gettin’ muddy: adventures in hurricane season

After scary news like this in the past few days, I’m happy to report that I’m safe. I have had some good hurricane season adventures, though…

On Friday I woke up at 5 am to pouring rain– unusual, because it usually rains in the afternoon. I had an important day ahead of me: checking out places to live in Santa Catarina Ixtahuacan and getting officially introduced in Xeabaj II. So instead of doing what I really wanted to do– pulling the covers a little higher and going back to sleep– I got up and made my way to the bus station. After the hour and a half bus ride, the rain hadn’t let up at all. Up in Alaska, Guatemala the chilly wind was blowing the rain nearly horizontal, and I was soaked within minutes of getting off the bus. The housing search was pretty full of mishaps: the woman who was going to show us around got stuck at home, with a derrumbe (mudslide)
blocking her way into town; we ended up walking around way more than necessary and not actually seeing any houses. By the time we left SCI for Xeabaj II, I was so cold my lips were numb and not working properly.

We arrived in Xeabaj II and gratefully ate a snack of bread and coffee. One of the women lent me a corte and faja (the wraparound skirt and sash belt that Guatemalan women wear) after Lucia discovered that my pants were soaking wet. Lucia and Juana (two OB facilitators) and I giggled a lot about me wearing traditional clothes and also just because of cold giddiness and the happiness of being indoors.

On the bus ride home, I found out that the road back to Pana was blocked by a derrumbe. I went home with Lucia, and spent a wonderful night with her and her four amazing kids, Migdalia, Ixchel,  Lauriano and Fatima. They were so generous and welcoming that I didn’t really want to leave!

In the morning the rain had finally subsided to a drizzle. I made it to Sololá, which was as far as any motorized transportation was running, and started the 8 km walk down into the lake basin to Pana. After about twenty minutes of walking I reached the big derrumbe: a 75 meter stretch of road was shoulder-deep in mud, rocks and broken tree limbs. Ay! Crossing was a spectator sport: a small crowd was gathered at the other end, watching people make their precarious way across. I fell in up to my knees a few times, but I made it! At the other side, I attempted to joke with the spectators about how I’d conquered the derrumbe. They were not particularly amused. “There are more,” one man responded. Thanks….

Continuing on unabashed– I was actually in a great mood, especially because it was warm!– I followed some dubious advice, that I should take a little estravío, a path through the woods, instead of continuing on the paved road. In retrospect, that was a poor choice.

My poor sandals, already almost lost in the sucking mud of the derrumbe, were really struggling– it was a really steep path, and my feet were almost sliding out of my shoes with every step. After five minutes on the estravío, I took them off and walked the rest of the way… barefoot. I kept passing people climbing up the path who would do a double take and give me look that clearly said, You crazy gringa, what are you doing?!

On the road I acquired a walking companion, Angel, who was also a little baffled by me, I think. After exclaiming about the fact that I’m traveling solita and not with my family/friends/boyfriend, he said, “Madeline, you are a strong woman.” He kept trying to take my hand to help me down and I kept refusing (politely, I hope). Really, I wasn’t trying to be rude, I just prefer to have both hands free while climbing down steep, slippery slopes. “No sea necia,” he told me. “Usted es demasiada independiente.” Don’t be silly, you are too independent. He might be right, but that made me laugh.

When I finally got back to Pana, after an hour and a half on the path and nearly four hours after I had left Lucia’s, I had a celebratory margarita and bacon-avocado burger. Ahhh. Happily, it was all a grand adventure for me, but I’m grateful because I know not everyone was so lucky. It’s humbling to be in a place where lives, homes, businesses, and infrastructure in which people have invested so much can all be destroyed in seconds. It makes me so, so grateful for everything I usually take for granted.

As always, thanks for reading. Adios!


2 responses to “gettin’ muddy: adventures in hurricane season

  1. Maddie- that sounds amazing. They’re right- you are a crazy independent gringa.
    I kind of want to be you.

    Really though.

  2. I miss you, my strong woman! Skype again sometime?

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