Internet in Guatemala, What!?

Let’s just say that the lack of internet in my life has provided me with one of the largest life lessons; “stress doesn’t make it any easier.” Exercising patience is my new motto.

For the last 2.5 months I have not been able to really work. As the primary bread winner for my family, and living in a foreign country with limited opportunity to network, relying solely on my existing contracts and relationships, I require internet for my survival. We require internet for our survival.

1 month of that time was at Casa de Joyce in San Marcos and it was a frustrating mess of dropped and inconsistent service. We had upgraded the service to the highest package available,  but it was rendered useless over the last month (other than a few sporadic uploads and downloads here and there) during the rainy season. This was expected, but also wildly frustrating. (I should note that we are lucky TIGO 3G works regularly and were doing a lot of work from our phones by using it as a wifi hotspot).

Then we moved to Patziac. For a monster set up fee and a monster monthly fee, we were under the impression that we would actually be able to get some level of service. How wrong we were.

So, about a month ago – about 15 days after being patient – I started reaching out to Mayanet, who is our service provider and documenting every time the internet went out. We had about 3 days one week without internet, 1 of those days due to power outages at our house. The last 2-weeks have been an in and out series of “power outages” in San Pedro (I quote it because we look out the window and there are lights, but apparently our internet has its own power?), and a series of other excuses why we don’t have internet:

  • Reason 1: The weather (i.e. clouds) are interrupting the signal
  • Reason 2: A pinch in a wire bringing internet to San Pedro*
  • Reason 3: Power going out in San Pedro, “The infrastructure in San Pedro is messed up and old”
  • Reason 5: The backup system he installed and we paid for (meant to kick in when the normal internet goes out) runs out of money
  • Reason 4: He doesn’t know

Below is an overview of where we are to date. We have spent everything on the left and are committed to the Monthly Payments. Do we move forward with the new Pana Plan? Do I follow through with the My Plan? For a reference, here is what we are paying in monthly rental costs, improvements, etc. so it seems absolutely insane to virtually 3x that cost by adding in a permanent internet structure. But, it is one idea, and may end up being our only one to get consistent service.

The below portrait is a visual of  what our gorgeous house is going to end up having added to it, in order to support our internet need that Carlos has outlined through the Pana Plan. It is terrifying and locks us into this property. But it is a very intriguing and interesting visual. 
Screen Shot 2014-11-11 at 1.59.50 PM

While I am not an expert, for shits and giggles, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I called TIGO and had a fantastic conversation in English with a sales rep there. We discussed some opportunities and it might be a potential to work out a situation with the TIGO company.

Funny story though: We don’t have an address here, so when the rep asked me what it was, I had to explain that we are our own little space, no street address, no street, etc, we have a walking path and water! So, he asked me for my coordinates. If you are planning on coming for a visit, you can now search by coordinate:

Area de Uso Multiple Cuenca de Lago Atitlán
Nahualá
14.731739, -91.226821

Casa de Patziac
Jabalito y Tzununa
Panajachel, Solola

Hell yeah. Surviving in Guatemala!

 

*I complained so much and Mayanet called the internet provider so much that the company Claro (yuck) actually ended up looking into the problem. It was effecting tons of people. What?! No one seemed to have a complaint except me? Crazy! I guess people just expect intermittent internet service in emerging countries.

Problems in Paradise? Nope, it’s just us.

Life is hard everywhere and requires real work to survive. There is no place left where issues don’t arise… we do know that. We are finding that the harder we push for something, the less likely it is to happen; likewise, the more we assume, the less likely any of those assumptions come true.

We are having tremendous issues with renting here. Not because the system is complicated, but because we are complicating the system. We can’t just roll with it and be simple. We have spent nearly 2 full weeks looking for a house to rent and when we found one that we loved we got into a war with one of the real estate agents, got our real estate agent to match the other agents price (which he was pissed about). Now we have been going back and forth with negotiation on the contract 3x, before receiving the cost of the internet service – It seems we have to rig an internet system across the lake which is going to cost us $1025 (USD) and $350 a month in support and service.

