Trying to find a church in a huge hay stack of a country called Guatemala where there are many many churches in every little town and village it can be a tough ordeal sometimes, especially when all you have to go by is a vague low percentile of a photographic memory of an image that was once seen on the cover of the Guatemala Lonely Planet guide book (which by the way is kinda rare, most carry the Central America on a Shoestring version). Was it blue and red? or blue with a little yellow or maybe it was all yellow, who knows? certainly I couldn’t remember for the life of me. All i knew was that it was and still is colourful and that i wanted to find it, like big time. It became my mission and my purpose and also an excuse to kick back for a while and dry my 5 year old hiking shoes.
With a limited Spanish vocab, a keen sense of direction and adventure anything can be accomplished in this nation where English will certainly not get you very far, well it might get you far, but often not in the right directions as i found out and was about to find out once again.
My first attempt at finding ‘the church’ led my wildly of course chasing down chicken buses to a town called Tatonicapan (lonely planet said the picture was taken here), which at first for maybe the first week I could never recall the name of so when asked “a donde va?” “where are you going?” I would just answer with a reply such as “thhhatooo algo?” (tato something..) raising my voice in slight insecurity about where I was heading. Maybe I should have written it down? jajaja, but where’s the adventure in that/ Let’s work on memory recollection here and not make it too simple.
Crammed or more correctly wedged into a 2.5 person seat on a maxed out bus, I had a grandma with a baby strapped to her back, probably her daughter also with a baby strapped to her back next to granny and between us a little girl of roughly eleventeen who mal-nourished and overworked looked probably about 8. Needless to say this chicken bus was…well loaded with Mayans dressed in their fine colorido (colourful) mayan wear ready for where ever it was they were going. Where they were going, I was going too, I only hoped there would be this mystical church at the end of the rainbow.
I stumbled into what i wasn’t quite expecting…. a huge bustling network of streets jam packed full of everyone local selling everything local aka the Saturday Tato Market, if only I’d read the guide book, I might have known that this existed much like the famed Chichi market but with the exception of not a Gringo in sight, a welcome site and refreshing surprise indeed. Squishing, squeezing and con permiso-ing (excusing) my way through the hussling unrelenting Mayans that all seemed to be able to squeeze through faster than a mouse through a crack in the wall (well at 4 foot 8 tall it must be easier for them right?) I made a bee line towards where I felt this church might be.
6 blocks of market mosh-pit-like escaping manoeuvres later, 1 hour and a fresh belly full of crispy fried chicken skin there was no colourful church insight, just a standard whitewashed, too-recently-constructed catholic church. Not exactly what I was looking for. Approaching some armed blokes of the local police force I finally managed to describe the object of my dreams to some police officers who quickly pointed out in pretty plain old understandable English that it was in fact not even located in or even near this town.
"La Iglesia esta en San Andreas Xecul alli alli!! no lo aqui!" (pointing beyond the mountains and mentioning a different town name to my dismay and simultaneous outburst of laughter) Fun day it was indeed.