Thursday, April 5, 2007

It seemed like a good idea...

So this past week Nancy & I were in Guatemala City. We had to get our passports stamped for reasons of immigration. The good news is that we will be here for at least another 90 days or so. :) We hadn't plan to stay all day but we were given the option to return late in the day and pick up our passports. A single day would be spent getting "stamped". It seemed like a good idea at the time.

We were feeling encouraged that the day didn't take as long as it could have. It was about 3:30 - 4:00pm and we were headed back to Antigua. The traffic was thick so we looked for alternate methods to get through the city. We found ourselves on San Juan. The road that runs sort of parallel with Roosevelt, which is the main road returning to Antigua. I kept looking for the turn that would take us over to Roosevelt but, with the traffic, the turn became elusive. I saw this one turn that looked like it might be the one, but I wasn't sure until we had passed it. Oops. The return traffic to that street was beyond reasonable so in my wisdom it made sense that we would find yet another turn just up a little farther. This was the critical error in my thinking.

The road we were on took us into familiar surroundings. In that it looked like Guatemala. I thought this is great we should come into the North side of San Lucas, slightly out of the way but still in the general direction of Antigua. In about 60 minutes we find ourselves in the community of San Juan. I was telling Nancy that I thought this was just north of where we wanted to be. The turn we were looking for was probably just ahead. We "knew" the traffic returning the other way was still very difficult. We only needed to continue a little farther to get to where we needed to be.

The view was amazing. These roads winding through these little communities were faintly familiar. But everything we saw was new and different; still having fun we pressed on to explore the new way home. I remember thinking to myself that this just might be the road that will save us hours of travel time in the future. An alternate way to get to the city from Antigua and back again.

We came to a valley with a big river at the bottom. Overwhelmed by the grandeur of the view we pursued our destination of home. At the bottom of the valley we came to a bridge and crossed it. We saw a road sign for the next town. It was here I realized we had missed the intended shortcut and were now way north of Chimaltenango. A community just north of Antigua. Not to be discouraged CA-1, the road back into Chimaltenango, in our wisdom had to just a little farther. I realized that I had made a mistake but figured it would still be best to continue on because "the next road to home was just ahead by a couple of kilometers or so."

Over another ridge and the road was now mountainous ups and downs. The next river had a bridge that defied a certain degree of logic of whether or not we should even drive across. But "Hey the road home to safety is just a little farther ahead". Stay the course, don't turn back, the return trip on the road we have traveled will be very difficult. We are already in the middle of our mistake. We just needed to go a little farther to find the resolve.

Now, the sun is going down. The only evidence that it was still shining was the glimmer of the sunbeam rays we would see as we crested a few more mountain peaks. But in the valleys it was dark, gloomy, and not very inspiring.

For both of us at this point we had lost that adventurous spirit. We were seeing signs to Coban, Quiche, and other cities advertising hotels that didn't exist. We had no map. We had little gas, the cell phone connectivity was intermittent. We were lost. But even in the back of my mind I was thinking, "I know where I am, I am only disoriented of how to get to where I want to be. But I know where I am." My belief system and my reality were clearly out of sync and even that didn't stop us. We continued forward.

We came across a gas station/tienda (The Guatemalan Version of "RaceTrac") in the middle of nowhere. We were fortunate. The attendant spoke something that wasn't Spanish (at least Spanish was not his first language) and English, he spent 5 years in New Jersey. Go figure. But even then his English was in the realm of my Spanish. It was a brief but definitive conversation.

I found out that they only accepted cash for the gas, they had respectable bathrooms, and the road we were on did not go near Antigua. In fact, the road would eventually run out. Any other roads that might connect with another road that might connect to a road to Antigua, were all very bad roads. Had we not stopped the direction we were headed, we would have gone from bad to worse and beyond in a downward spiral direction.

We had been on the road for about 2 hours. Now it was dark. The only way home was the way we had come. We both had the thought well at least it is not raining... God has a great sense of humor. So now we are in the rain along with what seemed to be every other person in the region headed back to the Guatemala City on the same road that we were traveling, moving very slowly. It took us longer to return that it did to get there. Did I mention that fog had moved in.

We eventually arrived safely home 5 hrs from when we first left the city. We had driven an extra 140 kilometers in the wrong direction through the mountains. Both of us were numb after this experience. And I went to bed that night thanking God for saving us from all of the things that could have gone worse in this adventure.


This was the intro to my sermon this past Easter Sunday. This map displays the intended route in green and the erroneous Route in red. Oops.

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