Sunday, August 5, 2012


Buenos Dias!

Welcome to the small mountain city of San Juan Comalapa. While walking through town, it is very common to say "Buenos dias" to everyone you see. Unless, of course, it is the afternoon in which case I say just "Buenos" or I say "Buenos" and mumble something because I don't know what to actually say.

Comalapa sits at approximately 7000 feet above sea level. As you walk up the hills that make up the mountain, one thing will surely take place. You will be out of breath.

One reason is because the view is breathtaking. With greenery falling under a gorgeous blue sky sprinkled with monstrous fluffy white clouds, the view never gets old. Add to it the peaks of different volcanoes on clear days and breathtaking doesn't even begin to describe it.

The second reason you'll be out of breath is the elevation. Exercising 7000 feet above sea level is sure to make anyone wheeze. The altitude has become a bit of a scape goat for everything. Why am I winded after a 2 minute walk up a hill? Damn altitude. Why am I feeling sick? Damn altitude. Why can't I speak Spanish? Damn altitude.

On one of the first few days that I arrived to this postcard-worthy setting, I went on a tour of the town. As you get into town there is a beautiful mural about the history of Comalapa. It shows the Mayan civilization and the eventual results of colonization. It also has pictures of the hope for the future.

That brings us to some of the sobering facts pertaining to Comalapa. Many people speak the native language of Kachiquel. This becomes truer the further you get from the town centre. The income of 64% of the population falls below the poverty line. That means the majority of people earn less than $2 U.S. per day. In addition to that 64%, 27% live in extreme poverty, which is less than $1 U.S. per day. These stats are similar throughout the whole country of Guatemala.

Only 3% have trash pick up. Trash ends up just sitting in a giant ravine. There is one such ravine just off the main road of town. It acts as a legal dump, while other ravines in the area and throughout the country act as illegal dumps. 90% of these dumps throughout the country are illegal, but nothing is done to enforce this.

That brings us to Long Way Home's role in the community through alternative construction. That will be my next exciting post!

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