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La Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción awakes
I slowly blunder into a shower much nicer than my one back in Alabama
I use quality soaps and lathers
Pulling up my trousers, I look out of my window to observe the city
Towering above, a volcano pierces the bearded clouds
What could be so bad about Guatemala?
My eyes shift down past heaven's breast and gaze glassed over at a city in despair
Old glass-walled office building accompanied by roof rusty as boxcars
downstairs to eat our American breakfast with more caloric content than the daily diet of a native
and we're hungry again before the sun reaches it's height
I board the jeep
A woman approcaches
"Help me!" she says in accented English, "Help me! Somebody help me. I am poor"
She tries to peddle me flowers
The driver jerks the gear switch
outside of a Domino's, two men in black and grey military uniforms laugh
with automatic shotguns in their hands
Traffic is mad, consisting of micro-trucks loaded with 8 men or more,
and cycles carrying families of three
graffiti en Espanol covers a run-down, chipped teal tienda
ninos push carts of oranges and papayas, while a shirtless man nearby is approached menacingly by the shotgun men
people cross streets as if wishing to end their life by being struck by a bus,
yet each time they survive to the other side
magic bus comes by as pith-helmet wearing police officer walks past young prostitute, age ~10
our vehicle pulls up a hill at about a 45* angle,
through beaten down streets with beaten down people on oppressive cracked sidewalk Gehenna
red AT&T tower can be seen past tenement tin rooftops
cloaked in a rainbow of tattered wet fabric drying on clothes lines despite the current downpour
a bored teenage boy sits in his doorway smacking a dustpan against the steps,
head in hand,
passing the humid tropical time
emaciated dogs tan into leather on sidewalk skillets
while chickens mingle with the lowest of primates
an old man sweeps leaves from the front of an ancient orange tienda,
his wife selling piñas
workers pull apart a holed sheet to reveal a springboard mattress
men and old grandmothers dig, hammer, and weld through scraps of trash to make thin metals
which will be used for housing
arrive at Casa Tabitha
up a flight of uneven, unpainted, unstable concrete stairs,
we find children building a jump rope out of a seatbelt, duct tape, and cardboard
the children are skinny, some with blackened teeth, some with scars, all well bellow the American standard of well-being.
Yet they are happy.
They laugh and sing and play with their jump rope of doom in the alleyway,
with more joy than most obese American wastes.
we leave for squatter's village
everything around is made of garbage.
People live in sheet-metal houses which double as ovens. Old blankets are used for doors. Dirt is carpet.
People living in squalor with no aid.
Presidente de Guatemala says that their is no violence in Guatemala
"I'd like to see him walk in here at night. He'd come home nude, penniless and cross-legged. If he got out at all", says Edwin
A man rots in the hot July sun, dead for a day or two
Dried rice-filled vomit cloaks his shirt
Return to Tabitha.
As we board our vehicle to go to the countryside, the children cry.
They are helpless.
As I sit in my scorched leather seat, a gunshot rings in the distance.
The denizens of the slum continue life as always, as in the van I sink into the big sleep, cars hissing by the window with smells of pork and humid air