Cuesta Cinco Quetzales

Just a quick comment on one aspect of how things work here in Guatemala. Zach, Mikhail and I went up to the track at the sports complex yesterday morning to run an interval workout. The cost to use the track is five Quetzales (about $0.65). No problem. We have the money, we’re ready to pay, we’ve done this once before… but…

Here’s how it usually works: When you enter the Complejo Deportivo you have to turn in an ID and get in exchange a visitors badge. Just around the corner from the entrance is a little office, where you go to pay the 5Q fee and are given a nice ticket to use the track:


You never actually have to use this ticket for anything, but it’s probably a good idea to pay the fee and keep it in your pocket just in case.

Here’s what happened today: we went in and I handed over my driver’s license as usual in exchange for the visitor’s badge. No problem. Just as we were turning to head for the office, the second guard asks us if we want to use the track. We say yes, and he says, “Cuesta cinco Quetzales.” It costs five quetzales. I’m not really thinking (it’s early, all right) so I just go to hand him my 20Q to pay for the three of us. The first guard says that he doesn’t have any change. The two of them go into a little act like they aren’t going to get any change and just expect us to pay 20.

At this point it occurs to me that they are trying to execute a pretty simple scam. They’re the ones responsible for checking tickets, so it doesn’t matter if we don’t have them. They’re just trying to get our money. We would still pay 5Q each, so for us it really doesn’t matter. Doesn’t hurt anybody, right? Except what really happened is they got greedy, we clued in, and walked the 10 feet over to the office to pay the guy there and get our tickets.

It struck me as interesting, that’s all. Such a simple little scam that they would never try to pull on a local. And the fact that we almost fell for it even though we’ve been here a while. Maybe I should just pay the guard next time, he probably needs the money more than the local government does.

Incidentally, the sports complex here in Quetzaltenango is really nice. A newish track, a couple football fields, a baseball diamond, an indoor swimming pool, basketball courts and more.

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First Race in Guatemala

I ran a 10k race yesterday here in Xela, along with my friends Zach and Will. It was a great time, but was quite different from races I’ve run in the US. First, here’s the map (change it to satellite to really see the route):

Second, about the differences: I expected some of them, but others definitely surprised me. Maybe they shouldn’t have but they did. Here’s a list:

  • The race started 20 minutes late. This was certainly not surprising, but for some reason I was much less patient for the race start then I am for other Guatemalan patience-testers. For instance, when I’m waiting for a bus to leave I’m perfectly happy to just chill out and relax for however long it takes. We went for a warmup jog before the race was supposed to start, and then ended up standing around for a while while the Guatemalans warmed up. They were all just doing laps of Parque Central, which I thought was kind of funny. We ended up doing a few too.
  • The race was definitely short. And not just a little bit. My GPS, which admittedly has error, measured it at 8.94 kilometers. So there’s that. This happens in the states sometimes too, but the quality of the field here was so much higher than a typical US race that I expected it would be well measured.
  • The quality of the field: it’s not that Guatemala has faster runners than the US, it’s just that the only people running are those who take it seriously. So we finished solidly middle of the pack with times that would have put us towards the front in any big US race. A strange, and humbling, experience. Good to get the real perspective. I’m faster than the 95% of people who don’t run, whoop-de-doo!
  • People cheated. A lot. For some reason this surprised me. There was an out and back section where people were just turning around whenever they felt like it. Weird. There wasn’t even a cone or anything to mark the end, at least not that I could see, so maybe everybody was turning WAY early and that’s why the race was short. But some people were cutting big sections of the course off here. Towards the end of the race one guy who Zach and I had just passed suddenly appeared in front of us. He had run through a park while we stayed on the street. We passed him in the final stretch, though, so all’s well. 🙂
  • We paid 25Q (approx $3 US) in order to participate. This included water and a tech t-shirt. Why they had medium and large t-shirts for the almost exclusively (much-)smaller-than-me Guatemalans is a question that remains unanswered. I got a medium and it’s too big for me.

To sum up, it was a great experience. See splits at RunningAhead.

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American vs. Guatemalan: Breakfast

My take on American/Guatemalan breakfast. Guatemalans would never eat potatoes at breakfast.

The tomato sauce was a slow-cooker experiment in making salsa. We failed, and instead made delicious spicy stewed tomatoes and onions. So that’s okay.

