Being Taken for a Ride

Of course when you are travelling, you have to be on the ball for when people are going to try and take advantage of you.  So we were travelling between destinations and we got on this bus and were told that it was 35 quetzales for the ride.  But on the ride, the bus boy started collecting from the locals 22 quetzales to the same place.  So I told my friend, and she said to get out 22Q and give to the guy in front of everyone.  We started getting our money out and then they guy realized that I had understood what was going on and he said no 35Q.  So I said why, everyone else is paying 22.  He said because they don’t have bags and we are being charged for our backpacks.  13Q!  I don’t think so, I told him.  So then he told us to pay the 35 and we said no at the end of the trip.  I started talking to other people on the bus and asking them if they had baggage on the roof and were they paying extra and if it was normal.  People started talking about it on the bus and the bus boy heard people discussing it and saying that you shouldn’t have to pay for bags.  So 15 minutes later, he turns to us and then says 44Q for the both of us.  I’ll say this, when it comes to money, I don’t care what language is being spoken, I’m not being taken advantage of!
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Public Hospitals in Guatemala

My friend got ill with vomitting and the shits.  Having already had experiences of friends getting ill while on vacation, I know that when a visiting doctor comes they only treat the symptoms and not the cause.  So I told her I thought that we should go to the hospital.  We should all be thankful for where we live.  We walked into their version of an ER and there was no privacy as 6 patients were in the same area.  My friend had to lie on a gurney with no covers that probably had never been sterilized since the time it was purchased.  She was beside this guy whose toe was all chewed up.  You could hear screaming babies.  Moths and other bugs were flying around.  The bathroom was worse then a gas station bathroom.  I had to translate for her so I made sure that I stayed by her.  But the doctor shooed me away when she was going to attend to the chewed up foot.  My friend told me that basically without any local anesthetic, she just cut up his foot, bandaged him, and sent him on his way without a shoe or a cane.  It was definitely an interesting experience, but the good that came out of it was we found out the cause, lots of bacteria and fat in her diet (we had veggie tempura the night before) and she never got charged! 

Active Volcano-I got burned

I had the exciting opportunity to walk up an active volcano.  It was truly amazing to do this.  At first the walk was uphill thru vegetation.  Then we reached a point where there was hardened lava.  Then we climbed up this being very careful as the lava could crumble off.  As we continued climbing higher, we could feel the heat intensify and under our feet our shoes started to heat up.  Without proper protective gear we could not climb to the top of the crater, but we got as high as we could and saw fire coming out of the hardened lava rocks.  Some rocks were bright red from the heat.  On our way down, I slipped on some loose lava and as my hand came down to brace the fall, I burned my finger.  Now I will always have a reminder of Volcano Pacaya.

Warning!!! Never Mount Your Bike On The Side of a Cliff

After 4 months of relative inactivity in Argentina, I was geared up for an active vacation and Guatemala is the perfect place because there is a lot of eco adventure tourism there.  So at Lake Atitlan which is this beautiful lake surrounded by mountains and valcones, my friend and I decided to go for a bike ride.  Now silly me, I thought that the bike trail would follow the edge of lake.  The trail was to follow the main roads as they climb up along the mountains edge.  I knew I was out of shape, but I had no idea how badly out of shape I actually was.  As I huffed and puffed up the hills, gasping for air, I gave up quickly and decided to walk the bike up the remainder of the ascent which led to this picture perfect place.  Cameras came out, pictures were taken and back on the bikes we went.  Well not quite.  I went to mount my bike from the kickstand side and placed my right leg over the bike.  The left pedal was higher so i need to shift my weight in order to get my left foot on the pedal.  The bike was on a big slant to the left and therefore it was a big weight shift that was going to be required.  I guess I haven’t mentioned that I was on the edge of the cliff.  As I went to shift my weight in order to put my right down, the thought passed through my head…"Don’t fall down this cliff"  And that is exactly what I did.  I shifted my weight, the bike shifted too much for me to control and the bike went over and I went over the cliff into these branches, thank goodness, not too far from the road.  As I tried to get my foot on something to climb up, there was NOTHING underneath me except those branches.  Then I heard a car approaching and this tuk tuk pulled up and two men pulled me up from the branches.  Honestly as I tried to help them pull me up, there was nothing for me to place my feet on.  Luckily, I had no bruises and no scratches.  I thank the Lord, for if there hadn’t been those branches there to catch me, I don’t want to think what could have happened.  It’s strange, after sky diving and white water rafting, biking has been the most dangerous sport for me.

