Have you ever been to Guatemala? If so, any tips?

Discussion in 'Bad Dog Cafe' started by TheGoodTexan, Aug 8, 2017.

  1. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    I've got a brief trip to Guatemala coming up. It will be for humanitarian/church related purposes. I'll be going with a team of 8 men, and we will be staying in Guatemala City. Basically, we'll spend several days interviewing local Guatemalan pastors and churches to see what needs they have (buildings projects, medical needs, etc.), and then going on-site to the places that seem to have the most need. Afterward, I'll come back to Middle Tennessee and find local churches and groups here that can plan a trip to that church in Guatemala and meet that need. So I'll be a team leader on these follow up trips over the next couple of years.

    The organization that is sending our group has required a TON of training... including cultural sensitivity training and an alarmingly high level of awareness and safety training. Like... what to do to avoid being kidnapped, and what to do if you are kidnapped. We have registered with the Guatemalan feds, and the local Guatemala City mayor's office. (We've been told that the mayor is planning to come meet our group at some point during the visit.)

    I do not live in fear of these types of things. I have traveled quite a bit. I have been through a worker revolt in India. I have stood in war-torn countries in Africa. I am not naive about the world, and I understand how to present yourself, how to blend in, etc. I keep myself in a superior level of physical shape, and I have a fair amount of self-defense training too. And since we don't have children, I don't have that built-in sense of self preservation for the sake of the family that most fathers have.

    Still... these things don't mean a lot, really. Anything can happen.

    I expect this trip to be fun and fruitfull, and for there to be no hiccups. If you've ever been to Guatemala, let me know what you experienced.
     
  2. MrCairo46

    MrCairo46 Friend of Leo's

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    I know Bruce Willis had issues there in the movie RED. God bless you for going. I have zero desire to go overseas for any mission project and been wooed multiple times. Go across town and work with the homeless, I'm all for it.
     
  3. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    We do that too. Quite a bit actually. I can walk and chew gum at the same time.

    (Didn't mean for that last comment to sound snarky... just using an old cliche.)
     
  4. Ex-riverman

    Ex-riverman Tele-Holic

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    You will be fine. Stay away from dark places and markets at night. Don't be flashy. I travelled all over Latin America for several months and while I did have a scary bus encounter I was only messed with once when a guy tried to grab my small backpack in a market at night. He didn't get it because I had the strap wrapped around my wrist. Otherwise, lots of friendly, but poor, people. Don't be too stingy if you haggle at the markets. Good luck! Try to sneak away to Antigua for a day.
     
  5. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    Well, all the good to you for doing this, GoodTexan. You sound as if you have a great deal of awareness and
    some insight into cultural sensitivity and you'll stay safe and help others do the same.
    My church annually sends its youth group to some of the more critically impoverished
    areas on the border. I think it's a good thing to show our kids that there are less fortunate people living so close by.
    We are in the process of expanding our outreach in the community. I'm learning that it's not a easy process.
     
  6. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    I know exactly what you mean. In a New Delhi market I found a hand-carved marble elephant that seemed to weigh about 20 pounds. They were asking $30 for it, which I thought was completely fair and I was completely willing to pay that for it. My Indian friend asked for my cash, which I gave him. He walked over to the shop owner and started an argument with him over price. I didn't know what was going on at the time. After a few minutes he came back with the elephant carving, and put money back in my hand. He told me the price he paid for it... which was like, $14. The market owner seemed frustrated, but "ok" with the deal, as he allowed us to walk away with the item. As we walked away I found out exactly what had happened, and walked back over to the shop owner and gave him the rest of the money. Foolish American? Maybe. But I was happy to pay the full price in the first place. I didn't want the shop owner to stereotype Westerners just because of me.

    There is a tentative place on our itinerary for that, if everything else goes as planned.
     
  7. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    Yeah.. you have to build trust and relationships to the point where people understand that you actually do care about them, and you're not just trying to earn some scouting badge or something.
     
  8. 4 Cat Slim

    4 Cat Slim Friend of Leo's

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    That's a very good way to put it!
    Do you mind if I use that?
     
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  9. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    By all means...

    ... standing on the shoulders of giants and whatnot.
     
  10. jimbo735

    jimbo735 Tele-Afflicted

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    Will you get to ride the chicken bus?,post pictures of the chicken Bus.
    They refer it to a truck crammed with chickens but in your case it will be people and animals.:eek::)
     
  11. Obsessed

    Obsessed Telefied Ad Free Member

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    We have a friend who lives near the border, but on the Mexico side and a friend of a friend who lives in El Salvador. Just be aware that this is not Central America of the 1990s or even 10 years ago. They are both spooked by events that they have never seen before. You seem well prepared, very experienced and with others, so you should be fine, but nevertheless, please stay vigilant on your important mission.

