On the Road Again: Sensory Overload

Five hours of driving from Quetzaltenango to Guatemala City today via the Pacific Coast route left us awestruck, grateful, curious, a little dazed, and a lot stressed.

QuetzReu3My13_489This is a beautiful country, with many hardy, industrious people. We enjoyed seeing some of its more beautiful parts today, and admired the efforts of some of its people. We were left wanting to see more. And yet, if I have to do it behind the wheel, I’m not sure I could stand it. The term “traffic control” in Guatemala is an oxymoron; I shake my head and wonder, after observing the way otherwise kind, pleasant, intelligent people behave on the roads, why more of them do not die there.

Sorry. I wasn’t going to harp on that theme again. But here are some random observations of the day.

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Roadside fruit stand, with bananas fresh off the trees.

–I don’t know a farmer in my country that would try to take a steep, rocky hillside and turn it into a neat, productive farm plot. But those plots are all over the mountainsides here, and the evidence of their bounty hangs in roadside produce stands.

–God’s green earth is lush and productive and often breathtaking as you go from mountain highlands down to low, coastal plains, and I wish there were places to pull off the road and explore so I could capture some of the beauty with my camera.

–So many of God’s children live in less than ideal circumstances, and I wish there were a way to draw all of them to higher ground economically, socially, and educationally. And yet, there is ample evidence of their industry, ingenuity, and intelligence. (Example: the pvc pipe networks that snake across the top of road cuts to water hillside farm plots below.) I have to wonder if I would be able to do so well if we exchanged places.

QuetzReu3My13_494–Along extended stretches of the major Pacific Coast highway in this country, traffic crawls at the pace of a double trailer semi rig loaded with sugar cane bound for the mill—about 15-20 miles per hour. Hence, it takes 1 ½ to 2 hours more to drive to the capital via a route that is only 30 kilometers (about 18 miles) longer.

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En route to Quetzaltenango.

–There is no shortage of fools willing to risk their own lives and the lives of others to gain a little advantage in traffic. Case in point: the driver of one of those dilapidated, secondhand school buses full of passengers who came tearing around a long line of traffic that was trying to move through a one-lane choke point. Faced suddenly with an oncoming semi that had squeezed through the blockade, he forced his way into the traffic up ahead and forced another vehicle off the road.

–Anyone with an empty space in his truck bed could earn a little extra as a taxi driver. Examples: 8 or 10 people sitting the bed of a pickup; two guys standing on top of a load of stacked lumber, clinging to side frames; two guys standing up in the back of a Coke delivery truck between stacks of empty bottle racks (Remember soft drinks in bottles?); a cargo van, its cargo delivered, hauling people on the return trip.

–I don’t know how motorcycle riders here live to get old. Example: The guy with his girlfriend on the back of his moto (no helmet) who cuts through a line of freeway traffic and bumps over a small barrier to get to the exit ramp he missed.

–There appears to be enough industry and development in this country to support many of the people who struggle to find work. How to match jobs with people who are willing and able to learn the skills? I have no clue.  I know that LDS Employment Services is making a dent. But there is so much more to be done.

There must be good lessons to be drawn from all of these experiences. Maybe if I play with photos for a while, to relieve the stress, and then get a good night’s rest, I’ll see them with a clearer perspective tomorrow.

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