Language Barrier

The experience of living in Argentina was quite an interesting one.  It gave me a new perspective for all of the immigrants that come to Canada and don’t speak english well.  I never realized how much daily interaction I would lose out on by not understanding spanish well.  Of course, I was probably in one of the worse countries for learning spanish as the Argentine accent is very difficult and they speak very quickly.  It was quite isolating.  I couldn’t understand conversations being said around me, or if people approached me in the street to ask questions.  At times, I felt as though I was a prisoner inside of my head.

It was interesting to be in this culture and to see possibly how the fundamentals of their language could possibly mold their culture.  Spanish like french has the idea of objects being masculin and feminine.  I couldn’t help but wonder in a language that is sort of patriarchial, maybe that explained why as you walked down the streets past the newspaper/magazine kiosks,  you would be forced to stare at the covers of girlie magazines as they would be placed at the front in the kiosks.  It was degrading, asses and breasts in face everyday!

What an experience!

Pick Pockets Beware

When in Buenos Aires, the portenos (natives of Buenos Aires) will warn you about how peligroso (dangerous) their city is.  You have to be careful about everything.  About three months into my stay, I became careless.  I was walking along this busy street after seeing one of my clients; a 10 year old girl who had behaved horribly.  I had bought her some chocolate, rocklets, which are similar to smarties, but didn’t give it to her.  So now I was walking to another clients house.  As I was walking down the street, I felt a tug at my bag.  I looked at a window to see the reflection of who was behind me, a middle aged woman.  I should have at that time pulled my bag forward, but I had become complacent.  So 10 minutes later I went into a store to make a phone call and when I sat in the phone booth and put my bag on my lap, I saw that my bag was partially opened!  OH NO!  In my bag that day, I had US dollars on me, my passport, my mobile, my digital camera, and I had just changed USD into Pesos.  Fortunately, I wasn’t using a wallet. So the only thing that was missing was the Rocklets.  I was very lucky that all they got was my chocolate!

Argentine Men

Of course, most of you romantics out there had me finding my husband in Argentina.  Well that didn’t happen.  In fact, not much happened in the department of men…at least where I can say I was interested.  Apparently I was told that my skin colour is thought to be very exotic and so I would spark some interest but it tended usually to be from abuelos (grandpas).  These cute old grandpas in tweed jackets would approach me in the streets and ask me for a coffee.  This is their prelude for then asking for something else.  Never accept an invitation for coffee from an old man in Argentina.

Then there was the day when I was out on the street eating doritos and some man in his 40 or 50s, comes and asks me what i’m doing eating my chips standing around.  Then the usual questions:  Where are you from, Are you travelling thru, Are you staying in the area?  Then without warning he said to me Vamos a tu casa (Let’s go to your house).  Now I was shocked! Never before had someone been that forward.  In Turkey the men were bad, but never that forward!  I said NO and he said Why not, and then i said to him why yes (remember this is in spanish), and he said FOR FUN.  Well that’s an answer.

When I was travelling, I met this guy from Buenos Aires who after 30 min of knowing me, after I decided not to stay in the hostel that I had booked, offered to share his double bed with me.  A couple weeks later we met up in Buenos Aires and once he learned that I lived by myself, he suggested that I cook dinner for him at my place.  RIGHT!  Then when he went to say good bye and give me the obligatory kiss on the cheek, it landed on the corner of my mouth and it was wet.

Suffice to say any men that I hung out with were not Argentine!

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