Category Archives: Guatemala

Dancing with La Guajira

Performance at Xela Gardens

Performance at Xela Gardens

Dancing, like sport and music, is a fabulous tool to connect with people across cultures.  Just ask Mike and Simona, directors of the Cuban dance group that I’ve been apart of in Corvallis, Oregon, Rumbanana.  Through rueda de casino, they have made friends throughout the world, and as an ambassador for the company, one of my missions in my travels is to seek out other rueda groups and extend the Rumbanana family.

Casino, salsa Cuban style, danced to Cuban timba music or son, is simply the best form of dance in the world.  And the best part, is that it can be danced in a wheel (rueda de casino), with a caller and partner exchanges, so you get the chance to dance with every girl in the club.  It’s as fun (and as hard) as it looks;  fortunately I got to learn in Corvallis, the rueda capital of the world outside of Cuba.

The only sad part of casino, is that because Cuba has so successfully isolated itself, the dance is actually quite rare in most of Latin America, where Puerto Rican and Colombian styles dominate.  Thus when another Spanish student told me that there was a rueda instructor in Xela, I ran over to the local studio to sign up for a class with my fellow casinero.  Gladys was super friendly and in Xela style, she took me in for a class right away.  We danced as a pair, laughed at our differences in style, and after realizing that I had some experience in casino, she asked me to join her performance group, La Guarija.  Sweet, I had made my first casino connection.

For the next six weeks, I spent almost every evening with the Guajiros, dancing, rehearsing, laughing, and sharing and creating new rueda moves.  Dancing in the studio for me was a much more enjoyable experience than going out to the club, and cheaper too.

The formal after party in Guatemala CityThe formal after party in Guatemala City

My first weekend, we together did a road trip to Guatemala City to see an international salsa competition at the national theatre.  It was more glitter and Latin flare than I had hoped for, but a funny time nonetheless, and seeing the local kids compete was priceless.  After the competition, we went to McDonald’s (a special treat in Guatemala) with all the performers to fuel up for the formal after-party.  And then things got confusing.  It turned out that the club that was scheduled to host the party decided that they didn’t want to play salsa music that night, and our 12-dollar ticket, which included cocktails, instead gained us access to a makeshift dance party in someone’s garage in the barrio.  Several hours of confusion, a punctured tire, and some fatigued Guajiros later, we stumbled into the house of my friend’s grandmother, and I didn’t seem to mind sleeping on tile that night.  On our way home on Sunday, we stopped in Antigua, Guatemala’s picturesque colonial city, to dance to the tunes of a local Cuban band.

Keep in mind that I was just one week into Spanish school, and there was not a word of English spoken the entire time. The most memorable part of the trip for me was the confusion, and not knowing what was coming next.  Although sometimes frustrating, I knew that this was the way to learn a language, experience a culture, and connect with the people.  The Guajiros soon became my best friends in Xela.

At the studio three weeks later, Gladys asked me something which I couldn’t quite understand.  I gave my usual confused response, an affirmative nod of  the head with a smile.  I soon learned that I was committing myself to a rueda performance just five days later at a convention center, and a choreography which we hadn’t even started.  This meant committing ourselves to practicing the choreography for several hours each day.  Just 48 hours before the event, I was told that I would be performing a cha-cha-cha with Gladys.  Great, I didn’t even know the basic steps of cha cha cha.  Fortunately, Gladys was a stronger lead than I, and I faked my way through the choreography, ala Apolo Ohno in Dancing with the Stars.  Again ignorant of what we were getting into, we arrived at Xela Gardens in our all-white formal attire, soon to find out that we were the entertainment for a Kimberly Clark company meeting.

Dancing in Antigua with friends from Guatemala City.

Dancing in Antigua with friends from Guatemala City.

We continued to dance rueda performances in Xela both in clubs and festivals.  Our routines became pretty popular because they differed so much from the more traditional Central American salsa.  As a result, just three days before my scheduled departure, we were asked to dance for the local television program Buscando las Estrellas,  but at that point I was committed to the Caribbean, and was ready to move on from Xela.

On my last night in Xela, the Guajiros threw a surprise going-away party for me at the studio and they surrounded me with hugs, cards, gifts, cake, and a celebratory bottle of Havana Club rum.  We continued the party at the local club, and said our last farewells as they bid me luck dancing in the Caribbean. After just 6 weeks with the group, the Guajiros felt like family.  I now had a home away from home in Central America, and a good reason to return to Xela, Guatemala.

