Friday, November 13, 2009

Matt Werner: Guatemalan Adventure #1

Former Edgewood College student-athlete Matt Werner is living for nine months at Kico's Ranch in Guatamala. learning the culture and exploring our world. Below is the first in a series of blog entries Matt will be writing for us:

It's really a pleasure to be greeting you from where I am. Upon my graduation from Edgewood College in May of 2009 I saw two paths ahead of me. One didn't look very promising and the other although challenging looked to prove much more beneficial. So along with the help of my wonderful and beautiful girlfriend and her family and especially her father, Enrique Gandara, I decided to consolidate my possessions, put them in the house of my parents and uproot myself to Oliveros, Santa Rosa, Guatemala. Just to give you an idea it is in the south east region of Guatemala nearest the Pacific coast and El Salvador. The goal of my endeavor is to put a capstone upon one of the degrees I received in college. Although I studied Spanish for about 8 years in and out of the classroom, my ability with the language is still not near a level that I or others would consider to be professionally usable. So I have decided, along with the assistance of Enrique to spend about 9 months on his farm in Oliveros teaching English and computer usage at the local public elementary school. So far I have experienced a number of "firsts". Starting in Madison, Wisconsin from where I graduated and is the home of Enrique and his wonderful family, I embarked on a land cruising journey in order to help Enrique bring down a number of items to start his cultural tourist business (get a sneak peek of it at and continue his machinery importation business. So we left Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday October 6th and headed south to Louisiana.

After reaching Louisiana we realized we had not sent the titles of the cars we were going to import to the Mexican authorities 72 hours before we were going to arrive (in order for them to check and make sure the cars had not been reported stolen). So after arriving in Opelousas, LA (20 mins north of Lafayette) on Wednesday night we settled in for what we knew would be longer stay in Louisiana than what we were hoping. But what a weekend it was. The hospitality shown to us (Enrique nicknamed Kico, Leslie (another driver with us), and I) was extremely comforting and the food was of exquisite taste. I am now a fan of the cajuns and quite fond of their cooking and creole french language. So knowing it better for us to start out earlier rather than later, we left on a Saturday (hoping to make it through the border on Monday) but were stopped quickly as we suffered our first major engine trouble. One of the pickup trucks we were driving had three small holes in the radiator and was burning oil. Luckily Kico has quite a generous family down there, who have an immense knowledge of cars and they obliged to help us out. So while Kico took off with Uncle George to repair the radiator, Leslie and I decided to try our luck at the local trucker stop/video poker arcade. So after winning four dollars I decided to keep playing as my thirst for gambling was sweltering at that point. Long story short I spent the four dollars hoping to make more and lost it along with another two on 25 cent deuces wild poker. But it was a small price to pay for occupying 30 minutes of my time.

So upon Kico, George, and George's son return, the radiator was repaired and George and his son left us bidding farewell on our upcoming border crossing. Unfortunately the radiator was only the first of two major problems. The whole time we had been waiting for them to return, the engine had become flooded. So at this point, our 30 year veteran mechanic had left us and the car was choking on oil. Fortunately, George was not far off and came back to fiddle with one of the spark plugs to make the oil go down and engine turn over. Luckily, the engine started behaving and we are on our way to Houston for the night. I am so grateful to my Aunt Michelle and her kind husband Marlin as they treated us to a very satisfying meal near their house in Houston along with their daughter Sally and Sally's new baby boy Vincent. So after spending a very relaxing dinner with them and Marlin and Michelle allowing Kico to clean up in their bathroom (because he had been working on the engine all day with George) we traveled a few exits down the highway to the house of a very dear friend of my father, Steve Tacconelly. Kico, Leslie, and I are really so very grateful to y'all, Steve and Suzanne for opening up your home and breakfast table to us that night and the following morning. It was such a treat to spend time with you and your adorable kids. We are also so grateful for all the help you sent with us to aid us on our journey. Thank you guys so much!

Check back in a few days for more on Matt's adventure to Guatemala (with pictures!)

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