Under the Snow

Yowsers! There's a fair bit to catch up on, so I'm not going to bother.

GUATEMALA: I finished the sponsorship promotional video, subtitling and all. We left on a Tuesday morning for Guatemala City and spent a day there getting some of our residency papers done. While on my way to sign some paper downtown I saw a murdered person laying on his back in the middle of the street with a newspaper over his face (he'd been shot in the face). My appointment was one block up the street.

THE FLIGHT: I was grateful that the two landings weren't the regular kamikaze landings that one expects from Continental. The Department of Homeland Security did a fine job in Houston - they checked my shoes, belt, computer, laptop, video camera, and everything in between. An old guy helped us with our luggage just before customs and told me horror stories about people who were taken to the side rooms. I thought maybe he was an agent trying to milk me for info or see if I would make a break for it - but it turns out he just wanted a tip. Blaise slept for 30 minutes on the first flight (3 hrs), twitching the entire time. He was sopping wet when we landed in Houston and our connection was only an hour long so we had to make it to the gate before we changed him (immigration, luggage, customs, luggage check, security, long walk to the gate). Needless to say both Amber and I smelled like urine once we boarded plane #2.

RED DEER: Not as cold as we had anticipated. My mom really enjoyed Blaise and serving us - which we enjoyed too. I went to two movies the day after we flew in, then another when I returned (The Prestige, Borat, The Departed).

EDMONTON: Spent a night with my sister and Dean, her manslave. Then a two nights at our friends' mansions. Every place has hot water!! Had some great visits with friends and we're still on the schedule. I spoke at church - probably too long, but I was relaxed and had lots of eye contact. Saw a couple movies here too (Apocalypto, The Pursuit of Happyness).



I was listening to a podcast of Dispatches, from CBC Radio 1 and heard my name! Check it out (the Dec 5 show) ... I'm at 18:21. You can get the episode free from the iTunes Music Store aswell - search for Dispatches in the podcasting section.



We were invited to see Santa Claus when he briefly swung into Tactic on the weekend at our neighbours' store. As you can see, the weather was ideal and Santa was seen by a host of people.

Blaise was one of the lucky ones to be held by Santa. Not sure why there's bad blood here...

Banking in Guatemala

I've been spending a lot of time at the bank. We have a cash float which we use to buy gifts that are sent from Canada for sponsor children and then submit our receipts to balance our float. Lately, the gifts have been huge - building a house for example. So our float is always empty and I'm always going to the bank to cash cheques.

Yesterday, I waited in line outside for 30 minutes and then another 10 minutes inside. The guy ahead of me had a gym bag that he hoisted up onto the counter when it was his turn. He proceeded to hand bags of change (mostly 1 quetzal coins - equivalent to CAN$0.16) which was then counted and deposited. This took a while. Fortunately there were two tellers.

Last Friday at the BANCO AGROMERCANTIL there was an old farmer ahead of me with a deposit slip. I glanced at it and it had Q14 or $2.16.

This morning I waited in line for 30 minutes in a larger bank, BANRURAL, to make a deposit into our notary public/lawyer's account. The tellers, receptionists and loans officer seemed to have their own little activities while the rest of us waited. And there were a lot of us.

When the ATM in Tactic is empty, it's empty for days at a time.

If you have a cheque from say the Banco Industrial, you are only permitted to cash that cheque at a BANCO INDUSTRIAL. You can not just deposit the cheque into your Banco Agromercantil account. You have to cash it at the BI, then go to your own bank. You can see long lines of people on Friday afternoons waiting to cash their weekly or monthly cheques. This is also how we pay our electric bills.

As an aside, I just spent $4.63 to courier a package 4 hours away overnight to Guatemala City. To do an overnight courier in Canada it cost me $27.13 from Kamloops to Calgary.


What Is Important?

Blaise's Current Vocabulary:
(he's 16.5 months old)

moahmorewuhziswhat's this?
cacacrackerwhoo whoodog
dehdoothank youno-onose
bye byebye byeee-eeear
tahtahtahhot hot hotah-eeeye
cocoPoco (his favorite TV show) or TVqueque (what in Spanish)


Door-to-Door Salespeople

A woman knocked on our door this late afternoon. She was selling bean tamales with a nice hot salsa. How could I resist at a mere $0.16 each! Her husband was at the end of our driveway waiting with the vehicle (a bicycle) in the rain with the food goods.

Since we've lived here, the door-to-door salesfolk have been frequent. Oranges. Handwoven Large Baskets. Warm Pizza. Cashews. Tortillas. Yogurt. Goat's Milk. Pressure Cooker Repairs. Prepared food of the Guatemala Variety. A Shoe Shine.

For me, pity kicks in easily. I yield more to the desire to pick up the determined and downtrodden salesman than to the appeal of the product or service. Though I must say these bean tamales are delish.

It is difficult to see so many people spinning their wheels in unproductive ventures. There is a man who probably walks 20 kms each sunny day selling homemade ice cream from a styrofoam box to which is attached a jingling bell. I tried a cone of his iced cream once and it wasn't very good. What could I expect for $0.16? So what can be done to help the uneducated? Educate them! But how? There are many obstacles to their financial success: First the education (this is huge as it often involves common sense). Then the capital. Then the purchasing base (who do you sell to when everyone around you is poor?). Then the money management (making sure they don't spend their money on useless things).