Callum Rowe and The Machete Diaries travel blog

I found a friend in the backyard (he was about the size...

The sun sets beautifully here

Play time

My classroom

Where I wash my clothes (A Pilla)

Presentation at Noche Cultural

Pretty but I need to improve my photo taking technique for sunsets


The prettiest butterflies in the world live here

Mi amigo

I love these guys

And they love being in photos

Guatemalan landscape

Pretty green mountain

This is the mountain next to the previous picture, the brown spots...

So, I am back at the School of the Mountain for 2 weeks. After which my final exodus from Xela will be a three day, 2 night hike from Xela to Lake Atitlan. (I'll post more information about that before I leave.) As for now let me give you a run down of what I have been up to:

Sun- I got back up to the school late afternoon. The taxi driver who took me from Mierva terminal where I catch the bus usually, said he could take me all the way to the school for 200Q. I told him he was breaking my balls and that it would have to be 150 which he agreed to. I gave him the moeny and for a starters he didn't give me my change. Ok no problem, I'll get it when I get out. But once we started getting into the torn up roads close to Colomba, he started cursing and complaining about how bad this was going to be for his car. And then he was like I'm going to need 300. I called him a lot of different names in Spanish (Mexican Spanish that is) and argued with him for a while, but long story short I didn't make it out of that car without being ripped off. Oh well, that's the way when someone see's you coming from a long way off.

Anyway, that night after settling in, I started talking with Ruben and Gustavo (the weekend security, they live in Fatima) about the bad effects of the culture of tourism. We also discussed machetes, and banana tree chopping. More or less, they told me that Jorge (my former machete trainer!!) doesn't really know what he's doing and in the dark of the night they took me to a big banana tree and explained and demonstrated the best techniques for me. Then Gustavo took my machete, grabbed a branch, cut it into a point with my machete and used it to poke the tree until the tree softly leaned over and the fruit was a couple inches off the ground and easy to cut. What cool guys.

Mon- Honestly, didn't do much more than class, homework, and sleep today because of the wicked cold I acquired from this street girl in Antigua from whom I usually bought my newspaper.

Tue- Today was a little more exciting, after class I went and hunted for some big branches down in a ravine. After dragging them back up the bank (which was harder than it sounds) I cut the bottom into points with my machete, and stripped the branches clean, thus making big poles for the garden so Jared can train the bean plants around them. I am so helpful! Jorge lent me the file, so I could sharpen my machete, but I think I am going to buy my own when I go into town so I can keep it sharp for the big hike that I am planning for El Peten (the northern biosphere of Guate, bascially the crazy ass rain forest!)

There was a conference tonight about the costumes of Nuevo San Jose, I will post a separate post about this but basically it is pretty grim. Guatemala, a country known for retaining its indigenous culture, is quickly losing it. This has many effects on the pride and mental health of a people already very much marginalized as traditional clothing gets replaced by the nike sign, and marimba music gets replaced with rap and reggeatone.

