I've had more crazy stuff happen just walking around Guatemalan cities than I ever imagined. The people are connected in a way that is reminiscent of the 40's or 50's in the US. I was looking for somewhere to have breakfast with real coffee and something other than huevos and frijoles. Spotted a little storefront panaderia with a banner advertising cafe y jugos natural. After my usual tortured order placement in espanol the mujer behind the counter says "english?" Si, senora. She and her husband both spent time in the US where she earned a masters in hospital administration. She got a high paying job here complete with lots of stress and dangerous solo travel by car all over the country. Last April they dropped out and opened a little bakery in Puerto Barrios where they are making a living and are expecting their first child about the time the panaderia celebrates it's first anniversary. I inquired about renting a bike or car or moto for the day and they thought that for the same money I could probably hire a driver. The called their friend Luis a professional guide, who in turn called Manuel an english speaking taxista.
Manuel spent 10 years or so in the US working in Las Vegas. His sister still lives there. He was a pro futbal player for the local Puerto Barrios Club. "Back when we played for fun and the love of the game and a little money, not like today." He pays $15 bucks a day for his cab ( a sweet 5-speed Geo Prizm) plus his gas at $4+ per gallon. A ride in the city is around Q25/$3 so it's not an easy living. We spent the day touring Rio Dulce, and the surrounds. The country outside of Puerto Barrios is primarily large fincas, formerly UFC plantations, which still produce bananas, pineapples, gum rubber, and milk and beef cattle. It's lush, hot and humid, carved out of the jungle years ago. We had a ball, a big lunch overlooking Lake Izabal, and a steady stream of insider observation on the local scene which would have been hard to come by elsewhere.