The Guate Kickoff

On July 5th, trip leaders Ben and Jay were thrilled to finally welcome the rest of the crew to Guatemala City and officially kick off the second ever Operation Groundswell Guatemala program. After a day of flight arrivals in the capital, the eleven of us (Allie, Allison, Ben, Chelsea, Eva, James, Japleen, Jay, Laura, Nikki, Porschia) met Luchy and her family before settling into their guest house for our two day stay in the country’s capital. As we shared our hopes and expectations for the coming six weeks and got cozy in side-by-side sleeping bags, OG Guatemala began to change from a group of young like minded strangers into a close knit crew.

A meeting the next day with Grahame Russell, director of Canadian NGO Rights Action, shed an ominous light on the impacts of Canadian mining companies in Guatemala and the need for local leadership in the global economy. Our next stop was the Canadian Embassy, where we met the Chargé d’Affairs as well as the head of the Canadian International Development Agency’s Guatemalan program, to hear about Canada’s approaches to international trade and development. Given what we had just learned in the morning with Rights Action, participants were eager to challenge the Canadian diplomats on their perceived complicity with regard to the ecological and social destruction caused by the mines. The Embassy’s response, that respect for Guatemala’s sovereignty trumped Canadian responsibilities to ensure the ethical mining practises of its companies in Guatemala, left the group frustrated.

Needing a quick pick-me-up, OGG took to the nearest median to learn and demonstrate the legendary game of Samurai, a tradition of spontaneous ninjistics practiced by OG teams worldwide.

Leaving Guatemala City behind on day three, we headed to Antigua via chicken bus. The term “chicken bus” refers to Central America’s myriad fleets of inter-city and long-distance public buses, typically retired American school buses painted in flamboyant colors and designs. Chicken bus fares are cheap, though for a reason. The nickname allegedly derives from the passengers themselves, who are packed together like chickens (sometimes as many as four to a seat). However, the occasional feathered traveler may also be seen! Chelsea describes her first chicken bus experience:

“A chicken bus is a former school bus that has been “pimped out”, fits at least 3 people on a single seat, and has a crazy bus aid that climbs on the top of the bus with a ladder to store the bags for travelers WHILE THE BUS MOVES! People also get on the bus by climbing through the back and the person you sit next to becomes your best pal for the ride.”