My going-away party at the Xela studio

My going-away party at the Xela studio

Semana Santa in Antigua

Running in Central American cities is miserable. Sidewalks are like balance beams. There is rarely any traffic control. And the right-of-way hierarchy looks like this: 1. Buses, 2. Cars, 3. Pedestrians, and a two-way tie for 4th place between dogs and runners.
Fortunately, I don´t live in Guatemala City, or San Jose, or San Salvador. Instead, I live in Xela, and although 100,000 people make Xela the second largest city in Guatemala, it takes just ten minutes of car dodging and steep running to escape the madness. And it’s worth it.
Yesterday, I found a new running gem with endless trails through pastures and forested hills, an area called Monte Zinai. Just 20 minutes into my run, I thought about how lucky I was…the scenery, the soft terrain, a runner´s paradise…yet I was the sole runner out there. I jogged passed a small cluster of farm houses and I was greeted by three dogs.  As one ran alongside me, my luck ran dry.
My left hand went numb as I felt its fangs dig into my upper arm. Luckily, she ran away as soon as she tasted my blood.  Her owner watched horrified, as I sat myself down in shock.  She ran to me, crying, “Esta bien?  Esta vacunado.  Esta vacunado!”  Or in English, are you alright?  It’s vaccinated!  I nodded, too shocked to utter a word.  It had been sixteen years since I had been attacked by anything, and all I wanted was my momma.  I jogged back to my house, gripping my numb arm.  I was upset, not longer because of the attack, but because of the logistics I was now forced into.  Doctors appointments and vaccinations were not in my plans for my first week in Guatemala.
I went to a family doctor.  After a shot in the butt of who knows what, she told me that a rabies vaccine in Guatemala was intense, and probably unnecessary.  Instead, it would be best if I spent the following afternoon with the dog, watch for eccentric behavior, saliva in the mouth, and other indicators of rabies.  I found my doctor’s advice quite bold.  Go back to the farm with the crazy dog and risk another attack?  What kind of treatment is that?  Just give me the vaccination damnit!
I followed her advice.  The next day, instead of taking Spanish classes, my teacher and I went for a walk into the hills.  Not wanting any enemies in my first week in Guatemala, I hoped to make peace with this farm dog.  Upon our arrival, I was relieved to find the dog chained up, yet eager to greet me once more.  I waved, it growled back, and we called for the owner.  The same lady came to greet us.  She was dressed in indigenous clothing and a Yankees baseball hat, so I knew she had to be alright.  She showed us documentation of the vaccinations, but having been signed in pencil with no official stamps, it was impossible to know if it was legitimate.  I took pictures of the dog, who was simply unwilling make up with me, and we were off.
Frustrated with the untrustworthy documentation, I checked myself into the city health center.  With just five shots in the arm over five weeks, the rabies vaccinations would be easier than I thought.  Thus I spent the next five Monday mornings at the health center with mothers and their newborns.  The best part was that it was completely free.  In the United States, a rabies vaccination would cost a resident almost $1000.  But here I was, a foreigner in one of the poorest countries in the Americas, and the state was footing the bill.
Wild dogs make running by far the most dangerous thing I do in low-income countries.  This incident turned out to be just one of several scary encounters with rural dogs, not accustomed to runners.  Now vaccinated, I feel a bit more secure, but having learned my lesson I now run with a rock in each hand, ready to fend off any more protective K-9s.

Holy Week (the week before Easter) is the real deal in Guatemala and most of Latin America.  And no where is it more celebrated than in Antigua, Guatemala’s old IMG_3749capital and most beautiful colonial city.  Being the strict and devout Christian that I am I took a week off from language school, packed my bible, and hopped on a chicken bus to see one of Catholicism’s greatest events.

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua, Guatemala

Antigua is rich in history and colonial architecture, but now it feels more like Disneyland, polished and restored (and repriced) for foreign tourists.  I had never seen a garbage can in Guatemala (why would you need a garbage can when you have the street?), but in Antigua they are on every block.  In the city center power lines are buried underground to preserve the colonial feel.  There’s nothing Guatemalan about this place and if it weren’t for Holy Week, I would have taken the next bus out.  Fortunately, this was the party to end all parties.

Constructing an alfombra.  The man on the right is an architect, and had spent thirty consecutive unpaid hours creating alfombras for various processions.

Constructing an alfombra. The man on the right is an architect, and had spent thirty consecutive unpaid hours creating alfombras for various processions.

Alfombra by day

Alfombra by day

The big draw is the series of processions, parades of locals dressed in purple robes, carrying massive vaults depicting scenes leading up to the death of Jesus.  The parades move slowly and some take ten hours to proceed through city.  Thursday night before Good Friday is the peak of the show, with herds of Roman soldiers running through the city, all-night parades, and a multitude of artists constructing alfombras, street carpets made of sawdust, dyes, flowers, and grasses which become demolished by the parades moments after their completion.  Couple this with a hundreds of thousands of Guatemalan tourists, alcohol, and enough incense to suffocate Jabba the Hut, and you’ve got quite a spectacle.

Thursday night procession

Thursday night procession

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My Dutch friend Mischa and I passed the entire Thursday night in the street, like children chasing their favorite Disney characters, and we loved every second of it.  Antigua had a Woodstock-type feel, with Guatemalans camping out in the city plazas and cooking in the streets.   The next day, with little gas in the reserves, we hiked up Volcan Pacaya, the most active, lava-spewing volcano in Central America.  We couldn’t summit though, as it was quite angry that day, emitting small but explosive eruptions most of the morning.

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An angry Volcan de Pacaya

Running the Hills – The Most Dangerous Thing I do! – March 10, 2009

Running in Central American cities is miserable. Sidewalks are like balance beams. There is rarely any traffic control. And the right-of-way hierarchy looks like this: 1. Buses, 2. Cars, 3. Pedestrians, and a two-way tie for 4th place between dogs and runners.

Fortunately, I don´t live in Guatemala City, or San Jose, or San Salvador. Instead, I live in Xela, and although 100,000 people make Xela the second largest city in Guatemala, it takes just ten minutes of car dodging and steep running to escape the madness. And it’s worth it.
Yesterday, I found a new running gem with endless trails through pastures and forested hills, an area called Monte Zinai. Just 20 minutes into my run, I thought about how lucky I was…the scenery, the soft terrain, a runner´s paradise…yet I was the sole runner out there. I jogged passed a small cluster of farm houses and I was greeted by three dogs.  As one ran alongside me, my luck ran dry.
My left hand went numb as I felt its fangs dig into my upper arm. Luckily, she ran away as soon as she tasted my blood.  Her owner watched horrified, as I sat myself down in shock.  She ran to me, crying, “Esta bien?  Esta vacunado.  Esta vacunado!”  Or in English, are you alright?  It’s vaccinated!  I nodded, too shocked to utter a word.  It had been sixteen years since I had been attacked by anything, and all I wanted was my momma.  I jogged back to my house, gripping my numb arm.  I was upset, not longer because of the attack, but because of the logistics I was now forced into.  Doctors appointments and vaccinations were not in my plans for my first week in Guatemala.
I went to a family doctor.  After a shot in the butt of who knows what, she told me that a rabies vaccine in Guatemala was intense, and probably unnecessary.  Instead, it would be best if I spent the following afternoon with the dog, watch for eccentric behavior, saliva in the mouth, and other indicators of rabies.  I found my doctor’s advice quite bold.  Go back to the farm with the crazy dog and risk another attack?  What kind of treatment is that?  Just give me the vaccination damnit!
I followed her advice.  The next day, instead of taking Spanish classes, my teacher and I went for a walk into the hills.  Not wanting any enemies in my first week in Guatemala, I hoped to make peace with this farm dog.  Upon our arrival, I was relieved to find the dog chained up, yet eager to greet me once more.  I waved, it growled back, and we called for the owner.  The same lady came to greet us.  She was dressed in indigenous clothing and a Yankees baseball hat, so I knew she had to be alright.  She showed us documentation of the vaccinations, but having been signed in pencil with no official stamps, it was impossible to know if it was legitimate.  I took pictures of the dog, who was simply unwilling make up with me, and we were off.
Frustrated with the untrustworthy documentation, I checked myself into the city health center.  With just five shots in the arm over five weeks, the rabies vaccinations would be easier than I thought.  Thus I spent the next five Monday mornings at the health center with mothers and their newborns.  The best part was that it was completely free.  In the United States, a rabies vaccination would cost a resident almost $1000.  But here I was, a foreigner in one of the poorest countries in the Americas, and the state was footing the bill.
Wild dogs make running by far the most dangerous thing I do in low-income countries.  This incident turned out to be just one of several scary encounters with rural dogs, not accustomed to runners.  Now vaccinated, I feel a bit more secure, but having learned my lesson I now run with a rock in each hand, ready to fend off any more protective K-9s.
Running with my friend Mischa in the hills above Xela

Running with my friend Mischa in the hills above Xela

Running in Central American cities is miserable. Sidewalks are like balance beams. There is rarely any traffic control. And the right-of-way hierarchy looks like this: 1. Buses, 2. Cars, 3. Pedestrians, and a two-way tie for 4th place between dogs and runners.

Fortunately, I don´t live in Guatemala City, or San Jose, or San Salvador. Instead, I live in Xela, and although 100,000 people make Xela the second largest city in Guatemala, it takes just ten minutes of car dodging and steep running to escape the madness. And it’s worth it.

Yesterday, I found a new running gem with endless trails through pastures and forested hills, an area called Monte Zinai. Just 20 minutes into my run, I thought about how lucky I was…the scenery, the soft terrain, a runner´s paradise…yet I was the sole runner out there. I jogged passed a small cluster of farm houses and I was greeted by three dogs.  As one ran alongside me, my luck ran dry.

My left hand went numb as I felt its fangs dig into my upper arm. Luckily, she ran away as soon as she tasted my blood.  Her owner watched horrified, as I sat myself down in shock.  She ran to me, crying, “Esta bien?  Esta vacunado.  Esta vacunado!”  Or in English, are you alright?  It’s vaccinated!  I nodded, too shocked to utter a word.  It had been sixteen years since I had been attacked by anything, and all I wanted was my momma.  I jogged back to my house, gripping my numb arm.  I was upset, not longer because of the attack, but because of the logistics I was now forced into.  Doctors appointments and vaccinations were not in my plans for my first week in Guatemala.

My new friend, Clifford

My new friend, Clifford

I went to a family doctor.  After a shot in the butt of who knows what, she told me that a rabies vaccine in Guatemala was intense, and probably unnecessary.  Instead, it would be best if I spent the following afternoon with the dog, watch for eccentric behavior, saliva in the mouth, and other indicators of rabies.  I found my doctor’s advice quite bold.  Go back to the farm with the crazy dog and risk another attack?  What kind of treatment is that?  Just give me the vaccination damnit!

I followed her advice.  The next day, instead of taking Spanish classes, my teacher and I went for a walk into the hills.  Not wanting any enemies in my first week in Guatemala, I hoped to make peace with this farm dog.  Upon our arrival, I was relieved to find the dog chained up, yet eager to greet me once more.  I waved, it

Heading up to the hills for a visit with my friend

Heading up to the hills for a visit with my friend

growled back, and we called for the owner.  The same lady came to greet us.  She was dressed in indigenous clothing and a Yankees baseball hat, so I knew she had to be alright.  She showed us documentation of the vaccinations, but having been signed in pencil with no official stamps, it was impossible to know if it was legitimate.  I took pictures of the dog, who was simply unwilling make up with me, and we were off.

Having had too many cattle roberies in the past, this lady trains her dog to scare off outsiders.

Having had too many cattle roberies in the past, this lady trains her dog to scare off outsiders.

IMG_3511

Questionable vaccination records

Frustrated with the untrustworthy documentation, I checked myself into the city health center.  With just five shots in the arm over five weeks, the rabies vaccinations would be easier than I thought.  Thus I spent the next five Monday mornings at the health center with mothers and their newborns.  The best part was that it was completely free.  In the United States, a rabies vaccination would cost a resident almost $1000.  But here I was, a foreigner in one of the poorest countries in the Americas, and the state was footing the bill.

Wild dogs make running by far the most dangerous thing I do in low-income countries.  This incident turned out to be just one of several scary encounters with rural dogs, not accustomed to runners.  Now vaccinated, I feel a bit more secure, but having learned my lesson I now run with a rock in each hand, ready to fend off any more protective K-9s.

Spanish School in Guatemala (March 2 – April 20, 2009)

On Language School
Guatemala… for many travelers it’s about visiting Antigua, Lago Antitlan, or Tikal, for others it’s about experiencing indigenous cultures, and for those who are extending their travels through Latin America, it is the place to study Spanish.  For just 150 U.S. dollars a week, you can enroll in a school, receive 25 hours of private instruction, school activities, internet, a homestay, and all of your meals. I chose to study in the second largest city in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango (aka Xela), a high-elevation town with plenty to do, but much more relaxed, livable, and safer than its big brother, Guatemala City.  A high concentration of competitive Spanish schools has made Xela probably the cheapest and highest quality place to study Spanish in the world.  Conveniently located at the beginning of my journey, choosing Xela was a no-brainer.
I arrived by chicken bus late on a Sunday night in Xela, without a place to stay, nor a clue what school I was to attend.  No matter… I had a map, I found a six-dollar room and the next day I would go for a morning run to scout out a nice-looking school.  I immediately found Celas Maya, a big school, located in the city center, and a conservative choice.  By 8 am, I had enrolled in Celas, had a private teacher, a family to stay with, and was about to start classes.  That’s how things roll with Spanish school in Guatemala.
That afternoon, I moved into my new home for the next two months.  Marisol, my host mom (who is actually about my age), introduced me to her partner Juan, and their three children Shania, Juergen, and Jimi, ages six to fourteen.  While they all crammed themselves into bunks and one bedroom, another student and I had bedrooms of our own.  I tried to conceal my sense of guilt with the fact that the $35 a week that they were getting from me was their main income.
Xela turned out to be an easy place to live in and my daily schedule was surprisingly very similar to my life in Corvallis, Oregon:
6:30 a.m.  Wake up to freezing temperatures and go for a run.
7:30          Breakfast/shower
8:00 School starts
10:30         Break
11:00         Resume classes
1:00 p.m.    Return home for lunch
Afternoon   Study, homework, nap, internet, eat ice cream
6:00            Dance Rueda de Casino with friends from Xela
7:30            Dinner, workout with the kids
9:00            Go out, dance, or watch tv in Spanish
Repeat…
Two months flew by, and I became very close with the family.  I built enough trust with Marisol that we shared our personal lives at the dinner table, I would babysit the kids, was invited to fiestas with the extended family, and was asked to kill the duck for her father’s birthday.  The Spanish progressed and I was extremely pleased with the several teachers I had at Celas Maya.  And the Guatemalan friends I made along the way (i.e. Los Guarijos),  that’s another chapter in itself.
My Host Brother and I looking for cheap used clothes in the local Xela market. These second hand items are sent from the U.S. and include some real gems. Although I couldn't find any clothes that I had donated in years past, I did find 2 nice sweaters for 12 cents each!

My Host Brother and I looking for cheap used clothes in the local Xela market. These second hand items are sent from the U.S. and include some real gems. Although I couldn't find any clothes that I had donated in years past, I did find 2 nice sweaters for 12 cents each!

Guatemala… for many travelers it’s about visiting Antigua, Lago Antitlan, or Tikal, for others it’s about experiencing indigenous cultures, and for those who are extending their travels through Latin America, it is the place to study Spanish.  For just 150 U.S. dollars a week, you can enroll in a school, receive 25 hours of private instruction, school activities, internet, a homestay, and all of your meals. I chose to study in the second largest city in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango (aka Xela), a high-elevation town with plenty to do, but much more relaxed, livable, and safer than its big brother, Guatemala City.  A high concentration of competitive Spanish schools has made Xela probably the cheapest and highest quality place to study Spanish in the world.  Conveniently located at the beginning of my journey, choosing Xela was a no-brainer.

At 2,200 meters Xela is actually quite cold.  I'd often wake up to freezing temperatures and frost in the morning.

At 2,200 meters Xela is actually quite cold. I'd often wake up to freezing temperatures and frost in the morning.

I arrived by chicken bus late on a Sunday night in Xela, without a place to stay, nor a clue what school I was to attend.  No matter… I had a map, I found a six-dollar room and the next day I would go for a morning run to scout out a nice-looking school.  I immediately found Celas Maya, a big school, located in the city center, and a conservative choice.  By 8 am, I had enrolled in Celas, had a private teacher, a family to stay with, and was about to start classes.  That’s how things roll with Spanish school in Guatemala.

That afternoon, I moved into my new home for the next two months.  Marisol, my host mom (who is actually about my age), introduced me to her partner Juan, and their three children Shania, Juergen, and Jimi, ages six to fourteen.  While they all crammed themselves into bunks and one bedroom, another student and I had bedrooms of our own.  I tried to conceal my sense of guilt with the fact that the $35 a week that they were getting from me was their main income.

On Volcan Santa Marta, overlooking Xela

On Volcan Santa Marta, overlooking Xela

Xela turned out to be an easy place to live in and my daily schedule was surprisingly very similar to my life in Corvallis, Oregon:

6:30 a.m.  Wake up to freezing temperatures and go for a run.

7:30          Breakfast/shower

8:00 School starts

10:30         Break

11:00         Resume classes

1:00 p.m.    Return home for lunch

Afternoon   Study, homework, nap, internet, eat ice cream

6:00            Dance Rueda de Casino with friends from Xela

7:30            Dinner, workout with the kids

9:00            Go out, dance, or watch tv in Spanish

Repeat…

Defeathering the duck at Grandpa's house

Defeathering the duck at Grandpa's house

Two months flew by, and I became very close with the family.  I built enough trust with Marisol that we shared our personal lives at the dinner table, I would babysit the kids, was invited to fiestas with the extended family, and was asked to kill the duck for her father’s birthday.  The Spanish progressed and I was extremely pleased with the several teachers I had at Celas Maya.  And the Guatemalan friends I made along the way (i.e. Los Guarijos),  that’s another chapter in itself.

Climbing nearby Volcan Tujamulco, the highest point in Central America

Climbing nearby Volcan Tujamulco, the highest point in Central America

Running Across the Border (Feb. 28, 2009)

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Chiapas State in Southern Mexico, better known by Northerners as a Zapatista rebel zone, is actually quite safe and is a popular tourist destination among Mexicans. A friend recommended that I visit the Lagos de Montebello, a region composed of 2 national parks some 51 lakes all of a different shade of blue and green. Leaving San Cristobal de las Casas, I hopped on a collectivo (a minibus that has no passenger limits), en route to Tsizcao, the only town listed on my map, in hope that it might have a place for me to stay. I struck gold, not only because I found a room nestled on a stunning lake, but also because Tsizcao proved to be a stunning mountain town with no other gringos but me. Perfect

A nice lakeside view from my room in Tsizcao

Lakeside view from my room in Tsizcao

After napping by the lake, I reluctantly mustered the energy for an evening run into the countryside. I jogged by farmers, children, roadworkers, all of whom ceased their activity to watch this awesome site pushing its way up the dirt road. Their stares lasted as long as their sight allowed. Maybe they had never seen a white person before, or perhaps I was the first runner in their village, or maybe it was my naked pail legs that blinded them. I often wonder if running in these indigenous villages invokes bad cultural karma, but now I justify my hobby by acknowledging these people´s interests, smiling upon every encounter, and knowing that I was providing a story at the dinner table that evening.

I crested a small hill and encountered a deep blue lake with a village of about 30 homes. Again I met the interest of the natives, and in particular a curious twelve year-old boy who stood at the only crossroads in town. This time, I stopped to say hello. He informed me that I was looking at Lago Internacional. Hmmm. Interesting name. I knew I was in the South of Mexico, but didn´t quite comprehend how far south. ¨Where is the border?¨ I asked him, and he pointed to a stone monument behind me. I was shocked. I interrogated him once more, ¨and where are you from?¨

Intimidating border marked by a buoy line across Lago Internacional
Intimidating border marked by a buoy line across Lago Internacional

¨Guatemala!¨ he replied, smiling because he could sense my confusion. They call this a border? I had literally just run from Mexico to Guatemala with no passport, no police, no barb-wired fences, and I wasn´t planning to stop. I giggled, thanked the boy, and continued running through the green hills of Guatemala. Forgetting that such a low latitude yields hasty sunsets, I was soon benighted and had to return home, navigating the endless potholes by moonlight. I showered and sat by the dock, reflecting the whole time about my international run.

There are few roads that traverse the Mexico-Guatemala Border and this was one of them. I thought if I were an illegal immigrant, what a gem this would be! But I later found out that Guatemalans and Mexicans are permitted to freely cross the border, as there exists a legal trade zone that dissipates hundreds of kilometers from the formal map boundary. This experience was quite different from a run I had 3 months ago around Niagra Falls. Hoping to see the falls from the other side (AKA Canada) I ran to the border, again at twilight. But this time I was welcomed with 10-foot high cement walls, covered in a shards of glass, and a feeling that I might be electrocuted as I came within meters of the border. If only our borders could be as simple as that of Tziscao…