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Eugene, Oregon to Xela, Guatemala

Disclaimer: I know that lists of travel with costs and times can be pretty boring, but I like transportation, so I thank you for bearing with me.

I left Eugene the evening of August 4th and arrived in Xela the evening of August 6th.

Greyhound, Eugene to LA, 9:20 PM to 3 PM, $84. The ride was surprisingly fine. I watched a movie and actually slept quite a lot.

Two LA Metro Buses: half an hour, $2.50.

At this point I hung out at Ben’s house chatting, drinking beer, and eating delicious homemade pizza until about 11 PM. I had an early morning ahead of me so went to bed.

SuperShuttle: 3:45 AM to 4:30 AM, $27.

Mexicana: 6:45 AM to 12:30 PM, Los Angeles to Mexico City; 1:50 PM to 3:30 PM, Mexico to Guatemala. Roundtrip cost $215! Short layovers in Mexico City suck bigtime. Both of mine consisted of sweating a lot in the immigration line followed by sweating a lot as I ran through the airport trying to find the stupid gate. I also made it both times, but I’m not sure my seat-mates appreciated the smell.

Taxi, airport to bus station: 20 minutes, Q70 approx. $9.
Alamo pullman bus, Guatemala City to Xela: 5:30 PM to 9:30 PM, Q60 approx. $7.50.

So I made it. Woo!

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I’m in the USA!

Currently, I’m in LA, but I’m heading up to Oregon tonight. I’m going back to Guatemala on the 6th of August. Get in touch if you want to hang out!

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Presenting XelaMap

What has Sean been up to? Where is he? What is he doing? I realize it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here. I really have no excuse, except that I haven’t had anything super-exciting to write about. I’m still in Xela. Here I am, and I do have news.

Cover of XelaMap

I’ve been working at an internet / graphic design place. In March and April, I was coming to this place pretty regularly because their were only two computers so it was pretty fast. One day the owner, JosĂ©, and I were chatting a little bit and he mentioned that he wanted to make a map of Xela. He had the map part already but wanted a foreigner to work with him on adding extra content. I expressed interest and returned the next day to talk more about it.

Here, after a month and a half of work, we have the first edition of the XelaMap. There are mistakes, and we are going to change lots of things for the next edition, but in general I’m super happy with how it turned out. The people using it seem to like it a lot, too. Please take a look! The thing that makes our map different from the other ones that are available is that we have lots of useful information. Check it out and let me know what you think here. If you have any comments or suggestions I’d love to hear them.

Additionally, I’ve started doing some web design and other stuff with JosĂ© and his brother Jonathan. Our business name is XelaSpace. It’s becoming a real job, but the map is still a lot of fun.

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Some Pictures

I’ve been taking pictures only occasionally here in Guatemala. Here are a few of them.

We took a trip to Semuc Champey:

And here are a few random pics from Xela:

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Things I have learned in Guatemala (so far)

  • A bit of Spanish.
  • To like (maybe that’s not the perfect word) instant coffee.
  • Related: to appreciate real coffee.
  • That around $3 US per hour here is enough to support myself on very few hours. The kind-of-sort-of-enforced minimum wage here in Guatemala is around $7 per day.
  • That I really like learning languages, or at least Spanish.
  • That learning languages is difficult and frustrating but very rewarding.
  • That I like teaching English even though I’m not very good at it (yet). I’m studying this in addition to Spanish.
  • That a meal without tortillas is missing something very important.
  • Many more, too, but I’m not writing them here.

I’m alive! I’m still liking it a lot here. I’m working most days, but only a couple of hours. I’m learning lots. Have any questions? Post or email!

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Guatemala: day thirty-one

Estoy todavia en Xela. Pienso que podría quedarme aqui durante un rato. Trato de encontrar un trabajo, porque necesitaré dinero en el verano. Yo querría enseñar inglés, pero si no puedo encontrar un trabajo de maestro, que probablemente buscaré un trabajo en un restaurante o una barra. O no. ¿Quien sabe?

Mi amiga Astrid regresará a Xela hoy. Ella estaba en Suiza por seis meses, aprendiendo alemán suizo y “disfrutando” de la nieve. En sus palabras “¡Suiza es una grande bola de nieve!” Espero con ansia escuchar sus historias.

