Archive for February, 2009

Bombero voluntario mister Jan

Saturday, February 21st, 2009
Bombero voluntario mister Jan

No news about the bike, still waiting for parts. This message is a little story about one of my adventures working as a volunteer on the ambulance on the PanAmerican highway. This is  a summary of the Dutch entry, please let me know (using a form or mail) if you like this summary or using Google Translator better on the original text better.

We left at 4 o’clock in the mornig, Jorge, the driver, Luis and me to deliver a patient at the only mental institution in Guatemala (11 million inhabitants) in the capital. It was still very dark and cold. After half an hour life seem to be on it`s way. Lots of people waiting on the side of the road for transport. Mostly trucks with an open space at the back. They were all packed in many coloured blankets. When we crossed lake Titatlan the sun was just rising behind the huge vulcanoes. They are hart to miss with their flattened tops. Traffic already slowed down in the little villages we passed. On the side of the street, the street vendors were making breakfast on woodburned stoves.

The captital itself is inmense traffic jam were everybody crawls over each other. It took a long time to find the institution. At the gate we had to leave the patients son at the guard, no entry under 18. After a short check we could enter with our ambulance. Inside it`s not hard to identify patients, with no shoes, dressed in uniform clothes they were lying on the street, rolling around and begging at our van. At the Emergencia (emergency ward) we had to wait for the intake of our patient. From the outside it looked ok, but inside it was probably 30 years ago they spent some money on the interior. It all reminded me vey much of the movie ‘One flew over the cuckoos nest`

After the verdict on our patient was spoken, in house treatment for 10 days, the party started. We visited the city centre, when traffick jammed we just used our siren and got through. In the evening the driver didn`t want to change with me so he drove on, even faster to show off his skills? During our late evening diner, some odd thing happened. Some woman in the tiny reastaurant whispered `morenos`and went to the open door. From across the street some 15 men were crossing the street, all armed. They disappeared in cars. Morenos are gangs of bandits who roam the Pan American at night looking for cargo or other interesting stuff. We left and got home at 12.

¿Triste o centento? (sad or happy?)

Thursday, February 19th, 2009
¿Triste o centento? (sad or happy?)

Malacatancito, province Huehuetenango, Guatemala, 19 feb 2009

This is the little village where I am waiting for my parts to arrive. I still sleep at the fire department and can stay there until the work on my bike has been done. I´ve got a little room (storage room) for my own use. I like that a lot because at night is when the work is being done, so working on the dayshift  I do get my sleep. The work is notsomuch on fires but on the ambulance on accidents on the PanAmerican highway. The ambulance service is organised in Guatemala by the fire department. On average they ride out 3 times a night during weekdays and more in the weekends. In daytime I make use of a little old motorcrossbike (Yamaha 175 cc twostroke). The bike is donated, as is every piece of equipment the fire department uses. The parking lot is therefore a strange mixture of brands and years.

Guatemal is a typical mix of new and old, but they have one thing in common, lack of money, or let´s call it poverty. The youth is fashinably clothed, use modern day little motorbikes (made in China and Mexico), make lots of use of the internetcafes and everybody uses a cellular phone. All along the PanAmerican are the transmitting towers to be seen. But that´s it. Houses are mostly of brick, but brick with plates and plates only is also fairly common. In the kitchen there is always a fire burning, three times fresh tortillas are served as a side meal to beans, rice and meat or eggs with beans in the morning. This is a ladies task, as is the laundry. Daily I see them doing the laundry by hand. For water supply you built a plastic tank on top of your house. When the watersupply is working you fill it. Being on top of the house and of black plastic, you also have warm water. One of the problems of a country like this is that there is no structure for the disposal of big garbage. Everywhere you see cars, trucks, buses that aren´t in use anymore, parked next to a house or in the fields. Even next to the policestation I see 3 -absolutely not in any use anymore- policecars parked, waiting to dissolve themselves? In the village I see the blacksmith (there are two of them) working by the old-style fire. The people are mixture of Spanish and Mayan descent, there are some Maya ruins nearby (will visit them in one of the upcoming days).

In the afternoon I mostly go over to Polo. he is the guy who helps me out with my transmission. Every day he asks if the post arrived. Unfortunately not yet, so he continues with, ¿triste o contento? I reply of course with contento. I have a place to stay, good food and nice company, so yes I am happy, but the PanAmerican is there waiting for me to get out again …

Bomberos Voluntarios Malacatancito Huehuetenango

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Just a very short note, sunday the bike broke down big time about half an hour from Huehuetenango. Third gear decided to quit. Wrenched in a gas station but feared the worst. Little (little!) village nearby along the Pan American. Sunday with help from a moto mecanico got the gearbox out of the bike. This is wrenching on a dirt floor with practically no tools but my own. Sundaynight phoned Holland for parts, they went to the post on monday, according to Dutch post it can take 5 to 12 workdays before it will be delivered to where I am, this is the jungle of Guatemala. Little village, no public phone, no internet. I stay now with the Bomberos (fire department), very nice guys, tomorrow I start as a volunteer with them on the ambulance on the Pan American, so i am fine, cleaned all parts and will have to wait for the parts from Holland. When they arrive it will be exciting to see whether we will get the gearbox right, a lot of good will and faith is hopefully a substitute for knowledge.
Right now I am for a short hop to Huehue with my host, el commandante, he has to get something so I could go on the internet.

La Ventosa, something like windy

Friday, February 6th, 2009
La Ventosa, something like windy

Arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas.