Category Archives: Friends

Friendship is Realizing You’ve Been Riding the Same Guagua

I had been riding a guagua for about 15 min with the same folks up front when I saw something that made me smile.

“Guagua” is the name for a bus in the Dominican Republic, but just here in this country. You won’t find it elsewhere, and you shouldn’t try to use it either. For example, in Chile in means “baby” and you can imagine the consequences when you ask the locals “If I go to the city center, can I take a guagua toward the West?”

Sometimes a guagua route can take a while. With all the stops of people getting off and on, inevitably the time spent on a broken uncomfortable “seat” will be doubled, even tripled. (Don’t ask me about the heat of summer, that time gets exponential.) But this afternoon, we didn’t have that many passengers coming and going, the route was simply a long one. We had just turned a corner onto La Avenida Bolivar and a gentlemen on the left reaches over across the aisle and smacks the arm of the guy sitting on the right.

“Oye! Hermano! Como te va!? (Hey brother, how’s it going!?)

“Ay, yay, yay! Dimelo ‘manito! Que lo que!? (Tell me little brother, what’s up?)

“No sabia que tu estabas en esta guagua!” (I didn’t know you were on this bus!)

“Jajaja, pues si, aqui estoy!” (Haha, well yea, here I am!)

“Ay, que bien! Y, la familia? (Ha! That’s great. How’s your family?)

“Bien hermano, estamos bien.” (Doing well brother, we’re all doing fine.)

Turns out, these two friends had been riding the same guagua for awhile, headed in the same direction, and didn’t even realize it. Their exchange of words were simple in their content, but the tone of brief conversation revealed that they had known each other for quite awhile and judging by their age, possibly years of friendship.

I believe you can always tell when you’ve got a good friend, in that you never need to work for conversation, and indeed it was this way with them. And similarly, with good friends, you may not even need to talk so much. For these gentlemen, the length of conversation wasn’t important, both were satisfied in their happenstance meeting, and didn’t worry themselves in creating a big reunion anymore than any other day. After all, they were on the same route home. There would be plenty of time to catch up later.

All these details pooled together to give me better definition of how I think friendship can be expressed:

When you realize you’ve been headed in the same direction for quite some time and one of you has to smack the other one to get them to recognize that you indeed have been friends for the whole journey.

I know I’ve got a few people I need that I need to lean over and smack, so before you think I have to apologize, get ready to say thanks.

He Hiked a Volcano Within Two Hours of His Arrival

Last week, Tim Carroll came to visit me in Guatemala. His flight was arriving into Guatemala at about 11:30 on a Saturday, and I asked him if he thought he’d be ready to hike a volcano that afternoon. I figured that with him having to get up at 4:00am and traveling all day to a country he hadn’t been to, where he doesn’t speak the language, would lend itself to having the desire to leave to hike a volcano within the hour of arrival. I mean, the afternoon was free, and we needed to do something to fill in the time

I was right, but of course, Tim is usually up for anything. It was a good thing he has such a flexible attitude because I arrived in Antigua at 1:15pm, an hour later than I expected, and our shuttle to the Volcano was to leave at 2:00pm.

Turns out we had quite a few errands to run in 45 minutes:

  • Check into the Hostel
  • Find an agency that would let us go to the Volcano
  • Book our travel for the next day and decide if we were going to plan out the next six days ahead of time or go as the wind would lead us.
  • Find a camera shop and buy a camera battery
  • Use the bathroom
  • Find a place that could get us lunch in 5 minutes
  • Visit a store to buy snacks and water for the trip
  • Pack our backpacks for the hike
  • Eat lunch

We were eating our sandwiches when the shuttle pulled up. Plenty of time. There always is.

Volcan Pacaya

Tim had been in the country less than 2 hours and here he was just a few kilometers away from the Pacaya Volcano. This was the first Volcano I had hiked, and I was really excited to climb it to see the lava. For this special journey we nicknamed our fellow traveler, “Rosie” though we were pretty sure it was a dude dog.

Up at the top of the Volcano they let you roast marshmellows. Some people in our group decided they were going to toast sandwiches.

Tim got bored with the volcano and decided to crack open his book and read a bit next to the Lava Cafe.

Volcan Pacaya erupted in May and changed the terrain which opened up an opportunity to visit the “Volcano Sauna.”

It was so crazy to walk inside the earth, and it felt good to get out of the cold.

After the fun and games at the top we descended down the volcano, mission complete.

(Actually, this is in the light.)

(This was in the dark, on the way down . . . )

I Know One of the Visual FX Artists from Inception

Inception was the last movie I saw before I left Richmond, VA. On a Sunday afternoon I went with my friends to the Movieland Boulevard Theater. I had heard so much about it from other friends that I wanted to watch it before I left. It was incredible!

One day, as I was sitting in the cafe at the San Pedro Spanish School a guy was walking by and I asked him if he had just started classes. His name was Paul and he sat down to talk and we chatted about traveling and learning Spanish. I encouraged him to take some Spanish classes from the school. He seemed like a cool guy and I was glad he was going to stick around.

There’s always that question people ask when you meet them down here and that is “Why are you traveling?” and sometimes people respond with “I’m taking a career break.”

“Oh yeah?” I asked. “What did you do before?”

“I worked on movies,” said Paul

“Which ones?”

“Have you heard of Inception?” responded Paul.


Turns out, Paul spent two months creating the childhood home of Mal in the movie. Wow! Here’s a look at some of Paul’s other work:

I Got a Haircut for a Dollar and then I Played Guitar for the Barber

Sometimes, the most random things happen to you when you travel. I never thought I’d be singing Oasis songs on a borrowed guitar while sitting in a barber shop in San Pedro Guatemala while my friend from Australia was getting his haircut for a dollar and the barber and the other gentleman were conversing in the local Mayan language: Tz’utijil.

I had wanted to get my haircut for quite some time, but I was hesitant to bring it up in class ’cause I thought it was a weird question to ask my teacher. He didn’t think it was weird at all, in fact, I could see he was happy that I was interested in experiencing another element of Guatemalan culture: the Barber Shop.

Most Guatemalans have good, clean haircuts. It always seems like their hair is well kept and trimmed. I always wondered how they managed to get so many haircuts because in the United States, haircuts can be really expensive. Not in Guatemala; haircuts are cheap. Well cheap to the gringo, like me, but probably cheap in general. It only costs 10Q to get your haircut, which is about $1.20.

I would get haircuts all the time if they were that cheap and if I didn’t usually cut my hair myself.

Well anyway, my teacher and I met up in the afternoon to go the barber shop. He had a friend that owned a little shop. When we entered the barber was sleeping and the lights were off. We woke him up by asking if his store was open. He responded with, “Por Supuesto!” which means “of course!” He turned on the lights and I jumped in the seat. It’s a good thing I know what size I normally use for clippers because it just made it incredibly easy. He did a good job.

My Australian friend, Shane, jumps in the chair next. Shane is a tall guy, and he has tall hair. He was worried that the barber might want to chop too much of it off. I jokingly told the barber that Shane wanted a Kangaroo etched in his hair. Shane didn’t think this was terribly funny, but in the end, Shane was able to get a haircut that was simply a “reducion.”

There was a guitar sitting next to me so I asked the barber if he played guitar. He responded that he was learning “poco a poco” and he asked if I did. I responded that I did and he wanted me to play it.

It was one of those moments where I just knew I had to go for it

I’ve had a few of those while traveling. (One of the other one’s was jumping off a 9 meter rock into Lake Atitlan.) But this time, I grabbed the guitar and thought to myself, “Oh wow, what am I going to play for 2 Guatemalans and my Australian friend?” It was a good thing that Shane made a song request. He wanted to hear some Oasis.

So here we go, this was after “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.”

I absolutely love randomness.

Would You Ride a Motorcycle from LA to Cape Horn of South America?

You meet the most interesting kinds of people at Spanish school. One day, in walked four Kiwi’s wearing motorcycle jackets. I’ve quickly come to believe that everyone has an interesting story. Some people just tell theirs better.

Many people I’ve met are on a mission. For some, it’s learning Spanish, for others its to see a part of the World, and for a few its simply just to relax in a slower pace of life. I started my own mission to travel, learn Spanish and volunteer in Microfinance and I am committed to that goal. I feel like those elements are kind of abstract. At different times, I’ve wrestled with how exactly I’m going to achieve those and what it really looks like to grasp them so that I know that I’m finished.

I think one thing we’re missing in this digital world are the analog milestones we used to set up for ourselves so that we knew we were headed somewhere and we could look back and see how far we’ve come. It’s clear to me that these Kiwi’s have a real, tangible goal. They are going to ride several thousand miles to get to the bottom of South America. How will they know when they get there? When they see the coast.

I applaud their effort and this “analog,” tangible goal. I really love the idea of long transport, and someday I’d like to do do a road trip across the USA. For now, I’m excited to keep up with these guys and their videos.

I Don’t Think You Should Feel Bad for the Goalie

Guatemalan youth are quite good at soccer and they can kick the ball ridiculously hard at each other. I always feel bad for the goalie when I play. He’s got to withstand an aerial assault of shots from talented players at close distances, and I’ve never seen a goalie wear gloves here in Guatemala. They probably can’t afford it, but maybe it’s a sign of machismo, and being that most Guatemalan males try really hard to be manly, I can see why they’d scoff at the idea of goalie gloves. Still, I feel bad for the poor kid who has to stand in the net while the other kids launch deadly accurate soccer balls at his body.

San Pedro has two main soccer fields and I visited both today. One is a smaller field that’s under an open air roof and consists of synthetic turf (not pictured in this post). Concrete benches line the small pitch and there is a small tienda that sells snacks and controls the radio station. The other field, I commonly refer to as “arriba” (which means up), is almost entirely dirt (all the pictures in this post are from the arriba field). It’s a regulation size pitch with 25 foot high fences to block the ball from going into the lake. That’s actually a joke that the spectators told me today. We were about a half of a mile from the lake, but sitting in the stands you can only see the lake and the mountains in the distance, so when a ball flies out of the regulation area, you expect to see and hear a huge splash.

Indoor Soccer with 5 v 5

Today, I played at the synthetic pitch and I showed up at 11:05. I thought I was late. A guy told me that Guatemalan time is different than American time. He was right. Twenty minutes later the rest of the youth showed up at field and we were ready to play. I like the style that they play here: five versus five and the first team to score a goal wins the game and the next team comes onto play. This way you can maximize the amount of playing time for everyone and get the most amount of games in during your time slot.

Perceptions about Money and Possessions

Whenever you want to play, you have to rent the field. It’s about 80 quetzales to rent the field for an hour, or about $10, and split between 20 kids, that should be about 4Q per kid, but since I was a gringo, I paid 10Q. In reality, I should have paid 20Q or 40Q or maybe the whole price. I know it’s not a good idea to flaunt that you have money, it’s kind of an insult to the Guatemalans. I know I really don’t have money by American standards, but in Guatemala, I’m a rich man.

I found myself feeling guilty for having so much money in my wallet, and wearing my Adidas shorts, and one of my soccer shirts from a team back home. I felt bad for the other kids. They didn’t have tennis shoes, they didn’t always wear shorts, and they didn’t wear athletic shirts. They wore whatever they had. To play soccer for an hour doesn’t require as much preparation of a uniform, it just means that you need to show up. I kept thinking about all this while waiting for my turn to play again. I just felt bad, and guilty because I know I have so much.

I Always Feel Bad for the Goalie

Oh yeah, and then there was the goalie. He rolled up his jeans so he could get better contact with the ball. He wasn’t wearing socks, and the shoes he wore were more like dress shoes. Like I said earlier, I feel bad for any goalie here. True, to my observation, this young guy was getting hammered with hard shots, but he was stopping all of them, without gloves. I kept thinking about how much his hands had to hurt, or how difficult it was for him to play without proper attire.

Then I saw him smile. Actually, he hadn’t stopped smiling since I started watching him. Not just a smile to show relief of another blocked shot, but a smile to show that he was happy, really happy, continuously happy. I started looking at the other kids, and I realized that they were all smiling. They felt good about getting to play on the synthetic field, and they felt good that the were getting to play their favorite sport with their favorite people.

I realized that I shouldn’t feel bad for this goalie, or for any other player. To do so would be making a judgment against him. Since he didn’t possess any semblance of a soccer uniform, I felt it necessary to have pity on him. This kid didn’t want pity, he didn’t want me to waste time thinking about things like that. He doesn’t have time for cultural analysis or the gap between the rich and the poor. All he has time for is soccer, his friends, and the opportunity to block another shot so his team stays on to play another round.

Game on.