It's my last day in Antigua, so farewell clear blue sky and lovely Volcan Agua-
Fuego is always putting on a show. Volcan Acatenango is to the right-
I've said it before but I can't get enough of Arco de Santa Catalina with Iglesia La Merced in the background-
I read that it was possible to visit a chicken bus factory and Sheny knew nothing about it so I booked a $60 tour with Niños de Guatemala. They are a Dutch Guatemalan non profit that, like almost every other NGO, want to make lives better, especially for the children. They have two elementary schools and one high school that cater to 480 sponsored children. I'm already a madrina at La Familia de Esperanza so my tour donation would be the only money they would get from me. They also have Good Hotel, which is nothing like anything Guatemalan. A beautiful double room costs $136/night-
A suite, complete with loft is $209/night-
In order to visit the schools, we took a chicken bus to Ciudad Vieja which was the second capital of the country until 1540 when the wall of the water filled crater of Volcan Agua broke and flooded the city. The church is bright and beautiful but reconstructed-
Iximche was the first capital but in 1524 the Indigenous rebelled. They didn't want their city used in that way. The third capital was Antigua Guatemala until numerous earthquakes in 1773 forced the final move to Guatemala City.
Ciudad Vieja is home to many tallers including this one making furniture-
When we crossed the street to visit the chicken bus fabrica, I started to laugh to myself. I expected a factory, a real factory like the Corvette plant Nico and I visited in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Hello! You're in Guatemala remember! And besides, they don't make the buses here. They come from the United States. There are many families who have chicken bus companies. They buy the old buses; these are from the 1990s, and bring them to Ciudad Vieja to first shorten the chassis - most are too long to make the tight corners on the streets, and then soup them up. Seats are removed and sometimes recovered and then replaced but much closer together so they can really pack people in-
Working on shortening the bus-
The family or owner decides how they want it painted-
It takes 2 weeks to shorten the chassis and re-install the seats. It's another 2 weeks to paint and add chrome-
The municipality decides which route the owner gets. The owners hire drivers and give them a set amount that they have to earn daily. Anything above that becomes their wage. That's why they drive like maniacs and pack the people in. At busy times, there is usually standing room only. There are 2 men working in the bus - one driving and the other yelling the destination and collecting the money. I took a chicken bus back and forth to La Familia de Esperanza every day. I could catch it 1.5 blocks from my house and if I heard it coming I would start to run, well, okay, a slow run. The yeller would always see me and stop the bus and holler where they were going. Often it was to "Guate", where I wasn't going so they would carry on.
Our next stop was at one of the elementary schools of Los Niños de Guatemala called Nuestro Futuro-
It seems very well run, complete with a recycling program-
The teachers had good control of their students who were on task. Class sizes are also manageable. In public schools, there can be up to 70 students in one class-
Next door is the high school where there are 150 students. Naturally, an indoor gymnasium is not required in this climate-
The view from the staff room is great. Reminds me of the Comp! Not!
The surprise part of the tour was a visit to a taller of cajas de mortos-
unless you want an Americano and that costs a few thousand dollars-
The fancier ones are painted with car paint in an autobody shop-
Wood chips are placed inside to make a nice soft bed. Some people want a big chunk of foam instead, as if the corpse can feel anything-
Then material is sown onto the walls and bottom-
Some have little doors that open. They're decorated with verses from the Bible, praying hands or vases of flowers-
Ornate hinges and corners are added. These are plastic and come from Mexico but you can also pay more for metal-
Tonight I took Marta and Patty to a restaurant that is just around the corner, but one of the best in Antigua. It's called Porqueno? Why not? Unfortunately Lynn from Common Hope and Sheny, my teacher, couldn't come. We had a good time anyway-
They sell 20-25/week. Sometimes people come in and pick one out, other times they just buy them through the funeral home. Pine coffins last 5 years in the ground. There are 70 coffin tallers in Ciudad Vieja!
I walked slowly home, enjoying the architecture and crazy sites like this travelling fruit truck-
I had camarones con arroz en una salsa crema con tomate. I don't know what the funny looking shell was about-
I'm not looking forward to my 5:30 am departure tomorrow to Quetzaltelango but I am looking forward to seeing Magdalena and Mexico. Adios Antigua! A mi me gusta!