Tambien, espero cuando ella mostrará su ciudad. Yo exploré la ciudad un poco mientras estaba corriendo, pero es seguro los conocimientos de mi amiga son mucho mejor.

He corrido estas dos semanas en Xela. La altitud es un poco difícil, pero he empesado a ajustarme. Miren mi pagina por más detalles (¡y mapas!).

Más temprano esta semana escribí un texto para tarea. Sin embargo, me gusta ese texto bastante que querría publicarlo aqui. Es simple y corto pero tiene un fin sorpresa. Espero que les guste a ustedes.

Cada dia entre semana, Ricardo caminaba a la escuela. Usualmente, no hacĂ­a nada interesante. Sin embargo, un dia fue especial. Este dia, un martes, Ricardo pensaba Ă©l ganaba la loterĂ­a, porque mientras caminaba Ă©l encontrĂł un maletin lleno de dinero.

¡Ahora él era rico! Comerá en restaurantes buenos. Comprará todas las cosas que quiere. Antes, no tenía dinero suficiente para ir al cine, pero ahora iría siempre. Antes, no podía visitar otros ciudades o paises, pero ahora podría.

¡Que lástima! El dinero era de Zimbabwe y así no valía mucho. Él compró un helado.

El Fin.

Hasta luego.

En Inglés:

I’m still in Xela. I think that I will stay here for a while. I’m trying to find a job because I will need some money in the summer. I’d like to teach English, but if I can’t find a job as a teacher then I’ll probably look in restaurants and bars. Or not. Who knows?

My friend Astrid is returning to Xela today. She was in Switzerland for six months, learning Swiss-German and “enjoying” the snow. In her words, “Switzerland is a giant snowball!” I look forward to hearing her stories.

Also, I look forward to when she will show me her city. I have explored the city a little while I’m running, but surely her knowledge is much better.

I have been running these two weeks in Xela. The altitude is a little bit difficult, but I have begun to adjust. Look at my page for more details (and maps!).

Earlier this week I wrote a text for homework. However, I liked it so much that I wanted to post it here. It’s simple and short, but has a surprise ending.

Each weekday, Ricardo walked to school. Usually, nothing interesting happened. However, one day was special. This day, a Tuesday, Ricardo thought that he had won the lottery because while he was walking he found a briefcase full of money.

Now he was rich! He would eat at good restaurants. He would buy all the things that he wanted. Before, he did not have enough money to go the movies, but now he could always go. Before, he could not visit other cities or countries, but now he could.

What a pity! The money was from Zimbabwe, and thus not worth much. He bought an ice cream.

The end.


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Guatemala: day twenty-three

Jenny requested that I post in Spanish. Seems like good practice to me, so here it goes. It’s pretty simple, sorry. English follows.

Estoy in Quetzaltenango, se llama Xela. El nombre de la ciudad en la lengua de Quiche es XelajĂş, pero para abreviar, “Xela”. Yo vino aqui del Lago Atitlan el lunes pasado. Xela parece una grand ciudad, pero yo pienso que es más pequeña que Portland, Oregon. La ciudad es la segunda ciudad en Guatemala.

Cinco dias por semana, más o menos, yo estudio con mi maestra, Alejandra, usualmente por tres horas. Por la noche, yo hago las tareas y a veces encuentro algunos amigos con quienes suelo estar.

Desde ayer, yo vivo con una familia. La madre de casa, Eluvia, cocina esayuno, almuerzo, y cena cada dia. La comida es simple pero buena.

También, yo tengo un numero del telefono aqui: +502 4082 5795.

En Inglés:

I’m in Quetzaltengo, called Xela. In the Quiche language, it’s called XelajĂş, but Xela for short. Xela seems like a big city, but I think that it’s smaller than Portland, Oregon. Xela is the second biggest city in Guatemala.

Five days per week, more or less, I study with my teacher, Alejandra, usually for three hours. At night, I do my homework and sometimes meet some friends to hang out.

Since yesterday, I live with a family. The mother of the house, Eluvia, cooks breakfast, lunch, and dinner each day. The food is simple but good.

Also, I have a telephone number here: +502 4082 5795. (to dial from the states or canada it’s 01150240825795 or send text messages.)

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