias and Jose 'grande'. I taught them how to play "animal go fish" and they thought it was the most awesome gave ever. We even got their mothers in on the game and they had a good time with it too! I colored for the younger kids for a bit and they were really impressed that I could stay in the lines (so was I) and I read a bunch of stories to them, taught some colors/numbers and played with a beach ball. There were lots of smiles and laughter all throughout the morning (even from the parents) and I left feeling great. What a turn around! I know there is going to be difficult days, and most likely difficult mornings every morning but things are already working out and I am so glad I am here in Guatemala and there at the burn unit with those children. 

After work today we had a freaking awesome lunch (chicken and rice). I haven't had a chance to talk about how amazing the food is here, but it is. It's usually really healthy though, and they always have some sort of fresh squeezed juice out to drink. It's pretty sweet (literally and figuratively). After that awesome lunch our driver Fransico took us to exchange our money at the bank and we stopped by the bakery down the street. At 2:30 we had a spanish lesson and it was actually really fun. Our teacher is trying to help us with phrases that will make our job placements easier. Once we got done with our lesson Lili and I took a walk up to see how much to local gym costs because we got wwayyyy too much attention yesterday when we went running (it was about $50 to join) and then we went to the super market to pick up some stuff. Overall it was a GREAT day.

Wine, it will make you feel better: Tomorrow we have the usual breakfast, work, lunch, and then TRIP TO THE LOCAL WINERY! Wooo! I am really excited and I hear it's beautiful so I will be sure to take lots of pictures and try lots of wine. Until then.... Adios from Guatemala City. 

PS- If you're having any questions while you are reading this feel free to post a comment and I can answer!  

Tuesday Night Update: Found an old fan in the kitchen. Captured it and brought it to our room. SUCCESS!!


  1. The badA sister!!!March 6, 2012 at 10:41 PM

    Ohhh the kitty <333333 How precious bring him home!!! Local gym?? How does that look there - no AC?? lol but um this city is SO PRETTY!!! I would upload pics of San Marcos but I dont want jealousy from you about how beautiful the town is......HA. Anyway -- love this, LOVE YOU!! Come home :) Bye! Oh and I knew you would love working with the burned patients. I bet they absolutely love you....I would..maybe :) hehe jk! Okay i have to write a paper, and ps thank you for being so detailed I love it. Im living through you right meow. BYEEE<3

  2. Sounds interesting. Enjoying the blog for info, keep it up. Will Skype tomorrow.
    Love, Dad

  3. I knew you would fit right in! You will make a difference in their lives and they will in yours. Love reading all the details of your days and nights!