Getting around

If you’re not in a car, getting around in Guatemala is not very difficult. The most common form of transportation would walking. Enjoy your walk, but watch where you’re going; the cobblestone streets are far from forgiving.

The second most common form of transportation would be the tuktuk. Tuktuks are three-wheeled Bajaj taxis with the driver in the front, and a small bench seat in the back. Although they’re not very safe and the ride is VERY bumpy, the price is aimed to please: $1.20 to anywhere within city limits. Traditional taxis are available at Central Park almost any time–day or night. A trip anywhere in the city costs $3 to $3.50. They are much safer and smoother than the tuktuks.

Another form of inexpensive transportation would be the “chicken” bus. Chicken buses are retired North American school buses which have found new lives in Guatemala. Buses tend to be pretty cramped, but you can’t beat the price if you’re not going too far outside the city–about 35 cents. If you see a black bow on the front of a bus, it indicates that the bus driver is in mourning. Antigua has its own bus station, which is comprised of a big sand-paved parking lot next to the open market. This is a very convenient location for locals and others. People can go right from the busy market to the bus station with all their goods.

If you’re going to visit a location farther away from Guatemala, vans are an option. Although they tend to be very crowded, they cost about $10 for a two-hour trip. It is possible to travel to the city of Tikal (Mayan ruins) which is about 10-12 hours away. Another option for a trip to Tikal would be by air.

Horses and horses with buggies are another option. It is a common sight to see horse riders around town, and horses with buggies around Central Park.

Photo: Rudy Giron/

There are probably more motorcycles and scooters than cars in Antigua. Some are privately owned, while others are delivery vehicles. Dominos Pizza and Pollo Campero seem to have the largest fleets. Probably the strangest thing a North American will see is the sight of entire families on motorcycles or scooters–without helmets. Although I couldn’t get a photo, the photo below was taken by someone else in Cambodia. Even the tiniest of babies ride in their mothers’ arms.


The least convenient mode of transportation seems to be a truck. People are loaded like cattle in the back of a truck. It seems that the Mayans are the only ones who ride these. It is very sad to see. I don’t know how far they have to go, but is it likely anywhere from 1/2 hour to a couple of hours.

This concludes my Antigua transportation roundup. I hope you learned something interesting.


November 17, 2009 at 10:11 pm Leave a comment

Beauty all around

Today I’m going to share some of my favorite pictures of Guatemala. If you pass over each photo, you will see a description and the name of the photographer if it’s not me. I will continue to add to this collection.

Market day


A Guatemalan Indian girl weaving a table runner at the textile museum; each piece takes up to three months to complete!

Patrick Schaefer:  The arch at night with volcano

Macaws at Hotel Santo Tomas in Chichicastenango

Lake Atitlan

Cross in bus

Mayan blouses--some take up to 3 months to weave!

Marimba Antigua

Old piano or harpsicord at the University of Santo Domingo

There’s more to come!

November 3, 2009 at 11:36 pm Leave a comment

Ministries in Antigua

Pastor Mike of Iglesia del CaminoDuring my time in Guatemala, I’ve been attending a bilingual church: Iglesia del Camino (Church of the Way). They have a good worship team and the pastor is a good leader. They have Bible studies in both languages to men, women, as well as a large-group study on Wednesday nights (a total of about 64 people–8 at each table). They also have Celebracion de Recuperacion (Celebrate Recovery) which is an outreach to people who are trying to recover from addictions such as alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, etc. Right now the church is in transition. This month they will be moving to a bigger building that currently houses a restaurant, a school, and a church. Iglesia del Camino and its cafe will move into the church and restaurant space.

Children reading the new Bible story booksA couple of Fridays ago, two friends from church (Iris and her mother Cris) and I went to Guatemala City to buy some Bible story books for a children’s program that I’m working with here. It amazes me that children’s materials are very hard to find. I discovered on the first day at the program that they didn’t have one Bible story book or visuals of any kind. I am glad that we were able to find illustrated Bible story books at the Guatemalan Bible Society in Guatemala City. (To show that I’m not really “roughing it”, after the bookstore, we went to they Holiday Inn where Iris’s husband works for a high tech company. While there, we had a bite to eat in the restaurant. I had filet mignon with all the works for a whole lot less than I could in California. It was delicious.)

Deaf ministryIglesia del Camino also has a deaf ministry, led by Gustavo Arrellano and his assistant Shirma Alvarado Lopez. Gustavo is a deaf pastor who lives in Guatemala City. Every Wednesday, he and Shirma (who is also deaf) come to Iglesia del Camino in an outreach to the deaf people in Antigua. The day I visited the ministry there were two adults and several children in the class. The students are learning the very basics of language and are still working on the Guatemalan Sign Language alphabet (which is very different than the American Sign Language alphabet). A lot of work still needs to be done there. Gustavo asked me to see if I could find a deaf pastor in the States who might be able to come down to do some training with him and Shirma. They really want to learn how to best reach out to deaf people. Fortunately, communication should not be a problem because both Gustavo and his assistant are bilingual because they learned American Sign Language when they attended a deaf Bible school in the United States.

Judy and two of the girlsJohn and Judy Prim also have an outreach called Hope Center. It is for girls who are transitioning out of orphanages. They all have problems and would otherwise be living on the streets or in an abusive relationship with older men. It is Judy’s desire that the young women grow into mature Christians who are able to live in their own apartments, work, and influence others in positive ways. Girls soon to be welcomed at Hope CenterEach of the young women works part-time in Iglesia del Camino’s cafe so they can give back to the church and learn job skills. The ministry is one of faith. John and Judy just got back from a support-raising visit to the United States but did not get as many monthly commitments as they had expected. Even though they don’t have the money, they will be welcoming five more women into their home, trusting that God will meet their needs.

