Career change


Time to trade in that cushy graphic design job for a job unloading trucks in Guatemala.

Our cross-country journey was going well.

Possibly too well.

The roads were much better than our previous trip across Guatemala. It looked like we might be able to get to a very comfortable campground in time for a late lunch. We were making such good progress—until we came across a road block.

Well, blocks. Lots of blocks.

A very comfortable campground awaited. A mere hour’s drive on the other side of this.

Due to a lack of side roads, avoiding this with a detour was not going to happen.

It didn’t take long for a group of interested bystanders to converge on the stricken vehicle. Everybody seemed to have strong opinions on how best to get traffic flowing. Beyond the general expressing of opinions regarding traffic flow, not much was happening.

Being a main highway it wasn’t long before more and more cars arrived on the scene. Of course, people at the back of the queue wanted to see what was happening up the front. The entire width of the highway was soon jam-packed with parked vehicles. It looked like nobody was going anywhere; forward, or backwards.

Soon, a few hopeful souls starting lifting bricks off the back of the truck.

A lot of people standing around didn’t want to get their hands—or fancy business suits—dirty. We figured we didn’t have much else to do. We don’t own business suits. And we really wanted to get to the comfy campground. So we chipped in.

With hundreds of people standing around, these guys were of the opinion that waiting for a tow truck wasn’t necessary.

With the ‘gringa'(Emma) getting in on the heavy lifting one of the unloaders decided to shame some of the other bystanders into assisting.  A few were of the opinion that maybe the gringa had it under control and they could just have the afternoon off. As the gringa in question, I can confirm that this was not the case. But for the most part the guilt-trip worked. It wasn’t long before there was a decent number of brick movers.


However. There was one flaw in the unloading plan. The precariously balanced, now broken, live power line.

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Nobody was keen to touch those last few rows of bricks.


Shortly thereafter, the power poll along the road put on a dramatic fireworks display. This confirmed that the last bricks weren’t going anywhere.


So. Yeah.


The waiting game began.


A truck was rumoured to be en route with some chains to try and move the now lighter truck and trailer.


Of course, there was the gridlock of vehicles to navigate. Plenty of people had jammed up the road—three wide.  With a lot of manouvering, a truck full of cows finally reached the front of the queue.


Why a truck full of cows? With 40 cow towing power, everyone was hopeful this would do the trick.


No luck. Now there was now just a truck full of angry cows attached to the sticken vehicle.

Nobody was going anywhere.

The sun was starting to set by the time a tow truck arrived from the other direction.

There was a lot of noise and excitement. Yet, all the tow truck managed to do was to gently nudge the stuck vehicle to one side. Just far enough to make space for the crowd of waiting motorcyclists.

I knew all those people travelling the world on motorbikes were on to something. No room for a car. Not enough space for an overloaded 4Runner. Definitely no chance of fitting a truck full of increasingly impatient cows. All those on two wheels were however, on the road to freedom.

The good news for those on 4+ wheels was that the trailer was out from under the precariously positioned powerline.

All the dusty, tired people who had moved the first truck load stepped forward to help. Plus a few new recruits in their dapper suits, who decided that they didn’t want to miss out on the fun. The last few bricks left the trailer in record time.

It was still after dark by the time the tow truck had moved the truck enough to clear room for one lane of traffic. Even darker, once the backlog of vehicles had filed into orderly lanes of traffic. It was much later than we planned to arrive at the campground when we began to slowly roll forward.

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We drove for kilometres past hundreds of cars lined up, waiting to pass through. This middle of the road kit-set wall had been keeping a lot of people waiting.

Tired and dusty, we were glad to be on our way to the campground. Emma’s pitiful graphic designer hands were full of cuts and scratches.

If my day as a labourer in Guatemala taught me anything it is that I am a cushy computer-based desk-job kinda girl.

Luckily, the campground was all we had hoped for and more. With an onsite restaurant (as well as a fridge full of beer). The best part was that we could charge it to the ‘room’—like a luxury resort! We racked up an impressive tab and relaxed for a day before heading onward to Belize.

From there, we figured we were all good, no more trucks were going to block our way. With only a morning’s drive between us and Belize, we expected to be there for lunch.

As we approached a bridge, the locals waved us down. Apparently the bridge was out.

Uh oh.

Luckily, the same kind of grass roots teamwork that had unloaded a truckload of bricks had managed to get the bridge back in business. What’s more, it was ‘completed’ before we arrived, we didn’t even have to lift a finger to be on our merry way. Albeit with a new-found appreciation of the work that must go in to such makeshift detours.

This one was particularly makeshift. Some ingenious folk had simply placed a layer of ‘bridge-like materials’ on top of the twisted frame of the collapsed the former structure.

I guess we missed out on our opportunity to be employed for a day as bridge-builders.

Engineering qualification not necessary.

Sure it’ll hold.

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