Carol drove us to the airport; everyone made it by the appointed time.
Luggage was checked in without incident and we boarded the first leg of the flight to Houston. There were large numbers of people at the Houston airport either going on or returning from South American missions, some with fairly hideously-colored T-shirts. Our favorite was a bright lime-green which proclaimed "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel" in bold purple letters. Pete said it best: "I'm not ashamed of the Gospel either, but those T-shirts...whew!" We made our connection in Houston and were then en route to Guatemala City. We arrived in Guatemala City minus two of the nineteen bags checked. After some forty-five minutes trying to straighten that out, we rendezvoused with Jewel Anita, Nathan, and Greg - the three Food for the Hungry workers that drove us to Coban.
The weather at the airport was very hot and humid, adding to the stress of the moment. After exchanging our dollars for Quetzals, we split our group between a van and a pickup truck for the ride to Coban. Greg drove the van containing Jewel Anita and the bulk of our group; David and I rode with Nathan. Nathan is in his third month of staff work here. He's a graduate of Wheaton college, and spent the first 12 years of his life in Ecuador, raised the son of missionary parents.
Driving through downtown Guatemala City was an adventure. There was little regard for U.S. traffic conventions, and we ran the first red light within three minutes the start of our journey. I was amazed by the contrast the ultra modern signs for Domino's pizza "in 30 minutes or less" just down the block from the ramshackle corrugated metal roof buildings. At stop lights, people would come to the cars hawking windshield wipers, toys, and various fruits for sale.
As we continued our drive out of the city and into the hills around Coban, the weather gradually got more cloudy and more cool with a good 10 to 15 degree Fahrenheit temperature drop over the course of the trip.
We stopped midway at a place called El Rancho for some ice cream and a quick look at the scenery. I had been feeling dehydrated, as well as a bit nauseated from the bumpiness of the trip and the diesel exhaust of the many trucks, but felt much better after the break. The low-hanging clouds would flow over and around the tops of the adjacent hills.
Something which struck me as odd was that cattle were grazing in the flat plains of the valleys, whereas the land being farmed and settled was on some
fairly steep hillsides. This turned out to be a recurring theme. Most of the desirable land is owned by ranchers; farmers have to settle for what's left over.
We got in to the city of Coban late at night. Well, it felt late. Truth be told, it was barely 6:30pm local time and dusk was just setting. Greg had parted company with us a few km back, taking a bus down to San Cristobal where his wife and children were waiting for him. We registered at the Hostel Acunya, unloaded the bags into the rooms, then drove a few blocks to a local restaurant for dinner. My evening dinner was actually a more or less typical breakfast with scrambled eggs, sausage that closely resembled a hotdog, fried plantains, and refried black beans. Nathan and Jewel Anita outlined the basic plan for the week and outlined the events for tomorrow.
Our relatively restful Sunday schedule has become a bit more interesting: the plan is breakfast at 7:30, prayer at 8:30, walking to the Church at 9:00, reach the Church at 9:30, present the puppet show, give testimonies, meet with people after church, lunch at someone's house around 1 and then return to the Church for communion at 6:30 and arrival in San Cristobal tomorrow night around 9:30. Sounds ambitious; we'll see what happens. Physically I'm feeling somewhat better than I was earlier, but still have a three out of ten diffuse frontal headache and this lingering cough just will not go away. I'm otherwise intact. Jewel Anita spoke with Continental Airlines, and in theory the luggage should arrive here tomorrow, perhaps Monday. In any event, it's in God's hands now. I'm going to briefly wash up and head to bed. Thus concludes the first day's journal entry.