Wed- The rain is slowing down, and with any luck it really is the end of the wet season. There was a conference today with a member of Proyecto de Salud (Health Project) about the program and how they interact with marginalized communities, such as the one I am in now, to raise conscienceness about the environment. I really loved this guy. Especially because his program, gives stoves to families, because the indoor fires these families use increase deforestation and are terrible for the health of the women who cook with them. (A lot die very young from effects similar to smoking more than a pack a day) They also teach them how to collect rain water as a potable source, and make latrines for compost. These improvements are wonderful because they teach by example that good choices for the environment are also the best choices for us as humans. It seems the interests of humans and the environment actually are the same. I also was really inspired by the program that he supervises in these marginalized schools as well. Basically, 70 percent of children in this country are malnourished. On top of this the government is required to provide breakfast for children all year round. This rarely happens, as often the money goes "missing" or the government justs refuses to pay because they neeed it for other "important" reasons, like more guns for the fear givers...I mean army. (Ya good luck trying to get anything from the government here. Promised or not.) Any way there is a school store that usually sells junk food to the children; the food is wrapped in plastic, thus screwing up the children's health and screwing up the environment. (All trash is burned here, going into the air we breath.) This program besides educating kids about the importance of being responsible for the crap we produce, pushs for the school to replace the junk food with nutritious food that produces organic waste such as: eggs, cheese, fruits, vegetables, and plants. One school had a tienda whose owners didn't want to change so they replaced the owners and besides providing noutrition to the children, it also cut down on the trash produced by the school by half. Interesting considering schools are the biggest trash producers in Guate, even more then hospitals! This organic waste goes to compost which the children use for reforestation projects. The whole point of this project is to help develop these communities by inciting an intellectual revolution. As he said, this country has already seen an armed revolution and now it is worse off then before. So, the way to change things is by empowering people to take matters into their own hands. One of the teachers commented, "Well it's a good idea, but kids like junk food. If you did that to the store in my son's school he would just wait until after school to go and buy the same junk food. So maybe it's the companies that need to change their packing to somthing biodegradable." The answer is that companies and politicans are driven by economic forces so the only way is to encourage kids not to buy it, and use alternate food sources. Another objection, "Well it looks like we are screwed in Guate because everything is wrapped in plastic. If I want spaghetti it's in plastic. So, what do I do?" Well, the truth is the whole world is screwed because we have been caught up in industrialization and we have turned to prepackaged food sources and over the counter remedies when the options are right in front of us many times in nature. For instance, spearmint and other herbs are much more nutritious than spagetti and other pre packed remedies like alka seltzer. The truth is with such an abundance of nutritious food found naturally in Guatemala, the idea of such a high rate of malnutrition is completely outrageous. You can still go to the store and buy good food not in plastic. However, the attitude is "if I can afford it who has the right to tell me not to buy it?" This is an attitude that excuses us from the detriment that we cause every day. When the garbage man comes it doesn't mean the trash is leaving our earth. It is time for us to be empowered to improve the quality of our world, and our lives. (Woah, its like a flash back to what I was taught in Kindergarden and I scolded my mom for letting the shower drip. But he's right, I'm thinking the best viewpoint is to think that this earth is borrowed from our children.) So, tonight is the presentation for the kids, and it's absolutly great. He talks about the necessity of land, air, and water. It reminds me of the "manaia" around my neck. As I explain to a lot of the locals, it is the representation of a Maori (indigenous culture of New Zealand) creature with the head of a bird, the body of a man, and the tail of a fish. It represents the balance between earth, air, and water and protects me from evil spirits. But it, now more than ever, reminds me of my connection with everything and my need to live as this is true. I invite all reading this to evaluate there place in this world as well.

Thur- Today, I came into town to buy a few things and update my website. I bought two melons, one for the family I eat with now (can you believe they spend a third of their weekly income on firewood! Besides this, I met Herman, he is a beautiful one month old who makes the heads of the house grandparents. Looking at him I almost wanted to cry because so many babies die here before their first birthday. Because of this, the first birthday is a huge celebration not just for the first birthday, but as a victory celebration that he made it and probably will survive now. I can only imagine their grief, if they lost this boy.) I also bought a melon for the family of Josefine (my last family) because they were so kind to me. I also bought some crackers to go with the organic peanut butter that I had the good fortue to find, and a file for a machete because I will be damned if I don't keep my favourite tool and possession nice and sharp. Tonight Joesfina is going to be making pupusas with us again, which is making my mouth water as I type. And Saturday morning we are going on a hike to Laguna Chikabal, a lake in the crater of a volcano which is sacred to the Mayans. I am sure the trip will afford a good story and a bunch of good pictures so I will try and update this bad boy sometime next week, but I might not be able to until Friday when I leave the mountain school, we shall see. Peace and Love all, I carry you with me on my journey. (And I have your hoody with me Mr. Morton, it has come in handy.)

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