We met Yussef for our meeting with the INGUAT, the instituto Guatemalteco de turismo, to tell them more about ON BOARD, our visit and also learn from their marketing campaign.
The Guatemala Institute of Tourism
Unfortunately, it is always very hard to get support from public institutions or from the government although they are the ones who should support initiatives like ON BOARD. At the end it’s thanks to the local people that we are able to visit, discover and promote the country.
They gave us some souvenirs bag from Guatemala and showed us on the map some places and communities to visit — most of them were already covered and known by Youssef and his Explora Guatemala.
We walked from zona 4 to zona 1 and discovered the sexta, a walking street in the middle of downtown — which is not very common in Guatemala. There’s even the verb “sextear” expressing to do a the flaneur-ish walking you can do on the sexta.
Yussef officially ON BOARD
We went to the former postal office and to the top of the building where you can closely see the Antigua-like arch and Guatemalan flag. Yussef had become officially ON BOARD in his favorite place of the city.
We also passed by the very beautiful old police building which is today the Ministery of Government.
Our mentor Albert Loan
We headed towards the not any more Lux theater to meet Albert Loan, our mentor.
We virtually met Bert for more than 2 years and we admire a lot what he does in terms of education and new pedagogy specially based on the Socratic method. He took us to a great place: Cafe de Tasso.
The story of Cafe de Tasso
A small restaurant inside a bookstore owned and run only by Patricia who happily served us and shared her story and the story of the place with us.
Tasso was a journalist and diplomat that came Guatemala from Belgium and Morocco. He used to live some blocks around where the cafe is today and he was born the same day than Patricia.
Patricia has a similar story in the sense that she was also living abroad and came to GUATEMALA not knowing what to do until some friends offer her to sell coffee at the bookstore in 2009 and slowly slowly she started adding some food to the menu which is not really a menu but what they call “comida de corrida” meaning you don’t have to chose much she will be brining you what she prepared.
The story of Albert
Albert told us his story about how GUATEMALA became his home some years ago. He is very attracted to Zona 1, the historical center. And since he first came to live here he has been living close to the sexta (6th).
He has seen its transformation: From a place where informal markets were happening to a place which ended up in ruins. This is when they closed the shops until the recovery which is happening today. They wisely chose to leave it only as a walking street where people can connect and interact in a very safe environment — very hard to see in any other place of the capital.
Albert was tempted to move when everybody was leaving but instead he chose to stay and see the progress happening. He sees opportunities in every corner and knows many entrepreneurs that think like him as well.
We continued our walk with a short stop to meet señora Pu and her restaurant, a mix of Mayan gastronomy with a French touch.
We headed towards the National Palace being locally called “Guacamolón” because of its Guacamole color. Now it is a cultural museum.
Down the road we found nice shades and an enjoyable silence, hard to find in the capital specially in public transportation.
We walked towards the baseball stadium and ended up in a huge 3-dimensional map where you can see from above the geography and topography of Guatemala: the two oceans and half the country being deep, big mountains and half of it plain. It is 110 years old. When it was done it was a very innovative idea!
Way home with public transportation struggles
After nice conversions and brainstormings we said goodbye to Yussef and Bert and headed towards our couchsurfing place.
The journey was longer than expected and allowed us to understand the daily life of many Guatemalans — from a different point of view.
We were stuck in traffic at least an hour in the first bus with of course no room for any move and more and more people entering. Then we waited a bit to catch the next bus and saw a high demand of buses screaming out loud where they were going. We finally took ours and it took us another hour — at least.
Rush hour is real here and this is the struggle of many many people that do not have another option.
It made us question the meaning of life quality and what is really going on with mobility. If someone is actually caring about it or if it’s convenient for someone that it stays as it is in terms of the public transportation situation — or simply there is lack of opportunity and there is always the need to commute or … overpopulation is real and big cities can’t handle more people.
We want to bed with these questions after working for some hours more and hanging out with our travelers friends from Argentina and hosts.
Yesterday in our last full day around Lake Atitlán we had the chance to visit the association “Ixoq Ajkeem”. Since we are always looking for local foundations, businesses, organizations or initiatives which we can learn from, it was a pleasure that Katarina did a very informative and well-presented tour through all the economically and therefore sustainable weaving process, starting from the the plants to the cotton, the natural coloring to final weaving.
Katarina spoke well-pronounced Spanish. Therefore, it is a good 12-minute lesson to learn Spanish.
At the end her colleague Lisbeth even explained us in detail how show does the weaving.
Learn more about Ixoq Ajkeem on sanjuanlalaguna.org.
Find more photos we took in our Facebook album.
Breakfast in San Lucas
We had breakfast at the mercado of San Lucas being quite famous for their great churrasco and good prices. Going there we had our first chicken bus experience, the only mean of public transportation here in Guatemala.
Sumpango after the Day of the Death
Then we headed towards the Altiplano road to visit Sumpango and tried to see some of the Barriletes, a local tradition celebrated November 1st, the day of the death.
The myth says when people let Barriletes fly they have the opportunity to connect with their loved dead ones. Once the Barrilete will have fallen down on the ground they have read their message. Continue reading Day 2: To Antigua via San Lucas and Sumpango
GUATEMALA offers many lessons to share and teach. Right now is the best moment to visit it. If you go like a tourist you might not understand why it is such a special place but if you go with ON BOARD you certainly will.
A peaceful revolution to learn from
You will understand the political situation of the country and why it is becoming a prime example for Latin American countries in how to make a peaceful revolution in favor of democracy.
You will experience a unique way of what is traditionally called „couchsurfing, Airbnb, woofing, hostels, home stays, studying abroad, cultural exchange or traveling agency“.
Activating local economy & Supporting independent tourism
ON BOARD is none of those because we are unique way of traveling where we activate the local economy, support independent tourism entrepreneurs and avoid mainstream tourism.
At the same time ON BOARDERS (our participants) can expect to have all of the above in one. Continue reading Why Guatemala in November 2015?