And that’s not all… We have to buy a boat because the local boat isn’t reliable in that location. We have to bring in our staff everyday by boat so that we can still function, and we have lost our road access in entirety. Yikes. Originally the rent was $600, but after you add in the internet, the boat and the complications, we are looking at $2400 a month, minimum. That’s maybe not a lot by NYC standards, but our goal is to save money… and suddenly we are heading upward in cost.

We could just rent a place in Pana (the largest city, here) and we could get a big house, in a nice, safe neighborhood for $850 a month, all in, with no hassle, no complication and relatively low stress. We would be 45 minutes closer to the airport, 5 minutes to the grocery store and have awesome internet.

And yet, we still want to live on the lake in the isolated single house village of Patziac. It is who we are and we are annoyingly complicated.

Sick Baby, Fungus on Walls, No Gas, No Drinking Water: Awesome Morning.

I just returned home on Saturday afternoon after a full week of work, a crazy overnight of travel and a 3-hour car ride which included a funeral procession for 4.5 miles to an even bigger and more exciting weekend of issues.

For starters, when Kurt and Iza greeted me at the dock I quickly realized how bad Iza really was. She had lost about 5lbs since I left. She was pale, almost green and definitely not herself. She had a fever of 102+ and wasn’t eating anything. When we got up our trail to the house I looked around with fresh eyes…. there was this weird wall mold/fungus coming off all the walls. Kurt went to take a shower but the water was freezing, so we pretty much went right to bed to make sure we could get some sleep. In the morning I went to make tea and the stove wouldn’t turn on. The drinking water was kicked, so I just started to cry. Pretty pathetic, but I had almost hit the end of my rope – baby crying, exhausted from travel, thirsty, throat closing in… recipe for disaster.

After Iza woke we decided very quickly that she was sick enough for the Hospital. I went online to research and found a great hospital on the other side of the lake in Santiago. The number on the site listed an American number so I called it and Dr. Larry answered in Maine. He was home, but he frequents Santiago as it is a hospital he founded. So, with his advice we went.

We first went to Pana where I had an absolute meltdown and cost us an extra 2-hours in my mania. When we got to Santiago it was nearly 1pm and our Tuk Tuk driver asked us if we wanted him to wait. We said, “no” (although we should have said, “yes”). After walking up the walkway we kind of realized we were absolutely in the middle of no where. Walking up to the door it was was locked to the Emergency Room and immediately we got discouraged, but we didn’t really know what else to do, so we waited.

Shortly a nurse showed up at the door. She welcomed us and opened the door, showing us to the infirmary to Bed 3. There were 4 beds. (I am familiar with an infirmary from High School at Mercersburg. When you got sick you were sent to the infirmary where you had to be in a shared bed space which is far too similar to an army infirmary… totally depressing. You can just imagine 35 sick soldiers lined up on either side of the room. I think I went to the infirmary 2x in the 4 years I was there and 1x was to say goodbye to a friend who got kicked out for smoking pot.) Around us were a series of American-style equipment and books. Lots of tools and familiar mechanisms. I have to say… definitely a sign of relief from us both. The doctor spoke very very little English, but he had some  Tz’utujil and Kaqchikel which are Mayan languages as well as fluent Spanish. Needless to say, we made do. We had to.

It turns out, after nearly 5 seconds of testing that Iza has an ear infection. So ridiculous that this had gone on for nearly 8 days at this point. Completely unnecessary. We got medicine and we were on our way. Of course we were in the middle of no where, so we grabbed the first Chicken Bus we found and headed into town.

1 issue down… like a MILLION to go. Stay tuned.

Pump n’ Dump on the Road via Walmart

Today has been interesting. Woke up with my gorgeous baby and husband and had the most wonderful sunrise cuddling, knowing it was my last moment with my 2 babies before Saturday. My first trip away!

Kind of amazing to walk to the dock and know that by the end of the day I would have reentered America and all the crazy that goes with it. The panorama was just breathtaking of the lake. Now, sitting in Hotlanta after waiting for 4 hours on a layover for my flight, it is certainly not the same level of panorama (bad food, bad lighting, stressed out people… similar amount of walking).

My lovely driver Geovanni (courtesy of my soon-to-be landlord Joyce) picked me up from the 1st dock, the local dock, in Panajachel (if you go to the 2nd dock it is the tourist dock and they rock you with extra Q). We stopped by the bank and the gas station so I could go to the bathroom and then headed to Guatemala City to the Walmart before the airport. He was ready to kill me for being late on all fronts and then needing to stop so many times… but hey, I had shit to do!