    Good luck and safe travels.
     
  12. magicfingers99

    magicfingers99 Friend of Leo's

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    Kevlar underwear. Remember most of the country is trying to find a way to leave, so its probably not as nice as you've heard it was.

    you could check out:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05p2cpf

    its a 3 parter, in episode two they go through Guatemala, probably on youtube somewhere as well.

    its very difficult to get things back once you ship them there. I know that anyhow.
     
  13. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    I am under no delusions of the conditions there.
     
  14. Guitarzan

    Guitarzan Poster Extraordinaire

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    The first rule of Guatemala is: Don't go to Guatemala!
     
  15. Guitarzan

    Guitarzan Poster Extraordinaire

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    With respect to point of volunteer work vs. closer to home. I had a discussion with a friend that attends that attends cookouts and game watching events that I attend and was telling me about a mission trip they took to Alabama from Georgia. The host and I had discussed that issue while he was gone on the trip, not understanding why people are running off to do that rather than working at a community level and making change from the bottom up. The fellow responded that they do it away because the participants, for unexplained reasons, seem more concerned about non-locals, have a higher volunteer and participation rate, and work better on the distant projects than close to home.

    People are hard to figure sometimes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
  16. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    I have observed this phenomenon too, and tend to agree with your friend's assessment in general, regarding people.

    However... without trouncing off into territory that is (understandably) not allowed around here, I will say that I subscribe to a local + regional + foreign interpretation of the "good book"... when it speaks to this subject.

    Some people (group a) have no business traveling outside of the "regional" aspect of this. I know... I have been with them. They cannot break through their own naivety, and end up endangering themselves and others. For those folks... it is best that they stay local + regional.

    However, there are people (group b) who are highly skilled in a specialized area... building structures... medical experts... mechanics... etc... Not all of those skills are present in these pockets of 3rd world areas. These are the types of individuals who are often the best at adapting to a different culture.

    With regard to group A...
    I was in Burundi, Africa in 2011. There was a retired married couple in our group who were what I call "missional tourists"... (which should be self explanatory if you think about it). Despite all of the training that we had been through, they regularly took food out of their back pack to distribute to children, and created some pretty significant riots on two occasions. That's not how you provide food to those in need.

    They also tried to take pictures of the national police, standing guard at the airport... and got our entire group detained for several hours.

    People of this nature are usually better at local/regional efforts.

    I have been doing these foreign/international trips for about 6 years now, but I have never been a group leader. I have led close to 20 local/regional efforts, but never an international effort. If this trip to Guatemala is successful, then I will indeed lead a group back there in the fall of 2018. This will require an enormous amount of additional training for me... including some training that is put on by the US military. At that point, I promise you, I will never endanger myself or others by taking "group A" people on an international trip.

    In short... there are people who have no business traveling to 3rd worlds areas. To them I say: Stay home and do the work - the value of such is no less.
     
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  17. boris bubbanov

    boris bubbanov Tele Axpert Ad Free Member

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    I think people underestimate how much damage Hurricane Mitch did down that way. Yes, most of the damage was in Honduras, but the way those Up North just sort of washed their hands and walked away from the area when people were down, seems to have infected the whole milieu from the Costa Rican border to the south and Belize and Mexico to the North. Americans used to do a lot of exploring and spending money in Central America and between 9/11/2001 and Mitch, so much of that just ceased and we turned our attention elsewhere.

    I cannot count all the people I know who once did volunteer work or evangelistic work or eco-tourism down in that region and virtually all of them are less optimistic now than they were 20 or 15 years ago. What worked for me in the 1980s or 1990s IMO doesn't mean squat today.
     
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2017
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  18. stratguy23

    stratguy23 TDPRI Member

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    I haven't been to Guatemala, but one of my best friends has a bunch of family there, so he has been many times, so I can ask him if you need any other advice.
     
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  19. ecoast

    ecoast Tele-Holic

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    might/could be good advice

    A good friend; younger guy at 35, is an engineer from costa rica working in guatamala building hydro electric projects; actually recently (3 weeks ago) quit his job and sought work back in CR, one of the primary reasons being safety.

    He told me it was not wise to be out after work, meaning most all the time he stayed at the jobsite/work campus.

    there were other reasons for him wanting to get back to CR, but that was a primary concern

    so take it for what it's worth...whether you are a 'seasoned' traveler or not
     
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  20. TheGoodTexan

    TheGoodTexan Moderator Staff Member Ad Free Member

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    This same take has been included in my training up to this point. It has been hammered into our heads to not be out near/past dark, and to never walk around alone. Also, a big deal is... when you're walking down a sidewalk, walk as close to the buildings as you can, as far away from the road as you can... read: To avoid someone in a car driving by and snatching you up.

    These are things that I have not shared with my wife.
     
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