Back in Guatemala

http://moving by waiting from Julia Harriman on Vimeo.

I’ve been back in Guatemala for 2.5 weeks. A lot has happened. And its time for a post.

I have three volunteers living in my house in El Paredon. Chris, from Guatemala City, is figuring out if he wants to make a business down there, so is doing some projects in my garden and round the house so he can live for free while he figures it out. Sandy and Tom, from New Zealand, are backpacking and love the simple life so are keeping the workshop up and running (much to the kids’ delight) in between surfs.

Me, well…I am figuring out a way of living a different kind of life. I love El Paredon but after three months back in the UK, I have decided it’s now time to go bigger. To make more contacts, seek out more opportunities both for La Choza Chula and for me  beyond the big sandbank.

So I’m in research and visit phase – finding projects I find interesting and seek connections which will turn to income streams. Stage one of my plan has just been completed: to spend a week exploring parts of Guatemala I have never visited so I can be more informed on this land I am calling home. One highlight of my little trip was ziplining through the Chicoj coffee farm near Coban (a very authentic and low key tour and fabulous coffee). I also visited an artist’s studio.

guide Marta ziplining

The next highlight was Lago Lachoa. The video at the beginning of this post  I made there. 

 I braved a 5km walk through jungle to an isolated lodge beside a crystal clear lake, resident to crocodiles and tropical fish. On my first night, I was the only guest, so resident worker Luis and I cooked the simple food I had brought (eggs, tomato, onion) while he warmed up tortillas on the oven top. We swam in the lake before a big tour group came and spoiled the silence on the second night, singing mournful love songs with their mobile phones until 4am.

Luis heating up the tortillas

Luis is new in post, after the former guy got ill after 28 years working there, in the middle of nowhere, with just the sound of the monkeys and the buzz of the lush forest for company. Luis is finding it hard to adjust to this life, missing his 15 kids and wife, regular meals and buzz of Coban. But he doesn’t have a choice as he needs the work. He works 15 days on, 15 days off, but whilst he’s at the lake he’s either completely alone or with big groups who leave rubbish and use loads of water.

It takes nearly 3 hours to fill the tank of water, which can be used in an hour with 25 people taking showers. I helped him, climbing the stepladder made of metal poles and cranking the pump round and round, a contraption with a rope pulling water up from the ground to a high tank where gravity takes it down.

pumping the water by hand
the water pump


When it is busy, Luis has to do this twice a day. He also has to change and wash the sheets of up to 40 guests, observe guests when they are swimming so they don’t go out too deep, where crocodiles lurk. Three times a week he walks the 10km round trip to the park entrance to buy tortillas and top up his mobile phone. He’s a good guy and works hard for his money.



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