We sat in a little bit of morning traffic, but for the most part it was smooth sailing. Should have been since we left like 6 hours to drive 2 hours! Why Walmart? Holy moly… in the States I probably would never intentionally enter it when I have a Target instead but here in Guate it is awesome to be able to get what I need accomplished in short order. Here I could get my “American Breast Pump” (literally not 1 store in all of the lake had even heard of. They actually don’t have a name for it in Spanish. It is just a direct translation. Crazy!) so I don’t explode on my trip.

Thank goodness… now 12 hours later roughly and I have pumped and dumped like 20oz of milk. With each pumping session in my little bathroom stall, pump in hand and Netflix (yay) ready to watch, I feel a little sad knowing it is not going to go in my daughters mouth, but instead down the drain. Boo.

But this is life as a modern woman who still wants to maintain a piece of her sanity and connection with her child. Walmart is a small sacrifice for greatness.

 

Casita Blanca Lago de Atitlan

Hello idyllic on all levels – name a cliche and this is it.

The sun is streaming into the windows to Casita Blanca as if I have never experienced sun streaming before. The birds are chirping and the waterfall next to our house is gushing. The lake off in the distance is glistening and we are alone in the jungle, deep in the mayan mountains 15 minutes to the nearest building or house on foot. We have a small yard, maybe an acre all around, and it is very well tended. The walkway to the house is serious hiking with no other access route and when you open the gate to the garden it is like paradise unfolding. The lack of access means our little house is a gem, and just as we wanted, very remote. You can’t hear cars, trains, buses or boats. In fact, you wouldn’t know anyone else existed on the planet unless you stood on top of the roof and looked out at the world below.

Iza is playing just inside the door while I sit on the veranda writing. She is so happy… toddling around and playing with new things in the cracks, little leaves which have blown onto the porch, a piece of grass and tugging at my pant leg. She is finally able to spread out and be in 1 place. We are so happy to know that we can give this to her for a little while.

We forgot to bring food with us yesterday when we got to our new home, so we had to venture out to the hotel at the end of our trail to Isle Verde Eco Hotel. “Isle” I have found out is pronounced like Isla Fisher, not “Aisle” as I had learned in French. The restaurant at Isle Verde is wonderful, and very accommodating. This space is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The grounds are astonishing and again well cared for. We knew the woman who owns Casita Blanca also owned the hotel and her vision was richly positioned in the planet. It appears she wanted to give the earth back to her guests in a well-designed and comfortable fashion. She accomplished it and then some.

From the new owner of the Hotel Raleigh (who has the name of one of our friends son and who is actually from Pensacola, FL which is where we have our mail house – in all our travels we have collectively only ever met 1 other person who is from there) we find out that in the last 4 years he has been on the lake the water has risen 20’. In the last 2 weeks during the rainy season it has grown 5’. This has taken out his beach and now is heading up and into his main reception area and kitchen. It is terrifying to hear, but interesting to understand from Raleigh that the lake works in an 80 year cycle in which the water grows and then it will fall (we didn’t ask where we were in the cycle). The Mayan calendar is very calculated and in some ways historically accurate. He mentioned that he thought he would have another year before he would have to build a retaining wall, but it looks like he will have to do it now.

There is seldom strong internet in any of the towns around the lake, but the ones that do have it use a satellite ping. There are no hard lines. When the clouds are in the way, the internet goes out. Great. Not really ideal for me, and especially now knowing that we are in a true eco house with only solar panels to power it and being here in the rainy season, we have pretty low expectations for a successful working opportunity. But rest assured – there is this incredible water taxi transportation system and I can go about 45 minutes on a direct boat or 1 hour on the slow boat to San Pedro (the cool hippy town with tons of great cafes and hard wired internet) or to Panajachel which is only 30 minutes away. I have begun looking for an office which is looking like we will rent a whole other house for around $500 a month. Kind of nutty, but worth it to know we can work.

More to come, but this is the start of our very great new life in Santa Cruz de Laguna, Lago de Atitlan.