November 2, 2009 at 6:24 pm 2 comments

Colorful people

Mayan woman selling woven clothLast weekend Trudy (a fellow student) and I went to the cities of Panajachel and Chichicastenango. Panajachel is a town on Lake Atitlan. Lake Atitlan is arguably the most beautiful lake in the world. We got there about 11:00 AM after a very crowded two-hour van ride. While in Panajachel, we went to the market and caught a glimpse of a very rainy Lake Atitlan. We had planned on taking a boat ride and visiting other towns on the lake, but we had to change plans. We had a nice time walking through the streets. We also ate lunch and dinner there. As decadent as it may seem, dinner consisted of two delicious dessert crepes with ice cream on the side. While there, Trudy took this picture of a Mayan woman selling beautiful woven cloth. The people are beautiful, and their art boggles the mind. It never ceases to amaze me how women and girls can carry loads on their heads. Last week I saw two women running through Antigua with huge loads on their heads. I was dumbfounded.

On Sunday we took another crowded van ride to Chichicastenango. “Chichi” is famous for its large market with an incredible variety of clothing, woven cloths, jewelery of many kinds including jadite jade (only found here and of superior quality to the jade found in Asia). The jade is so hard that it can be scraped along the pavement and not show a scratch.Mayan woman making tortillas
Trudy took the picture above of a very common sight: a (Mayan) woman making tortillas. I love the color in this picture–the pink walls, the blue “skillet”, and the blouse and skirt of the woman. I loved this look so much that I bought a used Mayan blouse and skirt for myself. (If I were to buy the blouse new, it would cost about $200-250. I got mine for about $25.)

Mayan girl wrapping a pen with my mom's name on it
While trying to eat in a restaurant, we were approached by at least seven women and girls who were selling their wares. It was pretty difficult saying “no” so many times and Trudy and I broke down at times. (They wouldn’t go away until we bought something or started totally ignoring them. That’s hard to do because we wanted to be kind, but couldn’t bear the constant pressure.) Above is a picture of one such girl who talked me into buying a custom-woven pen for my mom. The girl wove “Marietta” into the pen cover within five minutes! I was very impressed with her skill, and wish I’d bought one for several of my friends. Unfortunately, I have not seen pen covers made like this in Antigua. Maybe I’ll show the pen I have to some of the town merchants and find out if I can have some more made. Until then, I’ll continue to take in the sights and the people.

October 1, 2009 at 10:03 pm 3 comments

Guatemala’s independence day

Children Sept 15 paradeThose of you who are U.S. citizens are familiar with how we celebrate the 4th of July (Independence Day). In Guatemala, Independence Day falls on September 15th. Instead of just celebrating it on September 15th, it is celebrated for about a week. Parades are everywhere. All school children participate in the parades. There are children who march, others who drum or carry banners. Teens and adults are in marching bands. All the city’s leaders walk along with the crowd. The streets are packed. There are fireworks, and people set off big firecrackers (small bombs) regularly such that it sounds like a loud gun. I jumped many times when those firecrackers went off. I didn’t die, so I guess I have a good heart.

September 21, 2009 at 4:30 pm Leave a comment

Under the weather

I’m not at my best right now. Saturday I spent the better part of the day in bed with a high fever. The fever has gone away, but I’m left with stomach problems now. I really wanted to avoid getting sick, but it wasn’t to be. The teachers and Araminta all tell me that this almost always happens to travelers after about a week or so. Just call me punctual.

UPDATE 9/21/09: I’m feeling much better now. Thanks to those who prayed for me.

September 16, 2009 at 9:10 pm Leave a comment

My Guatemala home

Araminta and Paulina in the kitchenAfter some airline delays, I arrived in Guatemala four days ago. My first day here was pretty lonely. The next day, however, I ventured out a little to find a bank. I was very afraid of getting lost because street signs are rare. Later that day, Araminta (the woman I’m staying with) asked me to go for a walk with her twice. I was very pleased to receive such invitations. I told her how I felt and she said all students go through the same thing. That put me at ease. To the left is a picture of Araminta and her amazing cook, Paulina.

In addition to Araminta, I am staying with two other students, Tristan (originally from Australia) and Steve (from England). Both of them are friends from high school in England. (They just graduated and are heading to college soon.) Araminta’s daughter and high school grandson (Claudia and Daniel) also drop by often. Both of them speak Spanish well. Daniel attends a bilingual school and speaks English with an American accent.

Lis in the gardenA young woman named Lis is Araminta’s maid. She works in my room too while I’m there. (Believe it or not, she changes the bedspread twice a week, as well as cleans the bathroom, dusts, and sweeps. I’m getting very spoiled.) To the right is a picture of Lis working in the garden. I took the picture while standing just outside my bedroom. There is nothing separating the hallway where I was standing with the garden. Everything is open. There may be some windows and a wall adjacent to the garden, but fresh air circulates through the whole house.

A few nights ago, I invited Tristan and Steve over to my room for computer play. I warned them, however, it meant that they’d have to play the guitar for me. (I love acoustic guitars!) Steve was happy to sing and play, especially after offering him some See’s candy. Tristan, however, has been a bit under the weather and had to get to bed early.

Steve at the computer

I had something special awaiting me when I arrived: three parakeets and a canary right outside my door! I was so pleasantly surprised. I talk to them as I talk to my own birds. It’s wonderful. They make me feel at home—right here in Guatemala. Thanks, Lord, for all these blessings.

Araminta birds

September 10, 2009 at 10:02 pm 2 comments

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