We sat down for our meal. I was sat on the angle of the long L-shaped table between Karen, one of the trip organisers, and Mara, who thankfully had managed to tear herself away from her wheelbarrow which was fast becoming an extension of her arm.
The menu was written in Spanish and therefore I hadn’t a clue what was on there. Luckily Karen is fluent in Spanish and offered to help me read the menu. Lovely as her offer was, it was soon evident I would not require her help as I noticed upon the menu a dish that breaks all language barriers...steak. I love steak and the steak in Guatemala was fit, in fact, because of this I ate so much steak that I was convinced by the end of the week that if I farted it would have made a moo sound.
Unfortunately my enjoyment of the steak was hampered somewhat by the impending activity of introducing somebody to the whole group. I’m really nervous with stuff like this so as one by one each person stood up and introduced somebody, I just kept my head down and hoped I would dodge the bullet by not being noticed. The problem is that it is hard to not be noticed when you are a 6 foot plus, 15 stone bloke, with a beard, a blond streak in your hair and called Flash. So soon enough it was my turn.
I stood up and everyone was looking my way, I panicked and realised there was no one I knew I left to introduce. Just as I opened my mouth the coffee machine started making a large noise, I quickly mouthed as though I was introducing someone in the style of Norman Collier.
The coffee machine stopped and I realised despite laughs this wouldn’t pass so I decided to introduce the only person I could think of, Eric the bus driver. He was a good looking chap whose dad was called Eric. Armed only with these two facts and a room of prying eyes, I said my piece and sat down. Luckily people laughed. As I sat down, I turned to Mara and said “I think I got away with that” she replied “you are such a good bullshitter”. The complement made me feel proud. Granted it isn’t something I’d be putting on my CV anytime soon but I did feel better.
Even though I found it hard to introduce somebody else at the table, it didn’t mean that I hadn’t already at this point met some proper class people after just one day.
Two people in particular were Lisa and Mara. Lisa is a mum from Maine and has an amazing knack of appearing in photos with a face that looks like she is daring the wind to change direction. I think what really made me and Lisa connect is our mutual admiration for the finer things in life such as beer and food. Mara was like a sister from another mother, we had the same stupid sense of humour and for every tale I would tell her of the royal family, she would return the favour with an insight into the MLB.
The second day of the build was very productive, it started with me and Mara making cement from scratch and with shovels as there was no cement mixer in sight; this was hard work, especially as by this point it was proper tipping it down and the persistent bending over to shovel over the cement mix meant my recently consumed breakfast was busy reacquainting itself with the back of my throat.
The cement would then be poured into the breezeblock to sure up the walls before the rebar was laid in. Rebar, I think that is how you spell it, is a metal kind of brace that was made by lying two long metal rods 6” apart and then tying on c shaped pieces of metal around both together, to make a kind of tram line, this would be laid inside the breezeblock wall for reinforcement. I came up with a joke: what do you call one piece of rebar? Arribas! Which I thought was a clever piece of Spanish word play...no one laughed.
It might have been the anticipation of such appalling jokes that made the mason’s assistant decided to stay in bed for another day, rather than come to the site and help out. With the assistant’s continuing absence, we were soon at a point where we could not do anymore work for that day as we had overtaken where the mason was up to.
We packed up and headed back to the hotel a couple of hours early. We stopped in a little village that nearly every shop in sold cowboy boots. There were some cool boots but I couldn’t justify spending the money on a pair of boots I would probably never wear again. Plus it’s hard enough to get a pair of rubber wellies that fit both my feet and my calves, therefore a pair of leather cowboy boots were never going to work for me.
My legs are an engineering disaster. I don’t know if you have heard of the term c-ankles for when the leg is so stumpy the calf just goes straight into foot seamlessly bypassing the ankle area? Well I have w-ankles where the whole leg is so so so stumpy that it bypasses the knee as well as the ankle, to head straight for the foot. I sometimes worry that if I stand still for too long an ornithologist might try to nail a birdhouse to my leg. And as for my feet, there was a period in my childhood when I swear my feet were a wide as long. It probably would have comfier if my first pair of school shoes were a couple of Kellogg’s variety pack boxes.
We were soon back at the hotel and everyone was ready to immerse themselves in the local culture and head to the town’s markets, Lisa and I decided to experience a more hands on approach to local culture and sat in the bar with a Gallo, the local beer, in one hand and nachos in the other.
We just chilled and chatted for a couple of hours and it was a really nice experience getting to know someone from so far away from home. What I liked so much about meeting all the new friends that I made is that when you are you are younger, you have loads of friends and the older you get your number of friends starts whittling down and you end up with a small close knit group of friends. The reason that these are your close group of friends is that you all share very similar interests and outlook on life, therefore having this opportunity to meet new people and become friends with people who don’t necessarily have the same perspectives on life as my own is refreshing.
Plus as I said Lisa is from Maine and Alex, my girlfriend, has always wanted to go to Maine so we now have somewhere to stay when we visit Maine on our American adventure, in fact if you were foolish enough to invite me to come visit, intoxicated or not, Alex and I will be knocking on your door sometime next year and yes that does mean you Mara and Nakissa!
Coming soon Flash Goes to Guatemala Part 5 – Beef Beef and Alters